Friday, July 14, 2023

Rediscovering Katharina Schütz Zell

Unveiling Her Contributions to Christian Theology and Church

In the annals of Christian history, there are remarkable figures whose stories often remain untold due to societal biases and historical oversights. Katharina Schütz Zell, a trailblazing woman of the Protestant Reformation, stands as a testament to this reality. Despite her significant contributions to Christian theology and the church, her name has often been overshadowed by her male counterparts. In this blog post, we will shed light on Katharina Schütz Zell's remarkable journey and explore five of her most noteworthy contributions to Christian theology and the church.

1. Pioneering Advocacy for Women's Education:
Katharina Schütz Zell recognised the importance of education for women, advocating for their intellectual development during a time when formal education for women was scarce. She believed that educated women could make significant contributions to the church and society, challenging traditional gender roles and empowering future generations.

2. Writing and Publishing:
Schütz Zell was one of the first female authors of the Reformation era. She authored numerous influential writings, including letters, sermons, and theological treatises. Her works addressed theological issues, defended the Reformation, and provided guidance for Christian living. Through her writings, she actively participated in theological discussions and helped shape the religious landscape of her time.

3. Pastoral Care and Counselling:
Schütz Zell was known for her compassionate pastoral care and counselling skills. She ministered to individuals facing personal struggles, offering spiritual guidance and comfort. Her empathetic approach exemplified the transformative power of Christian love and provided solace to many seeking guidance during tumultuous times.

4. Advocacy for the Poor and Marginalized:
In an era marked by social and economic disparities, Schütz Zell championed the cause of the poor and marginalized. She spoke out against injustices and called for compassion and care for those in need. Her commitment to social justice and her efforts to alleviate poverty demonstrated the Christian ideals of compassion and equality.

5. Active Participation in the Reformation Movement:
Schütz Zell actively participated in the Reformation movement alongside her husband, Matthias Zell. Together, they were instrumental in introducing Protestant reforms in Strasbourg. They promoted the use of vernacular language in worship, advocated for the abolition of compulsory celibacy for priests, and emphasised the primacy of the Bible in Christian life. Their collaborative efforts contributed significantly to the spread of the Reformation in their region.

Katharina Schütz Zell's contributions to Christian theology and the church were profound, yet her name and legacy have often been obscured by historical biases. By acknowledging her remarkable journey and highlighting her accomplishments, we can challenge the gender-based omissions of history and appreciate her role as an influential theologian, writer, advocate for education, pastoral caregiver, and champion of the marginalized. Let us honour Katharina Schütz Zell and celebrate the richness and diversity of Christian history, recognizing the contributions of all who have helped shape our faith.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Simple as A. B. C. and Peh

In the rich tapestry of the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, it is believed that King David, in his wisdom, utilised Psalm 119 to impart not only the knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet to his son Solomon but also to guide him in understanding the profound "alphabet of the spiritual life."

Within the section marked by the Hebrew letter 'Pe' or 'Peh', which symbolises the mouth, we find a truly captivating message that David sought to instil in his young son. The verses in question, Psalm 119:130-131, beautifully convey the essence of David's teaching:

"The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant because I long for your commandments."

These words resonate with profound truth and carry a timeless message that reaches deep into the depths of our souls. They remind us of the transformative power held within the sacred scriptures and the profound impact they can have on our lives.

David recognised that the unfolding of God's words spoken from the divine mouth, as we delve into the scriptures with open hearts and minds, brings illumination and clarity. Through the divine wisdom contained within these words, understanding blossoms, enlightening even the simplest of minds.

The psalmist's declaration, "I open my mouth and pant," beautifully captures the essence of a soul thirsty for the commandments of the Lord. It symbolises an intense longing, a burning desire to drink deeply from the wellspring of divine guidance and instruction. It signifies an insatiable hunger for the wisdom and truth found within God's word.

In these verses, we find an invitation to immerse ourselves in the teachings of Scripture, to seek understanding, and to thirst after the commandments of the Lord. They encourage us to open our hearts and minds, ready to receive the light that emanates from God's word, illuminating our path and guiding us in the ways of righteousness.

As we reflect upon these profound words, taking time to quiet our mouths and hearts, let us recognise the immense value of God's Word in our lives. Let us approach the unfolding of God's words with anticipation and longing, knowing that through them, we can gain wisdom, understanding, and the transformative power to live according to God's divine purpose.

May the spirit of King David's teaching resonate within us, igniting a hunger for God's commandments and a thirst for the life-giving truths found within His word. As we open our mouths in awe and anticipation, may our souls be nourished, our minds enlightened, and our lives transformed by the radiant light of God's unfailing love.

Each day my mouth shapes at least 7000 words with so many wasted, and forgotten as soon as they are uttered. But we are reminded by the prophet Isaiah that God never wastes a word and each one accomplishes its purpose.

'For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.' - Isaiah 55:10-11

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

In the Depths of Struggle: Prophetic Words from Prison Cells

At Milton Keynes Christian Centre while studying the Apostle Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia for our teaching series, we were reminded of a challenging period in church history marked by both remarkable progress and significant resistance. The act of following Jesus appears to cultivate a remarkable beauty that flourishes amidst adversity.

It reminded me that some of the most profound and inspirational writings in Christian history were penned from prison cells. The strength of faith and the power of God's Word truly shine through these beautiful works.

Take, for instance, John Bunyan's timeless masterpiece, "The Pilgrim's Progress," which he wrote during his imprisonment in Bedford jail. This allegorical tale has captivated readers for centuries, providing deep spiritual insights and guidance for the journey of faith.

Then there are the poetic and Christ-filled letters written by Samuel Rutherford during his banishment in Aberdeen. Despite his physical separation from his congregation, Rutherford's words carried a profound sense of love, hope, and devotion to Jesus.

And let's not forget the apostle Paul, who penned the very words of holy Scripture while under house arrest in Rome. His letters, such as Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, continue to impact lives and shape our understanding of God's grace and truth.

The Apostle Paul, through a thought-provoking letter to his companions in Corinth, provides us with a profound insight into the challenges he encountered while serving Jesus.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. - 2 Cor 11:23-27

These writings are a testament to the power of faith, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of believers even in the most challenging circumstances. They remind us that physical barriers or limitations do not limit God's presence and inspiration.

So, let us take a moment to appreciate and delve into these beautiful profound writings, crafted with love, wisdom, and profound spiritual insight from the confines of prison cells. May they inspire us to seek God's truth and grace in every season of life.

If you have any personal favourites or recommendations of authors who have inspired and encouraged you in difficult times, please share them in the comments below. Let's encourage one another in our spiritual journeys through the written words of these saints!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Sabbath - Think delight not don’t

The Lord’s Day was a big thing as I grew up in church in North East Scotland. It was the day we did nothing except go to church. We didn’t:
  • Watch TV
  • go shopping (even if you could find one open)
  • go out to play
  • play golf (in fact the golf course was closed even to non Christian’s )
  • do housework 
  • put our washing out
  • go to work (the trawlers didn’t leave the harbour till the ‘back o Sunday’ - a second past midnight.
Sunday equalled ‘don’t’ when it should have meant delight!

Check out this quote from Dan Allender from his book Sabbath.

The Sabbath is an invitation to enter delight. The Sabbath, when experienced as God intended, is the best day of our lives. Without question or thought, it is the best day of the week. It is the day we anticipate on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday—and the day we remember on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Sabbath is the holy time where we feast, play, dance, have sex, sing, pray, laugh, tell stories, read, paint, walk, and watch creation in its fullness. Few people are willing to enter the Sabbath and sanctify it, to make it holy, because a full day of delight and joy is more than most people can bear in a lifetime, let alone a week.