Monthly Archives: July 2009

Fortunately He’s Probably Republican

I think the best way for you to get a feel for Woodland is simply to worship and fellowship with us—that is, marinate with us. We operate on the idea that a church ought to have something to do with religion, particularly the Christian faith. The “offense” of the gospel stands at the heart of our life: we make no apology for worshiping a crucified Jew.

Now I must warn you. This church is full of sinners. Everyone who comes here is one. You’ll need to remember that if you associate with us – or you may be unnecessarily disappointed.

Warm regards,

Ralph Davis

Naboth’s vineyard

Naboth and the Vineyard

Dale Ralph Davies at Keswich 2009

1 Kings 21

This chapter is about four things:

1. Realisation

This is how it will be for Christians in the world, wicked people will come and do terrible things to them.

They will have false accusations thrown at them.

Tells the story of Richard Wurmbrandt, after 12 years in a Romanian prison, being released but no longer having a license to preach.  In his last new members class in the country, whilst he was being followed by members of the secret police, he took the members of the class to the Bucharest zoo, and he took them to the lion cage, and he told them, this is what the Christians must expect.

This is fearsome.  The lion’s mouth.

Talked about the story of JFK’s mother who used to throw newspapers out the window, whenever the driver used to complain, because this was a federal offence, she would say “They know who we are.”

Notice that much of this trouble comes from the government

Respect the government, obey the government, pray for the government, but never trust the government.  Ronald Reagan said the nine scariest words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

2. Admonition

Told the story of the baseball game in the 1960s where the umpire said “Safe” but signalled “out”

The two players said to the umpire “So which is it, safe or out”

The umpire replies “Only three of us heard me say “safe” but 55,000 people saw me signal “out”, so the batting player was out.

This is story about how others cave under pressure.

And so it also was with Naboth, and so it was for Jesus

Who was condemned though having done nothing wrong

On the say-so of two false witnesses.

3. Consolation

Davies argues that there is consolation here, despite the fact that Naboth is killed, because God does indeed see.

He talks about the Dalith Christian who once was written about by Chris Wright in Themelios who had become a Christian because he read that God was a God of vengeance on those who had had their lands taken unjustly

So it is that God sees the Christian villagers in Burma who have to clear minefields for the military

And so it is that God sees the Christians in Pakistan who are raped and attacked by extremists.

There is something to contend with here.  The difference between mysterious and marvellous grace.  Why does Elijah get saved here, and Naboth does not?  Why does Peter get saved in Acts, but James does not?

And God sees what happens to Naboth.

4. Repentance

This is the God who loves to show mercy.

Tells the story of an old lawyer in St. George’s West who went to Alexander Whyte looking for a word for an old man, and Whyte said “he delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

Elijah might be saying “Look at that, you are not fooled by that God, are you?”

But God loves to be merciful.

Blasphemy or Midrash

It seems that for artist, Jane Clark, this was a way of writing our own stories alongside the text, of filling out the margins with our own interpretation.  This is no bad thing.  It wasn’t an attack on the Bible, it was a way of allowing it’s text to speak wider.

And surely this is a warning against a kind of Biblicism which worships the Bible, which treats the very pages of the book as sacred, when Christians have never done this, because when you do this you distract attention away from Jesus who is the Word with a capital “W”.

There have been some famous examples of Biblical alteration in the past, not least radical Jim Wallis’ Bible which had all references to the poor cut out.  “This shredded document”, said Wallis, as he waved the tattered book in the air, “is the Bible that we in the affluent West have been using.  We have forgotten the poor.”

I spoke to an artist friend about this.  What is it that is the true blasphemy he was wondering – the arm’s race, poverty, unfair trading arrangements; or an honest attempt to let the Bible speak which has been defaced (some might say artistic naivety allowed this, but did God not allow his own face, the true Word, to be placed in an arena where it might fouled and desecrated?).

And what have we now, my friend continued, as he commented on the decision of the museum to put the book in a glass case.  We have turned the tangible, living, dangerous text, into something pristine, an artefact, a museum piece, something from another time.  It is not more dangerous to have the thing in glass, than exposed to public opinion and public effect.

I don’t think I’ll be signing the letter.  I have been provoked, made to think, pushed to a place uncomfortable.  Is this not good art?  Is this not what the word would do more often, if I read more carefully?