Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Return of the King

I remember Grange Hill years ago when Gonch had disappeared, and everything was a disaster until Gonch got back

Or until Superman heard

Or until Batman came roaring over the hill in the Bat mobile.

It’s the background to Robin Hood, the king will one day come to replace the usurper King John.

And you could say that such hoping is escapism

It is an easy thing to do to look to a hero to save the day

Rather than simply admit that we are alone and hopeless in a darkened world.

But I want to suggest this morning that these stirrings for the return of the King

Are human stirrings, stirrings which lie very close to the lives of God’s people.

And on this first Sunday on advent, they are stirrings to which we must attend once again.

The Need To Hope

It is the need to hope which is injected into Christian faith

It seems almost to be a part of it.

In Jeremiah it happens with the promise of the branch to come

In Luke it is of the Son of Man who descends on clouds

Now the question I was wondering this week is “Why does God give this prophecy to Jeremiah, one of the earliest prophets, who spoke about five hundred years before Christ”, instead of Malachi, one of the latest, who was about three hundred years before.

Why does God inject two hundred years of unfulfilled waiting into the life of Israel.

And why, when the promise does eventually come to pass, in Jesus

Why is it that the minute the promise comes true,

Jesus injects more waiting into the life of the Church, with these words from Luke…

God seems to want us to wait for the impossible

God seems to want us to wait for the unprovable

God seems to want us to wait for him.

God wants a yearning, hoping, people,

Even if those hopes are unfulfilled in their life time.

The Seas Roar

The background of Jeremiah is of the city which has failed

And the nation which has failed

Israel was begun about 900 years before

And this experiment of being God’s people seems to have failed in the violence in the city

And the failure to have a judicial system which works

And a place where the poor and the oppressed are not protected by the state.

And the fear that the nations with their monstrous armies about are one day going to invade.

And into that place, Jeremiah does not pretend that the problems do not exist

And he does not give up in despair,

And he does not run away, escape

In the face of darkness he voices hope

He says a branch, a shoot, a tender promise of growth will one day come up

And that branch will execute justice and righteousness in the land

And the people of Judah will be saved

And people I n Jerusalem will dwell secure

And the name of the place will be “The Lord is our righteousness”

“The Lord is our righteousness”

Which means that relationships will be right

Because God is holding them together

Five hundred years before a baby is in Bethlehem

A prophet, in a dysfunctional city, refuses to pretend that the difficulties don’t exist

Refuses to give up

Refuses to run away

He voices hope, in God,

One day, the king will come

And the name of this place will be “The Lord is our righteousness”

Second Mystery

But the second mystery happens around the life of Jesus.

Because he, in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy comes

And he enters Jerusalem, the city that will one day be called “The Lord is our righteousness”

And people who know Jeremiah are watching.

And he begins to speak like Jeremiah

But he does a thing which is disturbing,

He postpones the day of righteousness

He moves it back, not just five hundred years,

But at least 2000 years,

When he says

There will one day be a time when there will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars

And on the nations distress and perplexity

Because of the roaring of the seas and the waves – something in a world of rising sea levels, where the heat of the sun is a threat as well as a friend

Jesus says the powers of heaven will be shaken

And then you will see the Son of Man in a cloud with power and great glory.

And when these things begin to happen

Not when the Son of Man appears, but I think when there is something different about the sun

And when the seas begin to roar

STRAIGHTEN UP AND RAISE YOUR HEADS

BECAUSE YOUR REDEMPTION IS DRAWING NEAR

In the teeth of the darkness

Do not be weighed down, and do not be attracted to drunkenness

–          do you need get attracted to the things which are worst for you

–          When the pressure is on the tightest, when it seems that nothing is good, and you need something to escape,

–          Jesus knows this human tendency, and he says “Pray, pray that you may be ready”

And do not run away – escape

Do not pretend that nothing is happening

– this is the Jeremy Clarkson response, in the face of a sick planet, to pretend that the scientists have made it all up, and they can continue to drive as they like.

And do not give up

And do give in

But

STRAIGHTEN UP AND RAISE YOUR HEADS

BECAUSE YOUR REDEMPTION IS DRAWING NEAR

Being Conned

Now – you are right to come back at this point

And say, what’s the difference between that and a faith that promises nothing.

It’s like Vladimir Romanov saying “Believe”

There comes a point when you don’t believe any more

The team goes down the table, the players are not the same quality
And you have the same old boss saying “Believe”

There comes a point when you say, “Enough”, “I backed the wrong horse here”

I was a fool

I got it wrong, I really hoped, but now nothing has happened

I was a fool.

No one who is a true person of faith hasn’t gone through that moment

It has a special time – Holy Saturday

I am reading a book at the moment when the guy writing it is saying that all faith happens on Holy Saturday.

But what’s the difference between Jesus saying “Believe” and some deluded hypnotist saying the same

The difference is that three days later he rose from the dead

That was what kept the disciples going – a man has been raised from the dead.

You are saying “Hang on that’s great for them

They got this wonderful resurrection experience

What about us.”

Well we aren’t totally far apart from the resurrection

Intellectually, the exploration of the reasons why a group of frightened, ill-educated, disunited, grumbling low potential disciples founded the most significant faith movement the world has ever known

Asking that question,

And reaching the conclusion “The only possibility is that they really met Jesus after death”

That is the intellectually most satisfying, and most compelling reason to believe

I bang on about atoms and superstrings and far away planets

But the thing that counts the most is the resurrection.

That’s the thing that sustains you.

The Moments That Sustain

Moments when the curtain of heaven is all peeled back

And we know that God is with us.

It could happen in the middle of treatment for an illness

It could be a financial burden suddenly lifted by unexpected donation

It could be like the story that May told a while back of Helen Rosevere in Africa praying for a incubator for a baby.

Or Pete Greig talks about the agonising experience of his wife having seizures, and then one night she slept peacefully without pills, and they discovered in the morning that that night a prayer group had come from Reading to pray in the chapel and they had prayed all night.

There is the story of Alexander Solzinitskyn, the Russian dissident, who was one day in the Gulag, the slave camps of the Soviet Union, and this day he was working with his spade and he could take no more, he was hungry, he was cold and he eventually threw down his shovel and collapsed in the mud, and he knew what was coming next, the guards would beat him, probably to death, but before that another prisoner came and silently in the mud before him, scratched the sign of the cross, and he said “That moment I knew that there was something greater in the world than the Soviet Union, and that the hope of the world rested in the cross of Jesus Christ, and through the power of the cross, anything was possible.”

It is in the moment that you are lost and despondent and want to run away or give up

And then someone phones, or a letter arrives

Or an encounter that is rich with meaning.

Pete Greig writes on the “uppercase woman” blog authored by Cecily Kellogg.  Here she writes after the shock of loosing twin boys in the womb, after 22 weeks of pregnancy, and that after IVF, and that after three years of trying for children:

This letter to you is only an exercise, an attempt to make contact. But be careful if you show up. I can scream, and scream loud, and I have some things to say to you. If you were standing before me, I’d hit you. I want to tell you to go away, to leave me alone. When I listen to myself, all I hear is screaming.

Months later, Cecily has a half-hour conversation with a 10 year old girl whose mother had been in prison for issues relating to crack addiction.  Cecily writes here about the power of that conversation, and even of redemption:

I swear to you, it was worth every minunte of pain and spiritual agony I suffered to be bale to spend a half hour helping this girl.  Really: I would have never been there to help if I hadn’t lost the boys.  How amazing is that?

And the testimony of these people is of hope that is invested with rich meaning

Not before they have died, but after something important to t them has died

They encounter hope on the other side of death.

And these are intimations I believe of the prophecy of Jesus.

These happen in our personal lives,

They happen in our communities and in our world.

There are moments when the light breaks through.

When nations come up with some economic passage on debt

When apartheid ends in South Africa

When the Berlin Wall comes down

When democracy comes to a South American dictatorship

When Martin Luther King’s dream comes true in the election of a black president

Not far from any of these places were the people of God

Who in the face of the darkness

In the terror of the violence of the city

In the fear of the government that fails to protect the weakest

In resisting the temptation to run away

Or the blindness that says “There is no problem”

They prayed and they hoped.

That in the face of the despair and pain of living

We must not pretend that the painful thing is not there

Nor should we delude ourselves that the painful thing cannot happen

Nor should we run away, to buy ourselves half and hour, or an evening of escape

But in the face of the darkness we should hope

We should submit ourselves to the agony of hope.

God is well served by a people who hope

Their community living and their personal living nudge in the direction of paradise

Their bravery and courage in the face of darkness convince others that there might just be light beyond the darkness

Their faithfulness and determination in the path of death suggest to a disbelieving world that in Christ, death is not the end.

And on the day when the son comes

And the city is once again given safety

And the king returns to bring about justice

And the world says forever good bye to violence and to fear

The people of God will say

We are glad that we hoped

We are glad that we hoped

AMEN

Things We Learn From Scientology

TomCruiseFollowing the recent troubles experienced by the religion (as it can be called in the US, but not the UK) of Travolta and Cruise, some things to be learned from Scientology

1. Encourage questions

2. Hold leaders to account

3. Eschew violence

4. Don’t charge for the most important things

5. Don’t rely on celebrity endorsement

6. Allow doubt

7. Don’t make personal fulfillment the measure of faith

8. Let people leave

9. Be careful what you claim as historical

10. Be slow to claim harassment


The ripples spread

The Ripple Effect – No Splash Is The Same

Why does Paul so rarely talk about the words of Jesus, and so much talk about being “in Christ”

That this was such a powerful idea for Paul.

We were designed by God

We were made to live in God

We were made to work for God

Talks about a guy called Larry, who was single but had the habit of bringing people around him, and speaks about the number of people that came to this unemployed, single guy in his thirties.

Talks about grace, that God sets his affection on his, not because we are the most numerous of peoples, what did Israel do – nothing.

Talks about his friend who cuts his son some grace when he has done something wrong, and that there is no reason for Grace.

God knows exactly what you need to grow. And he never desires for it to be routine, never the same for anyone else.

17 mins God had Abraham talk a walk

Elijah take a nap

Joshua take a lap

Adam take the rap

God gave Moses a forty year time-out

He gave David a harp and a dance

He gave Paul a pen and a scroll

He wrestled with Jacob,

Argued with Job

Whispered to Elijah

Warned Cain and
Comforted Hagar

He gave Aaron an altar

Miriam a saw

Gideon a fleece

Peter a name

Elisha a memo

Jesus was stern with the rich young ruler

Tender with the woman caught in adultery

Challenging with the disciples

Blistering with the scribes

Gentle with the children

Gracious with the thief on the cross

God never grows two people the same

God is a hand crafter – not a mass producer

And now it’s your turn

For you are the workmanship of God

22 mins This is what your life could turn into (from Mike Bro)

Same old, same old

You wake up at the same old time

Get out of the same old bed

Go to the same old bathroom

Look at the same old mirror

Shave the same old face

Take the same old shower

Dry off with the same old towel

Walk into the same old kitchen

Pour the same old cereal into the same old bowl

Kiss the same old wife on the same old cheek

Get into the same old car, drive off to the same old job

Sit in the same old chair,

Listen to the same old boss tell the same old jokes

Laugh in the same old way

Clock out at the same old time

Get back in the same old car

Down the same old road

Into the same old house

Through the same old door

Eat the same old dinner

Fall asleep in the same old chair

Watching the same old news

Get up, get in the same old bed

Ask your wife the same old question

Get the same old answer

Roll over and go back to sleep

And that’s it

Blessed are Those In Ethical Confusion Over Sofas

This is Rob Bell speaking on “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Bell starts with a reflection on ache – the ache for a nuclear free world, or for a marriage to work.

He then deals with a traditional understanding of the beattitudes and “exemplary attitudes”, and quotes one commentator:

“Those who intentionally devote every aspect of our lives and every molecule of our being to embrace, adopt and become morality upright without guilt of sin.” (16 mins)

But Bell, being a good disciple of Dallas Willard, rightly rails against this interpretation as “new law”, “Blessed are those who get it right.”

Instead he talks about those who have the ache for something more, and who sense they are far from it; who do not have the righteousness, but yearn with physical desperation for something more.

There is a section on this in Habakkuk.  Talks about having a Habakkuk day.

He talks about friends unsure of whether to buy a sofa or donate to Developing world water projects.  One understanding is that once they get the right answer then God will bless, but Bell says that God blesses us in the tension, in the place of not knowing.

Blessed are you when you ache because the world isn’t as it is supposed to be

Blessed are you when you come to the end of yourselves

Blessed are you when you get frustrated enough to throw up your hands and say “God, I can’t do this.”

Blessed are you when you can’t make the tension go away no matter how hard you try

Blessed are you when you run out of willpower, ideas, self-control, hope, fortitude and energy

Because it’s in that place

In that state

In that pain

In that ache

In that longing

In that desire

In that awareness

In that  hunger

In that thirst

That Jesus announces

“God is with you”

Ian Watson on the Commission

Ian Watson, a fellow Commissioner on Friday, has been blogging on the suspension (the technical term is “sist”-ing) of nominations for the ministry of people in civil partnerships.

Ian gives a lot of credit to Ian Murdoch, but I don’t think Ian Watson did too bad a job himself.  His phrase “Stop! Nobody move!” captured in three words the essence of the case for a broad moratorium.

Does this mean the issue goes dark for two years, and the cofee houses of Scotland experience a commercial boom serving cappuccinos to dialogueing presbyterians?  Famous last words, but what could possibly come up now?

Ian also makes some interesting points about the need for a one year moderator.  I wonder if he is arguing against three year moderators per se, or just having having the wrong kind of moderator for three years.

Parable of Shrewd Manager

Difficult Passages

The Bible is not the Daily Record

It’s hard to get your head round

That’s good thing

It draws you back into a wrestling match

No-one wants a wrestling match that ends in the first fifteen seconds

You want it sometimes to go the distance

To be tested

And so you can test and check and keep coming back for more.

This here is one of the toughest of Jesus’ parables

Rudolph Bultmann, one of the most adventurous New Testament Scholars of the last century, certainly no feint heart, declared the parable of the unjust steward “insoluble.”

The anti-Christian emperor Julian the Apostate used this parable against the Church, saying that it showed the inferiority of the Christian Faith and its founder.

C.C. Torrey wrote these words

“This passage brings before us a new Jesus, one who seems inclined to compromise with evil.  He approves a program of canny self-interest, recommending to his disciples a standard of life which is generally recognised as inferior, “I say to you gain friends by means of money”.  This is not the worst of it; he bases the teaching on the story of a shrewd scoundrel who feathered his own nest at the expense of the man who had trusted him and then appears to say to his disciples “Let this be your model.”

Background

What I intend to is work our way through this parable, imagining we are hearing it as a middle Eastern villager, and sensing one interpretation that comes from within the parable itself.

I then I want to look at the parable through two other interpretations, both offered by Jesus.

Let us begin our study of the parable, imagining we are Middle Eastern villagers.

Now we know in the Middle East that not all landlords are exploitative money merchants, and there could sometimes be good relations between a landlord and his tenants.

Certainly the landlord in the parable of the Prodigal seems to be a generous man

The man who throws the great feast in Luke 14 is a guy with a generous heart

And a Jewish interpreter, one Rabbi Feldman, commentates on the relationships between landlords and tenants, says that often such relationships could be friendly, even intimate.

I think we are dealing with such a landlord here – some commentators disagree on this point, but having sifted through a fair amount of comment, I am going for the Good Landlord interpretation of this parable.  If you want a Bad Landlord interpretation then I give some book references later on.

Anyway I think we have a good landlord, with a less than competent manager, and it seems that somebody is worried about this landlord, because they let him know that his manager is wasting his possessions.

The Landlord summons his manager and says “What is this that I have been hearing about you, you can no longer be my steward, please give back to me the account book.”

This “Hand me back the account book” – sounds a bit like the near Eastern equivalent of clear your desk and hand back your entry card for the building.

Now two things are interesting here.

Firstly, the manager doesn’t try to offer any excuses.  He seems to tacitly admit his offence, and does go down a route of pretending he is innocent. His future salvation will lie in the qualities of the landlord, rather than him being able to prove some undeserved innocence.

Secondly, the Landlord doesn’t throw his manager into jail.  You will remember that in the parable of the unforgiving servant, and the parable of the talents, the master of the house seems to be able to throw people into jail for offences which don’t seem as bad as the behaviour of this manager.  But here the Landlord terminates the Manager’s contract rather than anything more serious.

We learn two things from this

One – the manager accepts that he is guilty

Two – the landlord displays a hint of mercy

Now the manager considers his career options

He could become a digger – but this white collar worker doesn’t think he has the strength

Or he could become a beggar – but thought he admits his guilt, he still wants to keep hold of some sort of dignity

Since neither of these are attractive the manager realises he is in trouble.  He needs a plan which will mean that people will allow him into his homes in the future, the plan he comes up with will guarantee that if he can act quickly, and if the landlord displays the quality of mercy.

The plan he hatches depends on speed, it must be carried out before the landlord’s debtors discover that he has been relieved of his post.

He summons the first debtor who owes a hundred measures of oil – now its critical that these debtors still believe that the manager is in a job.  At this stage they believe that the landlord is reducing their debts, not that the manager is saving his own skin.

If they suspect that the manager is no longer an agent of the landlord then they wouldn’t risk offending the landlord by accepting an offer they knew to be bogus.  The manager keeps up the pretence by saying in v5 “How much is it that you owe my master?”

Its interesting that the debtors here are in no mood to defraud the landlord, for they freely admit how much it is that they owe.

“I owe 100 measures of oil” – which was about 900 gallons, so no small transaction here as the manager chops 450 gallons off the bill – close to lottery winning stuff.

Note that the debtor is asked to write out his bill quickly, the manager must hurry before word of his sacking leaks.

Then the next debtor, “I owe a 100 measures of wheat” – about 600 bushels, or 20,000 litres of grain, and this is reduced down to 80 – a saving of about 400 litres of grain.

We can now assume that the daring steward finishes up his daring plan by handing his books back to his former boss, the landlord.

The landlord will soon realise that his debtors have had their debts seriously reduced.

The master knows that already in the village there will have started a celebration in his honour, he the most generous and noble man to have rented land in their district.

If he goes into the village and explains that the debt reduction was bogus then he will look considerable worse than the Inland Revenue wanting back Working Tax Credit overpayments.  He would loose his hero status and be cursed for his stinginess.

Alternatively he can leave things as they are, enjoy the praise that is being showered on him.  Have mercy on both the jubilant villagers and his enterprising manager.

Eventually the villagers will notice that the manager no longer works for the landlord and the truth behind their debt reduction will become apparent.  Even then they will still praise the landlord for his generosity, for not revoking their debt reductions when he was entitled to.  Furthermore the villagers will praise the manager for looking out for them, and invite him into their homes as he had hoped when he hatched his plan.

Jesus tells us that the landlord commended the manager for his shrewdness – the word for shrewdness here has connotations of self preservation – the quality of realising what trouble he was in and coming up with a plan which risked everything on the mercy of the landlord.  The landlord was indeed merciful and paid the full price for the manager’s salvation.

So this is a parable about mercy, and letting that be the basis of an economy.

Clive and Ada story

It is a parable about wisdom

The second interpretation is close in meaning

And is offered by Jesus in verse 8

“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the “sons of light.”.”

The sons of this world have a good understanding of matters of debt, finance and honour and forgiveness.

I remember a guy I used to work with called Derek

Derek used to love working scams

I remember one with Victor Chandler’s bookies who had some offer on cheap bets, and Derek had worked a way of using this cheap bet, along with a normal bet to get a guaranteed win.

Or during the Dot Com shares were rising at ridiculous rates, where in new share issues there was a limited number of shares per investor, he would get all his aunties and uncles and cousins buying shares on his behalf.

And in this parable Jesus seems to be lamenting that the sons of this world deal in finance with a greater degree of insight than the sons of light do in regard to the kingdom.

And look at ourselves

We might not be like Derek

But we still make sure we are aware of the deals that our out there

Think of the ways that we deal with the sophistication of finance

How many of us hear have renegotiated a mortgage in the last few years

How many of us have changed credit card – perhaps we might even be one of these people that changes credit card every six months to avoid interest

How many of us are aware of the rising value of our property

How many of us have shopped around to get the best deal on a car, or on a flights or on a holiday

How many of us have switched gas, electricity or phone suppliers to take advantage of a deal

How many of us when shopping for a expensive item ask as a matter of course

“What’s the discount on that?”

Jesus is aware

As we are aware

Of the workings of debt, profit, forgiveness and cunning in the world of finance

Do we have the same level insight of the way that debt works in the kingdom

Do we dwell on our forgiveness, our indebtedness and God’s mercy and our helplessness

In the way that Derek dwells on share prices and betting scams.

Recently I was reading the biography of someone who possibly did

And sets us something of his example

Many of you will have heard of him, Robert Murray M’Cheyne

He was Minister in St Peter’s in Dundee

For seven years before his death in 1843 at the age of 29

M’Cheyne frequently used to exam himself, and wrote this mode of examination in a document entitled “Reformation”

He writes of the need to avoid a conscience devoid of offence

“I am persuaded that I ought to confess my sins more.  I think I ought to confess sin the moment I see it to be sin, whether I am in company or in study.  I think I ought at certain times of the day – my best times, say after breakfast and tea, to confess solemnly the sins of the previous hours – and “ and this part is important, the moment where he trusts in the mercy of God “to confess solemnly the sins of the previous hours and to seek their complete remission.”

Later he writes

“To be filled with the Holy Spirit I am persuaded that I ought to study more my own weakness.”

And later still

“To gain entire likeness to Christ I ought to get a high esteem of the happiness of it.”

This is what it is to become as aware of matters of debt and profit in the kingdom

As the sons of this world are aware of such things in the world.

So the first interpretation of the parable is from the parable itself

This Landlord is merciful – how much more so God

The second interpretation comes from Jesus in v8

If the sons of the world are shrewd, how much more ought we to be in matters of the kingdom.

Without A Note Of Recommendation

The third interpretation of the parable also comes from Jesus, in verse 9

And finally a remark which almost seems to add to the mystery of the parable

“Make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth so that when it fails, they may receive you into eternal dwellings.”

Jim Wallis says this, “No one gets to the heaven without a letter of recommendation from the poor”

It is this obligation from the wealthy to the poor that is important here

The image here is of the poor being in heaven, and we the wealthy arriving later on

And the poor saying to them

Here are those who made friends with unjust wealth

Though they bought unfairly traded goods

Though they polluted the earth with their engines

And filled their bins with leftovers that could have been kept

Though they took their pay from corrupt insitutions

Despite all these things

They made friends with us

They collected for us

They sponsored our communities

They collected glasses for our communities

They purchased goats in catalogues

These are our friends.

We who are wealthy must also be warned by a parable like this

No one gets into heaven without a letter of recommendation from the poor.

  1. One, this is a parable about the mercy of God who pays the price for the salvation of his unjust manager
  2. This is parable about understanding debt, forgiveness and profit in the kingdom of God, and that we should seek to understand that even more assiduously than my friend Derek understands betting scams and the stock market
  3. Finally, this is a parable that urges us to use what God has given us to manage (particularly money) for the benefit of the indebted, so that those who benefit will welcome us into their homes in heaven.

AMEN     ,

Gods Politics – Part 2

The Micah Principle

Key Words Peace Justice Security War Conflict
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 187
Quote Whole chapter where Wallis deals with the Micah principle, which ties issues of security into issues of justice
References Swords and ploughshares (Micah 4)

The Bible of the poor

Key Words Poverty Poor Rich Money
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 212
Quote Tells the story of cutting out the Bible with all the references to the poor.

Also makes the point that in his search there were 7000 verses in the Bible that talked about the poor and God’s response to injustice.

That it was the second most common topic in the Old Testament (the first was idolatry, and the two themes were often related)

The value of life

Key Words Value Poverty Strength Weakness Poverty
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 252
Quote Quotes George Bush
“Jewish Prophets and Catholic teaching both speak of God’s special concern for the poor. This is perhaps the most radical teaching of faith, that the value of life is not contingent on wealth or strength or skill, that value is a reflection of God’s image”

Page 255
Biblical wisdom suggests that the truth about a society is best known from the bottom.

Page 256
In Chicago, the average age of a homeless person is now nine years

Page 264
Quotes Woody Guthrie
“Some will rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen.”

Page 266
Hear this, you that trample on the poor and take from them their jobs and retirement funds. You say, “When will the Sabbath be over so we can make the measure small and the payment great and practice deceit with false accounting? Therefore you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, who push aside the needy: You have built huge estates of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them. You have your stock options, but you shall not cash them in. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins – you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe and push aside the needy in the gate.

References Woe to you (Amos 8)

Rhetoric and policy

Key Words Words Action Speech Word
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 263
Quote As in many things, the president’s rhetoric evidences fine speechwriters, but his proposals demonstrate cautious policy advisors.

Page 280
At the last full meeting of the WTO, the European Union had 500 negotiators and Haiti had none

Selfishness and justice

Key Words Community Individual Self Sharing
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 268
Quote Society’s claim on individual accumulated wealth is a fundamentally American notion, rooted in the recognition of society’s direct and indirect investment in an individual’s success. In other words, we didn’t get here on our own.

Bill Gates Senior
“I believe that one’s obligations to society grow in proportion to how much one has benefitted.”

Asks the question on page 353
“What would Jesus drive?”

Crime and punishment

Key Words Punishment Justice Death
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 304
Quote Quotes a poll in which the majority of people were in favour of the death penalty.

When people were asked if they would prefer the death penalty or life in prison without parole, the percentages lowered, although a majority were still in favour of the death penalty

You ve got to be taught

Key Words Race Ethnic Difference
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 310
Quote Quotes South Pacific
“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, or people whose skin is a different shade, you’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you’re six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Homosexuality debate

Key Words Homosexuality Gay
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 335
Quote It will take many years before we are able to better understand and resolve the many complicated factors surrounding the issue of homosexuality. When we do, we should be able to look back and freel good about the way we conducted our dialogue and our relationships in the process.

Church and the locale

Key Words Church Neighbourhood
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 340
Quote In refernence to the Church of England of his wife Joy
“The Anglican Churches from which Joy comes often look like the neighbourhoods they are rooted in, rather than being commuter centers for like-minded homogenous people who travel miles away from their homes to worship.”

Cynicism and hope

Key Words Cynicism Hope
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 346
Quote Cynicism does protect you in many ways. It protects you from seeming foolish to belive that things could and will change. It protects you from disappointment. It protects you from insecurity because now you are free to pursue your own security instead of sacrificing it for a social engagement that won’t work anyway.

In the remainder of the chapter Wallis goes on to list all the events that have given him grounds for hope.

He also talks about the difference between career and vocation, and the importance of dreaming about the future.

Maybe after all, prophecy is about seeing the future.

Resurrection in South Africa

Key Words Resurrection And Hope
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 349
Quote In the heat of South Africa’s oppression and the heart of apartheid’s despair, do you think that a merely metaphorical resurrection would have been enough for Archbishop Desmond Tutu? It wouldn’t have been enough for me.

The essence of life

Key Words Life Morality Moral Ethics
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 355
Quote Quotes a friend who distilled his learning on life to
1. Choice
2. Integrity/dignity
3. Open your eyes
4. Relationships

God’s Politics – Part 1

Without a vision

Key Words Vision Future Dream
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 1
Quote Wallis talks consistently about the need for a Christian vision for politics, for the need to have alternatives rather than simply decrying the present.

He says that non-violence has to answer the questions that violence is attempting to answer, but answer them in a better way

Page 72
“Prophecy is not future telling, but articulating moral truth”

References Without a vision (Proverbs 29:18)
Write the vision down (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

On God’s side

Key Words Politics Nation Humility Poverty Justice
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location xx
Quote Qutoes Abraham Lincoln, who rather than saying that God endorsed our national policies, say that we should pray and worry earnestly whether we were on God’s side

Wallis says
“God’s politics is never partisan or ideological. But it challenges everything about our politics. God’s politics reminds us of the people our politics always neglect – the poor, the vulnerable, the left behind, God’s politics challenges narrow national, ethnic, economic or cultural self-interest, reminding us of a much wider world and the creative human diversity of all those made in the image of the creator.”

Who can provide the leadership for this. As a dear departed colleague and incredible street organiser used to remind me, “We are the ones we ve been waiting for.”

We have been buffetted by private spiritualities that have no connection to public life and a secular politics showing disdain for religion or even spiritual concerns. The leaves spirituality without social consequences and politics without soul.

Page 13
Talks about George Bush who believes in a God of charity, but not a God of justice

Page 16
“Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.”

Page 34
God is personal, but never private.

Habakkuk’s complaint

Key Words Prophecy Vision Justice Future
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 26-27
Quote Talks about the vision of Habakkuk.

The vision is there and merely awaits us. When we move toward our prophetic and democratic visions, slaveries are ended, civil rights achieved, freedom established, compassion implemented, justice advanced, humand rights defended and peace made.

When we neglect the vision, greed triumphs, selfishness erodes common life, our divisions increase, our weapons expand and our conflicts proliferate.

References The vision of the prophet (Habakkuk 1-2)

Justice in the playground

Key Words Children Youth Inclusion Friendship
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 33
Quote Jim Wallis was sent out to school with these instructions:

“Phyllis Wallis told her children to always do two things. First, if there is a child that nobody else will play with, you play with him or her, she ordered. It was like a rule of play for us – nobody gets left out. Second, if there is a bully who is picking on other people, you stand up for them, she courageoulsy commanded. Virtually all my fights in school were with bullies.”

A better way is possible

Key Words Protest Prayer Transformation Politics
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 46
Quote Protest always makes a promise – a better way is possible here.

If nonviolence is to be credible, it must answer the questions that violence purports to answer but in a better way.

Selective morality

Key Words Sin Fundamentalism Morality Justice Private Public
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 66
Quote Talks about a narrow spirituality, and how his girlfriend’s father objected to his daughter’s boyfriend taking her out to “The Sound of Music.”

“Fundamentalism is essentially a revolt against modernity. It is a reaction usually based on profound fear and defensiveness against “losing the faith”. My girlfriends fathers instinctively knew that his religioun should make huim different than the world. That is a fair rrelifious point, and to be honest, there is much about modernity that deserves some revolting against. But I wish he had chosen to break with America at the point of its materialism, racism, poverty or violence. Instead he chose Julie Andrews.”

“Conventional wisdom suggests that the antidote to religious fundamentalism is more secularism. But that is a very big mistake. The best response to bad religion is better religion, secularism.

Page 68
“Moder fundamentalism offers what Walter Wink calls the “myth of redemptive violence” – that somehow violence can save us after all.”

Seamless garment of life

Key Words Life
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 79
Quote Quotes Joseph Bernardin, who spoke of a
“seamless garment of life, which applied to any issue where human lives are at stake, from abortion and euthanasia, to capital punishment and nuclear weapons, to poverty and racism.”

War and fear

Key Words Courage Violence Peace Fear
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 88
Quote Quotes Thomas Merton “The root of war is fear.”

Courage is not the absence of fear but resistance to it.

Talks about a time of fear (post 9/11) when religious organisations are reporting shortfalls in work for the poor.

Page 160
Jesus did not say “Blessed are the peace lovers” but “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Pages 165
Talks about the difference between army and police, fear and violence. The police officer uses force which is legitimate but violence which is not.

Marys Manifesto

Key Words Protest Vision
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 130
Quote Talks about Mary’s sermon in a context of war and conflict
References Magnficat (Luke 2)

World and change

Key Words History Change
Source Gods Politics
Source Author Wallis, Jim
Location 167
Quote Quotes Hauerwas. Against the conventional wisdom that says the world changed on September 11th, he says “No, the world changed in 33 A.D. The question is how to narrate what happened on September 11 in light of what happened in 33 A.D.”

God As Father

God As Father

Hebrew 12:3-9

This is our last of four weeks looking at the book of Hebrews

 

You remember that the first two weeks we looked at the idea of blood healing sin, and of Jesus going into Hyperspace to blow up the death star

 

Last week we looked at the great crowd of witnesses who surround us.

 

The rule in the book of Hebrews is that blood heals sin.

But it does so much more than that

Jesus doesn’t just clean us up and then send us back away to live the same kind of broken life.

 

He brings us into the family.

 

It goes back to the earliest Baptism services and to the Jesus’ prayer for the Church.

“Our Father”

 

The earliest baptism services contained the word “Abba”

 

Jesus says, God is your Father

 

There is this radical configuration going on, not only are you forgiven

You are also adopted.

 

In the ancient world, adoption was this huge honour that could be bestowed on one coming into a family.  Most famously, Augustus the Emperor had been adopted by Julius as his heir.

 

The Christians took this to a whole new intensity.

 

Care

They said you have to understand this radical shift in the way you can be, now that God is your Father.

 

There was an understanding of care – so Jesus says if you though you are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much will your Father give to you.

 

Honour

In ancient times, when you were slaves there would be status amongst slaves, and the status was “How big was your master?” – it is the same kind of thing that exists among football supporters – status, or bragging rights, come from how well your club is doing.  It was the same with the slaves – how good is your master, well there is some of that given to you.

 

So for the Christians, they would say “I am a slave of Jesus, the King of the whole world”

 

Or even I am a son – how much more status does the son have?

 

There was an understanding of prestige – that though these people were despised, they were honoured because they belonged to the household of God.

 

There was a guy called Billy Bray from Cornwall who was a destitute drunken miner, who became radically converted,

 

He left the drink – that we might expect

He began to be a generous and gentle man

He preached

 

But there was also a huge rise in esteem.  In Cornwall when visiting wealthy houses, he would always go to the front door, because of this rise in esteem.

 

Intimacy

And with God being our Father, there is a rise in intimacy.

 

We have noticed this in our family with my sister marrying Scott in October.

 

When Scott first appeared at Christmas time we knew it must be serious because you never normally get to meet my sisters’ boyfriends.

 

When you did, it was all very respectful – thank you and please, and not saying too much

 

But now he is married, and declared to be “like another son” – there is a freedom in the house, a contentedness, and no sense that he is overstepping the mark.

 

The Christians used to sense that with God, that they could go to God boldly.

 

As the author Richard Foster says of the Lament Psalms ‘They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into lament the next.”

To pray is to confess not the abundance, but the exhaustion of one’s verbal, intellectual, and spiritual resources.  It is surrender… – Alan Lewis

So with God our Father – there is care

There is a rise in esteem – we are sons of the king

There is a rise in intimacy with God

God As Father

There are two problems that we might have with the idea of God being a father.

 

The first is that some of us had had bad experiences of being fathered.

And Father is a word that can never mean anything but pain for us.

And some in that position have found help in some of the passages of scripture that refer to God in maternal terms, Psalm 131 being a good example.

The second is that God sometimes feels to be an absentee father

If God was my father, then this stuff that I am going through at the moment.

Wouldn’t be happening.

 

And it is this problem that the book of Hebrews is addressing – why is it that when life is so painful for the Hebrew readers, how can God still be their father?

 

I want to park that question for a short moment, and now return to a report that was put out this week, called “Building Character.”

 

Building Character

This week so the publication of a report called “Building Character”

 

The report argues that in today’s labour market, it is much more important to have soft skills (like delegation or sales) , rather than hard skills (like how to turn a lathe, or wire a house)

 

In particular it is interested in three skills which are essential for children – both in the work place, and general well being.

These are empathy (the ability to understand what other people are feeling), self-regulation (the ability to deal with disappoint without getting too dejected) and application (the ability to stick at things, to put off happy now things for better things later).

 

These skills owe a huge amount to parents and the way that they parent.

 

In particular the researchers were interested in two different measures.

 

The first measure is how warm and affectionate parents are with their children.

 

Parents that are responsive are warm, and those that aren’t are hostile.

 

Parents that are demanding set boundaries for their children, and those that aren’t let them do what they want.

 

And you can combine these two qualities to get roughly four kinds of parenting:

  1. If parents are hostile and undemanding – that is disengaged
  2. If parents are hostile and demanding – that is authoritarian
  3. If parents are warm and undemanding – that is “laissez-faire”, just let them get on with it
  4. If parents are warm and demanding – that is tough love.

 

Which do you think produced the best outcomes for children – tough love.

 

Tough love is hard work

 

It requires judgement – when do you show the toughness and when do you show the love

 

It requires energy – anyone knows that it is easier to just children do what they please

 

It requires communication if there are two parents – so that one isn’t doing all the tough and the other isn’t doing all the love.

 

Now we are going to read this passage again from Hebrews:

 

Which parenting style is in God

And can you spot moments of empathy, self-regulation and application

 

3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4 For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5* Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children?

“My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you,

and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you.

6 Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves,

and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”

7 Endure what you suffer as being a father’s punishment; your suffering shows that God is treating you as his children. Was there ever a child who was not punished by his father? 8 If you are not punished, as all his children are, it means you are not real children, but illegitimate. 9 In the case of our human fathers, they punished us and we respected them. How much more, then, should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! 10 Our human fathers punished us for a short time, as it seemed right to them; but God does it for our own good, so that we may share his holiness. 11 When we are punished, it seems to us at the time something to make us sad, not glad. Later, however, those who have been disciplined by such punishment reap the peaceful reward of a righteous life.

Now which is the parenting that is exhibited by God?

 

Why does God do that.

 

Because God is not content with us the way we are, God is passionate that we grow, that we become more like him.

 

That we love like God, that we enjoy like God, that we stand up for justice like God.

 

No one is more committed to you being a better you than God.

God made you with the intention of there being a you in the world, and he wants it to be a good you.

 

And how does that happen – tough love?

 

What does tough love feel like when you are going through tough love?

How do you feel about the one who is giving you the tough love?

At the time of the tough love, do you feel like it is doing you much good.

 

These Hebrew people are going through a tough time.  The writer doesn’t give them too much sympathy – you haven’t yet resisted to the point of giving blood he says.

 

Can you imagine saying that to someone – you have not yet resisted to the point of giving blood.

 

This is tough.

 

But Hebrews says, be not discouraged when the Lord corrects you.

It means that he is Fathering you, keeping a hold of you.

If you are having to learn something major in your life, and that thing is hurting, then I want to suggest that it is there because of God.

 

This is not the only reason that we suffer, but it might the one of the reasons at the moment.

 

It will seem senseless, and pointless, but it will change you.

 

This sort of discipline is difficult to pinpoint.

 

Makes Us Closer To God

It could be an experience which throws us into closer relationship with God.

 

Experience testifies that a long course of ease and prosperity, without painful changes, has an unhappy tendency to make us cold and formal in our secret worship but troubles rouse our spirits, and constrain us to call upon the Lord in good earnest, when we feel a need of that help which we only can have from him. John Newton

 

Things that are like this can be illness, or financial difficulty or having to deal with someone who is awkward at work.

 

Making Us Patient

It could be an experience which forces us to become more patient, and more understanding of people around us

 

Like having to care from someone on a continued basis.

 

Making Us Determined

It could be the experience of having to fight for justice, and of having to trust in God to keep you with a sense of right or wrong.

 

Or the experience of what we fight for seeming impossibly long way off.

 

The solicitor Michael Mansfield talks about the experience of working with families like the Brazilian John Charles De Menezes, or Stephen Lawrence, that when you fight for justice and for truth you first of all get a denial, then you get an official inquiry, and then a public inquiry, and then eventually you get the truth.

 

This pain, this waiting, makes us rely on God, and teaches us about perseverance, justice, and where true power does eventually lie in the world.

 

Dealing with criticism

It could be criticism from someone which is actually has some truth to it, but really really hurts to acknowledge

 

It could be the experience of being reconciled to someone, and the negotiations and conversations that that requires.

 

Experience of silence

It could be an experience of silence from God.

 

An Old Hasidic Story

There is a king who has two sons.  Each of them comes to receive his gift from the royal table.  The first son appears at his father’s doorway and as soon as he is seen, his request is granted.  The father holds this son in low esteem, and is annoyed by his presence.  The king orders that the gifts be handed to his son at the door so that he will not approach the table.  Then the king’s beloved son appears. The Father takes great pleasure in this son’s arrival and does not want him to leave too quickly.  For this reason, the king delays granting his request, hoping that the son will then draw near to him. The son comes closer, he feels the father’s love so deeply that he does not hesitate to stretch forth his own hand to the royal table.

So let us stop,

And think first of all about the last five years

 

Where have been the experiences of illness, of financial difficulty, of conflict, of fighting for justice, or of caring for others and this making us more patient, or of silence from God

 

What have been the changes in us, and which of those changes had God behind them?

 

What have been the points of pain that we are enduring at the moment, where might God be teaching

 

What is the joy that is laid before us?

 

What could God have in store for us, that might justify that sort of pain.

 

Remember that God your Father is with you.

 

AMEN


Jesus in Hyperspace

It was to do with the thing that is a kind of rule of the universe, that “Blood heals sin”

And that one day a year in ancient Israel

They would have a day when the blood would do away with sin

And the High Priest would talk two goats, a ram and a bull and

Sacrifice a goat, a ram and a bull

And the blood of the goat, ram and bull would be seen to be dealing with the sin of the whole people

And the place that the goat, and ram and bull were placed were in the Tabernacle, the tent where the God was said to live

In the middle of the tent, the Holiest of Holies was the place where God was said to be

And the Priest, the High Priest would go in there

And offer the goat, ram and bull to God

And their blood would heal the sin of the people.

So two things, that we need to bear in mind

Jesus goes into hyperspace – some kind of other reality

And that tent is the place where the High Priest would offer a goat, ram and bull

So that their blood would heal the sin of the people.

Now read this portion from Hebrews, which was read for us earlier.

11 But Christ appeared as a High Priest of the blessings that are soon to come by means of the greater and more perfect Tent of worship, a tent which has not been built with hands—that is to say does not belong to this material creation— 12 and once for all entered the Holy place, taking with Him not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood, and thus procuring eternal redemption for us.[1]

Saw the claim is being made that when Jesus was dying on the cross

He was also at that same point somewhere else

In the heavens, offering his own blood for the sin of the people.

That is a huge claim

That when Jesus was on the cross, he was also somewhere else

Making an offering of himself for us all.

People think that ministers have been zapped with some special God gun

That they take the God pill with their Weetabix in the morning

And that faith is easy for them to believe in.

But I find that hard to get my head round

That the moment that Jesus is on that cross

He is also somewhere else in heaven,

Offering his blood to heal us.

So what do I do to have faith to get myself round this

I pray – and I ask God to help me believe

The other thing I do is something the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis used to do

He used to remember that the reality around him is a lot stranger

A lot harder to get your head round than what we see.

Now the next five minutes is going to be sciency bit – some of you are into this

Some are not,

So if this is not your thing, I promise to come back in five minutes time.

Science Bit

Particles

Take this piece of wood

Wood is remarkable stuff, there is a lot going on, the different lines being about another year of growth in the life of a tree

And a carpenter has the job of knowing how wood work, which way to cut it to get the best strength out of it

But there is more going on with wood.

The Greeks though there was something else going on.

They used to say this,

There are four elements to everything – earth, wind, water and fire

If you burnt the wood you got fire and earth

Which meant that the wood was actually a mixture of earth and fire.

And they were right – the wood is made up of other stuff.

Science has probed deeper

And said that this wood is made up of different substances – carbon – the stuff that makes diamonds, hydrogen – the gas that floats and Oxygen – the stuff we breath.

There are atoms

And then the scientists looked further and they discovered that inside the atoms were other things called protons and electrons

And inside them there other things called quarks.

You can’t begin to describe how small a quark is, or how many of them are in that piece of wood right now.

So there is more going on than you think.

But the problem is that there is more going on than the quark

It’s also got a thing in it called the Higgs Boson, the God particle

You might remember that tunnel in France and Switzerland at a place called Cern

Well that place is trying to find the Higgs Boson.

There is something even smaller than that

Some people think it might be a thing called a Superstring – they’ve go no way of know this and the size of tunnel you would have to build would be huge.

But the thing about a superstring is that isn’t just in three dimensions

They reckon it might be in 10 dimensions – three of them we see

Possibly one of them might be time

And the other six we know nothing about.

This piece of wood, is sitting in another place at once

One we know nothing about.

Back To Hebrews

Well because it kinds of makes it easier for to believe something that Hebrews says.

Hebrews is a book that makes big demands on the first people that read it

And another point he says “Faith is believing, of being assured of things that you cannot see.”

And one of the things that faith gets us closer to

Is something that we cannot see

Is the claim made in this section of Hebrews, chapter 9

That when Jesus died, he went somewhere else

It’s like he stepped off the planet,

Or better perhaps that in him this planet became merged with something else.

Sometimes the Bible reads like Science Fiction with it’s talk of teleporting and hyperspace.

It’s a bit like that.

The book of Hebrews, says Jesus went into another reality

And offered himself for the sins of the world

Jesus went into another creation, another universe,

Jesus was offering himself for the sin the world

So at the same time

Jesus was in Jerusalem, and he was somewhere “not in this creation.”

This is Jesus,

This is this moment on the cross

The Priest walks into the tent

Without a bull, without a ram, without a goat

But pained by the power of the wrong that we do to each other

And knowing that blood heals sin
He offers himself.

And then says Hebrews, this thing

Jesus, in the tent in another place, affects me and you.

And then Hebrews says,

This has an effect on you and I.

Hebrews

On the day of Atonement, after the ram, the goat and the bull had been sacrificed

The Priest would go outside with the blood and the ashes of the burnt bull, or calf,

And he would sprinkle these things on the people

The symbolism being that what happens in this tent, in this holy place

Is for you

And can change you, so that somehow your sin is done away with.

The same thing happens when Jesus went into the tent in the other creation.

Have a read of Hebrews again:

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a burnt calf are sprinkled on the people who are ritually unclean, and this purifies them by taking away their ritual impurity. 14 Since this is true, how much more is accomplished by the blood of Christ! Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will purify our consciences from useless rituals, so that we may serve the living God.[2]

I want us to pick on three things in the last verse

  1. Purified conscience
  2. Useless rituals
  3. Serve the living God

Useless Rituals

The word for useless rituals is “dead works”  things that we work at that are dead

That do not bring life to us.

Or actually harm us

We have a whole lot of things in our life that are dead, that do us no good

One of my biggest regrets is the amount of time that I waste on things that do not let me live

Through which part of me dies

It my distractions on the computer

It might be useless TV – of our generation, the amount of pointless TV

How many of us says “I feel so refreshed and alive and inspired because of that crime show I watched until 1.20 this morning”

There is so much that kills us

That is dead ritual

Next year I would like us as a Church to think about Halloween

Because there is a part of that which our kids just love – the dressing up, the dooking for apples

And there is a part which is about a celebration of death

That which does not make us alive

Actually it is twisted version of Easter – Easter is about life after death for our bodies, refreshed

With Halloween it is the skeleton, or the headless man which lives

When the dead rise at Halloween it is without their flesh or their heads

With all their capacity for hate preserved

With Easter it is with remodelled superbodies and the capacity to love

So we need to think about Halloween

But there are plenty other things which are about death

And Hebrews does not just say “Stop it”

It says “The blood which Jesus shed purifies your conscience”

Purified Conscience

The purified conscience is the one which no longer beats itself for the dead works

It doesn’t go to bed thinking another rotten day

Of TV watching, Nintendo playing, Halloween worshiping

Alcopop swigging, self-harming deadness

It goes to bed in peace

Because the blood of Jesus purifies from these things

To be a Christian is to somehow tune into this moment, this hyperspace moment when Jesus offers himself for our sin

And to realise that we are purified from all that we do.

Serve The Living God

And then to serve the living God

Not to say “stop it, stop it, stop it”

But to realise that we have the potential to serve, to do good for the God who is life.

So I ask you to cast yourself to ahead to the day and the week the lies before you

Who are the people that you are going to spend the most time

What are the tasks that are going to be demanded of you.

What are the skills that you have, the unique skills that you have in the place in which you find yourself that you are going to employ

And how might life spring from these things

At work it might be new opportunities, new jobs

At home it might be comfort for an older person, it might be that someone feels appreciated

It might simply be when you love

This is serving the living God.

And the blood of Jesus all those years ago

Takes you away from haunted conscience

And says “you can serve”, “You can serve”

In the apparently meaningless wastes of daily routine

In the exhausting, incessant demands of people around us

In our questions and doubt about our worth

You can serve the living God

By the blood of Jesus

Let it be so

Let it be so

Let it be so

Look down upon us all

Especially we give back to you

All our failures to keep our vows

All our legalisms

All our despondencies

Grant, merciful Lord, to all sorry souls

Both pardon and peace

That we may serve thee with a quiet mind

And unfailingly believe your holy gospel

AMEN


[1]Weymouth New Testament</>. . (electronic ed.) . ,: :

[2]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :