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Showing posts from January, 2008

The Truth About God is Clearly Visible and Counter Cultural

Exodus 24.12-18
Exodus gives us the impression here that encountering God is no ordinary thing. It doesn't happen in the midst of everyday experiences and meetings. Instead, it's something special, a mountain-top thing, that comes to us only when we separate ourselves from what is ordinary and everyday. To reach the mountaintop takes dedication, extraordinary effort and courage. It calls for special reserves of faith and strength. Among the entire nation of Israel, only Moses and Joshua were capable of undertaking that journey. And, when they got there, still they did not encounter God. They had to camp on the mountaintop for six days, shrouded in cloud, waiting for God to call to them.

Exodus also evokes a sense of mystery about the encounter with God. Moses did get to meet God but not out in the open. They could only meet within the cloud and the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire so that their meeting was dangerously different from any other kind of…

Blue Monday and The Mission of The Church

Isaiah 9.1-4
Faith in God is about real liberation, not just from spiritual darkness but from oppression. The reference to Galilee, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, relates to its conquest by the army of Assyria but Christians would later relate it to the story of Jesus. Galilee and its people were the first ones to hear the Good News he brought.

Is the same good news a source of joy and rejoicing for us? And what do we make of the rather inappropriate comparison with sharing out the spoils of war? Isn't the sort of exultation experienced by plunderers more akin to greed and vengefulness than to spiritual growth? The comparison with harvest time seems much more appropriate.

This week includes Blue Monday, supposedly the gloomiest day of the year when Christmas credit card bills, broken new year resolutions, bad weather and dark winter evenings combine to make the nation feel more miserable and flat than at any other time. Perhaps we should just be glad that we have nothing more se…

The Tension in the Church

1 Corinthians 1.1-9
The words of thanksgiving with which Paul, and his administrative assistant Sosthenes, open their letter present an idealised picture of how the church in Corinth might be if it were truly faithful to its Lord. As the letter unfolds, however, we shall learn that Paul's description of sanctified people filled with the grace of God, not lacking in any spiritual gift, and enriched in faith and knowledge of every kind as they give strong witness to the good news about Jesus, is sadly far from the truth. If the Christians at Corinth are indeed to be blameless on the day of judgement, they will need a great deal of strengthening first.

But isn't the same tension, between what ought to be and could be, and how things actually are in reality, found in every church? And isn't that sorry state of affairs almost inevitable? Because the Church is, after all, meant to be a haven for people who are still on a spiritual journey, who are seeking sanctification, or holine…

The New Israel

Isaiah 49.1-7
The Prophet foretells the words of God's chosen representative, Israel, which could be the name of a righteous minority of faithful followers of God, whose task is to purify and renew their nation, or could be the name of a groundbreaking new leader cast in the same mould as Jacob, the father of the nation. The new Israel's arrival signifies a radical new beginning, the emergence of a reborn nation better able to live up to its calling as God's chosen people.

And yet there is a jarring note in the prophecy. The new leader's mission will appear to have come to nothing because the rest of the nation will reject it and the leader will be treated everywhere like a deeply-despised and worthless slave, but God has a greater purpose than simply saving the old nation of Israel. The renewed holy nation is going to be an international project, which will gather in all the world's peoples, and there is a further surprise in store. Although the new Israel will at …

Covenant Leadership

In our Old Testament reading today the Prophet talks about a new kind of leadership. It's not exactly clear whether he's got an individual leader in mind, or whether he's thinking about the nation of Israel offering that new kind of leadership to the world. What's interesting, however, is that he talks about this new leader as a living embodiment of God's covenant, or promise, to the people of the Earth. He says, "I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations." But what does that mean? If we met a 'covenant leader' today, what would he or she look like? How would we recognise them?

Well, to start with, I don't think we would look in the Houses of Parliament, or even in our royal palaces. Do you remember how the wisemen went to Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, to seek the new kind of leader who had been foretold in the stars? They asked King Herod where they might find him. but the king didn't know for sure. He as…

A New Kind of Leader

Isaiah 42:1-9Here the Prophet talks about a new kind of leadership. It's not exactly clear whether he has an individual leader in mind, or whether he envisages a reinvigorated nation of Israel offering that leadership to the peoples of the world. What is interesting, however, is the kind of leadership he talks about, which will be characterised by a gentle but persistent quest for justice.

How different this is from the vainglorious leadership which characterises many of our leading politicians. The mock documentary 'The Thick Of It' depicts shallow politicians and their advisers who are motivated solely by tomorrow's news headlines. They don't shape opinion; instead they slavishly follow it. 'The Thick Of It' was supposed to be a spoof of real political life but, to the horror of its creator - Armando Iannucchi - many politicians and political commentators wanted to know who had told him what was going on!

In contrast to these false leaders, the Prophet des…