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Showing posts from April, 2008

Standing firm in the faith

Acts 1.6-14
1 Peter 4.12-14, 5.6-11
John 17.1-11

Luke's rather sterile account of the ascension of Jesus, which creates an artificial divide between Jesus' earthly ministry and the new age of the Holy Spirit, is given a different kind of treatment in today's passage from 1 Peter. The writer doesn't think in terms of Jesus ascending to heaven, to leave the field clear for the Holy Spirit to manifest itself through the words and actions of Jesus' followers. Instead he thinks in terms of Jesus being vindicated or glorified.

He has already said that Christians shouldn't be made to suffer for their faith, so long as we are doing what is right. Now he acknowledges that, for whatever reason, believers are going through a fiery ordeal. However, if we are suffering for the sake of Jesus then - just as Jesus was vindicated by God through his resurrection, after he had suffered and died on the Cross - so we can expect to be vindicated if we remain steadfast in the faith.

The l…

Giving an account of the hope that is in us

Acts 17.22-31
Without doubt Paul is trying to find a point of connection with his audience in the busy market place at Athens. But is there a hint of irony in his comment that the Athenians are clearly extremely religious? Setting up an altar to an unknown god could suggest a commendable fastidiousness on the part of the citizens, a desire to dot every "i" and cross every "t", leaving nothing to chance. On the other hand, it could just as easily suggest insouciance or carelessness. If an unknown god really does exist, shouldn't human beings be straining every sinew to discover more about him or her? It would surely be a matter of the utmost importance. To treat the existence of gods as a more or less haphazard thing indicates that the Athenians had not got the right attitude to religion at all. To them it was just another facet of the marketplace, a matter of personal choice and perhaps a relatively unimportant one at that.

So, although two thousands years separa…

God's House

Acts 7.55-60
1 Peter 2.2-10
John 14.1-14

Jesus had warned that his followers would have to carry their own crosses in order to follow him. And now this is confirmed by the first Christian martyrdom. Stephen is stoned by a lynch mob of people enraged first by his preaching about the Temple, that God does not make his special home in a place built by human hands, and then by his uncompromising assertion that the people of Israel took wrong turns throughout their history before killing the prophets and then, finally, the Messiah. The fact that Stephen claims to have seen Jesus standing at God's righthand, affirming that his version of history is right, is the final straw for the furious crowd.

Stephen not only imitates his Lord in the manner of his death but also in his forgiving attitude and in his apparent readiness to let go of life to be with God. This is the kind of thing which, with hindsight, Jesus' friends saw that he must have been warning them about when he talked about thi…

Togetherness and Conflict in the Christian Way

Acts 2.42-47
The first Christians were a community, learning, sharing, praying and breaking bread together. Modern Christians talk about being a community or a family, but the first Christians actually lived the talk, even sitting light to their own possessions, which they held in common. And the first Christians made a serious difference to the world around them, causing awe and wonder by their signs and wonders. They enjoyed the goodwill of all the people, but - of course - this could not last. Daily the Lord was adding to their numbers and success breeds jealousy and opposition.
When the Church is marginalised and is concentrating on marginal things no one takes much notice of us. When the Church is making a serious difference ad being true to the teaching of Jesus it will inevitably provoke wonder and opposition in equal measures.
1 Peter 2.19-25
This is what the writer of 1 Peter explains in his letter. Christians must expect to suffer for doing what is right because that is what ha…