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Showing posts from July, 2008

Discerning Good and Evil

1 Kings 3.5-12
Romans 8.26-39
Matthew 13.31-3, 44-52


The wisdom of Solomon is proverbial. But he did not ask God for wisdom. He asked only for "an understanding mind able to discern between good and evil." God was so impressed by Solomon's selflessness and maturity that he gave him the gift of wisdom too.

It would be nice to be guided by wise leaders, wouldn't it? One of Gordon Brown's difficulties is that on television he appears less wise than he apparently is in person. Someone commented that, at an award ceremony this week for former members of the Women's Land Army, he was dignified, relaxed and good humoured. He gave a short speech, without any notes, in which he said just the right things to impress everyone there and he captured precisely the mood of the occasion.

But, unlike Tony Blair, he cannot do this in front of the cameras. Tony Blair always looked assured and at ease on television. Love him or hate him, he often found just the right thing to say, wh…

When a Little Produces a Lot

Isaiah 55.10-13
Romans 8.1-11
Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23


We haven't seen much snow for a long time but we do get plenty of rain, don't we? It might not be as much fun as the sunshine, but it does help the plants to grow. Most vegetables, for instance, need plenty of water in order to grow big and strong. God's word has the same effect. It stimulates spiritual growth making us more rounded people, closer to the image of God.

Of course, the rain which stimulates the growth of vegetables and garden flowers also helps the weeds to grow, which is not a good thing. Fortunately, the word of God is not like this. It doesn't cause the indiscriminate growth of good and bad things. Instead, it tends to suppress what is bad and promote what is good.

The Prophet Isaiah gives too examples of bad plants and two examples of good ones. The cypress tree was valued because its timber was highly valued in the ancient world. It was used, for instance, to make the coffins of the pharaohs. The myrtle …

True Religion

Zechariah 9.9-12
This passage is part of the answer to those critics who claim that religion causes hostility and aggression. While it is true that religion is often used as an excuse for aggressive behaviour, the Prophet Zechariah makes clear that the true mark of religious leadership is a resolute determination to see peace prevail. Not only does the true leader choose to ride on a humble beast of burden, but he also cuts off the chariot and the bow, and positively commands peace. He may choose humble symbols like the donkey, but his aim is a worldwide dominion of peace. In other words, true religion is - by definition - almost aggressively peaceful.

Romans 7.15-25a

The great difference between Christianity and its sister religions, Judaism and Islam, is that while Christianity recognises that holy laws are good in principle, it also recognises that human beings cannot rise to the challenge of being holy - at least not without divine help. There is something about human nature which ma…

Good News for Pessimists?

Jeremiah 28.5-9
It's easy to see how Jeremiah's name became a byword for pessimism. The Prophet Hananiah had prophesied that everything would turn out for the best; the exiles and the booty taken away to Babylon would be returned. It was the message that everyone wanted to hear, but Jeremiah would have none of it.

In his opinion a true prophet is like Private Fraser from the old TV sitcom "Dad's Army". He - or she - only speaks words of doom about war, famine, and pestilence. If a prophet speaks words of peace we should be on our guard and believe them only then those words come true.

We might feel that Jeremiah is exaggerating a bit. He leaves no room for prophets who speak words of inspiration and encouragement, who dream of a better world or of new possibilities. Martin Luther King was this kind of prophet, and there were prophets like this in the Isaiah tradition.

As someone said recently on Radio 4's "Start The Week" programme, pessimists like Jere…