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Showing posts from February, 2010

Is it safe to go out in the snow?

Psalm 91.1, 2 & 9-16, Romans 10.8b-13, Luke 4.1-13
Psalm 91 begins by assuring believers that putting our trust in God places us under the shadow or shelter of his constant protection. He is a refuge and a fortress, like the base camps where British soldiers regroup for their constant forays against the Taliban. But what does that mean in practice?

The Psalmist boldly asserts that living close to God, and putting our trust in him, means that no harm will ever befall us and no disaster will ever overtake our home or our family. The other morning, when it was really icy, I saw a jogger running down hill into Hemsworth. Suddenly he took the most desperate tumble. He actually bounced on the frozen ground. Even sitting at the wheel of the car I winced. It must have been agony. But he was up in an instant, and ran on as if nothing had happened. According to the Psalmist he must have been a believer, for the Psalmist says that divine messengers will guard us when we go out, so that we don&…

God and the Chaos Monster

Psalm 89.5-12, Exodus 3.1-6, John 12.27-36
Psalm 89 assumes a kind of parliament or heavenly court where the holy ones, whoever they might be, assemble to debate the unfolding history of the human race and the future of project Universe. The holy ones are unlikely to be the saints, righteous people who have been admitted to the court of heaven when they die, because the people of ancient Israel didn't really believe in life beyond death as we understand it. Instead, the holy ones could be fellow members of a pantheon of gods who run the universe together, or they could be subservient beings who help God with his work, analogous to the later concept of angels, or heavenly messengers, who roam the ether doing God's bidding. If they are gods the Psalmist seems to depict Israel's God faithfully and effectively pleading the nation's cause in their debates, a bit like a good constituency MP. If they are angelic beings, they form a sort of cabinet with whom God shares his idea…

The Steadfast Love of God

Psalm 138, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5.1-11
Psalm 138 belongs to a time when the people of Israel still saw their God as simply the best and greatest of a whole pantheon of competing gods. Israel's God stands out from the crowd because of his steadfast love and faithfulness. In the mythology of other gods, they tend to have very human faults and failings, but although human beings are made in the image of Israel's God, he is exalted far above all human frailty. He is characterised by the very best things which human beings aspire to - steadfastness, love and faithfulness. But the flip side of human nature is entirely absent from his being.
Israel's God is quick to answer when we call upon him. He strengthens us with his gifts of grace and power. Unlike all the other gods, who were effectively just the patron saints of a particular nation, Israel's God has a universal appeal and lays claim to the allegiance of every nation. But, although the glory of Israel's God fa…

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Isaiah 6.1-8
Here's what some children said when their schoolteacher asked them to write about God:Are you really invisible, or is it just a trick?Instead of letting people die, and making new ones, why don't you just keep the ones you have?I think the stapler is one of your greatest inventions. (Actually, that isn't very likely, is it? Someone else reports that the boy who wrote this actually said):I think the Play Station 3 is one of your greatest inventions. (I guess teachers just don't want us to know that.)Did you draw the lines round the countries?In school they told us what you do. Who does it when you're not there?I do not think anybody could be a better God. I want you to know that I'm not just saying this because you are God already. I bet it's very hard for you to love all the people in the world. In our family there are only four people and I can't do it.On holiday it rained all the time and my Dad said some things about you which people ar…