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Showing posts from April, 2010

Needing a Change

Psalm 30, Acts 9.1-6, Revelation 5.11-14, John 21.1-19
Psalm 30 was written by someone who was recovering from a serious illness - so serious that the Psalmist thought he, or she, was going to die. In fact, when things were really bad, the Psalmist said to God, 'Look, if I die I won't be able to praise you any more or tell other people about your faithfulness.' And then things looked up. The Psalmist felt so much better that he, or she, was even able to dance for joy and the psalm closes with a promise to go on praising God and never to be silent.
The psalm reminds us that when things are going well, we tend to be full of confidence, but the minute things start to go wrong we are easily filled with dismay. We need to remember that God's favour lasts for a lifetime.

But what about after this life has ended? The psalm contains many clues that the Psalmist wasn't really thinking about life after death but, of course, for Christians the psalm inevitably makes us think abo…

Sour Dough and Breaking Bread

Isaiah 25.6-9,
In this short passage from Isaiah the prophet talks about a celebration feast. His words remind us of what Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper: From now onwards I shan't drink from the produce of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' Was Jesus thinking of this Endtime banquet of vintage wines and rich fare?

The Prophet goes on to say something very striking. The celebration will be held to mark the lifting of a great shroud that blights the lives of every person from every nation on earth. For God will swallow up death for ever.
This is a wonderful new idea in the Old Testament. It's still not the concept of resurrection. Isaiah is, I think, looking forward to the future not speaking about the past. He's holding out the hope of life everlasting for the living rather than a promise that death will be put into reverse. But, of course, the idea was soon developed to take on board the notion first that God would raise up those who had been marty…

Prepared to Believe

Luke 24.1-12

Very early on the first day of the week, in 'the deep dawn' - at first light - the women came to the tomb. In Luke's account there is no mention of their concern about how to remove the stone from the entrance so that they can anoint Jesus' body. Before they have chance even to think about it they have entered the tomb, discovered that it is empty and realised - almost as an after thought - that the stone has already been rolled away.
Of course they are puzzled, or 'utterly at a loss' as the Revised English Bible puts it, but straight away an explanation presents itself. Looking round they find two men in dazzling white are standing beside them.
Mark's account has only one man, wearing ordinary white clothes, so Luke has heightened the drama in more than one way. The dazzling clothes remind us of Jesus' appearance at the moment of transfiguration. Clearly for Luke this is a holy encounter and the women respond immediately by bowing their face…

It is Accomplished

Psalm 22, Isaiah 52.13-53.12, Hebrews 10.16-25, John 18.1 - 19.42

Psalm 22 is the psalm which Jesus quoted from the Cross, and therefore it has always had a special fascination for his followers. What brought it to his mind? Some people have suggested that he was conducting a sort of long range Bible study, drawing our attention to the resonance that the psalm has with his own situation. But it seems more likely that he cried out in a genuine agony of mind and spirit. John is so embarrassed by the whole episode that he omits it from his narrative completely. It doesn't fit with his picture of Jesus being glorified by God through suffering.

As Bill Ind, the former Bishop of Truro, reminded us in Wakefield Cathedral this morning, his cry of dereliction tells us that - even for Jesus - the outcome of the crucifixion was not a foregone conclusion. Despite his own enigmatic predictions that his suffering and death would lead to resurrection and vindication, in the end, racked with pain …

Lifting up the Cup of Salvation

Psalm 116.1-2, 12-19, Exodus 12.1-4, 11-14, 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, John 13.1-17, 31b-35
On the Cross Jesus cried out, 'My God, why have you forsaken me?' But the Psalmist says that God listens to our prayers and therefore we should go on calling to him for as long as we live.

How are we to repay God's goodness to us? In a striking phrase the Psalmist talks about lifting up the cup of salvation and calling on the name of the Lord. How evocative that is of the communion service, when we lift up the cup in memory of Jesus' ordeal as a symbol of our own obedience to the way of the Cross.
'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones;' another striking phrase. Precious, I think, because we are never forgotten. We do not die forsaken. We are always precious to God, no matter how or when we die.

Roman Catholics would see an evocation of the Hail Mary in the next lines of the Psalm, and it certainly makes us think - yet again - of Jesus, who is no…