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Showing posts from January, 2011

The Lamb of God

Psalm 40.1-5
I couldn’t resist choosing these verses from today’s psalm because they reminded me of a hit movie that’s showing in cinemas just now. It’s called ‘127 Hours’ and it’s the true story of a rock climber, Aaron Ralston, who was trapped for 127 hours in Utah’s Blue John Canyon after he fell down a crevasse or giant crack in the rock. He certainly had to wait patiently because 127 hours is a mighty long time - about five days - and he listened for the sound of anyone passing who might come to his rescue, hoping to be pulled from his lonely prison until his feet could stand form on solid rock again. In the end he had to figure his own way out of his dilemma, but the experience changed his life and made him a happier and kind er person.

Of course, we’re never alone when we’re in trouble. God is always with us, ready to listen to us amd give us a helping hand, and he asks us to trust him more and to celebrate his love for us.
Isaiah 49.1-7 The reading from the Prophet Isaiah reminds u…

Being the covenant people

Deuteronomy 29.10-15
Romans 12.1-2
John 15.1-10

Deuteronomy chapter 29 is a reconstruction of what might have been. The writers of Deuteronomy want us to think that it is real history, that Moses actually stood in front of the people of Israel and made this speech, but actually that is most unlikely.

The Book of Deuteronomy, or its first draft at any rate, was miraculously discovered in the Temple in the reign of King Josiah. The credulous were persuaded that it had been mislaid there in the reign of King Solomon, and then forgotten by his worthless successors. Supposedly it had been brought to the new Temple by priests who had handed it down, from generation to generation, since the time of Moses himself. But, in fact, it was almost certainly a construct of a group of reformers active during Josiah’s own reign. Among other things, they wanted to reinforce the idea that Israel was a covenant people.

Interestingly, they had a very inclusive approach. In many religions men have a privileged…

Giotto’s Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds

John 1.10-18
In the week before Christmas the BBC broadcast a modern version of The Nativity which attempted to retell the story with as much psychological realism as possible. So, for instance, viewers saw how Mary, and Joseph especially, struggled with their feelings.

But telling the story of Jesus with psychological realism is not a new idea. It has a long tradition going back seven hundred years to the time of the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone. This nativity scene was painted in a church in Padua in about 1305. Much imitated it is one of the first attempts at psychological realism in Christian art. And what a wonderful first attempt it is - a work of genius, in fact!

Whereas previously Mary and the Baby Jesus had been depicted facing outwards, or looking at their visitors, with beatific expressions fixed on their faces, Giotto dares to show them staring intently into one another’s eyes, bonding like any mother and newborn baby. Joseph, in contrast, is not looking on with quiet app…

A Reminder of Our Recent Advent & Christmas

Psalm 147 vv 12-20

I couldn’t resist using the words of today’s psalm in our worship because they’re such a vivid reminder of the Advent and Christmas that we’ve just enjoyed. Although perhaps the word ‘enjoyed’ isn’t quite the right one!

At least in such an affluent city as Wakefield, Christmas is a time of blessing for children and young people. There are few households where parents can’t afford to save up for some nice Christmas presents, or where families don’t eat the finest food that they will share together all year long. But these are hard times, and our toy service and some of our Christmas collections remembered those for whom Christmas is a struggle.

However, as well as those warm memories of Christmas cheer, the psalm calls to mind our recent run of rather cheerless icy weather. Even in Palestine people know about snow covering the ground like a blanket of wool and frost covering everything like the layer of thick white ashes from a fire. Yet the Psalmist reminds us, too, t…

The Most Dangerous & Exciting Gift Of All Time

Luke 2.8-20
How did you all keep yourselves from getting too excited on Christmas Eve? [1] Did you help to get the Christmas food ready? Or did you have it all to get ready yourself? That tends to be a good antidote to over excitement!

Or did you make some more Christmas decorations, like the ones we made in church the other week? Or did you go out for some brisk exercise to work off all your excess energy? That’s if you had any excess energy, of course!

Did you write a last minute letter to Father Christmas? It’s not always a good idea to leave it too late to write to Father Christmas, is it? But there’s never any harm in writing him a quick ‘thank you’ note to leave alongside the sherry and mince pie - or ginger beer and mince pie if you don’t want him having too much to drink while he’s driving his sleigh.

Of course, there are lots of other ways to stop yourself getting over excited on Christmas Eve - an early night with a good bedtime story to help you relax, or family carols round th…

Staying Awake to Call Upon the Lord

Isaiah 62.6-12
Titus 2.11-14
Luke 2.1-14

In our reading from Isaiah the Prophet urges his audience to stay awake and call upon the Lord God to come to their rescue. They are to take no rest, and to give God no rest either, from their ceaseless prayers. And all with the aim of hastening the day, which God has promised to bring about, when oppression will be ended, when those who toil will reap the reward of their labours instead of seeing it all accrued by invading armies, or bankers, or international financiers, and when the exiles will return home.

Once again - as elsewhere in Isaiah - we are promised that, if the people get the road ready for the Lord’s return, sending out the snow ploughs and diggers to clear the rock falls and ice sheets from the highway - then he willcome to rescue his people, bringing the exiles with him.

So here we are, once again giving it up for God in the middle of the night, taking no rest from our prayers, waiting for the Lord’s return. And we do still need hi…

God With Us

Isaiah 7.10 - 16
Romans 1.1 - 7
Matthew 1.18 - 25

The people who compiled the lectionary clearly wanted to challenge the way we think about the Bible because the readings they selected for today contain a number of rather striking contradictions. How are we to choose between them as we try to get to the truth?

First, there’s Isaiah’s prophecy about a young woman - and notice it is a young woman, not a virgin - who is soon to give birth to a son and who will name him, Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. Clearly this passage wasn’t intended to be about Jesus. It was intended to point to something that would happen very soon, within the Prophet’s own lifetime.

Ahaz, the king of Judah, had refused to ask God for a sign, and this had annoyed and disturbed Isaiah, who interpreted it as a lack of faith. I’m inclined to sympathise with Ahaz. If we don’t ask God for a sign then, of course, we won’t be disappointed if the sign doesn’t materialise or turns out to be difficult to interpret or ambigu…