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Showing posts from May, 2011

The Antidote to Rapture Fever

Acts 17.22-31, John 14.15-21

Last weekend the world as we know it was supposed to end. So said Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio, a Christian radio station based in the United States. A series of calamities, including another huge earthquake in New Zealand, would herald the Rapture, the moment when the risen Jesus is supposed to take his true believers to live with him in heaven, leaving sinners behind to endure the world’s dreadful fate.
On Monday 23 May, when the Rapture had not happened after all, Mr Camping emerged from his home to declare himself flabbergasted that his predictions had not turned out to be true. He said he would be looking for answers, but that he would not be returning the donations sent to him by people who had believed his message and wanted to help him spread the news.
Of course, when people make silly predictions about the end of the world they bring all believers into disrepute but Mr Camping and his followers have been the object of …

The Ideal Church in a Hostile World

1 Peter 2.19-25, Acts 2.42-47

Today’s reading from the First Letter of Peter seems to have very little in common with the modern world. It’s about upholding and justifying the ancient institution of slavery.
Christianity was very attractive to slaves. In his working life Jesus might have been more middle class than plebeian, but he endured the death of a slave when he was hanged upon a cross and he preached the equality before God of all people, male and female, rich and poor, Jewish and non-Jewish.
However, as slaves flocked to join the Church, so it’s leaders became increasingly anxious to explain to the government that the new religion was not subversive or dangerous. Slaves were not to demand equal rights to match their spiritual equality with their owners. Instead, they were to put up with injustice and suffering, while remembering that - in doing so - they were imitating the path which Jesus had walked.
‘When he was abused, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, h…

Do You Feel Safe?

John 10.1-10
Do you feel safe? I think it’s easier to feel safe when we’re with other people rather than when we’re alone, isn’t it? And I guess we all feel much safer when we’re among friends than when we’re among strangers.
If we’re alone in the house at night we can sometimes think that we’ve heard the strangest noises, can’t we, sounds like the creaking of the floorboards, or unexplained thuds, or distant shouts and screams - and then it’s easy to imagine the worst, isn’t it, and to think that we might be in danger!
Jesus promises that with him we can feel safer. First, he offers us the chance to come into his sheepfold, his place of safety, which is the Church. Here we should be among friends, people who are also trying to follow him and do his will. And second, he says that he himself will keep watch over us, especially when we’re facing the sort of problems which other people can’t protect us from - serious illness, or the end of life.
Of course, that doesn’t mean …

Jesus the Lover of Our Souls

Song of Solomon 3.2-5, 8.6-7, Revelation 1.12-18, John 20.11-18

There is something highly charged and emotional about the encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the garden near his tomb on Easter Day. Perhaps the way their meeting is described owes a literary debt, at least, to today’s verses from the Song of Solomon.

And yet the Song of Solomon is a love song. It isn’t describing a spiritual encounter. The young woman seeks the physical consummation of her love. For her, spiritual longing is not enough.

The setting for the poem is night time, not early morning as in John’s story. The woman has drifted off to sleep and when she wakes up she expects her lover to be close by. Perhaps she left him sitting on the couch catching up with some urgent paperwork or playing a game with his friends. She calls to him but he’s not there. He seems to have gone out of the house. When she has finished searching indoors she goes outside to look for him. Is he still with his mates? Or…

Jesus and Yuri Gagarin

Matthew 21.1-11
Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, has a number of things in common with Jesus.
Like Jesus, he was treated as a celebrity. After he became famous, crowds of people flocked to see him, wherever he went in the world.
Like Jesus, he blazed a trail on behalf of the whole human race. He was the first person to go into outer space. Jesus went to Jerusalem on a mission to change the course of history by putting human beings right with God.
Like Jesus, he died tragically young. Jesus was probably about 33 when he died, and Yuri Gagarin was 34 when the plane he was testing crashed in mid-flight.
Like Jesus, he was very brave. When he went into space, no one knew for certain whether space ws a safe place for people to be, or whether his tiny spaceship would return safely to earth again. Jesus knew when he rode into Jerusalem that he was facing certain death. But he went willingly because he believed that it was his duty, his calling from God, to die in order to sho…

Is The Pattern of Our Life Determined For Us?

John 9.1-41
This passage raises some fundamental questions about Jesus and his opponents. Which of them is really living in darkness, whether they recognise it or not? And who can cast light on the situation and bring glory to God?

Sometimes, as with the choice of David as the new king of Israel, which is today’s Old Testament reading, things are not as obvious as they might first seem. Perhaps what we need, as we thread our way carefully through life's many challenges and pitfalls, is the discernment to recognise what is right and the integrity to do it.

Jesus makes clear here, as he does elsewhere in the Gospels, that congenital disabilities are not anyone’s fault. They’re just an inevitable bi-product of evolution. This was a controversial idea at the time, but I guess it’s a pretty commonplace assumption now.

However, John still sees an element of determinism in this story. In his view, Jesus’ meeting with the blind man has been programmed into the unfolding patter…