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Showing posts from July, 2012

The Glad Game

Psalm 145
Ephesians 3.14-21

Psalm 145 is one long outpouring of praise to God, with an emphasis on God’s compassion and concern for all creation. There’s only one jarring note, in verse 20, where the psalmist asserts that God will destroy the wicked.

Everywhere else in the psalm the tone is distinctly Pollyannaish, a word that came into the English language 100 years ago from the popular children’s novel Pollyanna, about an orphan who has a relentlessly and almost naively optimistic outlook on life. She’s learned to be an optimist by playing something she calls ‘The Glad Game’, taught to her by her father before he died. Every time something happens you try to find a reason to be glad about it, even if at first you were disappointed. A modern example of playing the Glad Game would be to say, ‘Although I have been made redundant and have been unemployed for some time, I remain optimistic about the future.’

Of course, if you dig down into the book you find that the term Pollyannaish is an…

Far more than all we can ask or imagine

2 Kings 4.42-44
Elisha has a crowd of hungry people with him. It’s a time of great scarcity and feeding them is a challenge. And then one of those things happens which, with the eyes of faith, we can see as God’s providence at work. A man brings to the prophet a first fruits offering from his harvest. He does this in obedience to Jewish Law - but Jewish Law as we know it now was still evolving at the time. Later, believers would be instructed to offer the first fruits of their harvest to the priests and levites, but this man chooses to bring his offering to Elisha because of his profound respect for this holy man.

Seen as an offering of first fruits it’s actually quite a generous gift, twenty loaves of bread plus some ears of grain. But Elisha chooses to share it with his whole entourage. Twenty loaves among one hundred people means just a few slices or hunks of bread each - enough to take away the pangs of hunger for a few hours, but no more than that. If God is satisfying their need t…

The Olympic Torch and The Olympic Spirit

1 Corinthians 9.24-27
Genesis 18.1-8

Did anyone see the torch? It went past the very place where my wife Helen works, so she saw the torch. It was being carried by the son of Jane Tomlinson, the woman who raised nearly two millions pounds for charity by undertaking a series of sporting challenges. But I only saw it on television. The nearest I got to it in person was sitting next to a young woman, at a meeting on Friday, who carried it when it came to Sheffield. 

Perhaps the most memorable moment on the torch’s visit to Yorkshire was when disabled soldier Ben Parkinson, who was wounded in Afghanistan, carried the torch in Doncaster. It took him 26 minutes to carry it 300 metres, and afterwards he said he was so proud to have done it.

The torch coming to Yorkshire seemed to get people really excited. The young woman who said she carried the torch in Sheffield took it to work with her next day and everyone wanted to be photographed with it. Wherever it went it really seemed to bring out the…

The Case For Equality

2 Corinthians 8.7-15
Mark 5.21-43

On Saturday morning I heard the BBC’s Rome correspondent talking about how the Eurozone crisis had affected the Dolce Vita - the good life which Italians used to think they enjoyed. Life has got a lot harder for people, he said, but then he conceded that - compared to most of the world’s population - Italians are still rich.

Perhaps that’s something we need to remind ourselves about from time to time. St Paul certainly thought so. ‘You are so rich in everything,’ he told the Christians at Corinth.

Actually, the Christians at Corinth weren’t tremendously cash rich and there weren’t very many of them. We know they could all fit inside Gaius’s house, for instance, so either it was a very big house or - more likely - there were no more than fifty of them. Some would have been able to recline on couches in his dining and living space, others would have had to sit outside in the open courtyard around which the large town houses of the well-to-do were constructe…