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Showing posts from March, 2018

Colonel Beltrame and the Meaning of Service & Sacrifice

John 13.1-17 Self-sacrifice is headline news, and what is more, different understandings of self-sacrifice are colliding in some of our news stories. In modern Islam a new radical understanding of self-sacrifice has emerged. It’s prompted by a desire to turn the wheel of history and create a new Kalifate or Islamic state. It feeds off the notion that there are no shades of grey in this life, only a clear distinction between black and white, belief and non-belief. And it has an absolute disregard for the value of human life. This new version of Islam claims to be firmly rooted in tradition, but if we imagined a new strand of Christianity that looked for its justification to medieval theology instead of to the Bible, and argued that it was right to kill Muslims because that’s what the crusaders did, then that would be a good analogy with this new kind of Salafi Islam. It’s backward looking but very selective in its choice of ancient texts. Suicide bombers see themselves as making the ulti…

Walking the Plank with God

Exodus 33.18-34.8, Romans 8.31-39

Moses asked to see God in all his glory. God granted his request but said that, unfortunately, it would be fatal to look upon his face. 'You will see my back,’ he promised, ‘[But] you will not see my face.’ Christians can sometimes be a bit condescending about this. Unlike Moses we do get to see God face to face, at least in the face of Jesus. But there again, do we actually know what Jesus looked like? The Methodist  Prayer Handbook this year has the face of Jesus on the front cover, but it isn't just a picture of one face; instead it’s a composite of four very different faces of Jesus. He’s at once both familiar, with a face like ours, and impossible to know. The Welsh poet R S Thomas, who was a priest in the Church of Wales, said that God is very difficult to see. ‘We never catch him at work,’ Thomas said. It's always as if he’s just left the room. In the film 'Whistle Down the Wind’ some children walk to an isolated farm to see Jesus, w…