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Showing posts from January, 2019

A change of heart

Deuteronomy 29.1-15, Matthew 15.1-9 The Old Testament Books of the Law spend a lot of time spelling out what the people of Israel needed to do to share in God’s covenant with them. This makes the Jewish faith sound like a religion of rules and regulations rather than an offer of release and freedom.
But this is only part of the story. Deuteronomy also reminds its readers about God's loving kindness to their ancestors. The nation’s wanderings in the wilderness might have been a gruelling test, which the people had to endure for 40 years, but as well as rescuing them from slavery in the first place, God had given them clothes and shoes to wear on their travels which wouldn't wear out. So the wilderness experience had shown people God's incredible goodness as well as his stern refusal to compromise on the rules and accept second best.
The writer also recognises that challenging people to remember past kindnesses will not by itself encourage them to be obedient to God. The ceremo…

I have a dream

Matthew 2.1-12 Does anyone remember any of the dreams that they’ve had - dreams that you can share with other people, I mean? Long before I was married, before we were even going out, when I was 14 in fact, I had a very vivid dream about my wife, Helen. Usually we forget dreams, don’t we, but I remembered this one! I’m not going to tell you about it, except to say that the dream started with us sitting on the school bus together and I was very disappointed to wake up just as it was about to get interesting.
I can tell you that when I was six I had a dream about a wolf. It was chasing me across some fields near my grandparents’ farm and eventually it chased me up one of the drain pipes outside their farmhouse. I’m not usually very good at shinning up drain pipes, but I got up this one very quickly. And this time I didn’t mind waking up.
The civil rights leader Martin Luther King famously said, in a speech in Washington to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, ‘I have a dream.’ He was qu…

A Ruler from Bethlehem?

Micah 5.2-6 I have an ancestor, Mark Bishop, who - at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century was making his way as a sawyer. What is sawyer? Well the clue is in the name. He or she had a saw, or a set of saws, which - in the days before the invention of the circular saw - they used to saw tree trunks into planks. It was hard, back breaking, humble work. But thirty years later he is described in a different way. Now he has gone up in the world. He’s a carpenter, presumably because he can now afford the tools of the trade. I'll come back to the significance of that later.
Elsewhere in his collection of prophecies, Micah describes how God will intervene in human history to make up for the shortcomings of Israel’s rulers by leading them himself, but here he explains how a new ideal ruler will arise from within the nation. 
Perhaps the two ideas are not truly separate. God often works by inspiring ordinary people to do his will. In this sense all of us can have a part to play in God'…

How the Daily Mail might report the Nativity

This spoof front page from The Daily Mail first appeared on the satirical website The Poke on Christmas Eve 2015, but someone sent it to me the other day because they thought it had lost none of its resonance with current events. Spun like this the Christmas story could make the front page on any slow news day.
Whether or not the Holy Family really could be said to have wrecked the barn where Jesus was laid in the manger, a lot of the other elements of the story do have an element of truth. According to Matthew’s Gospel they did become refugees and, by definition, refugees are jobless and don’t pay any taxes - at least to begin with.
Refugees and other homeless people hanging out in people’s barns, or hotel rooms, can still have an impact on property values too. Presumably that’s why a hotel in Hull decided it wasn’t keen to repeat an experiment last year where it entertained about 20 homeless people alongside its paying g…