Skip to main content

At Home or Away

Perhaps because the country is currently in the grip of World Cup fever, one phrase stood out from the passage in St Paul's second letter to Corinth that is included in this week's lectionary.[2] 'Whether we are at home or away,' says St Paul, 'We make it our aim to please the Lord.'
It makes a big difference to football teams whether they are at home or away, and no one seems to know quite why. Occasionally, when non-League sides are competing in the FA Cup, it's because they know about – and can exploit – some of the idiosyncrasies of their pitch, things like slopes, bumps and hidden depressions in the surface. Professional sportsmen shouldn't be affected, of course, by the roar of the crowd. They should be able to blot it out and concentrate on the game. And so should referees. However, a statistician recently analysed Premiership matches and found that referees consistently award more free kicks to the home side than to the away side. He thought that, sub-consciously, referees might be responding to the partisanship of the crowd.
Whatever the explanation, there certainly is a home advantage in the World Cup. The home nation has won on several occasions since the competition resumed after Word War II, including – mostly famously – when England won in 1966.
In the lectionary passage, St Paul talks about the advantages, and disadvantages, of being at home or away. Being at home in the body may be a comfortable sensation because, after all, most of us have never had an 'out of body' experience, but it means that we are away from the Lord. St Paul would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
I wonder if this is a false distinction. Do we really have to wait until we are away form the body to be with him? Isn't the Lord with us now?
St Paul has an answer to those questions. Yes, the Lord is with us now – but only if we have faith. We cannot actually see him face to face and, however confident we may be that he really is with us, wouldn't it be even better if we could?
Does this mean that we will have to wait until we have died before we can really know Jesus as his first disciples did? The logic of St Paul's argument so far suggests that we will. But then he has second thoughts. If we surrender our lives entirely to Jesus, and begin a new way of living, because we have put our whole trust in the love he showed for us when he died on the cross, we have in a sense already died and gone to heaven. We have left behind the attitudes and appetites which used to shape us; we are dead to our old way of living since we no longer live for ourselves. We live for him! So that means we can know him – perhaps not in the old human way, face to face, but in spirit and in truth.
[2] 2 Corinthians 5.6-10, 4-17


Popular posts from this blog

I don't believe in an interventionist God

Matthew 28.1-10, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 I like Nick Cave’s song because of its audacious first line: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. What an unlikely way to begin a love song! He once explained that he wrote the song while sitting at the back of an Anglican church where he had gone with his wife Susie, who presumably does believe in an interventionist God - at least that’s what the song says. Actually Cave has always been very interested in religion. Sometimes he calls himself a Christian, sometimes he doesn’t, depending on how the mood takes him. He once said, ‘I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it.’ But his lyrics often include religious themes and he has also said that any true love song is a song for God. So maybe it’s no coincidence that he began this song in such an unlikely way, although he says the inspiration came to him during the sermon. The vicar was droning on about something when the first line of the song just popped into his head. I suspect …

Why are good people tempted to do wrong?

Deuteronomy 30.15-20, Psalm 119.1-8, 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Matthew 5.21-37 Why are good people tempted to do wrong? Sometimes we just fall from the straight and narrow and do mean, selfish or spiteful things. But sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re still good people even though we’re doing something wrong. We tell ourselves that there are some people whose motives are totally wicked or self-regarding: criminals, liars, cheats, two-timers, fraudsters, and so on, but we are not that kind of person. We’re basically good people who just indulge in an occasional misdemeanour. So, for example, there’s Noble Cause Corruption, a phrase first coined apparently in 1992 to explain why police officers, judges, politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and so on sometimes get sucked into justifying actions which are really totally wrong, but on the grounds that they are doing them for a very good reason. A famous instance of noble cause corruption is the statement, by the late Lord Denni…

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…