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Showing posts from March, 2019

Real Resurrection?

1 Corinthians 15.12-20
Years ago, when I was working in Birmingham, the Chair of the District read out a startling extract from a letter. It was from the wife of a Methodist minister in South Africa. He had stayed with the minister, his wife and twin daughters on a visit to their country. Just before the letter was written the twins had been killed in a car accident. Their mother wrote that she could no longer believe in the resurrection.
As long ago as the First Century, before any of the New Testament had been written down, some Christians were already thinking of Jesus' resurrection as  a purely spiritual event. They believed he was alive again, but only as a disembodied spirit, or perhaps because he lived on in the mind of God, and so God could still make Jesus known to his followers. 
But St Paul takes a different point of view. The writer David Kerrigan observes how, in this passage, Paul ‘[drives] home his conviction ‘that if there is no resurrection, then there is no gospel.’…

What sort of sports day would Jesus prefer?

Luke 6.20-26

When we went to my daughter's first sports day we got a surprise. We were expecting Jennifer to do her best and perhaps even win a race. What we didn't know was that she and her best friend had agreed that, in every race, they would both cross the finish line at exactly the same time. 
And they were as good as their word. In some races they even crossed the line holding hands, and whatever they were doing, the egg and spoon race, the bean bag race, the sprint, they kept looking at each other to make sure they were running side by side. Of course, they came last equal in everything, which made Sports Day extremely tedious.
Many years later I went to another athletics contest that Jennifer was taking part in. Her school was competing against a boarding school from Harrogate. The boarders included several tall, slender long-legged girls from Africa. They were built like gazelles and they could run every bit as fast.
The event was just as predictable as Jennifer's fir…

People are laughing at us!

Joel 2.1-17
The prophecy begins with the sounding of the alarm on the ram’s horn trumpet. Trouble is coming!
As in chapter 1, the reader is left to wonder whether the cause of the trouble is a real army or a swarm of locusts. Much depends on when Joel was prophesying. 
If it was before the Exile in Babylon, Joel could well be describing a real army. If it was afterwards, when Palestine was part of the Persian Empire, then it could be a vivid way of depicting a locust swarm, but apparently locusts seldom come from the north when they attack Israel. Normally they come from the south.
When Joel talks about ‘a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like blackness spread upon the mountains,’ he makes it sound as though the air is thick with locusts. But when he says, ‘Fire devours in front of them, and behind them a flame burns,’ it sounds more like a human army. 
Some commentators think farmers might have lit fires to ward off the locusts, but Joel could be describing a…

Seeing God

Exodus 24.9-18
Sometimes we say that people have their feet on the ground. It’s always a compliment. It implies that they’re down-to-earth, in touch with reality, imbued with practical experience. The opposite sort of person is said to have ‘their head in the clouds’ and that’s not a compliment. It implies that they’re out of touch, unrealistic, impractical - to the point of being no earthly use , more of a visionary than an organiser. 
Here in this short passage we find two contrasting encounters with God, so different in fact that they appear to belong to separate traditions, although they have been brought together here in a single narrative. In some ways they mirror those contrasting personality types. First, there is a group encounter with God. 71 people are privileged to see God face to face, although at a distance. Perhaps because he isn’t close enough, God doesn’t lay his hand on them - presumably in blessing.
The writer cannot describe what God looked like. That would be impossib…