Through the Bible in a Year – February 28

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 37-38; Romans 8; Psalm 76

The announcement of the Gospel is writ throughout all of scripture – but the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, puts it as well and completely as anywhere else.

Here we discover the announcement that God has done what the LAw weakened by sinful flesh could never do, sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to condemn sin in the flesh, that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk not according to the flesh but the Spirit.

The Christian life is announced as Life in the Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – who makes us God’s children. That as Christ comes to us in the likeness of sinful flesh – so our true likeness, our true image is restored. He took upon himself our nature – this is no mere ‘incarnational’ theology, in the sense of him coming among us, no he took upon himself our condition – being like us in every respect, yet without sin. Thus his Life is the condemnation of Sin in the flesh, and the power of God for all who believe.

The evidence of this is our being led by the Spirit of God – living lives that seemingly are like the wind, whose direction is strange to those amongst whom we live, blowing seemingly where it will, and yet always with our eyes on the one who is our Father. And Paul goes further.

This life will see the future redemption of our bodies -and indeed all of Creation – that the two are inextricably linked.

Whilst we flap around trying to come up with solutions to the ecological crisis, no one is heard to cry, ‘but our true need is a renewed humanity’. The true freedom of Creation is inextricable linked with the true freedom of the children of God.

Finally Paul announces the complete and utter triumph of God in his exultant poem to Divine Love – that which is like a great Wind – coming to rearrange the landscape of all creation, and even now living and active amongst his children, the Church.

Through the Bible in a Year – February 27

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 35-36; Romans 6-7; Psalm 75

Moses comes out from the presence of the LORD and his face shines. [As one mentor of mine once said – ‘you can always tell when someone has spent time with God, there is a quality in their very being’]

And Moses declares “these are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. . .” He then gives them two Commands, one the observance of the Sabbath, and then the instructions for the tabernacle. Thus we are reminded that all we are commanded to do is Worship the LORD our God, and that this is our Life.

The Sabbath – a day of solemn rest to the LORD – God rested on the seventh day, and made it holy – it is set apart. Like the priests, like the holy things, it is consecrated time – it is of another quality, and an essential quality. Whoever works on the Sabbath cuts themselves off from the life of God. It is that simple. In many respects the Sabbath command is the quintissential command of faith – the Absolute recognition that our life comes from God, that we do not live by bread alone. To fail to recognise this is to live in unbelief, sin, the wages of which are death.

In our anthopocentric culture we have no ears for this word of life. We think little of observing this Command of God. 24/7 is the way we are told to live and even within the company of God’s people, there are few who observe Holy Leisure. We find every way possible to avoid it, even to the point of saying, it doesn’t matter when you rest as long as you get some, ‘spread your Sabbath through the week!’

As we have previously reflected, the heart of our dis-ease is the loss of the sense of the Holy amongst us. Worship is directed to our tastes, be they ever so refined, or no. And the command to rest on the Seventh Day – to consecrate a day every week as Holy to the Lord similarly is mangled into a convenient and ugly caricature.

Perhaps it is no surprise that there are so few shining faces amongst us

Through the Bible in a Year – February 26

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 33-34; Romans 4-5; Psalm 74

Once more Paul shows us how all of our story of faith is to be found in the deep history of the people of God. It is a given amongst the Saints of God that the Resurrection of Christ utterly transforms our conception of time, that we are not looking into the deep past, but rather that in Christ, we walk alongside those who have gone before us and at once go with us.

So Abraham is brought to our attention – heed Abraham – look at him. Consider the nature of faith. It is no mere ‘believism’ – rather in stumbling and faltering Abraham – the Abraham who tries as it were to cast off his wife Sarah for fear of those he sees – who is only to open to the suggestion to bring God’s promises to being by his own route, fathering Ishmael in pretty much the same way our earliest forebears eat the apple – yes in Abraham we discover the ‘model’ of faith. The one who believes in the promises of God – who looks to God for his future and in the sacrifice of Isaac will allow his own ‘future’ to die, trusting in the one who raises the dead. The promise through Abraham is shown to rest entirely on Grace. In Abraham, in his obedience it is revealed that it cannot be otherwise.

Those who want to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives will find them’

It is no wonder Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ – may we also know the blessedness of forgiveness in the justification that comes through the faith revealed to us in Abraham. A Faith which covers over a multitude of sins, being not like that first trespass. How our Sins can cloud our vision. For those of us who struggle with sin, that is all who are alert to the Life of God in our midst, we all need to hear the ‘How much more’ of the promise of God. The God who raises the dead.

Through the Bible in a Year – February 25

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 31-32; Romans 3; Psalm 73

Continuing on with our theme of sacrifice – we come in Paul’s great Epistle to the third chapter and something largely hidden from our view, in large part because we do not look into the Old Testament when trying to interpret the New. The majestic salvation of God is expressed in those terms which we looked into yesterday – the Sacrifice of atonement [NRSV] – as St Paul has it in verse 25.

The word in the Greek rendered here ‘Sacrifice of atonement’ is better put – ‘place of atonement’ – and relates directly to the worship of the people of God in the Wilderness. The place of atonement – is the cover of the Ark of the Covenant – the place of the Atoning Sacrifice at the heart of the tabernacle, the very heart of the presence of God. Here is the profoundest of mysteries – that the Saving sacrifice of Christ is made as it were within the very heart of God. It is perhaps the very Zenith of Trinitarian theology – that God bore our sins in himself.

There is no boasting – there is only Holy Reverence and Awe.

Through the Bible in a Year – February 24

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 29-30; Romans 2; Psalm 72

‘They themselves shall eat the food by which atonement is made, to ordain and consecrate them, but no one else shall eat of them, because they are holy’

All of the gospel and thus all of the life of the church is to be found in all of scripture – sometimes this is hidden from us, sometimes it comes to the surface.

We may well have read these verses from Exodus with great difficulty – so much blood. And yet perhaps we miss something, something which surrounds us. The Jewish prohibition against eating blood, for ‘the life is in the blood’ – the sacredness of life. This consecration required Blood, it required the All. It was truly sacrifice.

It seems most perverse that in an age when there is little if any sense of the Holy, the Sacred we are surrounded by such sacrifice and yet squirm with embarrassment over such supposedly primitive texts. When thousands upon thousands of lives are sacrificed on altars we have established in war – forgetting the many millions sacrificed upon the altar of the Economy, in our ‘advanced civilisation’ [how many of us have any sense at all especially those of us affluent enough to be able to afford the technology to read this post, of the many lives that are sacrificed to give us this luxury – not that of an illusory political freedom, one of our ‘high ideals’, but our Consumer freedom to have what we want when we want it without restraint]

The atoning sacrifice recognises the seriousness of Life, the costliness of ‘atonement’ of reconciliation – something which most of us have little sense of, never having troubled ourselves to be reconciled to our enemies. It is only by giving up our lives that we discover Life. There is no reconciliation without the laying down of life and this is revealed to us graphically in these sanguinary texts.

but also there is a warning – especially one for the church in terms of what we are doing Sunday by Sunday. There are many who speak of the priesthood of all believers – and rightly so – but few who read these texts as the elucidation of that term.

The early church knew the Holy – the Eucharist was behind closed doors – only for the priesthood of believers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in modern times coined the term ‘Cheap Grace’. Is our approach, indeed perhaps even our carelessness with the sacramental life of the church an example of this? Are we in our Church Life, in our attempts to ‘make worship accessible’, peddling cheap grace?

Actually we have no business trying to make the life of the Church accessible. Christ is the door, he is the one who makes the way. We do not enter the life of faith by any door made by human hands.

Jesus warns us not to cast our pearls before swine or they will trample on them and turn on you and maul you.

Is it perhaps a cause of our current malaise, that even we in the church have lost our sense of the Holy?

Perhaps if the people of God turned and recaptured that sense, the world may wake up to what it is doing.

Through the Bible in a Year – Scheme for March / April

Mar 1    Exodus 39-40; Romans 9; Psalm 77
Mar 2     Lev 1-3; Romans 10; Psalm 78 vs 1-31
Mar 3    Lev 4-5; Romans 11; Psalm 78 vs 32-end
Mar 4     Lev 6-7; Romans 12-13; Psalm 79
Mar 5    Lev 8-9; Romans 14; Psalm 80
Mar 6     Lev 10-11; Romans 15-16; Psalm 81-2
Mar 7  Lev 12-13; 1 Cor 1; Psalm 83
Mar 8     Lev 14-15; 1 Cor 2-3; Psalm 84-5
Mar 9    Lev 16-18; 1 Cor 4-5; Psalm 86
Mar 10 Lev 19-20; 1 Cor 6; Psalm 87-8
Mar 11 Lev 21-22; 1 Cor 7; Psalm 89:1-18
Mar 12 Lev 23-24; 1 Cor 8-9; Psalm 89:19-end
Mar 13 Lev 25; 1 Cor 10; Psalm 90
Mar 14 Lev 26-27; 1 Cor 11; Psalm 91
Mar 15 Num 1-2; 1 Cor 12-13; Psalm 92-93
Mar 16 Num 3; 1 Cor 14: Psalm 94
Mar 17 Num 4; 1 Cor 15; Psalm 95-96
Mar 18 Num 5-6; 1 Cor 16; Psalm 97-98
Mar 19  Num 7; 2 Cor 1-2; Psalm 99-101
Mar 20  Num 8-9; 2 Cor 3-4; Psalm 102
Mar 21 Num 10-11; 2 Cor 5-6; Psalm 103
Mar 22 Num 12-13; 2 Cor 7-8; Psalm 104
Mar 23 Num 14-15; 2 Cor 9-10; Psalm 105 vs 1-25
Mar 24 Num 16; 2 Cor 11; Psalm 105 vs 26-end
Mar 25 Num 17-18; 2 Cor 12-13; Psalm 106:1-23
Mar 26 Num 19-20; Gal 1-2; Psalm 106:24-end
Mar 27 Num 21-22; Gal 3; Psalm 107:1-22
Mar 28 Num 23-25; Gal 4; Psalm 107:23-end
Mar 29 Num 26; Gal 5; Psalm 108
Mar 30 Num 27-28; Gal 6; Psalm 109
Mar 31 Num 29-30; Eph 1; Psalm 110-111

Apr 1 Num 31-32; Eph 2-3; Psalm 112-113
Apr 2 Num 33; Eph 4; Psalm 114-115
Apr 3 Num 34-36; Eph 5; Psalm 116-117
Apr 4 Deut 1-2; Eph 6; Psalm 118
Apr 5 Deut 3-4; Phil 1; Psalm 119:1-16
Apr 6 Deut 5-6; Phil 2; Psalm 119:17-32
Apr 7 Deut 7-9; Phil 3; Psalm 119:33-48
Apr 8 Deut 10-11; Phil 4; Psalm 119:49-64
Apr 9 Deut 12-13; Col 1; Psalm 119:65-80
Apr 10 Deut 14-16; Col 2; Psalm 119:81-96
Apr 11 Deut 17-19; Col 3-4; Psalm 119:97-112
Apr 12 Deut 20-22; 1 Thes 1-2; Psalm 119:113-128
Apr 13 Deut 23-24; 1 Thes 3-4; Psalm 119:129-144
Apr 14 Deut 25-27; 1 Thes 5; Psalm 119:145-160
Apr 15 Deut 28; 2 Thes 1-2; Psalm 119:161-178
Apr 16 Deut 29-31; 2 Thes 3; Psalm 120-122
Apr 17 Deut 32; 1 Tim 1-2; Psalm 123-125
Apr 18 Deut 33-34; 1 Tim 3-4; Psalm 126-128
Apr 19 Jos 1-3; 1 Tim 5-6; Psalm 129-131
Apr 20 Jos 4-6; 2 Tim 1-2; Psalm 132
Apr 21 Jos 7-9; 2 Tim 3-4; Psalm 133-135
Apr 22 Jos 10-11; Tit 1-3; Psalm 136
Apr 23 Jos 12-14; Phm 1; Psalm 137-138
Apr 24 Jos 15; Mark 1; Psalm 139
Apr 25 Jos 16-18; Mark 2 Psalm 140
Apr 26 Jos 19-20; Mark 3; Psalm 141-142
Apr 27 Jos 21-22; Mark 4; Psalm 143 -144
Apr 28 Jos 23-24; Mark 5; Psalm 145
Apr 29 Jdg 1-2; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 146-147
Apr 30 Jdg 3-4; Mark 6:30-end; Psalm 148-150

Sermon for Lent 2 – Orientation

Lent 2 Sermon  [AUDIO]

Sermon for Lent 2
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:14-21
Luke 9:28-36


‘If any would be my follower, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me’

When folk ask me how I’m settling in here in New Zealand, I have to say, pretty well. ‘So far so good!’ as the man said passing the 23rd floor of the skyscraper out of which he has just fallen’ 🙂 But there is one aspect of life here that it has taken some considerable time to adjust, and that is to do with Direction. I noticed this especially sharply when out in 2010 to come on interview,  that is my sense of direction – which way is North, and which South. It wasn’t until I came out here that I realised how sharp my sense of direction was and how it was determined by the position of the sun in the sky. So when I came over I was constantly getting my North and South muddled up. You don’t realise you have a sense of direction, until you lose it. But this even extended to being inside, or more correctly being in a church building.
You may have noticed last week, how for a moment I struggled to tell you which side of the church you were all sitting on – because back in England a church was like a compass – it pointed East. So the altar was beneath the East window, and as I looked back down the church, North was to my Right and South to my Left. Indeed you didn’t have to be in a church to be so directed, for in the Church yard, all headstones also faced East – all towards Jerusalem – that at the second coming of Christ – all the dead would be raised facing the right way, and the Saints at worship would also be properly directed – Oriented towards Jerusalem, where tradition holds the Lord will appear.
But now I come into church – and my compass doesn’t work! So our ‘East Window’ is actually the South Window – I am disoriented – actually very literally, for the verb ‘to orient’ – which we take to mean to properly direct, comes from that English practise of lining churches up facing East, or towards the Orient – you Oriented the church – set it in the right direction.

Well, that is why metaphorically at least I should be grateful for Lent – for it is a time for Re-orientation – of retaking our bearings – of realigning our lives, not geographically, but personally – towards Christ. Christ who himself is Oriented – ‘towards his departure which he is about to accomplish at Jerusalem’. As I said at our Wednesday Eucharist – we face up to Reality. We clear away the overgrowth and the undergrowth – by taking ash on our foreheads we confront the deep truths of our lives – Dust you are and to dust you shall return – we are going to die – Repent and turn from your sins – we are sinners called to turn around – Re Orient our lives – face Christ – Believe the good News.

And we engage in this act of Repentance, this reorientation by denying ourselves – we don’t treat our lives as the supremely important thing. We fast – ‘my physical needs are not primary’ – we pray – more correctly we pray more, we make more time for prayer – ‘my schedule, my busy life is Not the main thing’ – and we give alms – ‘the real meaning of my life is not my security. If I am fortunate to have money beyond my most basic needs, then it isn’t for me – it is for others’. It is a Reality check on our lives, it is an opportunity given to us by the church in her wisdom to Orient our Lives once more upon Christ. To take our bearings from him – that with St Paul we might know which Direction it is that we must follow to ‘press on towards the goal’ – the heavenly call.

Now of course we may well hear those words of Paul, about the heavenly call, and then in the context of the gospel reading this morning, assume that this orientation involves us in some ethereal contemplation of Jesus upon the mount of Transfiguration – we might with Peter say ‘this is wonderful! – This is what it is all about! Lets stay here. Notice that he makes this request, Moses and Elijah are just leaving Jesus – once more Peter opens his mouth without knowing what he is saying. Just as he says to Jesus, This must never happen to you – so also he gets in the way. They are all going – Jesus is on his way – Peter wants to stop. Jesus tells Peter what is to happen, and Peter gets in his way – ‘Get thee behind me Satan, for you do not have the things of God in mind but the things of man’, Get out of my way!! you are facing the wrong way – So also the Cloud and the voice are given  to Redirect – to Re Orient Peter. While [Peter] was saying this . . .’ a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

As you know, I am just recently back from retreat – a whole week alone in the presence of God. Over and over folk say – I hope it was a lovely time, I hope it was a refreshing time, oh you are so fortunate – this sounds like bliss . . . judgement begins with the people of God – it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Whilst I do look forward to retreat, I know that in the end I am walking in with my own sentimentalised understanding of what a week in the presence of God is like. My own domesticated version of God, an idol, and not at all like Jesus.

They were terrified as they entered the cloud, and a voice came from the cloud, that said “This is my Son, my Chosen; Listen to him” Orienting our lives on Jesus, requires listening to him. We go into whatever our desert place is – that extra hour in the day we have carved out to prayer, to Listen to him. Our chief problem in the church always has been and always will be our deafness to what Jesus says. And so at every Eucharist we are exhorted “Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” and we respond “Praise and glory to God” and having heard “this is the gospel of Christ” “Praise to Christ the Word!”
Again, as I said last Wednesday, when we again heard the story of Jesus in the Wilderness being Tempted by the Devil, it’s worth asking ourselves “What was the Good News we heard in THAT!!!??” Put another way, are we hearing the Good News, Are we hearing Christ, do we begin to understand what it is he is saying? Peter what he must think of as “Oh the most wonderful of experiences” But he hasn’t heard . . . What has Jesus been talking about? Well he’s been talking with Moses and Elijah – ‘speaking [with them] of his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem’

Luke seems to suggest that the disciples are not privy to Jesus conversation with Moses and Elijah – it was not for their ears. We might perhaps think this strange? Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah and the disciples are half asleep. Listen to him?? Yes Listen to him – for Jesus had already spoken of these things with his disciples . . . our gospel begins with the words – about eight days after saying these things . . . what things? Jesus has just confirmed Peter’s suspisicion that he is the Messiah – Wonderful!! Good News!! and then he says “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.

As Jesus later spoke with Moses and Elijah about his departure . . . so he has already spoken to the disciples . . . in terms that they have not heard, they have not Listened – this is my Son, the Chosen, Listen to Him – why should the voice say this except that they have not listened. There they are up the mountain – the dream like has become their reality – half asleep – AH! THis is it! But no – this is the dream – the reality was those words thay had not listened to “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Jesus has spoken of his departure – literally his Exodus – ‘Which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem . . .’ which He was about to accomplish. Which HE was about to accomplish . . . the hard word of the gospel is this – it is not about You – it is not about me – do you want ot save your life? you will lose it. But if you lose your life – then you will save it. The gospel is not about the fulfilment of our lives – it is about the end of them – so that His life might become everything. this Christian Life is All about Christ – it is not our life, it is His Life.

When God enters the covenant with Abraham this is made so very clear – I don’t know when you last made and agreement with someone who was asleep – but God puts Abraham out of the picture. A deep sleep fell over Abraham and God’s agreement is made with himself – it is between God – between the Father and the Son. He will accomplish it – All the glory will be His – my glory I share with no other. He does not entrust himself to a man, for he knew what was in a man . . . Peter has not listened – he has not got it. and as soon as they come down from the mountain, all hell breaks loose. Before the transfiguration, Jesus tells the disciples what the score is, but they do not listen – they think it is all about them. When Jesus comes down from the mountain, what does he find but whilst he has been away the other disciples have been trying to take things into their own hands. A boy is demon possessed, his father is at his wits end – the disciples have seen Jesus in action, and taken matters into their own hands – to absolutely no avail . . . its not about them, or what they do – they didn’t hear the words about having to lose their life – we can do this – and all hell has broken loose – the boy is dashed to the ground in convulsions – the fatherof the boy is at his wits end “I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not” and Jesus responds “you faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you”. Like the children of Israel long ago when Moses went up the mountain they cannot wait for God – their eyes cast around for ways in which They can take things into their own hands and Aaron casts them a golden calf – something to entice the eye, something to make them feel important, at the centre of things, with a respectable God like all the other nations – one that doesn’t speak.

So the disciples take matters into their own hands – they think it is all about them. Their lives need reorienting – redirecting, to Christ – to look to him – to listen to him, like him to live only in response to the word of the father. But this is such a hard hard lesson – it seems we are hard wired to make ourselves the centre of the story.

Yes – there is a time when we are called to act in the name of Jesus. But it comes hedged around with a terrible warning – a little later on Jesus sends out 70 disciples, and he tells them what to do – and so they go – and we know the story – they come back rejoicing – full of themselves’Lord in your name, even the demons submit to us” and Jesus calls them round and says, look, let me tell you something, Long time past I watched Satan fall like lightening from heaven’ His Sin – why did he fall? He wanted to be the centre of things – do Not rejoice in what you have done in my name “I am an unworthy servant – I have only done that which was asked of me” No Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. This is not about what you do, it is about what I have done

We NEED the disciplines of lent – we need to be radically decentered, dethroned – this Good News, this Gospel is NOT about us. Thank God!!

Through the Bible in a Year – February 23

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 27-28; Romans 1; Psalm 70-71

As we read yesterday of the devotion of Paul’s life – so today our Psalm speaks of this lifelong devotion. The Psalms, much neglected in the contemporary church which has in many places lost any sense of continuity with the Communion of the Saints – the faithful upon another shore, amongst whom we worship if only we could see.

The mark of Secularism is the powerful tendency to live for the present moment. Whilst we are called to live in the present moment, this is not the same thing. To live for the present is to announce our own illusory triumph over time. To live In the present is to live with an apprehension of all that is past and all that is to come, Present to us now in the one who is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the End, in whom all things hold together.

So the Psalmist looks back and sees God – ‘O God, from my youth you have taught me’ into the present ‘and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds’ – and on into the future ‘so even to my old age and gray hairs do not forsake me’. God is his life.

It is this Eternal perspective in which past and future are apprehended, that Moses walks and talks with God upon Sinai, in the eternal symbols of Worship and Priesthood. Christ we are reminded is a High Priest forever – who Ever lives to make intercession for us. Our dimmed eyes only see wood and cloth – yet in this lying out of the design of the Tabernacle, we are called to look to the One who is the Tabernacle of God and who is also the Sacrifice . . . ‘It shall be a perpetual ordinance . . .’

It is this gospel which Paul announces – it is nothing new – it has been promised beforehand – prefigured in Everything that has gone before and in its scope embracing all of history – the gospel of Christ, descended [through many generations] from David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead – God’s judgement on History – and his renewal of all things.

[There is no art work with this post. Who can represent such things???]