Through the Bible in a Year – May 31st

The scheme for May – June can be found here

2 Sa 3-4; 1 Jn 2; Psalm 39

The story of David continues the trail of blood.

John continues to reveal the light. As we we considering a few days ago – Faith and obedience are as it were two sides of the same coin. ‘By this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments’. Note John does not leave us with the uncertainty of our feelings – they indeed can be our biggest betrayers. How many have ‘felt God close’ as they have ignored the needs of those around them. Concrete acts of Love for our brothers and sisters are evidence that we belong to him – for He is our life. In the fellowship of faith we walk with Christ. ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments . . .’

As with Peter, and James, John takes us to Jesus as we see him in the gospels. All too often, Christian faith is divorced from the Living Word as revealed in the gospels – either he is turned into a simplistic metaphor for ‘love’, in a way that ignores or denies the difficult words on his lips, or  cipher for ‘salvation’ which does not require us to follow him in obedience and faith.

Through the Bible in a Year – May 30th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

2 Sa 1-2; 1 Jn 1; Psalm 38

The message of the gospel is announced once more in 1 John 1. What is the Gospel? What is the Good News? OF course we have many formulae for this – but John is not announcing a formula. He proclaims Christ. We declare to you . . .the Life we have seen and heard and touched. It is in union with Christ, the Light, that we know light.

As St Paul puts it – we are baptised into his death, that we might be raised.

He is our life – He is the Good News

Through the Bible in a Year – May 29th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 29-31; 2 Pet 2-3; Psalm 37:20-40

Certainly the last two chapters of the second letter of Peter are sobering, to say the least.

Yesterday we considered David’s apprehension of that which is Holy. Today we read of those who have no such discernment – those ‘Bold and wilful . . . [who] are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels . . .’ fear to tread there. Foolishness as the proverbs point out time and again causes us to trample on the holy. They give no life – they are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.

Against this picture of darkness, we hear the word of Grace. “The Lord is not slow about his promise . . . but is patient with you (remember here that Peter is not speaking to those outside of the church!), not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance”

Thus . . . ‘strive to be found by him at peace without spot or blemish and regard the patience of the Lord as salvation.’

As our Lord tells us – ‘strive to enter in at the narrow door’. [This echo of Jesus in 2 Peter suggesting that it is indeed the apostle who writes these things, contrary to some scholarship.The same may also be said of the authenticity of the letter of James. Here is clearly someone who knows the Lord]

Through the Bible in a Year – May 28th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 26-28; 2 Pet 1; Psalm 37:1-19

For all the violence associated with David, and there is much – it is this which makes him an unsuitable candidate to build a temple [1 Ch 28:1-3] – he is profoundly aware of the holiness of God. So he risks his life in sparing the life of Saul – who is the LORD’s annointed. It is this reverence for God which sets David apart – his heart for God, his awareness of that which is Holy.

We live in an age where The Holy, and holiness are off the agenda. This is perhaps the hallmark of the secular age in which we live and of course it is just as evident in our churches as anywhere else, so much are we children of this present age. There is no fear and trembling – there is no awe. Jesus is our pal – God is benevolent and harmless grandfather figure. Even David would have trouble identifying us as people after the heart of God.

Through the Bible in a Year – May 27th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 24-25; 1 Pet 4-5; Psalm 36

The two themes in Peter to which I have alluded come together in Chapter 4 – that now as God’s children we live for the rest of our earthly life no longer by human desires, but by the will of God. What use is it to pray ‘Your Kingdom Come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’ if we do not enact the will of God and live in sole obedience to him? ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ says Jesus.

As one of the Saints of the church puts it, ‘only the one who believes, obeys. And only the one who obeys, believes’. Faith and Obedience to God’s will are inextricably linked. Only the one who Hears, obeys. Faith comes through hearing and is evidenced in obedience. It is the child of God who delights to obey.

But this is a hard and narrow path – so Peter reminds us, as he must, that we are to walk together. We are known as Christians by our love for one another. There is no mark apart from that that we are given. ‘Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins’. This Love which comes from above is full of mercy, for we know how much mercy we have been shown and out of Love for God and one another, forgive as he has forgiven us.

‘Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ’

Through the Bible in a Year – May 26th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 21-23; 1 Pet 2-3; Psalm 35

For many, especially those who have been brought up in a largely Protestant way of understanding, the Central truth of the corporate nature of faith is often all but absent. Church if it has any significance at all is a largely technical institution, there for us to help us in our individual walk. Peter would not recognise such a faith or such a church.

In English, the plural of ‘you’ is ‘you’, and we are well trained not to expect the plural. The controlling myths of our culture which distort our lives in so many ways perhaps do more damage in this area than in any other. Read verses 1-10 of 1 Peter 2 – listening to Peter addressing the church. How do We let Ourselves be built into a spiritual house?

This is Vital truth. If we do not see Christ in our brothers and sisters, we are kidding ourselves when we say that we know him. Christ is Our Life – He makes himself known to us as we are together. The Risen Christ comes and stands amongst his dsiciples, most especially in the breaking of Bread.

Through the Bible in a Year – May 25th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 19-20; 1 Pet 1; Psalm 34

One of the most misused biblical phrases is ‘Child of God’. For those of us who wish to think that all of humanity is a ‘child of God’, certainly we do not find much evidence of this in the pages of Scripture. Famously, the prologue to St John’s gospel faces us with the assertion that it is all who believe in the name of the incarnate Logos of God, Jesus Christ, who ‘have the right to become children of God’. That in order to be a child of God, one must be born from above, by the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus himself in his humanity is only declared Son of God in his Baptism by the Spirit.

That he is The Child of God is evidenced in his Resurrection. Jesus ‘who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead’ Romans 1:4 – thus became the first fruits of God’s new Creation. So Peter points us to the Resurrection of Jesus, as the entry to our new birth – a theme which is picked up on again and again in Chapter one of the first Epistle. The verses 13-21 are worthy of much meditation and contemplation.

Throughout the Scriptures, being ‘a child of’ is a metaphor for likeness, especially in how we live. So Jesus rebukes the Jews who claim to be descendents of Abraham. Their actions reveal them rather as children of the Devil.

Are we children of God? God the Father says, ‘Be Holy, for I am Holy’. This holiness can only be known in and through God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, who is our light, our hope, our Life.

As I have said in the notes accompanying this series of readings, we need to allow the Word to stop us, to halt us. The goal in the end is Not reading through the Bible in a Year, or at least that must not be our primary goal. Rather we come to the Word to receive Light and life, through the good news that is announced to us.

So may we set ALL our hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring . . . when he is revealed.

Through the Bible in a Year – May 24th

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 17-18; Jas 4-5; Psalm 33

The story of David, as we were thinking yesterday, looms large over the Old Testament narrative. Indeed we know more of David than of any other figure in Scripture, Christ included if we deal merely in biographical details.

This distinction though is a significant one. For the life of David is a thing of myth – and the myth is set up in this most famous of stories concerning David, his confrontation with Goliath. Here the plucky young lad, armed with only five stones and faith in God, slays the giant. All sorts of powerful themes captivate our imagination herein. He is being set up as the Hero. Of course we read the narrative knowing the end from the beginning. Here is a Great and Powerful beginning, but the end of the David story finds him reduced to small minded politics upon his death bed. What is the narrator trying to get us to see here? Are we merely dealing with the archetype of the flawed hero – or indeed is the myth of the Heroic, the Strong, The Powerful, the Faithful Man being dealt a fatal blow in this story.

Is the story of David and Goliath and what ensues in the first part of his story not an exemplary story, but rather a setup, carefully written to disabuse us of such simplistic but powerful suggestions?

Certainly, when we consider Christ, it is hard to read him as the Son of David . . .

Through the Bible in a Year – May 23rd

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 15-16; Jas 2-3; Psalm 32

‘Do not look on his appearance . . . the LORD does not see as mortals see, the LORD looks on the heart’

Certainly here is one of the pivotal incidents in the Old Testament narrative, the anointing of David as King over Israel.

The story of David in many regards dwarfs the Old Testament and of course its ripples comfortably traverse the 400 year ‘silence’ of the inter testamental period. So that Jesus is proclaimed by some as ‘Son of David’. The hopes for the restoration of the Davidic line, the Messianic fervour runs all the way through to the Gospel announcements.

However it is full of what to our tidy minds are ambiguities and challenges to us.

First of course there is the story of David himself. We may well be left asking, if the LORD looks on the heart, does he not see David’s fall from grace? Of course this story is more than echoed in Jesus’ call of the disciples, especially Peter and Judas . . .

And then the stunning challenge to us, the the LORD does not see as we do. How often we look on the externals of a person, their education, their knowledge, their family life in order to judge who might well lead the flock of God. But can we really see into the heart? Of course we like to think that we can. We readily reduce people to what we think is their essence, for judging them is surely this. But can we see the heart?

I think not

This story should give us much pause. If the family of David cannot perceive his heart, how can such judgement be made? If the LORD sees the heart of David and yet still calls him to kingship, what does that say of such calling?

Through the BIble in a Year – May 22nd

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 14; Jas 1; Psalm 31

So we move on from the book of Hebrews (we shall revisit it later in the year), with all its difficult obscurity, to the epistle of James, a letter all too clear.

This is the problem with the Word of God, we either choke on it as too difficult to understand, or reject it as too difficult to obey. How many for example have long ago relegated the Sermon on the Mount to the ‘when we get to heaven’ category, and thereby denied the inbreaking of Heaven in the Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

Of course we are not alone. Martin Luther of all people famously refers to James as ‘an epistle of straw’, revealing that the fathers of the reformation did not perhaps have the ‘high’ view of scripture so many of their followers do . . .

For those of us in the West, perhaps the hardest theme of James is his unflinching narrative against the Rich (one that he carries on from his brother . . .) What should we as rich people, and we all are if we have the capability to read this blog. what should we boast in? We should boast in being brought low, of the loss of our worldly wealth – for in the midst of our ‘busy’ lives (how important our busyness makes us feel) – we will wither away. Says James. Perhaps we too might wish to think James just a little beneath our theological sophistication.

Be doers of the Word. Says James – yes even the Sermon on the Mount, yes Even the Epistle of James.