Through the Bible in a Year – July 18

The scheme for July and August can be found here

1 Ki 12-13; Acts 2 Psalm 102

So, for come time now we have stepped out of the Old Testament narrative, but as I have already commented in January, on the Acts texts. So we turn our attention back to the story of the people of God as recounted in the Old Testament. And we discover Schism – the sign of death and decay – rooted unexpectedly in the story of Solomon.

So enraptured are we by the idea of ‘the wisdom of Solomon’ that we fail to see how his rule is under constant critique in the text. As his son Rehoboam succeeds him, we pick up echoes of this in the fateful dialogue with his counsellors, young and old. The old advise him to ‘lighten the yoke put on us’. Immediately the reader sensitive to the text and of course to the gospel of Matthew which we have just read, will be thinking ‘here is a critique of Solomon’, for his yoke was not ‘easy’.

The true wise ones, the elders who have seen the heavy yoke of Solomon speak well and advise him to ease the yoke, but as always those in power are filled with fear. Rehoboam is devoid of trust – he would rather listen to the advise of his young friends, who themselves must have felt threatened by the challenge of sovereignty.

So now the yoke rather than being eased from that of whips, to a just and gentle rule [‘Wise Solomon ruled God’s people with whips], it will be increased to the sting of the scorpion.

And thus Israel, the Northern Kingdom secedes.

 

 

Through the Bible in Year – July 16

The scheme for July and August can be found here

SoS 1-4; Matt 28: Psalm 97-98

One of the great blindspots in Christian theology and praxis is our lack of much by the way of understanding of the Resurrection. For many and varied reasons, its implications have been put in the draw marked ‘for after I die’. In this way we have actually undone the work that is accomplished on the cross – the reconciliation of Earth and Heaven.

We pray so often, ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ – yet fail to recognise how the life death and resurrection of Jesus answers this prayer – as it does all prayer, as He fulfils the Law and the Prophets.

Tragically, although such wisdom and understanding was commonplace in the early church it has been lost.

Perhaps this is The pearl of great price we so desperately need to seek for

 

Through the Bible in a Year – July 15

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Ecc 9-12; Matt 27; Psalm 95-96

The seasons of the Church’s year are not without benefit. They lead us through the whole story of salvation before us each year. But the story of Salvation is to be lived every day.

So we are every day to live in the light of the Incarnation. Every day to live in the Spirit as at Pentecost. Every day to be watchful as in Advent. And Every day to live before the Cross as on Good Friday.

How long is it since you last sat at the foot of the Cross?

Go there now

Through the Bible in a Year – July 14

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Ecc 5-8; Matt 26:36-end; Psalm 94

Peter thrice denies Jesus with his lips . . . but what of his heart?

In the end when Jesus speaks with Peter upon the shore of Galilee, his enquiry is not over his words – it is of his heart.

We may readily say, we would never deny Christ . . . with our lips.

But what of our hearts? Peter leaves everything to follow Jesus – his heart is right, even if his courage failed him, he truly loves Jesus. What have we left for the sake of our Lord? We may well honour him with our lips, but what do our lives say? Are our hearts given to other gods?

Matthew 15:8

 

Through the Bible in a Year – July 13

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Ecc 1-4; Matt 26:1-35; Psalm 92-93

Here in Matthew we find a slight different of emphasis regarding the woman who anoints Jesus, compared especially with the account of John. For it is the disciple body as a whole which condemns the woman’s actions – Judas only comes into view following the incident. We would do well to ponder Matthews account – for we too are here.

How scrupulous we can be with money – in comparison with the radical generosity of the woman. Money blinds us to what is going on around us. The disciples see waste in a generous act of Love. Perhaps the lesson here is that ‘waste’ is perhaps a theme alien to the counsels of God, who scatters where he will, who allows the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Jesus rebuke is highly significant – there is surely the suggestion that had the disciples the money, they wouldn’t waste it on the poor either – for the ‘poor you will always have you’. Knowing the endless refrain of the Law, ‘that there shall be no poor amongst you’ – Jesus warns the disciples that they themselves may not enter into the radical generosity of God which is his will for his people.

For a Jew to hear the words ‘you will always have the poor with you’, can be nothing more than a rebuke for their failure to believe.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 12

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ch 7-9; Matt 25; Psalm 91

The ‘parable of the talents’ needs reconsidering. After all those who seek to undo any sense that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, have made of it a story against the master – it is turned into a broad and vague socio economic story.

But to do this as so many do in one way or another, is merely to ‘seek the historical Jesus and see the reflection of our own face staring back up at us.’ If nothing else, let us allow that there is a natural justice in the treatment of the third slave, who knows not whose servant he is.

Then again its meaning is lost because of the transfer of the word ‘talent’ from its original usage as a sum of money – to that of ‘natural abilities’ Many a school assembly and Sunday School address has focussed on making the best use of our talents . . .

But that too is surely to miss the point. It is hard to read the Scriptures and see therein a ringing endorsement for such an outlook on life. The Apostle Paul for example lays down all his ‘natural’ gifting in the proclamation of the gospel, and throughout the disciples are never shown as in any sense ‘talented’ individuals.

Of course these two approaches both make it primarily a story about us – Our reading of the parable – Our talents. Whereas the focus of Scripture and the Christian life is not us, but the Glory of God.

So we must ask, what is it that Jesus entrusts to his followers? In a word, Himself. His Life. The glorious gospel of eternal life. Surely the three slaves reveal those who do and do not ‘walk in the light as he is in the light’ – their lives bear much fruit, or none at all.

The third slave is the one who because of his hostility to his master refuses to walk in the light. As of old so many of the children of Israel had similarly refused the light of the World, as did the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The slave in refusing the light, will in the end walk in darkness.

This parable also is found to be authentic, because it places our active obedience first, which we find to be so often the principle. ‘Forgive us, as we forgive’. ‘Give and it will be given to you’. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 11

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ch 5-6; Matt 24; Psalm 90

Two points to ponder from our gospel reading today

Firstly regarding the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. As we know Jesus Christ is himself that new temple. As we his church are his body, what does that mean for us (questions of church buildings aside – after all even house churches meet in a building 🙂 )

Secondly regarding watchfulness. Here Jesus gives us two different accounts of what that means. On the one hand we are to read the signs of the times for his appearing. This requires a two fold sensitivity – to his Spirit and to the world in which we live. Secondly, Jesus tells us that the Son of Man will come ‘at an unexpected hour’. Thus we are to be alert.

Both accounts coincide in the need to be attentive to him. Peter in his final encounter with Jesus in John’s gospel, is distracted by the beloved disciple. ‘What about him?’ he asks. Jesus tells Peter that that is not his concern – he is to follow. We are a very distracted people in a very distracted age. We pray less than ever, we read the scriptures less. Put differently we are less attentive and ‘give too much time to indifferent things’ [Cardinal Joseph Surin]

We should Hear the words of Christ.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 9

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Prov 30-31; Matt 22; Psalm 89:1-18

The theme of great reversals is accentuated as the shadow of the Cross, the Door to Life, draws ever nearer. Those who considered themselves to be on the inside, hear the creak of the hinge. They have made light of the gracious invitation of the King.

When our lives are full of many things, we too stand in peril of ignoring this invitation. Our hands like that of the Rich young man are full of possessions. Land and business to be done. We scarce pay any attention to how peripheral to our lives God has become. We have reduced him to pithy messages or ‘truths’ and carried on with business as usual, whilst a feast is prepared under our noses.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 8

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Prov 28-29; Matt 21; Psalm 87-88

In this chapter of Matthew – we have a significant reminder, of the prior work of John the Baptist. Preparing the hearts of people that they might receive life.

Those who knew themselves to be sinners, repented and thus the way was clear for them with great rejoicing to receive the Lord who comes to his temple.

Then there are those, starkly represented by the Pharisees, who like the rich young man rest on their own righteousness (or for a modern twist, their own spirituality, indeed their own ‘relationship with Jesus’) and do not repent by living in the simple generosity which reveals our nature as children of God.

They do not have the joy of ‘the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 7

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Prov 26-27; Matt 20; Psalm 86

Not getting what we are expecting is also a running theme through the gospels. As we remarked yesterday, the Gospel is a great reversal. We see this plainly in the embodiment of the gospel, Jesus Christ. The eternal son of God, who empties himself and becomes nothing.

Not getting what we are expecting is of course two sided – we may end up with far more or indeed far less . . . and of course it is also a matter of our hearts

So the workers who slave all through the heat of the day, receive a days wage, but comparing themselves with others and the wage They receive -think themselves harshly done by. They cannot rejoice in the generosity of God (much as the elder brother cannot). To pick up a common theme in Matthew – ‘they have received their reward’.

Perhaps there is a very profound truth here – that to some degree it is how we see that determines our joy – or lack of it.