Through the Bible in a Year – April 4

The Scheme for March – April can be found here

Deut 1-2; Eph 6; Psalm 118

Both our OT and NT readings have a common theme – that of remembering – coming to our senses.

In Deuteronomy, the context is the preparation to enter the Promised Land. To do this we must needs remember. It is in forgetting from whence we have come, what a great Salvation the Lord has worked for his people, that our faith goes to sleep. This if nothing else is why weekly Eucharistic worship is so central to the working out of our salvation. Week by week the people of god assemble to recall God’s mighty acts – to feats with Christ, and thus to go out into the world, fed with the bread of heaven, strong in the Lord and the strength of his power.

What is more, in this apparently ‘other worldly’ activity which we call worship – we remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, rather that we are caught up in something of Cosmic dimensions.

Worship which seeks to be relevant to ‘our everyday lives’ does us Grave disservice. It keeps us asleep. It is no act of remembering.

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 – January 8

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 18-19; John 7:1-24; Psalm 11-12

Yet once again our Genesis text takes us into the deep water of the Ancient things that hold the world together. Here in these familiar stories of the visitation to Abram and the destruction of Sodm and Gomorrah – we see how the deep things, that are good can be now in human experience for Good or Evil.

Hospitality is the theme that runs through both – hospitality given and received – honoured and abused. Too many read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to answer questions the text does not begin to seek to answer. What we see played out here is a society so corrupt that the stranger is seen as means to ends, and not honoured, as The Stranger has just been welcomed by Father Abraham.

We think of the words of the writer to the Hebrews reminding us to honour strangers with hospitality, reminding us of the visit of the LORD to Abraham who entertained angels unawares . . . as did the people of Sodom.

The seriousness of every encounter is laid plain before us. Perhaps this is why we shrink from these texts, finding them Primitive. They are too demanding in setting Reality before us too plainly. as we often say, when thinking of how we treat others ‘it is very difficult’. The text will not allow us this deceit.

God’s presence is Known in hospitality – in giving and receiving it.

This matter of Life is serious, we should not laugh

Who knows who it is that walks among us in secret? What their Promise means?

“In the LORD I take refuge”

Through the Bible in a year – January 7

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 15-17; John 6:41-71; Psalm 10

“Does this offend you?”

In the story of Abram, there is much to offend our modern sensibilities – just as the words of Jesus offended those of his own time. Abram hears the promise of God but does not receive the gift of the promise. The promise is too far fetched he thinks for this strange God who has called him to put into effect. Sarai casts around for a way in which her lord might be spared the ignominy of Faith, of which the Psalmist often reminds us. Her eye lands on her Egyptian slave-girl Hagar and no good comes of it – yet once more, as in the story of Cain, God intervenes in the messy and ambiguous outcome, not staying removed.

The dark scene of the sacrifice feels prehistoric to us – yet it speaks of something profound of which we have lost sight. The Power of Word – or Promise – or Oath – that we are taken with immense seriousness. If the Word of God endures forever, does not that of the human made in his image? The divided animals were potent reminders of the significance of the human word – that it was a Bond. ‘Thus be it to me as it is to these animals if I do not keep my word’ [Thus do not swear . . . let your yes be yes, your no, no] Words are the creative power of life, and the destructive power of death. As Noah creates division enmity in blessing and cursing, so oaths have deep power. Yet here one party is taken out of the picture. Abram falls into a deep sleep – who walks between the pieces, with whom does the LORD make this covenant, but with himself. Abram as we see cannot be trusted [‘he knew what was in a man’] – Abram will try to do it for himself – he will not be a covenant partner. God swears by himself  – and when man fails – God pays the price

Anyone who does not see that the entire world is built for better or worse upon human sacrifice is blind to Reality. The offensiveness of the words of Christ are two fold – we think we have moved on from these deep primitive archetypes and metaphors – we think his words are nonsense, for we do not treat words with seriousness, And we like Abram and Sarai still believe that we can have life that is not Promised. The Gift that comes in the Creative Word – made flesh and blood – that is offered to us as real food and real drink – that we might have life within us.