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 19

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 17-19; Acts 25; Psalm 66

There is the powerful theme of patience woven into today’s readings. On the one hand the tremendous patience of Paul, who seems to have been all but forgotten as the world continues to turn. Two years he has spent imprisoned waiting for a hearing, the governor Felix has been and gone and now Festus is the governor. But Paul continues is his faithful obedience, although seemingly invisible to those around him

On the other hand we see the impatience of the children of Israel and the foreshadowing of a deadly impatience in Moses. Moses is such a clearly written character in the Exodus narrative – fearful and fretful in front of Pharaoh and indeed the LORD himself – now frustrated at turns with the Israelites and with the LORD. On the surface much anxiety, little faith. This impatience is contrasted with the Patience of the LORD, who despite everything sees this people as his treasured possession and a priestly kingdom, a holy nation.

To our eyes this makes little or no sense, even if we did not know where the story was heading, the children of Israel surely have proved themselves to be in no way worthy of such treatment. They promise “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do . . .” and yet we know that they are utterly double minded

Yet there is something here we do not see for Moses is later revealed as a hero of faith. Nowhere in the Exodus narrative is this shown – but the book of Hebrews includes him as an example of faith – one ‘who persevered as though he saw him who is invisible’

A deeper story is at play that we tossed around in the flotsam and jetsam of life can only guess at. Things happen for which there is no accounting. Amidst Moses anxiety – trying to hold the show together, comes his father in law, Jethro. Moses had obviously, somewhat like Joseph would many years later, to put his wife away. But she who has been sworn to him as a bridegroom of blood is returned along with his sons. God’s salvation is worked out in strange and wonderful ways and we see the life of God being fed back into the community by the outsider Jethro, who acknowledges the LORD and teaches Moses how better to administer his people.

Oft times our anxiety is rooted in the apprehension that we see all that is and yet something far more profound is going on. Discerning that this is the case we too are called to patience, a waiting on God. If he leaves us for two years in prison, so?? His ways are past working out – we are called to perseverance – which is at the last as we see in the book of Revelation, the hallmark of those called by God.

Our judgement of what is happening is so very dulled

The Salvation of God is such outrageous Grace that we can see no way to it – he works with that that is nothing in our eyes – the unseen, humble, the meek, the mourners and merciful – the undiscerned – embodied in faithless Israel – a nation  almost invisible in the annals of history – hidden away – God is working his purposes out, year after year. And so outrageous is God’s Final answer to humanity, that many will refuse to believe

 

 

Through the Bible in a Year – February 9

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 38-39; Acts 15:1-35; Psalm 50

‘Then God answered Job out of the whirlwind . . .’

In the beginning of his travails, Job had sat in silence before God with his three friends for a week – as it were figure of creation groaning in expectation. In this his friends showed empathy for his great suffering and together they showed wisdom in not trying to explain the inexplicable. But the human mind is restless until it finds its rest in its maker and so the disputation begins as his three friends wheel out three of the ‘contemporary’ explanations – none of which is any comfort to Job, who knows that only God knows – yet it is not enough for him in his trouble and so he enters into the disputation. Continue reading “Through the Bible in a Year – February 9”

‘but they are like the Angels . . .’

Angel, coming into Being . . . ‘Now and not yet’ . . .

In the encounter of Jesus with the Saducees, He is told a story about a woman who had seven husbands, and then is asked,’at the resurrection of the dead, whose wife will she be?’.

Jesus tells them that they have no idea of the significance of the resurrection, or indeed marriage . . . but another time

What must be understood, is that the Kingdom IS amongst us. In and through the risen Christ it already is and also shall be, and that here and there we see signs of ‘heaven’. Put another way, there are those who live amongst us as angels – sometimes. That is, we may not know such people amongst us, and/or they live thus only for brief moments – their lives giving us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

What triggered this post is a story I have spoken about told in the Orthodox tradition. In it, a woman is in Hell. The Angels, whose every desire is to pull her out of Hell search the record of her life for just One act of love. Finally, they discover that once a passing stranger called at her door, hungry and asking her for food. She, rather grumpily it must be said, went to her cupboard, found an old onion and threw it to him, telling him to be gone.

There in that, the smallest of acts, with only the faintest echo of grace, the angels found their chance. And so took the onion which had a long stalk, and lowered it down into Hell, so to rescue the woman and save her . . . Well the rest of the rather sorry story can be found here

But what has come home to me these past days, is how Unlike the angels we are as yet. THEY anxiously seek for ONE flicker of light and life, ONE sign of Grace, ONE echo of the life of God and latch onto it. ‘Yes!’ they say ‘There!!’ There is a sign that the Goodness of God is present in that person, and so gently and carefully summon it further into Life, as they so carefully sought to draw the woman out of Hell.

So often we are NOT at all like the angels. Our view is So distorted that all we can see is their faults – to the point where we, utterly perversely Deny any goodness, any attempt to live in the Light. We see the splinter in the eye – it becomes our entire focus. We are not desperate that they should be drawn out of Hell. We are not like them, we are not searching anxiously for ONE sign of grace, however weak, however is comes from the wrong place. How unlike children of God, who will go to any length to save us.

He waits, He Watches, and he Runs for the Prodigal who has blown it all – who in human terms has no way back and he knows it – who comes crawling back because he is hungry, who is even now trying to manipulate the Father, who knowing this full well, doesn’t merely accede to his request to be a hired hand, he throws a party for him. In this the feeblest of returns home, the Grace of the Father is Overwhelming

Jesus, continually heals our sight, would we allow it. He teaches us to see as He sees, as the angels see, as the Father sees – constantly on the look out for signs of Life – anxious and ready to Save at the smallest flicker. Let us pray for that same grace, that we might truly be children of our heavenly father, ‘who desirest not the death of a sinner’. Let us be on the look out Night And Day for signs of Grace. And let us eagerly greet and encourage them, even the smallest Hint of Life, even from the very Worst of motives, like those angels with the woman, Like the Father with the child.

And let us pray that the Lord, who will not put out a smouldering wick, will also grant those around US, Grace to see us likewise.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy’

Amen