Through the Bible in a Year – May 21st

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 12-13; Heb 12-13; Psalm 30

As we have seen, the letter to the Hebrews is most strange to our ears. We rarely if ever hear preaching based on it – and that is our loss. For it is deep and rich scripture. In places terrifying, challenging, but also immensely practical.

Here in Chapter 13 we find immensely rich council for the people of God. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers . . .’ How much of our Christian life is lived in direct contradiction to the teaching of Jesus – ‘when you throw a feast, do not invite your friends . . .’ [It is interesting to note that one of the top hits on Luke 14:12-14 is entitled ‘What does it mean?’, when the meaning is as plain as day]

Christian Life is only Christian life as it takes for its sole point of reference the Life of Jesus. The one who loves his enemies and dies for those who hate him. The one who comes into the world as a stranger. How often have we thrown parties for those who cannot pay us back, those we do not know, those we invite not because we know they will charm our table, but because we who have no charm to speak of have been fed at his? Who do we invite to sit and eat at our table??

Through the Bible in a Year – May 1st

The scheme for May – June can be found here

Jdg 5-6; Mark 7; Psalm 1-2

Mark’s gospel always presents us with telling juxtapositions. Incidents are placed side by side and when we read them together we find a depth in the story that we would miss otherwise. It’s too easy to think that Mark’s is a somewhat unlearned gospel just full of incidents and miss Mark the theologian, revealing the depth of the hidden Messiah in and through all these encounters. In many respects this is why it is so revealing to read Mark alongside John. To discover that there are buried treasures in Mark which perhaps even surpass the Glory motifs in John where the treasure is lain open to our eyes.

Here we have Jesus in two further conflicts – at the axis of which are as usual the disciples.
In the place where we are – or perhaps we are to be found in all of the conflict narrative – we might discover ourselves in the entirety of Mark’s gospel.

First and obviously we may identify with the Pharisees and Scribes who set aside the word of God for our Traditions. That we all do this so frequently is so obvious, that it might seem to be labouring the point to give and example – surely we do this all the time??

but at the danger of labouring the point, the arena of the conflict is food – meals. In a sense the Heart of the gospel message, revealed in Every eucharist – the radical hospitality of God to those of unclean hands – all are welcoed in. Think how often those of us who have nuclear families close the door on the flock, because this is ‘Family time’, or ‘husband and wife time’. Of course These traditions we see as harmless, indeed we have even built them into our faith and rationalise them . . . they are for God . . . and so we gather and sanctify these closed meals with ‘grace’ . . .

The Disciples don’t get what Jesus is on about, Again. ‘do you not see???’

And we know they continue to fail to get it as the encounter of Peter with Cornelius shows . . . again a story of how wide the table of God is thrown . . . how great is his mercy

And then the second conflict story – the encounter with the Syro-phoenician woman . . . a very hard story for us to hear. A woman, in great need, dismissed by Jesus with hard words about dogs . . . Of course we fail to understand that we too are the woman, needing mercy from God, knocking insistenly on his door as a visitor come late looking for food and board.

The incident begins with Jesus trying to hide himself away, but as the crowds previously have given him no rest, so now also the woman. In all the narrative, Jesus calls for faith – people must hunt him down, seek for him – Look for Life. In other words he seeks those who seek for the Life of God to spring forth. He seeks by hiding.

The woman seeks him – comes into a house which is Jewish and closed – she knocks. She asks – and is rebutted, but the eye of faith is Open, unlike that of the disciples – she knows who Jesus is – she knows she can expect better of him.

You who remind the Lord,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it renowned throughout the earth. Isaiah 62:7-8

The God of Israel is becoming known as the one whose table is open to all – where those who might imagine themselves to be without hope, might yet come to table

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”