Through the Bible in a Year – January 22

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 44-45; John 18; Psalm 31

I hope that as we have journeyed thus far, I have encouraged you to seek the deep patterns in Holy Scripture, that this book is of a whole, that past present and future are found in a single line, or even a word.

John in particular is always most careful with his words – it is as though years of reflection upon the Glory of God in Jesus Christ, of resting upon his breast has enabled him to distill all of that Glory into almost every phrase. And so we come once more to where we began – to a garden – which Jesus and his disciples enter.

Of course That garden, the one of old had had set at it the cherubim and a sword flaming to guard the way to the tree of life.

So the one who Is in himself Life – the root of Jesse – who will be born upon the tree enters this garden. He enters The Garden – the path is not blocked – a Gate has been made. We note that He, with his disciples do not bring any torches, for the Light is still with them.

Then in ghastly parody, comes the betrayer, with soldiers and priests – with their own ‘flaming swords’ and there is a confrontation. One somewhat akin to that of Dagon with the Ark of the Covenant in Samuel – the Ark above which rose the cherubim – whose very presence threw the parodic god of the Philistines to the ground.

Thus the revelation of Glory which the darkness cannot overcome, the one who dwells among the cherubim, The one who Is and who watches over The Gate for the sheep, throws all the darkness to the ground. The darkness cannot overcome it, even in This moment..

Through the Bible in a Year – January 14

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 29-30; John 11:1-27; Psalm 19

Throughout the story of the Patriarchs there are rich elements which are as much comedic as anything – perhaps none less than the deceits between the deceiver Jacob and Laban, as they wrestle with one another (a foreshadowing of the life of Israel with the LORD). Not least in the wonderful set up of Jacob having laboured for seven years for Rachel, to wake up and find Leah in the marriage bed . . . Again there are common themes. Marriage within the broader family, the well, the two spouses echoing Hagar and Sarah, one barren the other blessed – yet as before the one who is barren finally gives birth to a ‘saviour’ in Joseph as Sarah had borne Isaac, the one who dies, yet he lives.

We would no doubt wish for a tidier picture – a neater engagement – a more moral story – but then of course it would truly bear little relevance to the story of our lives. However strange the story of the patriarchs is to us culturally, those who inhabit it are as recognisable to us as those who look us in the mirror. We can only wonder that the Holy One deigns to work out his purposes through frail human flesh. Wonder, and Worship. And certainly our reading from John blows all our senses of moral and right to the four winds

Wonder and Worship – perhaps the pre-eminent Christian posture – is all that we can do before the telling of the story of the death of Lazarus. We cannot hope that God will work in the messiness of our lives, if we hope at the same time he will dance to our tune. There is no neat and tidy healing for Lazarus. The Healer delays. His ways are not our ways. We would not come to save folk like ourselves. He does. We cannot but rush to try and help, he does not. What we do avails little. His Purpose overarches everything. His words leave us staggered. I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

That which is humanly impossible – coming to save faithless deceivers – refusing to do the obvious ‘Right’ thing. All we can do is worship and follow. We cannot see the way – Faith alone is an adequate response. “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, The Son of God, the one coming into the world”

Through the Bible in a year – January 11

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 24; John 8:31-59; Psalm 17

In Jesus’ encounter with ‘the Jews’ we see more of what it means to be the offspring of Abraham, children of the Promise, of Faith. Jesus allows that his opponents are descendents of Abraham, but not his children. There is the line of blood, but not of faith – for they do not do what Abraham did, which was to believe.

His opponents declare him to be a Samaritan and hearing that we are opened up to the richly textured and multilayered world of Scriptural revelation. For John has already introduced the Samaritans, in the woman at the well. And she meets Jesus at Jacob’s well. In this encounter between the Life giver and the woman with no husband, deep memories of faith are evoked. Of previous meetings between Patriarchs and their betrothed at a well. Encounters which are generative of much life as Abraham’s obedience begins through the stumbling lives of his offspring begin to bear fruit.

We are also reminded of the significance of Truth, that all that has turned sour comes from the lies of the serpent in the garden. Of course Jesus’ words leave us staggered – how can these be true? ‘Amen. Amen. I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death’ We are reminded of Abraham, who kept his word, rejoiced to see His day. True words, from the Life Giver – the one who alone can say in Truth, I AM. ‘And they took up stones to throw at him’