Through the Bible in a Year – March 22

The Scheme for March – April can be found here

Num 12-13; 2 Cor 7-8; Psalm 104

Paul despite eschewing what is falsely called ‘wisdom’, leaves no rhetorical technique unused as he goads, exhorts and strains to call froth the Life of Faith from his Corinthian brothers and sisters. And here he has his work cut out, for centuries of faith have proved without demur, that the poor are far more generous than the rich.

That it is far easier for the poor to enter the kingdom, than the wealthy

However much it may stick in our craw to think in these terms, it is only what Jesus has told us.

If we are comfortable with life as it is, we will do little to enter by the narrow gate. Indeed in a world of relative comfort, even the narrow gate is transformed into ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ – a call which has no scriptural warrant as it is used in contemporary church life. All is a life of ease.

Yet here in the sharpest point, where Mammon in exposed for the false god it is, where the simple sign of repentance, sharing that which we have with those who do not have is laid before us (Luke 3:11), we rationalise our way around the clear command of Jesus as effectively as the wealthy Corinthians do.

Sadly we do not recognise that this invitation to share is an invitation into the very life of God. The invitation to life in the kingdom is rejected.

Through the Bible in a Year – March 6

The Scheme for March and April can be found here

Lev 10-11; Romans 15-16; Psalm 81-2

Paul, physician of the soul that he is, goes on in Chapter 15 to expose the underlying desire that prompts members of the community of faith to judge one another. ‘To please themselves’ Rather than judging the neighbour, as the pharisee did the tax collector, and thus justify or please ourselves, our aim should be to please our neighbour – to build him or her up in faith.

The walk of faith is hard enough without our judging one another, and anyone who does not realise this has not yet perceived the truth of what it is to be a disciple of Christ. Hard and narrow is the way – as believers we should not have the energy spare to judge one another, and knowing our own weakness and difficulty in following in obedience, every encounter with a brother and sister should be similar to that of the Samaritan and the man who fell amongst thieves – that of pity and helping them.

The root of the difficulty of following Christ in obedience is in a sense exposed in the strange incidents involving Aaron’s sons. Nadab and Abihu ‘play with fire’ – whether in ignorance or not we are not told – and they are consumed by fire. Later Moses, clearly struggling to see how he can lead this people in the way of a God, whose holiness seems so utterly Other that it is impossible to respond to faithfully, berates Aaron for allowing his sons to burn an offering which they should have consumed. Aaron however points out that the ways of God are so strange to him, that he acted as it were out of weakness. The parallels with the situation in the church in Rome are I think striking here.

Moses is confronted with Aaron’s struggle to walk in faith, to get it right. ‘Given all that has befallen me today’ Aaron says, ‘If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been acceptable to the LORD?’ And when Moses heard that he agreed.

Aaron is struggling, it is very early days in the walk of Israel with the LORD.

Here we see the principle of not judging the weaker brethren in action. Moses realises that it is not his role as the leader of the community to make what already seems an incredibly difficult path, even more so – that he should not lay heavy burdens on his brother.

If it is so hard – as it was for the disciples (Peter and the rest leap to mind) in the immediate presence of God and his Holy presence – do we not realise how difficult our walk is? And thus learn to be merciful? TO imitate the one who does not put out a smouldering wick, or break a bruised reed.

In the End, it is perfection in Love that will drive out Fear.

The ‘Jesus prayer’ is always the most appropriate for us – ‘Lord have mercy on me a sinner . . . ‘, and on all my brothers and sisters in faith’