Through the Bible in a Year – February 13

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 6-7; Acts 19; Psalm 55

Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its market-place.

Moses and Aaron go therefore in fear and trembling before Pharaoh, he who to the eyes of the world wields absolute power, whose word is reality, whose story appears to be the only one in town.

In a powerful sense this is precisely the world we live in. When we think of what our lives might consist of, the stories we we tell a) do not account for the ‘I AM’, and b) have a strange familiarity about them. ‘Life’ so called consists of childhood, education, more education that we are fit for work, marriage (perhaps), children (perhaps), a home, retirement . . . this story, so common, has an even greater commonality, its destination. Christian faith is in our day  used to suggest another ending . . . not another story.

We read two days ago in Acts of how Jason and other believers are accused of turning the world upside down, by those in the market place . . . They suggest there is another King – they suggest that there is another story. The powers are exposed in Ephesus – behind the false god Artemis lies human desire for wealth and the power it brings – and so Paul and Silas find themselves similarly hauled up to answer for this strange teaching – another life, another story

But the story we inhabit is ‘safe’ – we know its parameters, we figure out that we know how its supposed to work and those of us with advantages of birth, often are highly skilled at playing out that story that the world suggests to us, the death narrative. We may even, skilled as we are, shape our understanding of the gospel and life, so that it fits the death narrative – our perversity knows no limits.

In the face of Life we see three responses in our reading from Exodus. There is the response of the powers that be – Everything they stand for is threatened – the cost is too high – ‘how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven’ Pharaoh has Everything – he must die to live and he refuses the trade.

Then there are the Israelites – but they could not believe in this other narrative, this other story – ‘because of their broken spirit and cruel slavery’ – indeed the story of Israel to the time of Christ can be interpreted as a refusal at the end to believe the other story, for once they are freed, they continue in the same story as before, but now playing Pharaoh.

It is given to those called to enact the other story – and how hard that is. As the disciples follow Jesus, they struggle to believe – as too do Moses and Aaron. They are as yet not attuned to that voice that calls us forth from the tomb, that bids us live, that declares that there IS another story, that calls us to the adventure of faith rather than the anxiety of navigating the Death Narrative ‘successfully’ to its end  . . .

Through the Bible in a Year – February 11

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Exodus 1-3; Acts 17; Psalm 52

As our narrative resumes in Egypt we find an echo of the deeper story of the Creation, of the vocation of the children of God. The Israelites have been ‘fruitful’ and ‘multiplied’, ‘so that the land was filled with them’. The Narrative of Life that was in the beginning [Genesis 1:28] – but they have left The Garden, they have not come to the Land of Promise – and another Narrative is at work, a Narrative of harsh labour and of pain through childbirth. Yet those in the midst who fear God, still live out of the Primal story and Life continues to spring forth.

For Pharaoh and all those who know not the first story, this ‘New Thing’ is a terrible force of which they have no comprehension – indeed it is related to him in miraculous terms ‘the Hebrew women are vigourous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ – and Pharaoh tries to stamp it out, as much later they would try to stamp out the Life of the Church as we have been reading in Acts. This message of Life is ‘turning the world upside down!’ – the people of the city are disturbed – but Life continues to spring forth – ‘Many of them therefore believed’

The Gospel is The Narrative of Life – wherever it is revealed in God’s people, it reveals the Narrative of Death, it exposes it. It reveals ‘ordinary life’ for what it is, no life at all. The carefully planned world in which we would all feel secure is shown to be a terrible hoax.

Wherever there is Life this is so. It is the churches in those places where the Death narrative is obvious which flourish. Those such as ours in the ‘West’ shrivel – we have confused the two Narratives, and have put our lives in the hands of Pharaoh and called it Good. We would not dream of acting in a way that turns the world upside down, it suits us too well.

Perhaps this is most evident in our loss of the sense of ‘The Holy’ – ‘The Fear of Israel’. We no longer approach our God with our feet bared. We have little sense ourselves of ‘the Power that is at work amongst us, like the working of His great power when he raised Jesus Christ from the dead’, that in Christ, Death is no more. There is no fear of God before our eyes, merely the fear of our own demise – we believe the Narrative of Death.