Tag Archives: covenant

All about suffering -?

There is also a Dialogue Sketch on Mark 1:9-15 here

What is done in church should not just be for the enjoyment of those who attend, but should glorify God by building up believers and communicating the gospel to others.  It’s a principle you find in 1 Corinthians 14, but a first look at this morning’s readings might not seem to be encouraging from the point of view of an outsider:

Such negative thoughts are hard, and might suggest doing something else, but that would be a sad mistake. Take 1 Peter 3:18-22, Christ suffered, but “the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” This is not miserable, negative suffering.  It is part of a battle to set us free. The God that Peter knows is a God who is ready to pay a great price, himself, for our redemption. He tells this to a group of people who obviously are not having an easy life – and it is good news for them, as it is for us.

The God he speaks of is the same God who in Genesis makes a promise – a covenant – to Noah. A promise which is to Noah’s advantage, for his security and reassurance. A promise which he has kept faithfully.

Yes, its the season of Lent. We think of Jesus going into the wilderness, not because he was the sort of person who could not enjoy himself, or who enjoyed suffering, but to get his ministry on the right track – to avoid mistakes and distractions.  If we review our own disciplines and rules of life, it is not for their own sake (as if they had an importance of their own), but to ask if our lives, our service of God, our ministry, is on the right track, avoiding mistakes and distractions.  Perhaps we need to do something more to prevent our life being self-centred?

This is a message of hope – something in short supply, and valuable as most scarce commodities are.  You won’t be thanked for hate, but hope is properly precious. (There is a Lent Study by CTBI, using prisoners’ stories of hope – see the website.)  Our hope is not in human nature, nor the beauty of creation, or the possibility of education.

Our hope is in God, who cares for us enough to plan our rescue, and to follow the plan through. That is not just for you (though it is – and that’s important) but for all.  If an outsider should join my group, or just get to know me, they should find a focus on God, and hope in his love and saving action.

– and that is the reason for us to train ourselves

to advertise and proclaim good news.

Exodus and Easter (Easter 2c)

This week we read the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the victory at the Red Sea (Exodus 14), along with stories of the Resurrection and the Acts sequence.  The Exodus is a long time ago – c1250BC, so 3000 years, when we find 300 a big gap.  Can I convince you it still has something to say?

The Israelites were freed from slavery (still an issue), and given an identity as a people bound to God by a Covenant agreement.  They had to learn – repeatedly – of God’s power, faithfulness, and ability to lead them.  They might have learnt from the plagues which eventually convinced Pharaoh to let them go, but it seems they were always ready to complain!

So what is there for Christians in the old story?  Well

  • Easter is very much about celebrating freedom from slavery to sin and death.  We have a Christian identity, and are part of a Christian family, because of the victory God has won without our help.
  • Sadly, we often forget – who we are, what God is like, what we are to be like.  We have Christian stories to tell, but they are sometimes left out, and sometimes we miss their relevance and significance.
  • The journey through the Red Sea is sometimes compared to Baptism, or to the becoming Christian.  In Romans 6 Paul talks about our dying with Christ to the old life, and rising to a new (quality and purpose of) life.
  • Jesus last meal with his friends was a Passover (or very much reflected it – scholars argue the timing).  Jesus took the story of the Passover meal the night of the last plague, when the Israelites were kept safe from the death of the firstborn in houses marked with the blood of a sacrificed lamb, and gave it new significance.  Jesus gives the cup of wine the status of his blood – blood of a new Covenant.

So perhaps the Exodus story has something to teach Christians about Easter.  The final point I find reassuring: the Israelites found it hard to learn, to keep the discipline, to follow their leaders.  Perhaps Christians aren’t so bad!