Tag Archives: dialogue

Scripture

At the beginning of John 5 Jesus heals a man who has been ill for 38 years – but his carrying away his mat on the Sabbath starts an argument. How can Jesus be right if he encourages the breaking of Sabbath law and tradition?  The reading for Bible Sunday started at John 5:30 and Jesus says in effect, “You don’t want to listen to what I say?, OK listen to the witnesses in my case, and there are 4”:

  1. verse 33  John the Baptist
  2. verse 36 Jesus’ actions – his healing and other miracles
  3. verse 37 God the Father (but he passes over this – God is not
    well enough known)
  4. verse 39 Scripture

The implication is clear enough. There is all the evidence needed to understand Jesus, and to understand is to follow and obey.

If we come into this Century, you will see that we get most of that
through the bible: Jesus’ words and actions, the account of John the
Baptist, and the Old Testament which Jesus referred his opponents to as scripture.

For us, scripture is enormously important. When I show children the church, I point out: the eagle lectern – to hold a Bible for reading, and the pulpit, for explaining what is read, and the altar, for the eucharist we are told in the Bible to do for Jesus.

But I don’t want anyone to make scripture into a magic charm – I
want you to use it! It’s not meant to be illustrated and elegantly
bound and left alone. It is meant to become part of our lives, in
dialogue with our ambitions, our habits and our lifestyle. What does that mean?

We read of John the Baptist, and those who spoke and acted against him – and hear today’s conflicting views of right/wrong, necessary/helpful/out of date. The answers we need are found in a continuing dialogue between what we do and scripture, so that God gets a say, as well as us.  We read of Jesus miracles, teaching, sacrifice. What does that do for a busy week in my life? There needs to be a dialogue, putting one alongside the other, letting both speak.

We read of scripture explaining Jesus’ role to Jews – and recognise far more as we have the New Testament as well as the Old Testament Jesus spoke of. But his complaint was that they didn’t apply it, and missed the point. It’s learning to apply scripture that is vital.

And we still have to deal with God the Father. Perhaps Jesus was referring to the resurrection (still in future). It’s not “put your faith in a book the academics can’t agree on”. Its “use the bible to question and direct your life, and let there be a two way discussion. Check the results with God in prayer – and with the experience of living them.

There are many ways of letting the Bible read you; there are audio recordings and books, software, e-mails, and many schemes. However you do it, give scripture a place in your routine, and start a dialogue between the Bible and daily reality. Each will bring the other to life – and the results can be everlasting!

Gerasene demoniac dialogue (Pentecost 5c)

Some years ago I developed the idea of scripted dialogue in place of a monologue sermon.  It has some advantages – a conversational style, encouraging the idea of talking about scripture and its application, emphasising the relevance of text to contemporary Christian life etc.  This is a dialogue, for two readers in place of a sermon, which I “translated” from a sermon written previously, on the gospel passage Luke 8:26-39.  Comments welcome:

A It’s been quite a week: an MP has been killed, apparently while doing her job and doing it well; at the same time we are looking forward to an important referendum next Thursday

B and there’s a football competition, too!

A Indeed. You might wonder if that reading about the man Jesus healed in the cemetery has any relevance.

B It seems to me typical of Jesus that he is concerned about somebody that everybody else has given up on. There is no suggestion that anyone is looking after this man, keeping an eye out for him, leaving him food or clothing, but Jesus doesn’t bypass him and go to the “important” people.

A Yes, and that links with the MP’s murder. Jesus is reminding us that everybody matters to God, and should to us. All the groups Jo Cox was involved with, including minorities and refugees, but also Thomas Mair, however sad or mad he may be. We have to think about caring for all, not just the ones like us, or the easy ones. Jesus wasn’t afraid of dealing with someone demon possessed.

B Now that’s a question! Was he mentally ill, or did he really have spirits in him?

A Christians would have different answers to that. There’s no doubt that mental illness is real, and thankfully we are learning how to treat it successfully. If you know people affected, encourage them to consult their doctor, take their advice – and then make sure you don’t avoid them. Mental illness will affect a fair proportion of this congregation at one time or another. For me, after some years leading a Diocesan Healing and Deliverance Team, I am also confident that demon possession is real – but it has been uncommon in this part of the world. The team that clergy can consult is there to help, and some will need that help.

B So you are saying that mental illness is real, and demon possession can be, too?

A Yes. But let’s go on. Jesus’ concern for this man is not the only point here. What about the reaction of the local people to the event?

B They don’t seem very happy to have a local “problem” solved. I suppose the drowning of the pigs has something to do with it, which doesn’t say much about their values. I wonder if they also found the whole thing – well, frightening. Too challenging to their assumptions, and the accepted order of things.

A I think you’re right, though it is sad. They actually ask Jesus to go away because they are afraid – afraid of someone who has just restored a man they had given up on! I don’t know if there is something there about the Referendum – and no, I am not going to tell you how to vote. But fear is a bad motivation (and seems to have been used on both sides). It is also bad to think that, as Christians, we are allowed to cut ourselves off from other people. How best to move forward, for the good of all, that is the question.

B and we can’t make up your minds how that works out. Think, pray, and vote carefully. So, we’ve talked about Jesus attitude to this man, and then about the community’s attitude to Jesus. What about the ending; doesn’t Jesus usually tell people not to talk about their healing?

A Yes. When he is among Jewish people, he worries that he will be seen as a revolutionary leader – a “Messiah” in political and military terms, leading an army against the Romans – but here he is among Gentiles. He wants this man to be a reminder of the power and love of God, a testimony if you like. He is to live in the community that told Jesus to leave, a reminder of what happened, and how life might be different.

B So he is to do the things we are being encouraged to do now – live as a follower of Jesus, imitating his attitudes and actions out of gratitude, and ready to explain when people asked things like “What happened?” and “Why have you changed?”. I suppose that would have been quite challenging for him, as it is for us, but it certainly gave him something to do!

A – and it gave the people of that community a second chance. With the man living there, and staying in his right mind, they were going to have time to think again

B about the relative value of people and pigs?

A and about what Jesus could do, or what God’s plan for them was. I’m sure they didn’t think they were bad people, but they missed out in a big way that day, and Jesus finds a way to leave them a signpost, if they wanted to look for a better road. It would be sad to think nobody did.

B even sadder than losing the football?

A much more. Some of us believe in life after football, after all!
B Well, that’s our dialogue sketch on this gospel. It’s a bit of an experiment, and its not going to replace sermons, but let us know after the service if you found it helpful as a different way to reflect from time to time – and perhaps even as something to start you talking about scripture and how to apply it.