Tag Archives: scripture

Scripture, on and offline

Friday was wet and windy, and I stopped my car to collect a food waste bin from the middle of the road. It was clearly an odd thing to do in the rain! Very clearly – I got “looks”. People tend to assume that pleasing yourself – doing what you want to – is either a natural right, or at least something given the more senior members of a group, or perhaps those who have money to spend. But that’s a mistake!

The Christian faith teaches us that the strong – so especially those older members of the congregation, who have practised for longer – are NOT to please themselves, but to help others to build up their faith and strength. This may be less of a shock to parents and grandparents.

Look at today’s lesson Romans 15:1-6. Paul has urged the congregation not to split over minor issues – eating meat (often sacrificed in pagan temples), drinking wine, or arguing over whether or not to observe particular Jewish festivals (in a mixed Jewish-Gentile congregation). Now he says:

“We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Romans 15:1-3

Basic Christian gospel. Jesus offers us love and forgiveness, not because we deserve it, but because of his love and God’s plan. We are invited to respond, learning the same love, and finding the same HS strength.

How do we know about this?

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

Yes, on Bible Sunday we are sent back to the Bible. I know some of you are involved with Open the Book, and know how children enjoy and benefit from the stories. I know some of you will be involved in study groups, or follow Bible notes individually. I wonder if you have woken up to mobile phones?

  • Mine has a Bible downloaded (free!) with a daily verse
  • it also has Scripture Union Daily Bread notes
  • Morning and Evening Prayer and Compline for each day with the right readings, canticles, and a reminder of feast days + commemorations
  • and of course there are many gospel films on You Tube (+ a lot of rubbish)

The point of all this? Not getting a “qualification”. Paul lays it out clearly:

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15:5-7

The Christian life is tough. We are to have the attitude of Jesus, our Lord, and to draw strength from the same Holy Spirit. It won’t always be appreciated. Often it won’t even be understood – look, or rather read, what happened to him. But it is lifegiving, for us and for others. Our worship and thanksgiving are not some cold duty, but the gateway to a new and wonderful life. Together, will all our failings, we write a new chapter of God’s rescue of his people and his rebuilding of broken humanity. It’s worth being a part of.

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!

Still Learning

Last week’s gospel (Matthew 9:35-10:8) told of Jesus ministry of teaching and healing extended as all 12 of his disciples became apostles – the learners were “sent” to act in Jesus name. I reflected that this was not what we might have expected, but it nevertheless is what is expected of us.  This week the Old Testament lesson (from the “related” sequence) is Jeremiah 20:7-13, and might warn us that prophets and others faithful to God can have a hard time.

Reading Matthew 10:24-39, we learn more of what discipleship means, for the twelve and for us. 10:24 is important: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master”.  Matthew quotes that apparently to warn the Christians of his church that they are likely to be abused and persecuted, as Jesus was. But he may also have been aware of the dangers to be faced as disciples got used to being Christians, and no longer found their mission such an adventure.

Historically, Anglicans have relied on Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  Scripture is of vital importance as God’s main way of communicating with us, (our services are full of the Bible in different forms). Tradition helps us to understand and apply it – you may not immediately remember why we don’t publicly stone people to death for certain offences described in the Old Testament, but tradition might help you pause long enough to remember that some parts of the Old are changed by the New Testament. Reason is something we believe God gave us, to be used alongside his other gifts.

But “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master”. We remain learners, and need to be aware of some of the ways of getting it wrong!

  • Scripture can be read out of context, or interpreted without setting it alongside the rest of the Bible. “There is no God” -the words are found in scripture, but the full quote of Psalm 14:1 reads “Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.””
  • Tradition shows us how Christians lived in the past, but (even assuming they got it right) does not always meet a new situation. When society changes, the same answer may be the wrong answer.
  • Reason is a great help – if we remember that we are always blind to our own weaknesses. I can think of a million excuses and reasons why my favourite sins are OK for me, – and all the excuses are rubbish.

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master”. As the twelve disciples went out that first time, there probably wasn’t much temptation to “improve” on Jesus teaching, or healing technique. As time went on, that temptation grew.

  • It grew because of the temptation to think of ourselves as clever, and not dependant on a Master
  • it grew, because we like to avoid facing up to being wrong
  • it grew, because life was easier for Christians if they didn’t admit to their faith in some difficult situations

For us, the temptation to re-write Christian faith in a version that suits us is enormous, and it’s wrong. – to be a disciple is to accept, learn from and follow the teaching of Jesus. I don’t mean that we can just sign up to some fundamentalist interpretation. We still have to do the work: interpreting scripture, reviewing the tradition, thinking hard. It’s just that we know that fallen humanity – everybody in this imperfect and bent world – doesn’t think quite straight. The bend is most visible when we are letting ourselves off the hook!

To be a twenty-first century disciple of Jesus is wonderful, most important – and involves some hard work.