Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Altars of earth and undressed stone (Exodus 20vv24-25)

 It’s surprising how often one can go to the commentaries looking for help on a particular issue and come away not entirely satisfied.

(My preparation this week has been thwarted by my computer crashing several times and the document I’m sure I repeatedly saved having apparently disappeared too, so I can't find the notes I made earlier on this but that’s another story.)

Anyway, in Exodus 20v24, why does God command an altar of earth? And in v25, if the altar is made of stones, why is it to be made with undressed stones?

I’ve looked at 4 commentaries and 1 book, listened to a talk and done a bit of Googling and I’m still not entirely sure. http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/1590/why-should-an-altar-be-made-with-uncut-stone

The interpretation is potentially complicated by the fact that later dressed stones are used in making the temple, though they have to be dressed at the quarry so that no sound of a chisel is to be heard at the temple. http://biblehub.com/1_kings/5-17.htm

A general point could be made here regarding the Regulative Principle of Worship related to the 2nd Commandment. God is to be worshiped in his appointed way. He commands the worship that is acceptable to him. But why these specific commands?

Some commentators contrast these altars with the Cannanite altars. Certainly God is unique and unlike any other so called gods.

A point might be made about faith and works. Human beings contribute nothing here. God provides for his own worship.

Maybe a contrast is intended with the bricks of Babel and of Pharaoh.

Some commentators suggest that such altars were used to avoid the temptation to make graven images. Or that such an altar was more easily thrown down and less likely to become an idol.

The suggestion that undressed stones would be less distracting for the worshiper seems unpersuasive to me. The same objections could be made against the ornamentation of the tabernacle and temple, but God commanded that.

James Jordan suggests that an altar of earth represents human beings who are also made from the earth, according to Genesis. Altars are mini-mountains recalling Eden, which was raised ground from which rivers flowed, and connected to the fact that God often meets people on mountains, as at Sinai, of course. Believers are like mini-Sinais as at Pentecost when fire comes down on each person as on the mountain or as on an altar.  

The stone cut without hands in Daniel 2 points us towards Christ as the ultimate God-given altar by which atonement is made and through whom fellowship with God is enjoyed. 

Any help gratefully received!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Continuity of the Law

One of the basic questions about Old and New Testaments is whether one tends to assume continuity or discontinuity, though all Christians want to affirm some kind of unity and some type of change.

The Revd Dr Joe Boot makes an interesting argument in this debate that even after Pentecost the Apostle Peter in Acts 10 assumes such a degree of continuity regarding the law of God that direct revelation is required for him to realise that the Mosaic food laws are no longer binding on him - although of course he ought to have realised this from the teaching of Jesus (Mark 7:19). 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bible Praise & Worship Songs

Mrs Lloyd currently has a Seeds Family Worship CD in her car, which I drove today.


At times it sounds like a fairly bog standard modern praise and worship CD, which sometimes I can take or leave.

But the great difference is that Seed Family Worship draws directly from the words of the Bible.

So I found this rather changed how I listened to it. Here is authoritative, normative prayer and praise. Although not every Psalm might totally suit me (considered in myself) or my circumstances right now, here are words on which I can confidently depend - words of light and life, sweet and precious, which can make wise the simple. These are not words which I have to evaluate: do I agree with that? Is that right? Rather, these are words that weigh me, words before which to bow. I can imbibe these words in a way in which it would be foolish to listen to any merely human words, praying that they would re-shape and mould me into a person more like the Blessed Man of Psalm 1 or someone who has benefitted from Psalm 19.

I hope to drive Mrs Lloyd's car again soon.

Monday, June 08, 2015

A Pet Service Talk / Sermon Outline: A person's best friend

(Look away now if you are coming to the Pet Service at Bodle Street Green this year)

How would you complete this sentence?

"A dog is..."

(1) "A dog is a man [or person]'s best friend"?

(see Wikipedia for the origin of the phrase)

cf. husband or wife! - not just a friend but hopefully at least a best friend!

Why might someone say that?
e.g. loyalty, companionship, the dog doesn't answer back, always pleased to see you!

The importance of human friednship - see Proverbs, Vaughan Roberts' 10 of Those book etc.

(2) Jesus is the best friend of those who trust in him

A Biblical theology of friendship with God
Adam and Eve in the garden
Abraham - only person called a friend of God in the Bible
(The prophets)
Moses - spoke with God face to face as a man speaks to his friend
Job 16
Jesus the friend who sticks closer than a brother
Jesus calls his disciples his friends
- they are to do what he commands (unlike most friends! friendship with a king)
- he loves them so much that he lays down his life for them
- he tells them his business (unlike a servant) - cf. Abraham and the prophets

(You have to choose your friends well - friendship with the world is emnity towards God)

In what ways is Jesus a good friend?
Always there, always listens, never lets you down, powerful, wise, loving, knows us etc.

Friendship with God possible for us through the cross which makes enemies friends

Songs: It's great, great, brill, brill... to have a friend like Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Some Ascension Day reading

The Revd Dr Nick Needham, 'Christ Ascended for Us - 'Jesus' Ascended Humanity and Ours'', Evangel 25.2, Summer 2007 (PDF)

More ascension quotations

From this article Seven Things To Like About The Ascension by Gerrit Dawson (Union Theology)

In the fourth century, Gregory Nazianzen declared, 'If any assert that He has now put off His holy flesh, and that His Godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that He is now with his body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of His coming.' (To Cleondius)

Closer to our time Karl Barth asserted that Christ maintains his humanity 'to all eternity... It is a clothing which He does not put off. It is His temple which He does not leave. It is the form which He does not lose' (Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, pp. 100-01).

Augustine: "But by a spiritual body is meant one which has been made subject to spirit in such wise that it is adapted to a heavenly habitation, all frailty and every earthly blemish having been changed and converted into heavenly purity and stability. ..But the question as to where and in what manner the Lord’s body is in heaven, is one which it would be altogether over-curious and superfluous to prosecute. Only we must believe that it is in heaven. For it pertains not to our frailty to investigate the secret things of heaven, but it does pertain to our faith to hold elevated and honorable sentiments on the subject of the dignity of the Lord’s body" (A Treatise on Faith and the Creed, chp. 6).

2 favourite extra-Biblical quotations for Ascension Day

St Augustine of Hippo once said:
  Ascension Day... is "that festival which confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven, his nativity would have come to nothing ... and his passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy resurrection would have been useless."
 And from John Owen:

The assumption of our Lord Jesus Christ into glory, or his glorious reception in heaven, with his state and condition therein, is a principle article of the faith of the church - the great foundation of its hope and consolation in this world... The darkness of our faith herein is the cause of all our disconsolations, and most of our weaknesses in obedience.

On the Person and Work of Christ, works, vol 1, pp. 235 and 252 quoted in Chester & Woodrow, Ascension, p10

Sunday, May 03, 2015

"God is love" - some jottings

1 John 4vv7-end (p1227)
John 15vv1-8

I’m not going to preach a sermon on either of our readings today as such.
Instead, I want to reflect with you on that great statement “God is love”.
And I want to do that particularly by fitting that statement in with some of the other things that the Bible says about God.
We’ll see how some of those other things define and expand our vision of the love of God.
And we should find fuel for our prayers and praises here.
It’s clear that God’s love for us should shape our love for him, and our love for others, so there’ll be practical implications for us too if we think them through.

I’ve been helped in this by a new book by one of my tutors from theological college, which I’d recommend to you:
Garry Williams, His Love Endures For Ever: Reflections on the Love of God (IVP, 2015)

Its important to begin by realising that God is both like and unlike us.
God is the uncreated creator and we are creatures
He is an infinite being, and we are finite.
If I can put it like this, God is very very big and we are very very small.
Not only so, be God is holy and we are sinners.
Yet we are made in God’s image – we were designed to be like him and know him - but we risk making him in our image.
Idolatry – Calvin, our hearts idol factories
Thankfully God has revealed himself clearly and sufficiently in the Scriptures and in the Lord Jesus Christ
God is the original, the pattern, the prototype – we are the copies.
e.g. God the Father, God the bridegroom
The creation reflects its creator

“God is love”
So when we come to think about the love of God, there may be some things about human love, or so called human love, which we need to unlearn

God is Trinity
God not a solitary monad – how could such a God be love (before the creation)?
God is love in his very being / essence
He is love!
His love is not something incidental to him, something he could lose (like my little finger), it is fundamentally who he is
God is a loving fellowship of F, S & HS
a loving family, a happy community
Perfectly united in love
Lover, Beloved, Love

God is not lonely!
He never was!
He didn’t make human beings so he’d have some company or because he needed someone to talk to!
God’s love is an overflow of plenty
It doesn’t come from any lack in him
His love is not needy
God’s love need not manipulate or “use” us
He’s not dependant on us
God’s love looks entirely to the good of those he loves – and his own glory

God’s love is perfectly ordered
He rightly loves himself without any egotism
His love for himself doesn’t take away his love for us
Not a zero-sum game
Cf. all our disordered loves

We would love others better if we loved God first
To put someone else 1st in our lives is not only to dishonour God – it also abuses that person, and it harms us
God was always meant to have that place in our lives
Nothing else fits that place well
God is the only suitable God in the universe
We are often like a child trying to fit shapes into the wrong holes!
We should love all things in creation under God and for his sake
Everything we have is the good gift of God to us
(Doesn’t that enhance the gifts?! All of them come to us with our Father’s love!)
What a tragedy to take the gifts and forget the Giver!

God is eternal
His love is unchangeable
He is utterly faithful
Cf. our love – comes and goes
God is “always” fully alive

God is sovereign
His love is a powerful love – a love which creates, sustains and rules and can never be thwarted
God is spirit
God doesn’t have human emotions
He’s not mastered by his passions
Our emotions are chemical reactions in our brains – God doesn’t have a brain!

God is omnipresent – all present
He’s not an absentee father
His love is always there for his children

God’s love is all knowing
He loves us warts and all!
There’s nothing we can hide from him
We need not fear that he might not love us if he knew what we were really like!
God knows (all about us) yet he still wants to know us (relate to us in love)
He loves us despite our sins, which he alone knows the true depths of

God’s love is a holy love – not an indulgent love
A holy love and a loving holiness
None of God’s characteristics are in conflict with one another
The justice of the cross

God’s love beautifies
In the words of the hymn it is “Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

39 Articles Course Notes - Articles 32-39

Article 18- : The Church
Articles 32-36: The Disciplines of the Church
Articles 37-39: Christians and Civil Society

Article 32: Of the Marriage of Priests

Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God's Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

Clerical celibacy a late requirement . The Apostle Peter himself married. Clement of Alexandria mentions married priests and the 5th Century historian Socrates refers to married bishops in the East. The Council of Gangra in 324 anathematised those who separated themselves from married priests and the Council of Nicea in 325 rejected a rule of clerical celibacy. Pope Gregory the Great tried to impose clerical celibacy. The Councils of Carthage (end of 4th C), Toledo (691-2) and Arles (early 5th C) required some clerical celibacy but as late as the 11th C married clergy were still common in the Western Church. Pope Gregory VII issued a decree in 1074 forbidding the laity to receive ministry from married priests and in the English church an absolute rule of clerical celibacy was imposed from 1102. The first Lateran council in 1123 required clerical celibacy in the whole western church. Irish clergy including abbots were usually married with children right up to the Reformation. 24th session of the Council of Trent in Nov 1563 upheld clerical celibacy. Clerical celibacy helped preserve the finances of the church. Clerical celibacy in England ended in 1547/9?. Archbishops Cranmer and Parker had both married. By the time of Mary I perhaps 1/3 of the English clergy had married.
1 Cor 9:5; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Titus 1:5-6. Philip the deacon married (1 Cor 16:19)
Cf. Article 20 – the church has no power to command anything contrary to God’s word written
On celibacy: Mt 19:1-12; 1 Cor 7:1-9

Article 33: Of excommunicated Persons, how they are to be avoided

That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a Judge that hath the authority thereunto.

Exclusion of people from Israel: Gen 17:14; Ex 12:19; Lev 7:20; Ez 10:8
Lk 6:22; Jn 9:22; 12:42; 16:2
Mt 18:15-18; 1 Cor 5; 1 Tim 1:19-20; Rm 16:17; 1 Cor 15:33; 2 Cor 6:14, 17; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; 2 Jn 10-11; Tit 3:10-11
The Book of Common Prayer – rubric before Communion; in Communion service, after creed; burial service not to be used for the excommunicated; Commination service
Canon B16
Cf. boycotts and sanctions

Article 34: Of the Traditions of the Church

It is not necessary that the Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

Cf. Articles 6, 20, 21. The supreme authority of Scripture. A limited authority of the church – a desire for unity especially at the national level. Diversity allowable. See The Book of Common Prayer, ‘On ceremonies’. The close links between church and state in Reformation England - order of the church backed up by the state – Rm 13:1-7; 1 Pt 2:13-14. Weak brethren, 1 Cor 8:1-13; Rm 14:13-23. Principle of edification: 1 Cor 14:26.

Article 35: Of the Homilies

The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.

Of the Names of the Homilies

1 Of the right Use of the Church.
2 Against Peril of Idolatry.
3 Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
4 Of good Works: first of Fasting.
5 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
6 Against Excess of Apparel.
7 Of Prayer.
8 Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10 Of the reverend Estimation of God's Word.
11 Of Alms-doing.
12 Of the Nativity of Christ.
13 Of the Passion of Christ.
14 Of the Resurrection of Christ.
15 Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
16 Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
17 For the Rogation-days
18 Of the State of Matrimony.
19 Of Repentance.
20 Against Idleness.
21 Against Rebellion.

According to Jelf, at one time during the Reformation as many as 8000 parishes lacked preaching ministers. 1st Book of Homilies published in 1547 under Elizabeth I. 2nd Book of Homilies published in 1563. (Homily against rebellion written by Archbishop Parker added in 1571).

Article 36: Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers

The Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth, and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering; neither hath it any thing, that of itself is superstitious and ungodly. And therefore whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, since the second year of the forenamed King Edward unto this time, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same Rites; we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.

A reference to the Ordinals of 1550 & 1552. The second year of Edward’s reign was 1548-9. Some had questioned its validity since it was repealed by Mary. As the preface to the ordinal says, to be ordained it was thought necessary to be called, tried, examined, known to have the necessary qualities and then by prayer with the imposition of hands be approved and admitted to office. Acts 6:6; 13:3. The 1552 Ordinal was replaced by the Ordinal attached to the 1662 Prayer Book. Canon A8.

Article 37: Of the Civil Magistrates

The Queen's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other her Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.

Where we attribute to the Queen's Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offenses.

It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

Canon A7 Of The Royal Supremacy
Authority of kings: Prov 8:15, 17; Rom 13; 1 Pt 2:13-15
On Peter: Mt 16:18.
Christ and Peter paid taxes to the king (Mt 17:24-27).
Cf. private vengeance taking and public roles
Just War

Article 38: Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not common

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same; as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

Against some radical protestant groups. Acts 2:44-45; 4:32. Laws against theft and coveting and the encouragement of almsgiving assume property rights. Acts 5:4.
Dt 15:11; Prov 19:17; Is 58:7; Mt 10:42; 25:35-40; Mk 9:41; 1 Thess 5:14; Heb 13:16; Jam 2:5

Article 39: Of a Christian Man's Oath

As we confess that vain and rash Swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet's teaching in justice, judgment, and truth.

Again against some radical protestant groups. The Article has in mind Mt 5:33-37 and James 5:12. Dt 6:13; 10:20; Ps 22:25; 63:11; Ex 22:10-11; Jer 4:2; Heb 6:16; Mt 26:63; Rm 9:1; Gal 1:20. Examples of oaths in the Bible: Christ said, “Amen, Amen…” (Jn 3:3, 5, 11 etc.) 2 Cor 1:23; Gen 22:16; 24:3; 21:23; 1 Sam 18:3; 20:12-17, 42; Judges 11:29-40. Jerome said, “Every Christian man’s word should be so true, that it should be regarded as an oath.”
Oaths of allegiance and canonical obedience – see Canon C13 and 14