Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bread & Wine: Death & new life

I wonder if there is something to be said about bread and wine involving death and resurrection: the seed falls to the ground and dies and so on, the grain is crushed and lives again transformed and renewed as bread; wine is water or grape ressurected. And through this death and resurrection, they are also life giving: they live too in those who participate in them, as believers are vivified and indwelt by Christ and his Spirit.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A typical service

Today I missed out one of the Ten Commandments. (Murder, since you ask).

I drank up all the consecrated wine with two communicants still to go.

The readings did not correspond with the preacher's sermon.

The CD player wouldn't work. So someone went to get another one. Which arrived after the first hymn. And then the CD kept sticking or skipping or something.

So, a typical service.

Everyone seemed happy and edified!

Spiritual health warnings for Lent

On Wednesday I invited the flock in the name of Christ to the observance of a holy Lent by discipline, self-denial, reading of Holy Scripture and prayer and so on. Here are some spiritual health warnings to go with that:

(1) Lent is not in the Bible.

In itself that is an uninteresting point. Neither is Christmas (in this sense) and all sensible people observe that! So you don't have to observe Lent and neither does your "less godly" hyper-Protestant Christian neighbour. This is not a matter for strife or division or one-up-man-ship. Where God has been silent we must not attempt to bind one anothers' consciences.

(2) The observance of Lent and Advent as penitential seasons risks getting the Christian year out of balance.

It is noteworthy that in the Old Testament (a lesser covenant than the New) there was only one compulsary fast day and a number of feast days. That is the basic shape and tenor of the Christian life. Even if we keep Lent, remember that the Sundays don't count. Resurrection Day is always a feast to the Lord. That means chocolate and booze, surely?

(3) The Christian faith is one of daily year round repentance, but also of continual rejoicing.

Don't be a misery guts. Observe Lent happily or not at all. And observe self-denial and discipleship daily - but know that means loving God and loving your neighbour, the weightier matters of the law.

(4) Booze and chocolate are good gifts of God to be enjoyed with thanksgiving.

The Lord preserve us from a low-fat skinny Christianity! We are not Gnostics. The body and food and drink are good things, though of course they make bad gods. Lent might help us to put them in their place, but they don't belong in the dustbin. 

(5) Keeping man-made made rules for 40 days does not a godly life make.

Giving up sin and taking up godliness is what its all about. We mustn't kid ourselves that we have our minds and bodies under control if we can avoid cocoa solids for a couple of months. Lower the standard so that you can keep the standard and feel good smacks of Phariseeism.

(6) The Christian faith is first of all about what Jesus has DONE not what we DO. We are saved by Jesus, all of grace, through faith and not by good works.

(7) We are not to observe Lent to be seen by men. If we seek their praise, we may have our reward. It may therefore be best not to broadcast your devotions on Facebook!

No doubt more could be said. What would you print on the fag-packet of Lent?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Husbands, get your wives to submit to you

The Bible doesn't say that!

Wives ought to submit to / obey their husbands.

But its not the husband's job to "get his wife to submit" - at least not directly! Telling your wife to do so is unlikely to work. You shouldn't try to "make her", and in any case you can't since submission is a matter of heart, spirit and demeaner not outward conformity. A wife who does as she's told and rages against you inside isn't gonna be much fun!

The husband's duty is clear: love your life as Christ loves the church - with all her sins and imperfections. And with yours! And do all the other stuff that flows from that, like provide and protect and so on. And probably buy flowers and chocolates at regular intervals and tell her how lovely she looks.

In short, the husband ought to try to be Christlike - the kind of husband to whom its not so hard to submit.

Live to work or work to live?

Perhaps this dilema is lessened if we begin to think of our work as part of God's mission.

If our work is aligned to the creation mandate and the great commission, then, in part, we live to work. God's plan is to rule and fill the earth through the disciples of Jesus Christ and, in part, this plan is fulfilled by our work, in union with Christ and in the power of the Spirit by the Word of God.

If we are a bank robber or a prostitute it is clear that (more than likely!) we work to live. But any other lawful calling is part of the very purpose of our existence. We were put in the garden to guard and keep and fill it and to grow the family buisness untill its a global operation. We do not live merely for evenings, weekends and holidays. Neither do we live merely for church on a Sunday, homegroup or seeking to talk about Jesus at the water cooler. Work is part of life lived in obedience to God, part of his plan and purposes.  Sweeping the streets is as much part of that plan as the ministry of the gospel or being a teacher or doctor.

Oh, and of course, we also work so that we might live: to provide for ourselves and our families and to give to others.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mark 13 - It's not the end of the world

If Mark 13 is largely or entirely about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple etc. in AD70, we are left with the challenge as to how to preach it as relevant to today.

It obviously does not mean the same to us today after the event as it meant for the apostles before. We do not need to pray that it will not take place in winter or get ready to flee to the Judean hills.

Anyway, my attempt should appear on our church website this week.

After lots of introduction and preamble, my headings were:

(1) Jesus is the true prophet - listen to him, believe his word, do what he says etc.
(2) Jesus is the true Lord and Judge - submit to him, trust him, flee to him for mercy etc. Thank God for our friend on the throne
(3) Jesus is the true temple, the place to meet God and the ultimate sacrifice for sin - come to him in his Word, trust in him for forgiveness and access to God