Monday, March 25, 2013

The first hint of the gospel in the Bible

is often thought to be Gen 3:15. Well, perhaps. It all depends how we define the gospel, of course. But it's grace all the way back. Creation itself is a matter of grace. God's making of the world is a matter of his overflowing goodness, it speaks of the love of God the Holy Trinity which is too good for God to keep to himself, which out of sheer generosity he wants to share. It is no need in God which creates, by sheer kindness, the expansiveness of a limitless, uncontainable God. So maybe Gen 1:1 is the first hint of the gospel in the Bible. God makes the world that it might be invited into relationship with him.

Friday, March 22, 2013

10 commandments: questions for study & reflection

In a former life I preached a sermon series on the 10 commandments and I have just completed a somewhat interactive Lent course on them. More or less off the top of my head, here are some questions for study and reflection on the commandments. Some questions may be more or less easy or relevant to some commandments.

The Westminster Larger Catechism is a worthwhile commentary on the commandments.

There are many good books on the commandments. Packer is always worth reading. J John is engaging. I found Frame by far the most stimulating read.

Specifically, what does this commandment command or forbid? Why?

What did it mean in its Mosaic context? What does it mean and how does it apply to us today?

Is the placing of this commandment significant? How does it relate to the other commandments?

How does the rest of Scripture inform your understanding of this commandment? For example, what are the punishments for breaking this commandment? What examples are there of people keeping or breaking this commandment?

Is it possible to break this commandment in your heart?

What does this commandment mean broadly understood? What are the underlying principles?

If the commandment is negative, what are its positive implications and vice versa?

How is this a commandment a perspective on all the others? May all sins be understood as a breaking of this commadment?

How might we be tempted to break this commandment? How can we avoid doing so?

How did Jesus keep this commandment?

What does this commandment teach us about God?

How does this commandment reveal our sin? And drive us to the Saviour?

How might this commandment be understood as a promise?

How might this commandment inform our prayers and praises?

Other questions?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Further jottings on this coming Sunday's lectionary Gospel

Thoughts on the anointing of Jesus from John 12 stolen from or provoked by Steve Levy’s sermon from last Sunday:

Reclining with Jesus at a meal the picture of the resurrection hope of a great feast, being yourself with your feet up.

This anointing of Jesus shows that he is the anointed one: a pint of perfume is poured out on the one on whom the Spirit of God is poured out without measure. As the fragrance fills the whole house, so the Spirit flows from Jesus to fill the world.

The woman pours herself out at Jesus’ feet, who will be poured out for her. As the perfume flows out, so Jesus’ blood will flow out for her and for many.

She bows before Jesus and lays her all at Jesus’ feet. The only way to come to Jesus is completely, wholeheartedly.

The woman takes on the aroma of Jesus. Jesus covers over the stench of our sin. The woman cannot cover her sin any longer, as a teenage boy might try to hide his stink with deodorant. The same anointing that comes on Jesus comes on her: she is united with him and takes on his life. It is as if the woman dies and lives again with Christ.

Jesus is her advocate, her defender.

John 11 & 12 are smelly

What is the aromour of these chapters?

At the end of John chapter 11 the people are afraid that the decomposing Lazarus will stink.

And death does indeed stink. It is horrible and unnatural and vile and evil and wrong. Or at least, death without Christ is like that.

But then at the beginning of chapter 12 there is another fragrance. Again it is the smell of death, but with a very different perfume: this is the aromour of Christ's death as he is annointed with expensive pure nard in preparation for his burial. The whole house is filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Although we can only catch the faintest whiff of it, and death still has its stinky aspects, death with Christ is sweet: it ends our suffering and ushers us into the fuller enjoyment of the presence of God.  Though our bodies will rot, may God enable us to catch something of this aromour on the wind of the Spirit.

Oh, and also 1 Cor 2:14ff

Monday, March 11, 2013


It’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting season! “Hooray!” I hear you shout! Each parish is required to hold such a meeting every year before 30th April. I don’t know whether or not that prospect fills you with enthusiasm?! Some people love such things; others would rather stick pins in their eyes.

Nevertheless, the APCMs are important. The church is neither a dictatorship nor exactly a democracy, but the APCM is one opportunity to play your part in the government of your church. I can’t say that people have given their lives so that you can have this particular vote, but you get the idea! Each year, the parishioners elect the Church Wardens and members of the Parochial Church Council. There are also elections every three years to the Deanery Synod.

And you can ask any question you like or make any comments (complaints!) or suggestions. Of course, you can do that at any time. You might prefer to give me a ring, or send me an email, or have a word with me, before you raise something at the APCM but, if you wish, that public forum is available to you.

The APCM is also a chance to review the year that has passed. The PCC will provide a set of accounts and a written report. We trust there will be encouragements and much for which to give God thanks. And, of course, the APCM is a bit like the Oscars: there are always lots of people to thank. Our churches depend on a wonderful army of volunteers who give freely of their time and skills, often with little recognition. Thank you!

The APCM is also an opportunity to look forward and to discuss plans. It encourages us to step back and look at the big picture. Frankly, it sometimes seems to me that I have more than enough work to do simply seeking to keep the show on the road. We’re all concerned about maintaining our buildings and balancing the books. But I don’t want to settle for “maintenance mode”, still less for the management of decline. Since people inevitably die and move away, we need to grow numerically just to stand still. The Diocese tells us that we don’t pay our full costs, and all three parishes are committed to working hard to seek to do so as soon as possible.

But above all it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that should motivate and inform all that we do. The church is not just an under-resourced branch of English Heritage. Nor are we amateur social workers or counsellors or whatever. We certainly do not exist to pay into the central coffers or just to keep the Rector off the streets. It seems to me that in everything we do we should always keep two main aims before us:

(1) We want to follow Jesus. We are seeking to be his disciples. That’s an inexhaustible life-transforming adventure that affects everything.
(2) We want to help and encourage others to follow Jesus. We want to make disciples of Jesus.
We could add that we want to make disciples of Jesus who will in turn make disciples of Jesus – and so it goes on!

Hopefully, those big aims are clear. We know that our primary means are the Word of God and prayer – all in the power of the Spirit. We’ve also done some strategic thinking when we talked about our Mission Action Plan, and we need to keep that under review. There’ll be much to discuss by way of tactics. Your church needs you! We hope you’ll get on board with this vision and we really mean it when we say that your comments and suggestions are important to us. We’d love to hear how we can do better together.

So, God-willing, I hope to see you at one of our APCMs (details of which, later in the magazine):
·        Dallington on Wed 10th April at 7pm in the church
·        Bodle Street Green on Fri 12th April at 7:30pm in the village hall
·        Warbleton on Mon 15th April at 7:30pm in the church rooms