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”