25th June 2017
The first reading from the Book of Jeremiah displays a common pattern in the experiences of all humans when they are intending to do their best and what they think is right. In this 7th century BC this prophet really feels the call from God to try to bring the people – all people – back into a good relationship with a loving God and to preach with severity and reproach against the poor behaviour of his people. It seems almost natural that they oppose him more and more as he upbraids them – and Jeremiah had a really tough time. But he earnestly wants to believe that God will see him alright in the end, will put his accuses to shame; he has faith yet it is shot through with human weakness for he hopes and expects that God will ‘get His own back’ on these miscreants … Jeremiah hopes for revenge! The best of us will still get things wrong about God and His ways.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he wants to express the central beliefs he has as a follower of Christ. In this brief extract we see evidence of his Jewish education, in that he sees the story of Adam in the bible in two ways: it is about the temptation of the first man to do what is forbidden, the giving-in to this lure and the consequent expulsion from the happy situation in the garden of Eden for himself and for the whole human race that descended from him; but it also sees Adam as a representation of the general human condition, the fact that all of us will be tempted, will give in to temptation and in consequence suffer some sort of alienation from reality and our true selves. Sin is not just breaking a rule, but falling short of the sort of human one could and ought to be. However, Jesus is the man who has reversed this situation for everyone (which is the import of his phrase “for many”).
The extract from Matthew that is today’s gospel reading comes after Jesus has been telling his followers that they will face persecution but will be loved by God, whatever people do to them that is hurtful. Jesus says that all will be made clear and will make sense in the end. It is strange that Matthew uses terms like body and soul, because this way of seeing a person was that of the Greek culture whereas Matthew is generally more influenced by Jewish teaching in which this distinction isn’t made – but his audience would be Diaspora Jews. But we should have reverential fear for God, though He loves all his creation especially humans. This whole passage might give us an insight into some of the difficulties Jesus’ followers might be having at the time Matthew is writing – after the destruction of the Temple about 70 AD.
The 18th June 2017
The reading from Deuteronomy is the lesson to be learnt from the experience of life – for the Jews in the desert. There is blessing from God again and again after we let Him down; the Manna in the desert is the sign of God’s care and we must thank God for that.
After saying “I’m speaking to you as sensible people” Paul goes on at the Corinthians, reminding them that when they gather as a Christian community for a celebratory meal, the shared wine and bread reminds them that in their togetherness as the Body of Christ – they must give thanks together to God.
In listening to John’s gospel we might remember he wrote “the Word was made flesh” and for him ‘flesh’ refers to being human – like our own flesh and blood. And this human life of Christ in which we share is a blessing from God.
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The 11th June 2017
The first reading (Exodus 34:4-9 passim) tells of Moses getting a re-issue of the stone tablets on which the commandments were written – after the first issue was broken because of the sinful people. We hear now that God is forgiving and this is what we need – forgiveness!
At the very end of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he calls for peace and even happiness among the people, seeing God as gracious, loving and communal – as Jesus, as God and as Spirit – the beginnings of the expression of the Trinity.
An early story in John’s gospel (John 3:16-18) about Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus re-iterates the love of God shown by the Father in sending His Son among us to save us all – but we must respond and live out our belief, our faith.
More details here.
The 4th June 2017
Luke’s account of the Pentecost event tells us of the power of the Spirit of God in us and the help we get to express the significance of Jesus for any variety of humans from different nations and backgrounds – that’s our role.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he is clear that as the body is the physical presence of a person, so the body of Christians is the presence of Christ in the world, and like Christ has God’s Spirit to empower it. We Have it!
One of John’s accounts of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances makes it clear that we followers of Christ bring His Spirit and His presence into the world, so how we treat other people is great responsibility we have.
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The 28th May 2017
This reading at the beginning of Luke’s story of the Church, like so much of the New testament, is a story for us; it tells how when the first followers felt Jesus had in someway left them, yet in some way they were sure he was still alive, what they did was to withdraw for a time of prayer for guidance of where to go and what to do!
The extract from 1 Peter makes us realise that it was written to those who were being persecuted in some way for joining the followers of the Way of Jesus. If we are free of difficulties for our faith we might wonder if we are following it sufficiently.
The gospel from John (17;1-11) is trying to say to Christians in the second half of the first century, that they must live in the way that Christ lived – it is expressed as a prayer of Jesus to God for His disciples.
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The 21st May 2017
The first reading (Acts 8:5-17 passim), is the first we here of the laying on of hands to symbolise the gift of the Spirit added to Baptism as an initiation into the community; whereas baptism is individual in some respect, the other symbol stresses joining the life of the community.
1 Peter 3:15-18 is further advice to neophytes – those newly enlivened as followers of Christ. There would be a temptation to be over-confident and self assured, but you should be gentle and respectful of others who do not have your beliefs or commitment!
The cryptic message from John (14:15-21) is about living the way Jesus lived – keeping the commandments and seeing Jesus even now – seeing him in creation and especially in all others whom we encounter!
I’ve written more earlier which you can read here.
14th May 2017
We have more about the early church in the first reading (Acts 6:1-7). There arose the need for the beginnings of some structure because of the increase ad diversity of new followers. We note that the the chief aim was to serve the people and that it was approved of by them.
Secondly we have more from Peter’s supposedly sermon to newly baptised Christians (1 Peter 2:4-9). Individuals will be proud of themselves at this time but the community is important – indeed is holy, priestly and there to serve God’s purpose.
The gospel (John 14:1-12) is mostly about the unity of Jesus with God the Father; if you know Him you know the Father. But it ends with the exhortation to live the sort of life Jesus ha been living – “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.”
There is more about these readings here.