Monday, 24 April 2017

Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness - Sunday 23rd April 2017

When Jesus returned from death on Easter Morning, he caused a lot of confusion. For most of that day his former disciples didn’t know what to make of it, or who to believe. Come evening Jesus finally met up with a group of his followers and demonstrated that the unbelievable rumours of his return were indeed true.
With that fact established, Jesus’ next task was to unfold to them what it had all been for. They had been through a deep trauma, and that trauma had had a clear purpose. Now was the time for him to make that plain (as much as was possible with a group of confused and frightened people).
Most often, when we think about the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection, we think in terms of life after death. That is the obvious conclusion to come to. But that is not the part of it that Jesus saw as being most important. In both surviving accounts of that Easter evening meeting Jesus’ focus was on forgiveness. Luke reports him saying, “forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in [my] name to all nations.” John reports him saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” Forgiveness is the key to all that happened in those bewildering days of crucifixion and resurrection.
Christian people need to be Easter people. And the key to Easter is forgiveness. We carry on the work of Jesus, not so much by telling the story and persuading people of its truth, but by demonstrating forgiveness and promoting it in the world around us. We need to be campaigners for forgiveness, enthusiasts for forgiveness, champions for forgiveness.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Somewhat Ridiculous - Sunday 9th April 2017

Jesus decided to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Normally, he would have walked, but this was no normal day. The excited Galilean pilgrims wanted to crown Jesus as their king; the frightened political elite of Jerusalem wanted to have him executed. It was important that he set the right tone in order to avoid a blood bath - so he decided to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Christian art and iconography shows this event with Jesus sitting with regal dignity on his chosen mount. However, you may like to take a brief break from reading this, and do a Google image search of ‘man riding donkey’. You will quickly see that regal dignity is not the look that goes with donkey riding. Men riding donkeys, the world over, look somewhat ridiculous. The other thing that the Google search reveals is that, aside from tourists and comedians, donkey riding is generally the province of old men who - presumably - struggle to walk. The donkey is the mobility scooter of non-technical society.
Jesus decided to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. He knew it was important that he set the right tone as he entered the city, so he chose to look somewhat ridiculous; he chose to identify with the arthritic old men; he chose to look un-regal and un-dignified.
As Christians, we are committed to following Jesus as we make our way in a society that is highly image-conscious. So, from time to time, we need to remember to choose the donkey -  to belittle ourselves - to make ourselves look somewhat ridiculous. This is the Jesus way.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Call me 'I Am' - Sunday 2nd April 2017

Names are important. Different people address us differently, depending on their relationship to us. We are familiar with the uncomfortable feeling it leaves when someone addresses us inappropriately. 
In English Bibles, throughout the Old Testament, God is referred to as ‘The LORD’. In the New Testament, the same title is attached to Jesus. But ‘Lord’ is not a title that either God or Jesus encouraged or accepted. The title ‘Lord’ is an impostor, brought into our Bible by careless translation. The people who wrote the Bible were expressing something quite different. 
At the burning bush, Moses asked God his name, and God replied, ‘I am who I am.’ Then God said, ‘Say to the Israelites, “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And in the next verse God adds, 'This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.’ In accordance with that instruction, throughout the Hebrew scriptures, God is referred to as ‘Yahweh’ (I Am). But in almost every English translation, by the very next sentence, God’s chosen name, ‘I Am’, is replaced with ‘The LORD’. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s name has been expunged by the translators and replaced with a term from the medieval feudal system, and most English speaking Christians are not even aware of this. 
The same blight affects our New Testaments. The Greek word ‘Kurios’ which was used to address Jesus, is a general term of respectful address for any man - just as English uses ‘Mister’ before a name, or ‘Sir’ in place of it. The same word is still used in Greece today, exactly as we use 'Mister' and ‘Sir’ in English. However in all English translations, instead of translating the word ‘Kurios’ to ‘Mister’ or ’Sir' it is replaced by the title, ‘Lord'. 
Over centuries of Christian tradition, and through decades of our own personal experience, repeatedly addressing God and Jesus as ‘Lord’ has had a profound effect on our faith and our culture. Lordship is about superiority, ownership and control. So when we address God as ‘Lord’ we express ourselves as being inferior, owned and controlled. But this is not how God wishes to relate to us. God’s name, I Am, simply expresses his presence among us as our companion and our guide. And in Jesus God chose to live among us as our brother and our friend. 
Why do we find this so hard to accept? Mostly, I believe, it is simply an engrained habit. People defend the practice by saying that the title, ‘Lord’, expresses our respect for God and Jesus. However, surely it would be more respectful to use the term of address that God himself requested. And God said, ‘Call me I Am'