Thursday, 22 November 2018

Utterly Lovely

There’s a famous hymn which goes: “Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.” It’s the kind of Christian hymn that I was brought up on. It presents God as a being of unreachable grandeur - a God who is beyond understanding, beyond human reach; who is to be feared.
At the same time, as I grew up, I was reminded every Sunday that this unimaginable God expected me to love him, first and foremost, above all else. It presented me with a problem: this all powerful, all knowing and ever living God did not seem very lovable. He was frightening. How unfair that he should command me to love him!
Jesus didn’t have this problem.
Jesus didn’t have this problem because he knew a very different kind of God. Jesus knew God to be like a doting father who, when his wayward son had gone astray and got into trouble, looked longingly for his return every day, and then ran down the road in expansive delight when the young man finally returned, showering him with gifts. Jesus knew God to be like an excited woman who threw a party for her neighbours just because she’d found a coin she’d been looking for all day.
Jesus didn’t know God as a being that is ‘unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, and ruling in might.’ He knew God as the kind of person who gives big hugs and throws impromptu parties, who wears his heart on his sleeve and forgives huge offences in the blink of an eye.
Jesus knew God to be thoroughly lovable.
Underlying all Jesus’ teaching is a confident knowledge that God is utterly lovely. Once we grasp that fact, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength isn’t so daunting a prospect.

Just published:
by Robert Harrison
the life and loves of a disciple of Jesus

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Enough is Enough

Saving up for a rainy day is a long-established human custom. We mammals have a natural instinct to save up spare resources. Squirrels get busy squirrelling away spare nuts to last them through the winter. A leopard will haul spare meat up into a tree so save it for the next day. However, we humans are the global specialists the art of hoarding. We fill our cupboards, fridges and freezers with enough food to last many days. And, since the invention of the stock market, we have taken the science of storage to a whole new level. Many people have enough saved up to feed and clothe themselves for several lifetimes, but still they keep on hoarding more.
God is not a fan of our saving habit. When he fed the ancient Israelites during their journey across the Sinai desert, he made a point of only providing enough ‘manna’ for one day at a time. Those Israelites who thought they could work the system and gather an extra helping of the mysterious food, discovered - when they got back to their tents - that they had exactly one omer per person. While those who found the daily collection a struggle, returned to their tents to find that they also had exactly one omer per person. Everyone ended up with just what they needed and no more. When some of them tried to keep some food overnight, to save themselves from having to go gathering before breakfast the next day, it turned rotten and became inedible.
God was making a point: enough is enough. You only need what you need.
This same principle features in Jesus’ teaching. In the ‘Our Father’ - the most repeated piece of Jesus’ teaching - we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Tomorrow doesn’t get a mention. As long as we have enough for today, that is enough.
The last of God’s iconic '10 Words’ takes us onto the advanced course in godly living. "You shall not covet your neighbour’s house, or wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
God is challenging us. He knows it cuts across our basic animal instincts. But he wants us to face the challenge and to learn to be content.
We will know we are making progress when we can say with St Paul. “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Just published:
by Robert Harrison
the life and loves of a disciple of Jesus