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Water water everywhere

Water water everywhere

By on May 3, 2014 in Blog |

When you’re immersed in something, there’s often nothing better than trying to step back and look at the situation through God’s eyes. I have not quite been literally immersed in it, but the recent flooding affected me wherever I went. A few weeks ago I started with trying to get to the King’s Centre in Oxford for a Sunday meeting of our church, with waters lapping against it. Then from Oxford to Swindon by train on Monday morning, with the train travelling at a walking place where the water covers the tracks. Only to work in an organisation which funds flooding research and to work closely with the Met Office and Environment Agency on this. Mercifully, I live up a hill, so only a flood of Noah’s proportions could affect me there! The flood recorded in Genesis 6-9 was the “natural” event that delivered an irreversible step change in the planet. Many of those taking a creationist position on the origin of the world reflect on the fact that ‘the waters above the firmament'[1] may have been a water vapour layer above the earth’s atmosphere that led to a highly protected environment where dinosaurs could live and woolly mammoths could later be found in an arctic location where they would not have survived the cold[2]. The flood was caused by this water falling on the earth. Whatever your inclination concerning these early stories of Genesis, it is fair to say that traditions of deluge are found amongst all the great traditions of the human family and these agree to a substantial degree with the Biblical account. The most remarkable of these traditions is that recorded on tablets prepared by order of Assur-bani-pal, the King of Assyria, with copies dating back to 2000 BC[3]. There is one major difference in the Bible from the other narratives: the flood story ends with a covenant, reinforced by a rainbow (another natural phenomenon)[4]. God promises never to flood the earth again. I find it fascinating to see that, in spite of localised flooding occurring at different points in the Bible, when it reaches the climax of history, the judgements of God in Revelation are accompanied by earthquakes and hailstorms rather than floods.[5] (Interestingly,...

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Why we need to Study Theology

Why we need to Study Theology

By on Mar 29, 2014 in Blog |

As I watched my Grandson, Daniel, dressed as a donkey in his nativity play, with all his classmates as kings, shepherds and angels visiting Mary and Joseph in the stable, I began to wonder what the Bible actually says about the birth of Jesus.  I went back to the Gospel accounts and was quite surprised how little was recorded of this very familiar story.  Only Matthew and Luke mention the story of Jesus birth. The Bible records that Mary, who was pledged to be married to Joseph, was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  The angel Gabriel had visited both of them to explain the situation.  They did have to go to Bethlehem, where the child was born.  We don’t know how long they stayed there.  At the time of Jesus birth there was no room for them in the Inn, so we don’t know where Jesus was born, only that his crib was a manger. Luke mentions the shepherds, who were told of the birth by a host of angels and came to visit the baby.  Matthew talks about Magi, not kings, Magi were wise men, possibly astrologers as they followed a star, they did bring 3 gifts of Gold, Incense and Myrrh, but there was no mention of the number of people in the group.  In those days, the chances are they would have travelled in large groups with servants, for safety.  The timing of their arrival is not clear either.  We know it was in the reign of King Herod, but it could have been up to 2 years after Jesus birth, because Herod had all baby boys under 2 years old killed, when he found that the Magi had come to look for a king whose star had appeared at that time. When we hear the stories we grew up with from an early age we tend to accept them, but when we go back to the source of these stories we sometimes realise that they have been added to or distorted.  This is why it is so important that we don’t just accept, with blind faith, everything we are told (even in church!), but check it out by going back to the source, in this...

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“Crammed in like Sardines”

“Crammed in like Sardines”

By on Mar 26, 2014 in Blog |

“There’s nowhere to sit or stand, the choir loft’s full, it’s out to the back,” says Father Joe Mills, the parish priest at St Mary’s Roman Catholic church in Duntocher, near Clydebank. It is Christmas Eve and many other churches are having the same ‘problem.’ So why does it only happen at Christmas? What is so special about the midnight mass or midnight services that cause people to turn out in their droves at 11.30pm on a dark and usually cold Christmas Eve? Sitting in St George’s Parish Church, Kidderminster on Christmas Eve I was asking myself that very question. Why do people feel the need to go to church only at Christmas time? I asked a friend why she went only at Christmas and her reply was “well that’s what we do at Christmas. Mum and dad used to take us when we were children, so it has become part of our Christmas tradition along with mince pies and the Queen’s speech.” Another, rather cynical friend said that it was a way to ease their consciences. Perhaps surprisingly there are still people who think that England is still a Christian country and see it as their duty to attend church once a year  other than for Births, Marriages and Deaths.  Figures show that only 1 in 10 people attend church on a weekly basis with the subsequent loss of 1% each year. Question; why is this happening, what is causing the ocean of division between the ‘churched and unchurched?’ In a recent assignment from KST we were asked to visit a different tradition of church in preparation for our study weekend on Ecclesiology (in a nutshell: ‘what the church is and why it is like it is’). Having been to church as long as I can remember, I am used to liturgy, praying and, singing hymns, but I was nervous of the ‘unknown’. When would I need to sit or stand? When should we kneel to pray (if they did kneel at all)?  Over the Christmas period I visited two Anglican churches. One vicar guided us through the service step by step and telling us what page we were on and so on, but in the other I...

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God in the Deluge

God in the Deluge

By on Mar 19, 2014 in Blog |

If those living in the UK over the last two months are anything like me, then they too, I am sure, have had enough of this terrible weather.  It feels to me as though our television screens have been on an endless loop of showing more and more iconic images of waves pummelling our coastline, and of communities inundated with flood water.  And yes, it is official: we have suffered the wettest, and possibly the windiest, winter on record.  Yet, as the storms seem to abate, it now feels like we are entering a season of recriminations. Various polls tell us who we think is to blame for the flooding; with the Government, the Environment Agency and freak weather all vying for the top spot.  And if we are to believe these polls, then almost 40% of us think that ‘some towns and villages are not worth defending from flooding, because the cost is too high’.  Yet in all of the talk, I’ve not seen anyone point the finger at God.  Is this because we as a nation, no longer believe in God?  Or have we pushed the view that our God is the ‘God of love’ so much so that we now cannot believe He could have any involvement in such suffering? In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people[1].  And yes if we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves[2].  So we can ask ourselves: how is God revealing his anger?  The first thing to note is that the ‘is revealing’ is a present tense, continuous action.  Paul answers this very question in at least three ways in his letter to the Romans; (i) human death reveals the wrath of God[3] from which no-one is immune; (ii) the sinking degradation of human behaviour[4]; and (iii) universal futility and misery are evident of God’s wrath[5]. It is this last point that I wish to explore in a bit more detail here.  From Paul’s words, we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present times, and even we Christians, although we have the...

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“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened….”

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened….”

By on Mar 17, 2014 in Blog |

Isaiah prophesied “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened….” John 9 Upon reading and studying the bible it is becoming clear to me that I need to pay as much attention to what is not written down in this collection of books, as I do to what is. Information not written, perhaps, because the readers are assumed to have a certain amount of knowledge already. They would have had knowledge of the culture and practices of the times that we have now lost. So then, we have to do a bit more work than the writer originally intended for his readers, to find out the Bible’s true meaning. Passages which require this are often obvious when we read them as they raise just as many questions as they do answers. Or sometimes just one big question! One example I have been studying recently is in John 9. It is the healing of the blind man, by a pool: “I am the light of the world.”Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing”. (Vs 5b-7) Why does Jesus do it this way? Why bother with the mud and the spit when He could have just told him to see and it would have happened? And why, when John is so helpful to explain other practices to do with Jewish culture and Jesus’s actions, does he leave an explanation of this out? Was it that Jesus, in one sense, was doing something so obvious to the witnesses at the time and so obvious to the intended readers of John’s Gospel that it needed no explanation? The blind man was blind from birth, so it was assumed at the time that he or his parents must have committed a sin for which they were being punished by God. Jesus puts them straight on this declaring that the blind was this way from birth…. “So the works of God may be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) And then the “works of God” are displayed in the man’s healing....

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