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2020 Bible Reflections

May 1st 2020: Psalm 149

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song.
    Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.

O Israel, rejoice in your Maker.
    O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King.
Praise his name with dancing,
    accompanied by tambourine and harp.
For the Lord delights in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.
    Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.

Let the praises of God be in their mouths,
    and a sharp sword in their hands—
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with shackles
    and their leaders with iron chains,
to execute the judgment written against them.
    This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones.

Praise the Lord!

There’s no denying it: some Psalms are troubling. The first half of this is great. Just the kind of thing you want to sing in the words of a song at Church on Sunday. From the second half of verse 6? Well, yes, quite so.

I never really know how to make any kind of definitive statement about pieces of Scripture like this. The people of God had been taught and shown through the stories of their history that it was their role to be the judges of those who opposed God, or them. This isn’t very palatable in our day – I wonder if it was then, to be honest – and any group setting themselves up as being justified in behaving in executing judgement against anyone else rightly is quickly to desist.

But there is a key point at stake here. In the new relationship between God and people that is possible because of all that Jesus did and who he was, we are reminded that God is a judge, that he judged humanity, found that it fell short and that justice needed to be satisfied in a different way. And so, Jesus and all that he did and all that he was. Judgement doesn’t go away just because we are no longer living in Old Testament times. What I think is offered to us now in the days that we live in is the opportunity to be clear and certain that we have hope, that we are forgiven and free and to invite anyone else who needs or wants to be forgiven and free to trust in God’s offer of salvation.

Because that is what the first two thirds of this is about. It’s about God’s goodness, which is so very good that all we can do rejoice and dance around thanking him for his kindness and mercy. It’s about realising that God crowns the humble (or, in other translations, the poor) with victory. It’s a sign that what might look or feel like victory in this life often isn’t, but that what looks like weakness, putting our hope and our trust in a God who might be largely unseen but who is most certainly not unknown or unknowable, for safety and salvation will ultimately lead to the kind of peace and the kind of life that this world that we live in simply cannot offer on its own. So in one set of key ways, we are to be judgemental. We’re to be judgemental about choosing love, choosing hope, choosing to pray for those who call us their enemy, choosing to speak good news in love and not to back down, choosing to trust in God for salvation, and choosing to be ok with the now and not-yet of receiving love from God now but realising that we won’t receive a final reward until later. ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ has to wait until we have proved to be good, and faithful. Keep going, my friends.

Something To Do

Check: if you are judging about something, is it because of a kingdom-related reason? Does judging this thing help you to love God, other people and yourself more?

Something To Pray

God, help me to judge rightly the way that you want me to live, the person you want me to be and please give me what I need to be just that kind of person today.

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February 2016

January 17th 2016: Galatians 4:21-5:1

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

I’m not very good at memorizing passages or phrases from Scripture. I don’t know why. It’s just never worked for me. One of the few I have managed to commit to memory though is contained in today’s reading. The trouble is, it’s all very well saying to myself over and over again ‘it’s for freedom that Christ has set us/me free’, but if I’m actually not willing or able to accept that freedom, then I am the one who loses out. So, here it is, I’m not a slave to sin anymore. Jesus took the consequences of sin on himself. They are not mine to carry any longer.

I’m someone who cares a lot about justice, about doing the right thing, about having the right thing done to me. I very often don’t manage to hit the mark. This causes me a lot of problems. I worry endlessly about problems I have caused for others too. Often I worry about permutations of problems that may well not even exist. I don’t think I should be allowed to live in freedom, at the same time as I spend a large amount of life trying to convince myself and others that this is exactly what I have, because of Jesus, not because of me. It is exhausting.

There are a great many days, a very great many, when I feel far from free. I’d almost rather I be enslaved, this seems fair to me (I mean this in a spiritual sense). I know this is wrong and contra to the life and teachings of Jesus, but there we are. The gospel is such foolishness, even to me, someone who is being ‘saved’. It is unfair. It is so much more than any of us deserve, but there’s the ever-present worry of becoming complacent or too comfortable with the whole deal that we don’t acknowledge the sheer wonder, grace and abundant generosity of it all. I am not better. I am not superior. I am freed, by Jesus, to be a voice, and an activisit, in freeing others by pointing them to him and extending his invitation to life and love.

What do you think?

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2014 Lectionary Ramblings Lectionary Ramblings

September 15th 2014: Acts 10;34-48

Read Acts 10:34-48 here

One of the greatest days in the history of the Christian faith is chronicled in today’s reading. Here we find that God, shwoing no partiality, makes it abundantly clear that there is no limit to the offer of His love. You don’t have to be born in to the right race, the right lineage, to have done the right “pure” things or to think only lofty thoughts. If anything, it is better if you’re not, and you haven’t. The gift of the good news of God is that God is good, and that we are made ever more good, through the grace of God, His decision to love and bless us, and that alone. Anything else puffs us up and makes us think that we have agency, control, authority and power. We don’t. We are blessedly impotent, apart from, and until, the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and then we receive power, and we are able to become witnesses to the goodness, grace, mercy and wonder of God, to the ends of the Earth. We don’t have power for the sake of power. We have power for the sake of God and His glory. Any time we use it for anything other than His glory, we dishonour Him.

Peter and the Jewish believers thought that they knew that the faith of Christ was limited to them, but following on from Peter’s vision in which God made it clear that no foods were unclean, today’s act of God blows the good news of the Kingdom wide open for all. Let’s not be people who limit or close the opening to freedom that God has made.