Category Archives: Articles

Reflection for 11th February on transfiguration and the church.

Takeley Chapel

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God is the Lord of abundance, he forgives us freely and pours out his grace into creation. He himself comes to us and in Jesus takes creation into himself. Jesus becoming man, reveals that all things are spiritual, not in the sense of being sacred for us to worship, but in the sense that all things matter. Everything has its being in him and he becomes human. All things are held together in Christ and in him, from the beginning, there is an outpouring of grace and a call to love.
The begottenness of the Son is revealed in Jesus. What it is to be begotten of the Father from the beginning is made plain in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the Christ. In his death and resurrection, we find life. This life is a life of love.
The fall of humanity in Adam was in…

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Reflection for Sunday 21st January 2018

Takeley Chapel

This morning’s readings focused on repentance and following after God. We saw how the disciples left their fishing nets to become fishers of people and how Jesus gave them a new identity in him (Mark 1). We also saw how even the most evil nation on earth was not beyond God’s salvation and how repentance changed God’s mind about their fate (Jonah 3),

The psalm reminded us that

Psalm 62:5
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.

But what of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? What of those who acquire a neurological dysfunction or are born with one? How are they to respond? How are they to belong? Where does our theology reach them in an age where the solution appears to be to end life or not even allow it to start?

I believe our hope is in silent waiting, in…

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Sunday Reflection for 7th January 2018

Takeley Chapel

Ephesians 3:6

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

…the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The creation story teaches that we are all like God, made in his image, not divided, all one equal before God. It shows how good is the free will choice to walk in God’s good and perfect will. Evil is a choice that binds us to a cycle of self-love and self-will; it ensnares us and makes us slaves to it. To choose good is to choose life. We know that God’s heart is to be with us, there in every moment, in every choice, working with us for good.

Scripture leads us to understand that we are to be redeemed, brought back to this good and perfect state. Sin leads to death and God calls us to walk in new…

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Reflection for Sunday 31st December 2017

Exploring forgiveness.

Takeley Chapel

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Jesus teaches that those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus teaches that we are to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Moreover, he teaches us that our neighbour includes our enemy (Luke 6:35, 10:25).

Jesus was teaching the remnant of the people of Israel, sons and daughters of Abraham. His disciples were Jews; a covenant people, redeemed from slavery out of Egypt and brought to a promised land. Their confidence was in the Law and the system of worship and sacrifice ordained by God. They lived knowing God’s love for them and in the light of his promises to them.

As a nation Israel had been faithless and experienced deportation and subjugation but lived in the expectation of being restored through a Saviour to their former glory. In the time of Jesus, they lived in the expectation of deliverance from their cruel oppressors, the…

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Incarnation?

The Nicene Creed, a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy states of Jesus,

For us men and for our salvation,

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Having a science background, this has been an article of faith for me and I have written of my position elsewhere[1]. But recently I have become aware that some recite this creed but believe that the Virgin Mary is an historical title, a tradition, not a fact about Mary of Nazareth[2].

This in mind, I decided to buy a book that would let me understand the full argument and was from a perspective I would not hold to be true. The book I chose was a recent publication by Kyle Roberts which he has summarised through the blog post, Virgin Birth or Incarnation? Why You Can’t Have Both (December 23, 2017)[3].

I found the book very informative. I realised that yes, historically we have a problem with philosophy invading our faith, with extra scriptural traditions based on pagan thought, and an inability to accept the humanity of Jesus. I understand the reason for Greg Boyd’s podcast which recommends us to think more of Jesus,

…from the perspective of “God as Human” rather than “God and Human.”[4]Do we struggle with Jesus eating and defecating, vomiting, feeling ill, experiencing sexual attraction and basically being human? Do we hold true to the Gospel of Jesus?

… we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. (Hebrews 4, GNB)[5]If we do, then we are at that point where we too join with the Fathers and Mothers of the church who created traditions to cover up the subversive nature of the historical birth of Christ.

We might build ideas that include the perpetual virginity of Mary who was not only a virgin at conception, was also preserved as a virgin through the birth of Christ and remained a virgin after the birth of Christ. The Virgin Mary’s birth canal becomes so important to some, Mary is believed to have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit through her ear[6]. Some have decided it is best to side-line Mary all together and avoid the questions.[7]

I have looked at all of this and, despite all, I still hold that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Surprisingly what I wrote at Easter 2017, I still hold to.

[1]https://memlynhumphries.me.uk/2017/05/03/easter-2017/

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/24/story-virgin-birth-christianity-mary-sex-femininity

[3]http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unsystematictheology/2017/12/virgin-birth-incarnation-cant/

[4]http://reknew.org/2017/12/podcast-jesus-god-human/

[5]https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/read/eng/GNB/Heb/4/

[6]https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/22-december/comment/columnists/angela-tilby-letting-the-virgin-birth-mystery-be

[7]http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2017/12/22/protestants-dont-know-mary/

Reflection for Sunday 17th December 2017

Takeley Chapel

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John 1:1-5

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In this season of Advent, in this season of hope, in the darkness of the year, in the darkness of our times, there is a light shining. There is light within each of us and light shining around us. We see the glory of creation and the power of love – compassion, mercy, steadfastness. This is our hope, this is the truth, the God of our hearts; the God of creation. Our faith cries out from the darkness, God is good!

Yet look at me…

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Reflection for Sunday 10th December 2017

Takeley Chapel

Matthew 6:5-14

IMG_0471 (2)Everyone prays. The prayers we pray are what form our lives. They express our faith as we walk in the world. They express our inner voice. Prayed to God they are the foundation of our hope and breath our knowledge of God, coming from the heart, coming from our forgiven centre. In them we know God.

I see God as being involved intimately in every moment of creation engaging with all prayer. My understanding of God is that he has placed my future in my hands and we are fully in his hands. I believe this because of the framing of the prayer Jesus teaches. Some say God, by his nature, is unchanging and unmoving. I think he is more than this. God by his very nature is beyond what we can conceive. I believe this from my reading of scripture. I see God as engaging evil in…

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Reflection for Sunday 19th November 2017

Takeley Chapel

Psalm 79

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

…8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;[a]
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!…

The Psalms are cries of the human heart which God occupies and fills. The Psalms are human words breathed by the Holy Spirit from the hearts of people in times of joy, bewilderment, despair and reformation. They are cries to remember God’s blessing and to build. They are cries of anguish and horror at the evil that has befallen the people of God. They speak of repentance and renewal and a God who does not give up on a wayward people. Their truth is found in the event of the cross. Each prefigures the life and death of Christ, the cry…

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Reflection for Sunday 12th November 2017

This was a reflection I gave at the chapel written after reading Psalm 75.

Takeley Chapel

Psalm 75

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

…6 For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgement,
putting down one and lifting up another…

10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

When arrogance gains power whether in relationships, in the work place or in society, sin is soon revealed. The vulnerable are abused and the weak and needy forgotten. Our fruits reveal us.

Pride’s punishment is a shrivelled humanity which imprisons us – you do not become what we are called to be. We are to be more than our needs. Arrogance and pride bind us in a cage of our own self, limiting us to our immediate hungers. This is the punishment. Evil drinks it to the full- power is grasped and drinks evil…

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God said… Part 2

 

The opening of the meaning of scriptures is a spiritual event. We can devise all manner schemes to know the meaning of the words but only true insight is gained through knowing the Word, Jesus. It is right that we have sound doctrine but the message for life is in the whisper, as well as the whirlwind and thunder, and rooted in Jesus. For many this mindset is difficult as it seems to undermine our understanding of authority.

It is not clear on mount Sinai whether God spoke or thundered and Moses wrote. In both cases Moses was the mediator of the “voice” of God; the human who responded to God’s message. There is an ambiguity in the word. For the Jews, the tradition and the text become a means of encountering God because of this ambiguity. Study, doubt and debate about what happened on the mountain become an act of worship. In listening to one another, what God is saying or thundering becomes a living encounter.

Jesus enters this tradition. In his anguish, Jesus called out to his Father to glorify his name and God thundered. Some heard thunder and some an angel. Jesus heard, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” The message to the people was, “Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out…” Jesus interpreted the event and the message was mediated through him. The thunder became words.

God thunders and whispers in the scriptures and we are commanded by Jesus to respond in grace, mercy and peace with faith. Jesus is the fount of our understanding and without love our interpretations become a noise and a clang. Without love, we close-down the voice of God in others and stand between God and his children.

Basing our faith in Scripture commits us to perpetual reformation[1]. In scripture, Jesus teaches us that every jot and tittle of the scripture is to remain and points us to him being the accomplishing of it. He talks about the random distribution of the seed and its generous and wasteful throwing out, of sun and rain falling on all, of treasures old and new being brought out and of new wineskins and old wine. He speaks of a small seed becoming a tree and providing shelter, a miracle of faith we can only watch and wonder at. The seed of God’s word is planted and we watch and wonder as it grows into a tree. God provides the rain and the sun; mountains are moved.

John says no one has seen the Father except the Son and we are left to ponder the scriptures that say otherwise. Paul takes the roar and rumble of scripture and compiles them into meanings hard to follow but rooted in tradition not the scripture and makes them scripture with gay abandon. No word of scripture is to be abandoned, it is breathed by God for a reason. One of those reasons may be to challenge our mindset and perpetually renew our thinking.

The rigour of our mindset that brings us to a scientific understanding of everything is disrupted by the words of scripture. We approach them subjectively needing certainty and a firm foundation. Jesus says faith in him is the firm foundation. The very words we would set our foundation on, on the tongues of men, shift their meanings like sand. Some rail and rant at us and call us to abandon reason or what we feel to be true. They label us as filthy and baying wolves, dehumanise us, because we dare to question their precious tradition or interpretation.

The scriptures throw is into the arms of Jesus. In the roar and rush of life, the power-plays of humanity, Jesus pulls us up out of the anger and violence of humanity, into the embrace of the One who walks on water and stills the storm. We have one Mediator, the Holy One, Jesus Christ crucified.

We need to listen to the doctors and luminaries to hear the foolishness of the good news of Christ. We need to be those who are learning and are teachable. Our faith in scripture is because we see Jesus and are saved. In the preachers’ and teachers’ words we hear the truth and can be set free, because we know Jesus and are lead to worship him and him alone. Scripture and teaching digs the hole but the rock and foundation is Jesus.

It is faith in who Jesus is that is the rock on which the Church is built. Yes, our faith is in scripture, but only read through the eyes of the knowledge of the crucified Christ. Jesus sets the words on the page alight in a consuming fire burning up our pride and arrogance so that we can live forgiven and forgive and live generous lives full of hope and love. In Jesus, we are enabled to live life in its fullness without fear.
[1] The Crucified God, Jurgen Moltmann, SCM Press, 2015, page 118