Tag Archives: belief

John 1:4

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. http://esv.to/John1.4

This scripture is key to my own faith. It has sustained me in my relationship with God and with others. All life is in the Son’s hands and the Son reveals the Father. Every person has this life and it lights all people. In everyone I find Jesus and in all I find the way to the Father. This is my work to believe in the Father. This is the way of freedom, to love God and to love each and everyone I encounter.

Controlling Fertility

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you…

Psalm 81:1-10

…O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

For we do not proclaim ourselves;

we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. …

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;

perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken;

struck down, but not destroyed;

always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. ….

Mark 2:23-3:6

… “The sabbath was made for people, and not people for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

…He (Jesus) looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart …

The readings today carry us through that narrow place between the absolutes of the law and the freedom we have as people to show compassion; the way the world should be and the way it is.

For most of us, life throws perplexing circumstances and we find we cannot know what to do; there is no answer. Jesus commands us to be obedient to his word and his word is that we are to love God and love our neighbour. The high calling for us is to come to Jesus with the decisions we have in life and know peace as his teaching is not a burden; God from the beginning calls us to choose life.

So where do we stand when people celebrate the freedom to abort babies? We are told it is a human right that women are able control their fertility. We are told that the right to life is a human right. The UK has amongst the most liberal abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is available up to 24 weeks and beyond if necessary. The foetus has no human rights until it is born; up to this point it is only the life of the mother that is considered to have human rights. As a follower of Jesus, the truth is we know the reality of hardship and its ability to crush us; we look around and we see people despairing and abandoned.

Personally, I stand with new life being life from the beginning. I have known people tormented by the power of nature to abort. I have accepted as natural babies being lost through miscarriage and been saddened by hearing of babies being born dead, alive till the moment of birth. I have communed and rejoiced with those desperate for children who in conceiving one life have destroyed the remaining embryos. I have grieved with those whose babies have been born disabled. Am I conflicted?

Abortion will happen: John Wesley in his book Primitive Physick opens with how an abortion could be done. His heart was to see health care extended to the poor. The tragic stories of the lengths women would go to abort a baby remain in our folk memory. John Wesley’s response was to make this safe. To some of us this may be horrifying.

For the Jews, controlling fertility was at the heart of the story of Moses; his abandonment under order of the authorities resulted in him becoming a prince in Egypt. In our time the Chinese have tried to control fertility as have the Russians and the government of Peru to destroy the native population.

At the time of Jesus and into the first 300 years of Christianity, child exposure was practised by the Romans to get rid of unwanted infants, but not by the Jews. Two abandoned babies were said to have been the founders of Rome, brought up by wolves. Babies were left out to die or be claimed as slaves. Many were disabled and most were girls.

What was the Christian response, but to collect these babies and care for them. This has to be my response; my path between law and human freedom. Life sucks for some people and we need to care for all. Yes, the rejoicing over abortion sickens me but what I need to do is show compassion.

The ideal is that life starts at conception, the reality is that every birth is a miracle. This has been my own experience being at the birth of my own children; life is fragile. The world is mucked up.

Given the widespread practice of infant exposure, the Christian practice was to care for the poor and the abandoned, not condemn the poor. By 374 BC they had shown the way and the practice was made illegal. Our weapon is to love, not condemn.

I know it is wrong to argue from silence, but nothing in the scriptures condemns the practice of infant exposure, but we know it is wrong. We do have the wonderful story of John the Baptist recognising his saviour whilst in the womb of Elizabeth and our heart tells us that life is precious from conception.

Conception and birth are redeemed in Christ. Being in Christ, our practice is to care for the afflicted, the crushed; those abused and abandoned. Through our being true to love we can work to create a world around us where there is no abortion only hope.

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/

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

Failure and doubt.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
(Romans 6:6, English Standard Version Anglicised)

The phrase “brought to nothing” translates a verb and,

“…means … to make ineffective or inactive, and is used of unproductive land and unfruitful trees. They are still there. They have not been destroyed. But they are barren. When this verb is applied to the devil, to our fallen nature and to death, therefore, we know they have not been completely destroyed… it is not that they have ceased to exist, but their power has been broken…not…abolished…overthrown. (Stott p280, The Cross of Christ)

 

We are here talking about the nature of our justification, how we are made right with God through Christ dying in our place so that we might live by faith. Grace is never set aside and it is our privilege to be witnesses of the grace shown on the cross.

Sin is the antithesis of life, gives birth to violence and ends in death. The wages of sin are death. God’s judgement is that in sin we are separated from life and the sting of death is separation from God. This can only be known by faith in God’s goodness and a revelation of the depth of our sin. Death’s dark veil separates us from knowing what this means as we can only glimpse what is on the other side of death. As we encounter the knowledge of the Holy we find ourselves loved but broken by the evidence of our own sin. We hold the treasure in earthen jars or in today’s language plastic bags.

How is it we receive faith to repent and know life? How is it that in our contrition and poverty of spirit we are enabled to grow in faith?

The cross is the answer. Evil demands death. Evil is violent and merciless. Jesus engages in the battle. As a person, where he encounters evil, it is defeated through faith. He teaches non-violent opposition and self-sacrificial living. He teaches virtue that exceeds the demands of compliance- a heart washed trust in the righteousness and mercy of God. He teaches us to love our enemies and to forgive, over and over again. He calls us to be perfect as God is perfect who in sending the sun and rain to all, is good to all, whether they are good or evil.

God is the judge. God bears the pain of allowing sin to bear fruit for the sake of love. God is not indifferent to suffering but for the sake of love he allows evil to flourish.

There is a spiritual battle in the heavenly realms, a battle in the hearts of men revealed in the life of Jesus as he disarms evil in the world. We live in the realm of the prince of darkness who corrupts all things. He sows evil in all things but through love, forgiveness and healing Jesus fights back. This is an understanding we can only see by faith. Improbable, and hard to believe, but with the eyes of faith, the eyes of Elijah, it is evident that God is in the battle and in Jesus we see how.

God in his holiness is wholly other and in himself he is completely separate from evil. We understand his relationship to evil in human terms as wrath, jealousy and warfare. The cross shows us that he does not do this through violence. The battle gown of Jesus is already covered in blood, the blood of the cross, the saints are in white and Jesus’ sword is in his mouth not his hand.

God sets aside his wrath by forsaking Jesus on the cross and allowing evil to destroy itself in the fire of his love and forgiveness. In the life of Jesus and on the cross we can see how God’s wrath and judgement are propitiated- averted- and we are ransomed from the realm of the prince of darkness, freed to live in the kingdom of light. As evil rages, it is consumed on the cross.

Again, this can only be seen with the eyes of faith and appears absurd and heartless, especially in the light of the collateral damage we see in the suffering of the innocent that God’s forbearance allows.

On the cross, God in Christ allows himself to bear the fullness of the violence of evil and God withdraws in the Father, so that all sin and evil encounters absolute purity in Jesus and is extinguished in the cry of anguish of the Son. All sin and evil is poured on God in Christ through the violence of men and the enmity of the spiritual powers as God in the Father forsakes Jesus and he dies. A way of God’s judgement is revealed throughout the scriptures in him withdrawing his hand and giving humanity up to their sinful ways or the havoc of the spiritual powers humanity has trusted. Is this what we see on the cross? Before he dies, Jesus proclaims, it is finished.

God in his being bridges the huge gulf between his holiness and our sinfulness and shows us love by taking upon himself the judgement against sin. Faith tells us that that the pain in this withdrawal in the ground of God’s being, is beyond our understanding. Faith opens our eyes to the deep love God holds for humanity as God in Christ takes upon himself our sin and caries it, taking it into death. God endures the pain of separation for our sake and we are forgiven.

In victory, God in Christ, sanctifies death and evil is defeated so that we are restored in God. God in Christ takes upon himself the separation of sin in death. By faith we are crucified with Christ and our ransom is paid. True love is revealed as God in Christ takes the cup of wrath for our sake so that we might live in the victory of new life.

Jesus teaches us that true love sacrifices itself for the sake of others. True love does not count itself more worthy than others. Indeed, love is revealed in pouring ourselves out for others, even to death.

Jesus’ victory was in the path of peace, the narrow way of non-violence and love for enemies. Evil was defeated by love. In our poverty of spirit, we inherit the righteousness of God through the cross. The power of sin and death is broken, becomes barren and is fruitless, not because of our own efforts, but because of the cross. Jesus took the judgement of God on sin, in our place, once and for ever. By faith we are crucified with Christ, and death and sin are brought to nothing, so that we are empowered to live our lives in Christ.

But how weak that looks in our lives. We can claim that God is within, dwelling as Father and Son, so that we are in Christ as the Son is in the Father but it doesn’t often look like that. We proclaim we are new creations. This is so audacious and in all honesty, it looks a pitiful and a messy delusion.

Are we fools to have such confidence? Are we totally deceived? Our lives in many ways are a mess and the facts speak of moderate to severe turmoil, occasionally just poor, but rarely moderate to good. Our failures and our inglorious experience of life should rightly lead us to crumble. Why don’t we just give up and say to our doubts-the facts seem to hold, you are right, this is a fiction?

My hope is in the fact that God loves me, and his love looks like the cross. In reading the scriptures I see this has always been so; God pours himself out to dwell with humanity and its crushing sin, staying the hand of judgement.

We hold the perfect within, yet we are only marginally different to those who do not. We look as hopeless as the criminal on the cross. The irony is, we are the criminal on the cross.

Our witness of faith knows the criminal to be God. This is the truth of the grisly cross. The context and circumstances, the mess of our being, holds within itself the knowledge of the Holy. Our trust in God and our resting in him brings peace by grace and not by the effort of works. This looks like defeat, but in dying to ourselves and taking up the cross we find grace upon grace and God in us, our hope of glory.

Peace does at times look like turmoil, but the humility of God means he steps into this turmoil and he comes and lives in the ugliness. We are being transformed by this indwelling faith.

Is this how we read our lives? Is this what the life of Jesus leads us to? The removal of the mask which enables us to depend on God, to trust in him fully, by trusting in who we are, is our salvation. God humbles himself to bear the mask of our lives because of the cross.

Our lives are transformed as we find God in the ugliness, not our own righteousness. The light of God shines and we find our strength in the cross. This is the source of our repentance. We are not justified because we repent, we repent because by faith we are justified by believing in God in Christ crucified.

The mess of the criminal executed on the cross is the person of God, who dies in our place and takes away our sin. Death loses its power and God is glorified in the mess and this is by faith and faith alone. Virtue in the eyes of humanity does not justify us, it is faith. It is by faith that we live to God, freed from the power of sin. So, doubt and failure are part of this faith because in our doubt and failure we need to have the faith not to rebuild what has been torn down. We may be ridiculed, but having faith we will stand and we stand against those who would enslave us once more to works. On the cross God shows us that he, through the Spirit, transforms us and he is pleased to abide in us.

But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

(Galatians 2:17-21, English Standard Version Anglicised)

Idolatry

Idolatry is a powerful and divisive force in the world – it is evil as it is the outworking and instigator of sin, taking away from the worship that is rightly only given to God, capturing the hearts of men which is the abiding place of God.

Jesus teaches that the way to glory is narrow and found by few while the way to destruction is wide. The narrow way is Christ, knowing no other and trusting no other. Few find it while many follow the crowd.

Idolatry and violence are the wide way; trusting in ways, powers and gifts, leads to disaster. We see this time and time gain – movements fail, nations falter and leaders bring disgrace – the poor and needy are trampled into the dust and kept from feeding on the truth because the truth is muddied by false teachers.

Followers of Christ inherit the promise of Abraham. We are a people of faith, adopted into the family of those who are children of God. We are a blessing to all and the healing of neighbourhoods and nations. We draw strength from God and God alone, drinking from the flowing water of the Spirit. In this knowledge, we read the scriptures, the times and the world around us. Each knows the voice of God by virtue of being in Christ. Any one who tries to take away that gift is an imposter.

In Genesis 1, the sun and moon are mere lights in the sky put in their place by God to govern times and seasons. They are not to be worshipped. In Exodus 20 the foundation of the commandments is love for God and no other gods and the forbidding of worship given to idols, the work of our hands. Our relationship with God is to be immediate. Proverbs 17:17-18 calls us to a narrow way naming pride as contrary to the true way. The letters of Paul tell us idols are not real and echo the prophets in a strong warning against the power of idolatry. Reading these scriptures in the light of the message of Jesus we see why; I am the way, the truth and the life he says – he sees that true worship is not to be confined by places, traditions and peoples but to be in Spirit and truth. The realisation of this truth is the revelation of Christ.

We must guard our hearts and test the spirits. We need to allow the light to discover the darkness in our hearts; the obscuring beam in or own eye.

I can be in the presence of great natural beauty; be struck by the awesomeness of the heavens, the sky by day and the sky by night. I can wonder at the power and beauty of creatures and maybe fear their potential to do me harm or maybe good, giving food or even companionship. I can wonder at the potency of cycle of nature and its life-giving efficiency. I can glory in the beauty and intellectual depth of music, art and poetry – the works of great craftsmen. I can revere great men, their legacy and memorials. There may be places and stones of significance that evoke a connection with their greatness. There may be possessions; a guitar or a handbag, that have come to represent the persona of celebrity and are valued.

To ascribe any of these feelings with spiritual value is wrong if we begin to think that by relating to them we can begin to absorb the essence of the owner. It’s an abomination to think we can come to God through such things. The only way to the Father is Jesus, every other way is pure fantasy, not real and evil.

Our hearts cry foul when we hear of the exchange of great sums of money for handbags, guitars and pieces of the cross, or bishops seated on relics to enhance their authority. Believing relics are powerful is an abhorrence and lie; the idea that their presence exudes holiness is anathema. We are ashamed when people claim vials of blood liquefy and candles burn perpetually, statues rock and virgins walk. We are not those who recognise power in springs and wells and hang out scraps of cloth for luck; we run from charms, symbols and incantations; horoscopes, Spiritism and divination. We are suspicious of the idea of thin places and that the merit of a place is anything but an imaginative engagement with a story. The power is not in the pilgrimage, periods of detachment or maze, it is in taking time to engage and reflect. A song is a song and a prayer is a means not an end. All things are good but not all things are helpful to everyone.

The human heart is a deep well of feelings and emotions, and knowledge of this should be a warning. The heart not bathed in the Spirit of God and washed clean, can easily be moulded by celebrity, fame and renown and be fickle in the midst of strong opinions and crowds – tossed and turned with every wave of excitement – hungry for a new thing, a new phenomenon, a fresh spectacle.

Even the scriptures can substitute for God, written in either words or pictures. Devotion to scripture or icons can easily slip into worship of the form and so become idolatry. We see this when people hang on to old translations, pictures, traditions and places. The consequences are obvious; wars, brawls and gossip. The way to destruction is wide and many find it. You are in a crushing crowd.

We are safe if we stick to the pure message of Jesus. Keep clear of thin places, grave soaking and supposed manifestations of glory in case your good character is ruined. Be more than sceptical, deny their power and in prayer speak to your heart and come fresh to the immediate presence of Christ.

Continue to meet in twos and threes with those whose lives match their words. Be wary of those who would control and shame and deny you liberty insisting that Christ is more present in larger gatherings. You will recognise them as they try to mould your thinking by attrition rather than encourage you to pray and reflect; they reveal themselves by insisting on their interpretation and aggressively deny you your understanding – by their actions they do not trust the power of God as much as their power of persuasion. They demand unity on their terms and lack accountability denying the authority of the gathering of the saints insisting on their own rights. People who stand against them are shamed and undermined, removed to the outside and excluded.

Detach yourselves from those whose thoughts are revealed as being impure in the words they choose and jokes they make. If someone invades your personal space and insists on secrecy or secret knowledge or denies your freedom, they are not of God. If your heart is troubled it is the voice of God. Listen to it. No one in Christ is bound to the power of another – Christianity is not established by compulsion or violence to the individual.

The kingdom of heaven is won by those who are prepared to aggressively stand up for right and by those who are prepared to stand firm in Christ alone,  by the Spirit and the whole of Scripture and endure for this cause. True followers won’t be popular but meek and winsome.

You have no need of a mediator as in Christ alone there is salvation, sanctification and glorification: the knowledge of the Holy is found in Christ.

Easter 2017

As we move through Easter time towards Pentecost, we are encouraged to find meaning in the cross and resurrection. This is love, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. On the cross we see the cost of true love. Though we have rejected love and in our beings walked away from God’s love we know forgiveness. On the cross we see the One who is love, rejected and scorned; we see what sin looks like but we are also taught this is the source of our forgiveness. We struggle with the idea that the innocent One, the Son, suffered death at the hands of those in power and this was the will of the Father, because of God’s wrath.

I believe that we often confuse God’s anger with targeted physical or emotional turmoil. Events in the world and despair can be metaphors for God’s wrath but God’s wrath is spiritual, aroused by human sin and spiritual evil. God’s wrath can find expression I think in physical ways as sin has consequences and malevolent spiritual forces do enact evil. The creation has a loose weave of morality but I am not one of those who believes that these events of time and chance define God. God I contest is revealed in Jesus; in history and in a place. He came to us as a man and lived the life of a man. I believe we are free to choose death and this freedom is God given, an offering of his will in our wills and that, although life is held out to us, we know good and evil, are not in Eden, and each of us grasps our own destiny choosing death. Being the light of life, Jesus, the man, chose only life.

Eve was taken out of Adam we are taught. She was flesh of Adams flesh and I see Jesus as the new Adam, taken out of Mary, his mother, flesh of her flesh. Adam is all humanity, formed in the image of God, male and female Adam was formed. Eve’s humanity came from Adam, Jesus’ from Mary. Adam became the man when Eve became the woman and in Jesus we see that humanity realises the fullness of God’s image. There is no longer male and female in Christ. Christ is all humanity.

To our modern minds, before we get to the Cross, before we even speak of God, this is a stumbling block- even a brick wall! The whole message of who Jesus is, is disruptive. How can Jesus be fully human if he has not got a human father? My faith is that he was conceived by the brooding, creative power of the Holy Spirit- formed from Mary. Jesus is the first of a new creation taken out of the old, taken out of Mary’s flesh. He is a new humanity.

One cell became the man Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I see this as being so important. Eve is fully human, the mother of all humanity, a type or metaphor for Jesus; it’s the message of Eve we need to focus on. God in Jesus became flesh formed from Mary; Christ, the Son, in Jesus was born from Mary.

Why couldn’t the son of Mary and Joseph’s natural union have been the made God by the power of the Holy Spirit? Central to my faith is that Jesus, though human, was not born of the will of man, but the will of God. Jesus is the first fruits of our new birth. I believe, in Christ, we are born of the Holy Spirit too, not through the works of men. The promise of the cross is to all and for all and the message is in the very body of Jesus. He is the mediator between God and humanity, disruptive in his conceiving and a block to our pride.

So hopefully you can see where I am coming from. To summarise, I believe we are made in the image of God, unconditionally loved and that sin and evil arouse God’s anger. I believe that Jesus is fully man and fully God. I believe on the cross we see pure love lavished on us when we deserve only pure anger. I believe if we truly are made in the image of God, there is the possibility that in death, we will be separated from God by death.

God should be angry at our abuse of the freedom to love. God, I see, as being aroused to anger by the hurt of our secrets, our ruling over one another and our enthroning of our needs and desires over others’ wellbeing. God should rightly be angry and pour out his anger on the abuse, the violence and the cold indifference of the world when he speaks only love. This is just righteousness and our coldness to his word is part of this dreadful system. We pursue our own way in the face of God’s love.

Don’t we stand knowing God’s love and mercy? Aren’t we in our very humanity aware of our need for redemption? To be brought back to a place of peace and freedom? In us is a need to be made new- our need is to be regenerated. We see our faults made plain in the failings of others. There is a great weight of bondage – a sense we are cursed. We know and feel that in ourselves things are not right; and we feel this from deep within. We recognise that there is a rightness. We measure our actions against our hearts desire; against what it shows us is right. How can we realise this humanity within all of us? How can we avert the just wrath that God rightly holds against us in our sinning?

I truly believe that we could not call God good if he were not aroused to wrath by our sin; by our inhumanity. This is the severity of the love of God; the other side of perfect love. God can be said to be struggling with himself and this is the pain that God holds, the pain of the vulnerable God who holds out love, which if it is true love may be rejected and who for the sake of the vulnerable knows wrath. Yet we know forgiveness. This is the light that lights the hearts of every person. In a broken and contrite heart we draw near to God and he shines his light into our darkness. God draws near to us.

God by his very nature is love; he is loving kindness and mercy. His very being is self-giving- he acts to give of himself from the beginning, pouring himself out sacrificially in the Trinity and from the beginning in creation. Jesus teaches that there is no greater love than the love that gives its life for another and we are called to be submissive and self-sacrificing- to be perfect as God is perfect. This is the life of God; this is the life of the Trinity woven into creation.

God is beyond our conceiving of good and even as we understand goodness, we know God by his very nature must be aroused in the vulnerability of love, to wrath where there is sin and it is my belief that this wrath is poured out on the cross. The penalty of sin is death; separation from life. God in Christ I maintain takes that penalty and sanctifies death for all humanity as Christ bears the curse of sin for us.

On the cross I see all the guilt and shame of my sin carried and dealt with and I am made free from it. In my sin, I carry death in my body. Deep down I know it. How can I be freed? In my own death, how can I come before a Holy God whilst carrying this body of sin? If God is Holy and loving, he must be aroused to anger by my sin. How can I avert this anger? How can I be made clean so that I can come in to his presence?

We glimpse love, righteousness and mercy; true justice; the goodness of God, despite our wretchedness. God’s goodness is revealed in his offering of himself in Christ as our ransom while we are still sinners.

What I witness is God suffering death in our place, so that we might be freed from the bondage of sin, the sin of our own making and the consequences of sin in the world. In Christ, we are redeemed and we can realise the deep need we need to be cleansed of our iniquities; to be cleansed of our defilement.

God is just in his anger and as he is good, in his presence sin and evil are consumed. The sting of sin- of not choosing life- is death. Christ’s offering pays the price and cleans us. His blood- his death- releases us from bondage to sin. His death washes us clean. Christ offers himself and though sinless, suffers the separation of death in our place. In his resurrection, he conquers death and gives us the gift of faith to believe in the God who is loving and self-giving and offers himself as our ransom- his life for ours. In our faith that God in Christ went through death in our place, we experience mercy. God reveals the mystery of how though, in our wilfulness we deserve death, God offers forgiveness. The way is revealed and we become people of the way of the cross.

On the cross, Christ chose the way of submission and peace, obedient to the Father to the end. He chose the way of self-offering. This is the way that brings life. His victory over death was in weakness and vulnerability. He turns the tree of disgrace into a throne of grace. Through his birth, baptism, ministry- his healing people, delivering people from bondage and his words of truth- and his death on the cross, God is transfigured in Jesus and the image of God in us is transfigured through faith. Faith in what Christ has achieved. Our work is to love, trust and obey the Father, and to offer this back as an offering of faith, an offering of hope; the gift that God freely gives us.

However small our faith, it is a gift from God; however small and smouldering our hope, however broken we feel, in offering it back to God, God moves mountains. God heals the broken hearted and welcomes the contrite. In our small offering- the tiny seed of faith- the mountain of our sin is moved once and for all. And our journey continues. Sin and death are dealt with and we walk free to bless and serve the world. Death has lost its sting. The veil of division is torn and the rock of our stony hearts broken open as we experience resurrection life and receive hearts of flesh. Out of death hope arises.

Holiness is brought near through the cross, and true intimacy begins to be reborn as we are clothed in Christ once and for evermore, brought into God’s presence and, in Christ, we learn to love.

Our adapted self, adapted to sin and the consequences of sin, reaches out to take the hand of Christ in the storms of life. In our messed-up mess, Jesus pulls us up and we become our true created selves, loved from the beginning, images of God, assured because of the work of the cross. God gazes upon us and in the love of the Trinity sees the Son; he sees himself reflected. This is the work of faith- a work of faith alone. Not clever words or theories, not of our own will, but of the Spirit working through faith – a gift of God. This is God’s grace so that we stand assured in the work of grace of the crucified Christ- our Lord.