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First Advent

Advent means coming and it is the season in which the church prepares itself for the coming of the Messiah. The reason why this coming is such an event is because it is closely connected with expecting. When the new King of the Jews was born it was the fulfillment of their expectations. Coming and expecting go hand in glove together here. But did the Jews in Jesus’ day ever expected their new King to be born in a stable? Did they even expect Him to be only recognised as King by the lower classes of society at His birth?

Looking to the latest news it looks like we’re living in a mirror image of the real Advent. Who had expected that Covid would come back with such a new variant that it brings fears back to all the nations?Who had expected that when humanity had gained some control at least over Covid with all their different vaccines, they might well have to start all over again? Who had expected that the stock markets would react so panicking again? And how for example last Friday the decline of the one-day commodity diesel price was the greatest in more than 30 years.

It’s time of turbulence and that also mirrors the time in which Jesus was born. The Jews were expecting the coming of a king to deliver them from the Romans. Are we now expecting the coming of a deliverer from the Covid. Hoping for new vaccines, getting a 4th booster soon? 

What the Jews did not expect was a King which did not fit into their ideas of a king. Their ideas were of a warrior whom they could admire for his strength and authority. Are the nations now looking for a deliverer from the Covid that fits their expectations. A deliverer in the form of a great scientific breakthrough based on humanity’s new faith in science and progress?

Is perhaps God showing us that science and humanity’s potential is essential only an emperor with no clothes on as in the fairytale from Hans Christian Anderson. In this fairytale an emperor, continuing looking for nice and expensive clothes, hires two swindlers who offer to supply him with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. A succession of officials, and then the emperor himself, visit them to check their progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid being thought a fool. When the weavers report that the emperor's suit is finished he walks in procession in his so called new clothes throughout the city. Everyone goes along with the pretense, because they do not want to appear incompetent or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The people then realize that everyone has been fooled.

At the one hand we are reminded again, through the latest developments, that we are only fragile human beings and are not able to control the world as how humanity wants it. David wrote in Psalm 144: O Lord, who is man that You take notice of him or the son of a man that You make account of him? Man is like a breath; his days are as a shadow that passes away. Pandemic, word-wide disasters, great wars, it are reminders that as human beings we are not as powerful as many think we are when it comes to controlling life and death circumstances.

Yet on the other hand, Advent reminds us that even when each of us is essentially only a shadow that passes away, God has reached out to you and me personally by sending Jesus Christ into the world. Advent is the beginning of the celebration for the coming of the Son of men as Jesus called Himself. And He came for you and me.

Christ the King Sunday

What is the truth? Pilate asked, in John 18:38. We all want to know the truth. Without the truth our whole society would not exist. Instead it would have been an utterly dramatic chaos.

Imagine a society in which the truth is not important. Any judgement in and outside the Courts made is based on what is perceived to be the truth. How can the law be executed when there is no truth. Our whole judgement system is based on what is the truth. 

The same counts for all commercial transactions; the whole economy is based on truth. The kilo bag of potatoes someone buys is based on the truth that it are real potatoes and it is a kg. The one who sells it relies on the money in exchange to be true and not false. Without truth the whole system would collapse.

An old Rabbinic saying says that the world rests on only 3 things, which are righteousness, truth and peace. And for our society, the most important of these is truth. The truth is the pillar of our society and of our economy. 

The truth has been for both Greek and Jew very important aspects of life and faith. The word for truth is therefore difficult to translate as is shown by the struggles translators faced in the 3rd and  2nd Century before Christ, when they translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek. Truth is a concept and much more than only a word. 

Speaking the truth in the personal context characterises the thoughts and actions of the person itself and it makes the integrity of a person. And any person with such characteristics is someone whom we want to trust, or put our faith in. 

So, faith and truth are all closely related to each other. It is as in the words of Psalm 111:7-8 said about God: ‘The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy, they are established for ever and ever to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness’.

We have inherit the importance of truth from the Greek/Roman civilization. For the Greek the truth is used to denote a norm because existence means acting on the truth and self-understanding. In the New Testament we find already the importance of truth, not only for the society or for the economy, but even more so for the divine and eternal truth. 

In Pilate’s reply we can sense his desire for truth. Not only to speak judgment in the case brought before him, but in a wider context the search for the ultimate divine and eternal truth. It is the eternal and divine truth that leads to salvation and it can only be offered by the God Who is the Truth in His being and His actions.

Remembrance 2021

As every year, November is the month in which we remember the fallen in wars and those killed in atrocities worldwide during conflicts and struggles for power and control within the nations. We remember the fallen by wearing poppies and many take part in special celebrations for this Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day acts as a kind of warning for the devastation wars and atrocities can bring to so many people, while remembering those who fell victim to this.

Remarkably, it is the same month in which we celebrate Guy Fawkes, who wanted to blow up Parliament, which would have sent many, innocent or ‘guilty’ alike, to an early death. I’ve heard no one ever saying to me that this celebration is to remember that no one was killed in the end. Instead, Guy Fawkes’ Day is celebrated with large firework displays and the option of buying fireworks for at home to imitate the gun-powder plot and enjoying its devastating effects in a somewhat safer manner.

This weird combination of remembering and celebrating events of death and violence, within the same month, even within a week, perhaps shows the real nature of humanity in which love and hatred, peace and war, and many other opposing expressions of our human existence can switch within a very short period.

When God sent Jesus Christ into the world it was not because humanity was such an example of outstanding  love and care. Neither did Christ come into our world because human beings had kept such a good and close relationship with God through faith and loyalty. Failure in all these areas lead to the ministry of Jesus Christ, which was a ministry of reconciliation between God and us, not on our behalf but that of God.

Understanding our own failures over the centuries and the ongoing situation of war and continuation of atrocities worldwide, makes us to recognise that peace and reconciliation is not in humanity itself, but has to come from outside. Standing in the belief that God initiates efforts of peace and reconciliation, we can find the courage to face our own ambivalent human nature with its opposing expressions of good and evil. But, with the help of God we can work on choosing the right path in the struggles we might find ourselves in.

Remembrance and celebration lay so close to each other, but only by our own choices can we make both events reminders of what each of us can do to make our world a  place of peace and reconciliation.

Harvest

Matthew 6:25-33

I happened at a men’s breakfast when one of the guest’s dogs walked in and went to all the other guests begging and looking for food. It’s the first and perhaps only thing on its mind: ‘where can I satisfy myself here with what I love, like and want; food!’

It reminded me of what is on so many people’s mind, when they encounter a new opportunity for the first time: ‘How can I make money here!’

Every so often, churches have a bazaar or sale of things for their parish churches. As usual, the first who arrive are those who go through the items to see whether there’s something of value. Only because they are looking for something for themselves to sell it on for a profit later. What’s on their mind is not how can I help the church, but how can I make money.

Someone went with a group to a car boot sale to sell items for their church and she said, it was the worst experience of her life. In the morning she had been selling items which she found later in the afternoon for sale on other stalls for a much higher price.

You only have to look to the stockmarket or to the crypto currency craze, to see that it’s all about making money. It’s not for nothing that it is said that such markets are ruled by only two things, which are greed and fear. Everybody wants to enter via the same door and leave via the same. The winners on such markets are those who are first in and went out, just before the mob is forced to leave to stop their losses.

Against this backdrop of greed and money making enter the words of Jesus of our reading in: 33. Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.

It is just one simple sentence, but it is not as simple as it looks like, because it’s part of a large pericope of teaching.

In the whole gospel of Matthew are 3 teaching pericopes by Jesus and the first pericope is here. And it’s much longer than at first glance:

The pericope already begins in Chapter 5:1 (introducing the beatitudes) as it says: ‘He went up on the mountain and sat down’. When Rabbis and Teachers of the Law in Jesus’ time taught, they were sitting down, hence the sitting down here meant that a time of teaching on Jewish Law had begun. This teaching pericope then continues to Chapter 8:1 where it says: ‘When He came down from the mountain…’

So, the whole of chapters 5, 6 and 7 are just one teaching pericope, but it is only in our reading this morning that we find for the first time in this whole pericope the word: Therefore (dia touto lego umin = because of this I tell you). Here Jesus captures all His teaching of what He had said in the preceding chapters: Therefore (for this reason/because of this) I tell you….

All what Jesus had said before He concluded with: Therefore, is an inherent part of all He taught to the people beginning with the well-known Beatitudes. And from the Beatitudes follows all teachings about the requirement of righteousness, about not seeking retaliation, about love and forgiveness, about not committing adultery, about not hating others, about prayer and compassion and about serving God and not money.

The ‘therefore’ in our readings introduces an enumeration of what God desires from us and of what is of most importance.

But, that doesn’t mean that Jesus is saying that food is not important or that clothes are not necessary. The Lord’s prayer, which is in the same chapter in the verses 9-13, also contains the prayer for our daily bread, so it is important.

Jesus’ words should be put in the right context. Rabinus in the 3rd century already noted how Jesus in Matthew didn’t say; ‘don’t be anxious about food, drink, or clothes’, but ‘don’t be afraid/concerned about WHAT you eat, drink or wear’.

Jesus is not talking against developing and moving forward in time with new developments. At this harvest time we are reminded again that at the one hand we give thanks to God for the harvest, but at the same time we all know that without new techniques and agricultural developments we would never be able to gain a harvest good enough to feed all the 7 billion people on earth. If we let nature provide only for our food, we would not have much to eat.

Again, the context against which Jesus spoke His words about food, drink and clothing  might explain His teachings. In Jewish theology at the time of Jesus, the gentiles were seen as people of food and drink and raiment, for that was their whole purpose of life. The Jews saw themselves as being completely different, because they were seeking God’s wisdom and guidance. And that’s what Jesus reminded His hearers of and His teaches us as well; Seek God’s Kingdom first, which means to value what God values and to obey what He demands, before we commit ourselves to our own desires for money, wealth and self-indulgence.

It is as G.K. Chesterton once said about this: There are 2 ways to have enough money; one is to acquire more, the other is to desire less. And what about this one: To be clever enough to get all the money, one must be stupid enough to want it.

The words Jesus spoke, reminded the people to love God with their whole heart and soul above all, and not by simply obeying laws and commandments as the Jewish leaders were preaching.

The command to love God with our whole heart and soul is much more important than loving our possessions and striving for more.

In conclusion, Matthew 6:25-33 carries forward the main theme of the preceding paragraphs namely the necessity for exclusive engagement with serving God. Because to seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness is to be concerned with His Will, more than any desire for our money or wealth. Jesus teaches first and foremost an intimate relationship of trust and confidence between God and each one of us, modelled on the relationship between God and Jesus Himself. 

What is the first on our mind; greed and making money and indulging in something which never satisfies? Or getting our priorities right and first seek God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is available free for all through putting faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ before all else.

God’s peace, His shalom, is freely available in Christ Jesus for each one of us, we only have to accept it.

Hans Taling

 

Sunday 8th August - International cat day

Understandably you might wander what a cat-day has to do with Christianity and Church, but thinking about cats, it reminded me of someone who once described a so called ‘cat-theology’.

Cat-theology was set here against dog-theology. In dog-theology the argumentation goes as follows: 'You, feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me; you must be God.' In cat-theology however, the argumentation goes: You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me; I must be God.' The international cat day gives the opportunity to search in ourselves, how much we have leaned towards the cat theology, instead of towards God.

A cartoonist once drew a scientist announcing a breakthrough in understanding cat-language: "Cats only say two things; 'Where's my dinner?' and 'Everything here is mine.'"

If we’ve leaned too much towards a cat theology, these two observations are true to us as well. In the first saying, ‘where is my dinner?’, lies hidden the search for hedonism, which means I do what I want to do, to satisfy my longing for pleasure. Whether it will be in what I want to eat, or want to cloth or want to drink or have pleasure in, the main idea is to satisfy my own longings. 

The second question, ‘everything here is mine’, seems very close connected to it. When everything here on earth is mine, why shouldn’t I want to use it? Every opportunity I have to fulfill my desires is then normal, because everything is mine anyway. 

Therefore, those who profess a cat-theology are commonly called atheists or agnostics. Although, atheists don't want to have anything to do with religion or theology, but even they have to admit that when they believe there's no god, instead they have become gods themselves. If someone rejects God, he or she rejects the existence of a higher authority. An Authority that is standing above humanity itself. This is absolutely not a new idea, or modern thought, because already Protagoras, in the 5th century BC, discussed this subject and hence coined the phrase that humanity is then the measure of all things.

When we believe or accept God’s authority by default we have to submit ourselves to His Rules and Regulations. Not only because of God’s Authority, but even more so because they are the best for ourselves including our society. They provide us with a stable framework of rules and regulations for living. God's love and commandments are not bound to the tidal changes of society or to the whims of those who rule over us. God provide us with the ingredients for a right society under the control of a loving a caring God, who gives us a hope for life and of an eternity, which nothing or no one else can offer.

After the Covid lockdowns and a reopening of our society has begun, the discussion starts again about our future welfare and well-being societal systems. Let us not be guided by a cat-theology and not forget the living presence of God with us and the rules and regulations He left us to follow in order to build a just and honest society.

Considering the wine at HC

With an email to all clergy and churchwardens on Tuesday 20 July 2021, the Bishop of the Oxford Diocese gave advice on how to proceed with Holy Communion after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted from Monday 19 July. 

In the Bishop’s email it was noted that ‘as Bishops in the Diocese of Oxford we advise extreme caution at present in respect of re-introducing the common cup at services of Holy Communion for the time being. This advice comes from the perspective of both the congregation and the priest (who will need to consume the elements). The safety and wellbeing of all, including clergy and ministers, must be foundational in decision making’.  

Two papers, as far as we were made aware of, were publicised regarding the administration of both kinds of the sacraments, bread and wine, which argued against the re-introduction of the consummation of wine to the congregation, in particular in individual glasses.

The first paper is about the Administration of the Sacrament by the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod. The second paper is called Liturgical Considerations written by a representative of the Liturgical Commission and National Liturgy and the Worship Advisor. Obviously, both papers bear less ecclesial jurisdiction than the three defining doctrines, statements and practices of the Church of England (which are the BCP, the 39 Articles and the Homilies) as both papers are either advices or considerations.

Besides, both papers refer to Section 8 of the 1547/1558 Sacrament Act to defend their case of declining the cup to the congregation, or using individual glasses, but the legal content of this Act was revoked with the publication of the 39 Articles.

Even more so, a similar case was brought forward during the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009 to withhold the wine for the communicants. Ecclesial Lawyers argued this was unlawful in their statement that ‘Even if the ‘necessitie’ provision does apply to the BCP and authorised modern liturgies and to public health scares, it certainly does not empower Archbishops and bishops to order communion under one kind only.  S.8 is addressed directly to all the clergy as ministers of the sacrament, not to bishops or Church courts.  If there is a necessity justifying refusal of the communion cup, this is for the officiating clergyman to decide…..Moreover, as a matter of law, necessity is a defence, not a basis of authority.  It is a shield, not a sword.  The courts may accept necessity as a defence to an otherwise illegal act.  However, it cannot order the commission of an illegal act on ground of necessity.  Thus the Church authorities cannot order a clergyman to refuse to administer the wine. https://ecclesiasticallaw.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/swine-flu-and-the-sacrament-act-1547/

The legal position of the Thirty-Nine Articles is established in Canon A2 and A5. Furthermore, General Synod can authorise alternative services to those in the Book of Common Prayer provided that they are neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, which are the 39 Articles.

Based on this statement the 39 Articles remain the prime Church-authoritative statement about the offering of full communion to the communicants during Holy Communion and in particular Article 28 and 30 about receiving of the wine. No mention is made in either Article 28 or 30 demanding the use of only one cup. Therefore, because Article 30 states that the cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people, it is lawful to return to offering the wine to all who are present at the Eucharist after this lockdown, because of a Governmental decree that ended all restrictions.

Once it has been favourably argued that the presentation of wine to the communicant is ecclesially lawful, the next question is how the wine is given to the communicant.

It is difficult to deny that the use of a common cup is customary for the Church of England and individual glasses are not commonly used. This custom is based on scriptural evidence where Jesus blessed a cup to share it with His disciples. Later in his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reiterates this practice.

Debate has arisen however, with what is exactly meant by drinking from the same common cup? Is there a possibility to use shot glasses if the wine is blessed in the one common cup and then poured into an individual shot glass to be consumed?

The use of the word 'drinking' is here under consideration and how literally this must be interpreted. We enter the same debate as in the 15th century when Zwingly argued (in a dispute about the Eucharist) about how we use the 'spirit of the word' to translate it into our theology. Zwingly argued for example that when Jesus calls Himself the door of the sheep, no one will think He is a wooden plank.

The translation of figurative speaking is similar to how we drink the wine. How we drink or consume the wine in itself is not the hinge of the matter, but the blessing of the cup from which each receives the wine. Even when the wine out of hygienic reasons, and based on health and safety rules, is transferred from the consecrated common cup to a small glass when being handed over to the communicant, we can still speak of drinking (as sharing) from the same cup. Arguments for allowing the use of individual wafers at the Eucharist are defended on a similar basis.

As long as we all drink/receive from the same consecrated common cup there is no contradiction in taking the wine in accordance with the command of Jesus to drink this in remembrance of Him as He spoke out in the Synoptic Gospels.

As a concluding remark Luke 22:17 springs to mind, when Luke described how Jesus shared the chalice during the Last Supper: ‘And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said; Take this and divide it among yourselves’. This is what is done during Holy Communion when wine is given from the common cup into an individual glass to each one of us; we divide it among ourselves.

Hans Taling

Mark 5:21-43

It is said about Jesus how He was one of the first who gave women an equal place with men in the sight of God and of a society modelled on the Kingdom of God, which He proclaimed. 

This view might be further established by the events that happened in the gospel of Mark 5:21-43.

The story itself is first about Jairus, who comes to Jesus to ask for help for his dying daughter at the age of 12. Being a kind of CEO of the local synagogue he was a well known and respected person who publically knelt at Jesus feet begging to come with him to heal his daughter. It’s the care and compassion of a father that is publically shown for a much beloved daughter. Jesus answer his call and goes with him to his house.

Secondly, while going with Jesus to his house, a woman came and touched Jesus clothes, also in desperation looking for help. Because she was ritually unclean, as she was suffering from a ‘flow of blood’ for 12 years, it was difficult for her to be publically within the crowd. Besides, she spent all her possessions on doctors and other means to heal her, hence she had no other place left to go to ask for help.

Jesus knew someone had touched Him, because the touch was a touch from the heart and a touch of faith, as Luther said. It is a touch of trust in the salvation and healing through Jesus Christ and as Luther wrote, we should see the story through eyes of faith. Perhaps Martin Luther explained the classical view on this part in the Bible in which he showed how faith and trust go hand in glove together. 

But Mark might have something more to say here than only retelling the story of 2 desperate people whose pleading for help was answered by Jesus. 

The remarkable observation in this story is that both persons who are healed by Jesus are called daughters. Jesus heals Jairus daughter and He heals a daughter of Israel. The young girl in Greek is thugatrion and the woman thugater, so both are called daugthers. 

Whether the number 12 has any significance is possible, but is beyond the point here.

The point is the love and care for daughters shown in this part of the Bible. First it is the father of the young daughter who loves her so much that he pleads for help humbling himself publically, and secondly Jesus who heals the woman and calling her a daughter, while praising her for her great faith.

On several places in the Bible, daughters of Israel are specifically mentioned. Examples are in Song of Solomon where in 5:16 ‘This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem’. And in the New Testament where Jesus said in Luke 23:28 ‘ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children’.

In accordance to Isaiah 62:11, daughters of Jerusalem are the daughters of  Zion, which is synonym for Israel: ‘Behold, the Lord has proclaimed unto the end of the world, say to the daughter of Zion; Behold, your salvation comes, behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him’. 

Jerusalem, Zion, Israel, it all means the same: What belongs to God and what He will save.

It looks like Mark is making a point here about the importance of the women in God’s Kingdom and how the love of God extends to each and everyone, man and woman alike. 

It is the fulfilling of the promise in Joel 2:28 that I will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, on sons and daughters alike, or as Paul later wrote in Galatians 3:28 ‘In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ’.

Trinity Sunday 2021

The Trinity is a theology that has evolved over time, but it remains a subject we don’t understand, but somehow want to comprehend. 

However in search for more clarity we are confronted with what it says in Psalm 77. Psalm 77 consists of 20 verses and from verse 10 each verse describes the greatness of God and how He helped His people Israel with miracles and mighty deeds. Then at the end, after finishing with reminding the readers how God helped His people through the Red Sea, the Psalmist wrote: ‘Yet Thy Footprints were not seen.’

So, from ancient time onwards, until this day and age, we have to live with the notion about God that: ‘Thy Footprints were not seen’. God is a hidden God, and as much as He was hidden for the Jews even so He is hidden for us today. With the notion of course that Jesus Christ has revealed God to us in as much God wanted to reveal Himself as The God Who saves. The God Who saves, but not only for the Jew, but for the whole world. God has taken the responsibility to save each and everyone, because He is the God Who saves, although His footprints are not seen.

The Bible reading on Trinity Sunday 2021 was from Romans 8:12-17 and it in Paul speaks about God as Abba, Father.

Before studying theology I always learnt, through sermons, how Abba meant something similar to daddy, like the loving father ready to give his beloved child a cuddle.

At the opening of the first academic year when begun to study theology, the Chancellor in his talk mentioned the word Abba. He spoke about the silly idea of calling God a daddy when people call Him Abba. The real meaning of Abba is more something like the One Who bears the authority and responsibility.

Later after I learned Hebrew I was able to delve deeper in the name of Abba and I discovered a deeper background to the understanding of Abba, Father. 

In the Hebrew world of the Old Testament, we should not forget that they were living in a tribal culture wherein the father was the dominant factor of its social structure. But, not in the context of him being an isolated despot, but as it says: ‘the centre from which strength, and will, emanate through the whole of the sphere which belongs to him and to which he belongs'. 

This means that for the Israelite the name of the Father always spells authority embedded in responsibility. For the Israelites, God as Father means He has to be viewed trustworthy, respected and obeyed. 

When speaking about God as Abba we should not forget that this is the same God we call Creator God. God as Abba cannot be disconnect from God as Creator. 

The Genesis story is not so much about whether God created the earth out of nothing, but that God is the sole Creator. In contrast to other ancient creation myths (like the Enumah Elis), the God in the Old Testament is self-existent and independent of the world.

Because God is the Sole Creator everything and everyone depends on Him as He has the absolute and ultimate authority over all that exists. God is set apart from all other idols and deities and He is unique and incomparable. And because of all this, God is called Abba. There is no other God, and therefore He is called the Abba. The unique God Who has authority and Who took the responsibility of offering salvation through the complete ministry of Jesus Christ

Whether God is 3 in 1, or 1 in 3, or male of female or woke or whatever is not the main issue to argue about. The real point is that God cares for us and that’s why is called Abba, Father. The only God Who acts for our defence and Who guides and supports us through all the heights and depths we might face in our lives.

Pentecost 2021

Having been a regular visitor to a Pentecostal church for 11 years, when I was part of their music-band, Pentecost was their most important festival, more than Easter or Christmas.

There is some truth in that, of course, because without Pentecost we wouldn’t have a church. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit marked the beginning of the Church. 

It was at Pentecost that a small group of fearful witnesses to what all what happened to Jesus Christ, transformed into a large gathering of Christians who with boldness proclaimed the Gospel to all around them. It says in Acts that they heard them all speaking in their own language, so even those who had no interest in listening to the Gospel, could not avoid hearing the Word of God preached to them.

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. These words of Paul leads us into 2 observations:

In the first place it indicates that there was no need for a temple anymore like the temple in Jerusalem. When Paul wrote these words the temple in Jerusalem was still standing strong. Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians 20 years or more before this temple was destroyed by the Romans. Paul died under the hands of Nero and Nero committed suicide in 68AD, while the temple was destroyed in 70AD, so surely the temple was still there when Paul wrote these words down.

Secondly was the role of the temple. The temple was the House of God in Jerusalem and all people who believed in God came at least once a year to the temple to meet God in His house and make sacrifices for the cleansing of their sins. Paul knew that this was no longer necessary through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ministry of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice of Himself on the cross did away with the function of the temple as the house of God. Paul goes even further by saying that all who believe in Christ have becomes temples of God, by the Holy Spirit living in them.

In the past people had to go to the House of  God, but now God’s House comes to the people in the form of you and me. 

When Looking to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is Acts 2, it shows us how the Holy Spirit had an effect on all the people and not only on the leaders or a chosen few. And Besides, all who heard the disciples speaking, heard them in a language they all understood.

There is no Temple, as the House of God needed anymore, where people have to go to meet God, because God is meeting the people through us. We have become the heralds of the gospel in what we say and do.

But, in all this, it is encouraging to know that the Holy Spirit will help and guide us in performing our task. If needed we can expect the same boldness to speak and live the Good News in the same way as the first disciples did, through the Holy Spirit. And like with the first disciples, everybody around us will hear and see, whether they search for the Gospel or not. Perhaps that is the greatest part of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, the Light of Christ living in all who believe in Him, will shine to each and everyone in words and actions everybody can understand.

Rogation Sunday 2021 with the Bible reading from Acts 10:44-48

As Pentecost is only 2 weeks away no mentioning of the Holy Spirit, although there's an interesting Holy Spirit occurrence in this reading from Acts. So, only a short notice on this event when the Holy Spirit fills people before they were baptised. It adds to a confusion about a theology of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit comes on people before they were baptised and after they were baptised. Not to mention events when the Holy Spirit fell on people without any reference to a baptism, like in Acts 2.

But today is also Rogation Sunday. Rogation Sunday, always celebrated on the 5th Sunday of Easter, is when the farmers asked for a blessing on their wheat. 

Traditionally the parishioners were going round the boundaries of the parish to inspect the boundary stones and pray for the protecting of their parish for the coming year. Although, an important part of the rogation walk was to find out whether farmers had illegally blocked bridle paths or other public footpaths by building on or taking those for their crops. Some things never change...

During the reign of Elizabeth I, in a book of homilies for the Elizabethan church, it is described how the Rogation, or perambulation of the boundaries,  was to remember town and other communal boundaries in a social and historical context, with extra emphasis on the stability gained from lawful boundary lines.

So, Rogation Sunday is about keeping the boundaries straight and a similar things is happening here at our reading in Acts 10. The whole chapter is about trespassing boundaries as they were set in the past. The chapter began with Peter having a vision in which he is asked to eat these things which were forbidden by Jewish religious laws. 

Peter had to draw new boundary lines of what he thought to be good or wrong. This wasn’t easy for Peter, because he was born and raised in a Jewish environment that kept itself close to the law of Moses and other regulations set out by the religious leaders of his time.

One of the most important religious laws for the Jews was and is, keeping themselves to the religious law on food. Even today, orthodox Jews kept themselves strict to what they are allowed to eat and what not. E.g. Orthodox Jews should have 2 cookers, so they cannot cross meat with milk.

So, when Peter said: I will not eat what is forbidden, it just indicates how much he obeyed the religious orders on food and how important it was for him.Crossing this boundary meant a lot for Peter and a complete renewing of his thinking and of his religious interpretations.

And today, in our own situations, we could very well be confronted with similar questions in our Christian faith. it seems we all set our own boundaries and have differences in opinion of what is good or wrong. For the one it could be a simple thing like keeping the Sunday as a day of rest, or not eating chocolate for Lent for another it can be deep seated Christian convictions.   

The big problem we’re facing in this day and age however, is whether we believe it is possible to be challenged in our own convictions, in the same way as Peter was.

Will God do a new thing, which throws away all what we always believed or think what is very important to our faith? And if that so, how do we recognise it is from God?

Over the centuries, especially in the first few centuries of Christianity, many church fathers and other theologians have been wrestling with the same question. 

The answer they found was to restrict all new teachings and Christian interpretation to new ideas in society to be checked or measured by the so called canon (kanoon in Greek means measuring stick). They called both the OT and NT together as the canon and made it God’s final and complete revelation of Himself once and for all. No more new teachings about God could be added to it. 

The RC did not fully agree with that, but believed that their Concili or Counsels bear the same weight as the canon, and take them both as authoritive teaching. But, being part of the CofE, a Church from the Reformation, we keep what is written in the canon as final.

Consequently, every new teaching or interpretation of how society develops is measured by what is written in the canon. 

Here now lays the greatest challenge, because we could all read something different in how we interpret the canon. Do we take the canon at face value or do we mix it with our own ideas, feelings or even emotions? And how far can someone interpret a standard set of beliefs differently? Does someone believe to be allowed to move beyond what is written in the canon and add new things to it? Is a change of ethics and moral in society a reason to change the canon, based on interpreting the set rules and regulations?

I will be very careful with sharing my opinion on that, because before we know it we break up in many differrent sections of Christinaity. Perhaps this the reason why we count about 45,000 different Christian denominations today.

But in all such discusions, one thing can never be changed or adapted. And that is the centre of our Christian faith which is Jesus Christ Himself. In all our differences in opinion, interpretation, explanation and beliefs of our faith, Jesus Christ has to remain the Centre. He must remain the focus of what we believe and build our hope upon. Jesus Christ the Foundation and Corner Stone and eternal hope for all who put their trust in Him.

Hans

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