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The Rector's Blog

The Good Samaritan

It is said to have been St. Augustine who made the following explanation of the story in Luke 10, but it was probably the 4th century Chrysostomos before him, who explained it as this:

A man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, means he was walking away from God. Jerusalem is the city of God with the Temple and is the only place for reconciliation with God through offering. Jericho is the city of the curse as in Joshua 6:26; ‘Joshua laid an oath upon them at that time, saying cursed before the Lord be the man that rises up and rebuilds this city Jericho.’

During his descend, which is said to be one of the largest decent from one city to the other; 18 miles downhill, over a small path, the man was robbed. Robbers in all kind of variations exist. Robbers who steal not only wealth and money, but even more so someone’s dignity, job, hope, health and more through addictions ,forgery, you name it. Anything that will leave someone laying behind in the gutters of life or the gutters of our society.

First the priest passes by, also going downhill, walking away from God. The priest is the ultimate example of being a servant of God, but he simply steps over him. After the priest a Levite passes by, note; also going downhill from Jerusalem to Jericho. But the Levite whose people or tribe is appointed by God to stand in His presence and serve Him, evenso just steps over the wounded, helpless and hopeless man. 

But then a Samaritan, a person of which the Jews in those days never wanted to be acquainted with, travels on the same road. Travelling means here that the Samaritan was going up on the road. He went the other way and was on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem. This man was not walking away from God, but on the contrary was on his way to God to find reconciliation and peace with God.

The Samaritan in the story is Jesus Christ Who became the definite means for acquiring reconciliation with God.

So far the explanation by the early Church Fathers on this parable. 

All true and well, but we can say this because we’re at the other side of the events of what happened to Jesus Christ. We know the reason behind the death and resurrection of Christ, and so we understand the true meaning behind the parable. 

But, what about the people hearing the parable? What do they make of it, when the lawyer asks: ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life’.

From a Christian perspective, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we seem to put our emphasis, or focus, on eternal life. But, when we take the preceding word into its context, the parable might say something else to us as well.

When we focus not only on ‘eternal life’, but also on the word ‘inherit’, the parable tells us something more. The word ‘inherit’ in Greek and in Hebrew basically means the same which is ‘a lot’. Not a lot as many, but like a lot in the lottery.

In the OT casting lots is often done to divide a loot and it was done to determine which priest was going to assist in the Temple service. But, what’s more, the same word is used to divide Canaan in different sections for the Jews to live in; each was given by casting lot a particular piece of the land. So, from the word lot, derives the word inheritance. The land Canaan is given to the Israelites as an inheritance divided by lot.

For the Israelites ‘receiving by lot’ means that they did not conquer the land by their own power or strength, but that it was given to them by God. Ultimately, the word lot is rooted in the awareness of the people of the Old Testament that it is God Who exercises control. It is God leading the people into Canaan, and it is God Who assigns.

And when Jesus spoke this parable not much had changed about receiving by lot. When Jesus was crucified the soldiers divided His clothes by casting a lot. When the disciples choose another apostle to replace Judas, they cast lots to decide whom to choose.

So, what has been assigned by God, through casting a lot, becomes an inheritance for the Israelites. When you read Deuteronomy 6 it becomes obvious how important it is for the Israelites to keep God’s laws and commandments. Hence, what is mentioned here as eternal life is basically the permanent existence of Israel in the promised land.

The question raised here is not only about how we can live in eternity, but even more so how we live today. The Kingdom of God the lawyer was hoping for will not come about through the mind and hands of rulers and kings, but through keeping God’s statutes and to show loving kindness to our neighbour.

The answer given by Jesus to the lawyer, is as much valid today as it was in Jesus’ time. Jesus is giving here a lesson for life today and not primarily for eternal life. Therefore, the final words of Jesus at the end of the parable remain actual up to this day and beyond: ‘Go, and do likewise’.

John 16:12-15 on the Holy Spirit within the Trinity

Above this paragraph it says in my Bible: ‘The power of the Holy Spirit’. However, reading the verses it is not about the Holy Spirit, but literally about the Spirit of Truth.

Looking to a theology or explanation of the Trinity and the position of the Holy Spirit within it, we appear also to face the problem of what is the truth. Already Pilate, before handing Jesus over to be crucified asked the question: ‘What is the truth?’

It’s only a few verses back in chapter 16:7, that Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Counsellor, or Comforter, instead of the Spirit of Truth. And then in John 14, Jesus mentions together the Spirit of Truth and Spirit of Comfort. Different names and different explanations of the role of the Holy Spirit.

And here at Trinity Sunday, we become more and more confused about the real Holy Spirit, when we take into account other names of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Besides being called the Spirit of Truth and Spirit of Comfort, the Holy Spirit is also called the: Spirit of Eternity (Hebr. 9:14); Spirit of Holiness (Luke 11:13); Spirit of Sonship (Romans 8:15); Spirit of Jesus Christ (:...8:9); Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4:14); Spirit of Grace (Hebr. 10:29); Spirit of Wisdom (Eph. 1:17); Spirit of the Living God (2 Cor. 3:3); Spirit of Revelation (Eph. 1:17)

Besides, in the original Greek the word 'the', is absent in most cases. Literally translated it speaks about 'a spirit of holiness', or 'a spirit of truth' etc.

When Jesus made this promise to His disciples, how would they have interpreted it? If you want some more clarification on this question, I would advice you to read Romans 8. In Romans 8 Paul gives us some insights into how the disciples interpreted the work of the Holy Spirit, where He is called the Spirit of Life, by the way. 

The first disciples were the least interested in a Trinity or how the Holy Spirit fits into a framework about understanding God. For them it was more a graduation of Power and Authority coming down the lines. First it is God Who gave of His Power and Authority to Jesus Christ and from Christ it becomes handed down to the Spirit. In turn we receive from the Spirit what we need to fulfill our duty to live in trust and loyalty to God.

It’s not rocket science, but only a simple encouragement to trust God and live by faith with Him. God gives us of His Spirit to support us through our daily lives and to be a witness to others of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.

Easter 2022

The gospel reading from John 20, begins with telling us that it was the first day of the week. Some see in here a reference to a new beginning which happened with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A new beginning that is the central theme of the Easter message. Death has always been the end and it still is in our earthly reality.I

In recalling the resurrection John mentions Maria standing on her own at the grave. And while she was in tears she looked into the tomb and she found two messengers of God dressed in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain. But then she noticed there is someone else and in her grief she believes it is the gardener. She turns herself to him and the person asks, as it is written in the Greek; Woman, why do you weep, who do you seek? Mary thinking it is the gardener, or keeper of the graves, she asks: Lord, if you have laid Him somewhere else, tell me where you put Him and I will take Him away. 

After her question Jesus calls her by own name and in recognising Him, their relationship is restored. Questions about why, how or what are overtaken by the emotions and the restoration of the relation of what first seemed definitely broken by the finality of death.

Over the ages questions has been asked why John mentions explicitly Mary calling the gardener, Lord? Kurios as it is in the Greek is a commonly used title, but is also the title for the person with the highest authority. John plays similar tricks with words like in John 4 with the healing of the official’s son, but some see in here a greater meaning.

When this dialogue between Jesus and Mary takes place in the garden of the tomb, it resembles with what happened in the garden of Eden. In this garden both Adam and Eve lived with God, until they choose to go their own way and disobeyed God’s one and only commandment. Now here in this garden the relationship between God and humanity has been restored with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not through a mere man, but through the obedience of the Kurios, the Lord Jesus Christ. His resurrection is the vindication of Him being the means of reconciliation between God and each one of us.


Palm Sunday 2022

Palm Sunday is par excellence the day in which we remember Jesus’ humility. How He came into Jerusalem, not with an army or array of power and might, but in humility and servitude. Over the ages, Christianity has always been marked by those two characteristics; humility and servitude. And next week at Easter we are reminded about what this humility and servitude means for all of us, when we remember the most important event in Jesus’ ministry. 

Having the reading from Philippians 2 is a great description of this humility and servitude, but also how it should overflow in our own thoughts and lives. For this reason the apostle Paul wrote: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant...’

When a new pope has been chosen he is led by the cardinals to his new seat and all cardinals kneel down before him. The story goes of how one the cardinals, because of his old age, found it difficult to get on his knees. This was somewhere in the 1970-ies. When the new chosen pop noticed it he came down from his thrown, because he understood what the verses in Philippians 2:5-11 mean. But even more than that; how he had to bring these words into practice. 

We can speak for hours about the beauty of the words of Philippians 2:5-11, as many theologians did, because the amount of written material on it is plentiful.  Like one of the most revered standard works on the Greek text on Philippians is from Peter O’Brien and his book contains about 600 pages, of which already about 100 of these are only written concerning those few verses.

When we think about the mind of Jesus, Paul reminds us first that is a mind of servanthood. Jesus became a servant, or slave as the Greek says. And a slave in the Greek world had a connotation with humility and servitude. Jesus entered our world not as Kurios, as Lord, the Name He acquired at His vindication, but as doulos, servant. A person without advantages, no rights of privileges, but in servanthood to all. Paul is very strong in imitating this attitude, because at the beginning of his letter to the Philippians  Paul is calling himself and his companions, servants of Jesus.

When there’s such an emphasis throughout the whole NT, to learn about and imitate this humility and servanthood of Jesus Christ to one another, we cannot deny the words and commands Jesus spoke.

Over the last few months I’ve noticed in the news a lot of hatred and singling out of a particular nation as being the pinnacle of all evil, but what are we sowing in the end. Or better say, what we sow we shall also reap. This is not to deny evil what is happening, but how we react to it. 

When Paul urges us to have the same mind in us as Jesus had, it is also the same Jesus Who said to the people in Luke 6: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who abuse you’.... and ‘love your enemies and do good....and your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for He is kind.....Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’. The nation we’re now talking about have never called our nation their enemies and neither have they attacked us. If Jesus asks us to love even our enemies, how then with those whom we don’t agree with or who do evil.

If we want to bring the commands of Jesus into practice and have the mind of Jesus in us, we might face a problem ourselves. Years ago I remember a small poster with the words: dead fish flow with the stream, in other words: live fish swim against the stream. 

Having a different mindset means we could easily become singled out ourselves as well. Simply, because we go against the stream of public opinion. And not only public opinion, but even perhaps against our own leaders who seem primarily not to call for peace and reconciliation, but for retribution and anger.

We’ll have to be careful not to let our hearts and minds be filled with hatred and retribution, as we hear, see and read about so much in the media. This is not to downplay the suffering caused by the evil actions, but how bring into practice the words of Jesus to even love our enemies. When we only want to hear from Jesus Christ the words we want to hear, we are not far of from the crowds who welcomed Him in as their saviour, but crucified Him within a week. 

The crowds were disappointed about Jesus, because they had hoped different things from Him. They had heard His words and experienced His good actions for at least 3 years, but still it hadn’t made sense to them and therefore they became disillusioned and rejected Him at the end. 

A few years ago there was a movement of priests leaving the CofE, because they couldn’t live with some changes the church was making. Many who left went to the RC church and the RC archbishop of Westminster welcomed them in. But, as he said; our church is not a restaurant with a menu from which you can pick and choose. 

There’s not much difference in the Christian faith either. It is not a restaurant with a menu from which we can pick and choose according to our own desires or preferences. If Jesus calls us to follow Him, it could sometimes mean a different attitude and mindset than many others around us and that cannot always be easy. 

Jesus Christ did not seek His own glory, but became subservient to the love of God. And Paul shows us how God is not acquisitive, grasping and seizing, but self-giving for the sake of others. Palm Sunday followed by Easter are the moments in which we remember that attitude and mindset which brought Jesus Christ to the cross for you and me.


Deception and Truth

In 2 Corinthians 4:2 the apostle Paul wrote: We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.

When reading these words from Paul, it shows the integrity of the preaching of the Gospel. When the gospel is preached through what we say and do, it might be influenced by our own personality, experiences and background, but it’s not with evil intend. 

I’m sure it has happened that people proclaim the gospel for their own sake and fortune. Perhaps we all remember an American TV evangelist with his church mission called PTL, which stood for Praise the Lord. Unfortunately, through scandals the letters PTL became abbreviations for Pass the Loot and Pay the Lady. But, it has never been the intention of the apostles to win fortunes for themselves or to become deceivers who then live in luxury mansions.

Deception and the proclamation of the Gospel are essentially opposite to each other. Therefore Paul is not using flattering words or showing himself to be a different person of who he is in reality. Paul says about himself that he is always working for his own money and never asks for anything except to give it to others in need, like to the church in Jerusalem. 

Some theologians say that Paul wrote these words, because he was accused of being deceptive and distorting the Word of God. But, there’s more to Paul’s words of ‘we do not use deception’ as we can see at first glance.

What is truth, Pilate asked, before he sentenced Jesus to the cross. The Greek word Aleitheia refers back to the word for ‘amen’ in Hebrew. It signifies of what is truth. In the personal context it characterises the speech, the action and thought of the person itself, making the integrity of a person. 

Truth is the foundation of God in His actions and words. As a result, a believer is one who bases life on God's Truth, making the person righteous. As it says in Psalm 51:6 ‘Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward being’ means that the truthfulness of God requires the truthfulness of the person. And Psalm 15:2, the one who speaks truth in the heart, has a mind set on truth.

Hosea complains (in 4:1) that ‘truth’ and ‘loyalty’ have left Israel, because truthfulness with loyalty are closely related to knowing God and doing His will. It is all encompassed in the words of 2 Samual 7:28 - Thou art the God, because Thy Words are Truth.

Rabbi’s teaching says that the world rests on 3 things only, which are righteousness, truth and peace. Paul, as a Rabbi, was very well aware of the necessity of being true and not deceptive. It is the Truth of God on which all who believe build their faith. Because we believe God is Truth we trust that He will do what He says or promises. We build our hope on the divine and eternal truth that God has send Jesus Christ into the world for our salvation. 

In a nutshell; God’s truth leads to our salvation and therefore God wants us to be truthful as well. When we believe God is truth, so do we have to be truthful. Being reliable and trustworthy ourselves makes the message of salvation through Jesus Christ and God’s Truth visible to others.

Mission and the resurrection

The reading from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is the resurrection that is such an important part of the whole ministry of Jesus Christ. Paul says that if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith..... if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins

But, it’s not only Paul who emphasizes the importance of the resurrection. All 4 gospel writers finish their gospel with the resurrection. But, their mentioning of the resurrection is not just the end of their gospels. It is the beginning. All what Jesus claimed to be, became validated only after His resurrection. And the ending of each gospel introduces the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the world. The proclamation of the gospel and the message of God reaching out to all people, instead of to one nation only.

Before Jesus appeared to the disciples it says in John’s Gospel they were behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. Only after the disciples met the risen Christ they unlocked the doors and went out becoming bold preachers and witnesses of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.The disciples left the empty tomb without any excitement, or joy, or motivation to witness or to evangelise. Simply, because they did not understood the Bible nor God’s plan to resurrect Jesus from death. Mary’s going to the tomb (with spices only in Mark and Luke, but not mentioned in John's gospel) emphasises this, because she expected a corpse not a risen Christ. Mary only went to the tomb, because this was in accordance to the custom of women to wail and lament at the tomb for their beloved ones.

After the resurrection of Jesus the disciples begun to believe in all else Jesus had said and how He was the Christ sent by God in accordance to the Bible. All what Jesus ever did was written down and preached, only because He was alive. A dead Jesus is a dead gospel, not worth to be written down.

We read that in the beginning of John’s gospel (2:22) where it says: ‘When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken’. The evidence and excitement of the resurrection of Jesus Christ had moved the first disciples to establish churches and to organise a worldwide incentive to proclaim this good news. 

That was then, but now look to the Anglican church today: Presumably, many still remember bishop David Jenkins who publicly denounced the resurrection in the 1980-ies; he denied that Jesus really rose from the dead and believed it was a story. A story that grew and developed into meaning that the message of Jesus is alive, not Jesus Himself. But, he was not the only bishop to deny this. Another bishop name John Spong, later wrote a book about the resurrection and said the same as Jenkins; Jesus is only resurrected in our imagination and is only a spiritual reality at best. 

Unfortunately, not only bishops doubt or deny the resurrection, even so do many Anglican clergy today. In a survey conducted by the World Anglican in 2019, it showed that 1/3 of all clergy in the Anglican Church don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No surprise then to see that ½ of all clergy don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the only route to salvation. 

Anglican leaders who do not believe in the resurrection are lamentable people. This are not my words, but that of Paul. Paul says not only in :14; If Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith. In :19 he continues; if only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than everybody else. 

The 1st century church always proclaimed the death of Christ together with His resurrection. See Acts 2:23-28; 3:15, 24-26; 4:10; 5:30-32; 10:39-40; 13:33-37 etc. But, such message was rather controversial in those days. A Resurrection from the dead, as was preached by the apostles, was unknown and a bodily resurrection was both alien to Jew and Greek. 

For the Greek/Roman world in those days a resurrection of the dead was absurd. Speaking about a bodily resurrection was unheard of. See for example Paul’s monologue in Athens on the Areopagus in Acts 17: ‘Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, but others said; ‘We will hear you again about this’, so Paul went out from among them’

Jews believe in a last day, when the Messiah comes and will judge each individual. How that involves the resurrection remains ever unclear. Already in Jesus’ time there was a disagreement between the Sadducees and Pharisees about the resurrection. And even up to today there’s not much Jewish theology on the resurrection either. In this debate a book published in 1983 by dr. Pinchas Lapide made some headways. Lapide was a Jewish theologian, Israeli historian and Consul. Pinehas wrote many books and studies, but in one particular book; The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective he wrote: ‘I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as an historical event.’ Pinehas is one of most outspoken Jewish theologians who believes that life after death is part of the Jewish faith. The only difference then between Jews and Christian what remains is that he believes that its Jesus' messiahship, not his resurrection, which marks the division between Christianity and Judaism. When now some Jewish circles believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, does it mean they have more faith in the resurrection, than many of our clergy in our own churches?

The resurrection of Jesus was the trigger that made all what Jesus had said and done to be true. The resurrection is the evidence of His claims and of His ministry.

But, it is also after His resurrection that Jesus says to His disciples: ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you’. Jesus disciples don’t start a new work, but they continue the work Jesus begun after His resurrection. And that work continues with us. All who believe in Jesus Christ and in His resurrection receive the Holy Spirit and become partakers of the mission of God. 

Only the living Christ is able to send the Spirit to be His messengers and to be partakers in the so-called Missio Dei, the mission of God. God had sent Jesus Christ and so the living Christ sends us. With only a dead Jesus, we have nothing to say, but the resurrected Christ is our testimony.

The Normal World

The last few years have been disturbing for many people and we now have to get back into a ‘normal, new normal’. It probably will take a while before we’re accustomed again to how it was before, and it might never become as before. Not to mention those who have suffered or are bereaved because they have lost family members or friends over the last few years.

For the one the new situation will mean a loss, for another it could mean a challenge, and for another it might even be exciting. The difference in our personalities causes us all to approach the new situation differently and what is good or bad is now like the proverbial ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’. 

What we call either good or bad is an ethical question and only humans can make such decisions. Animals do not have the ability to make choices between good and bad, because they have no ethical considerations. This shows the superiority of humanity over animals, something which is clearly explained in the Bible. God created humans to control and lord over the earth, but herein lies the obligation for us to govern the world with care.

It’s remarkable however, that at the one hand we see States and leaders pushing for care and good governance for our world in ever renewed protocols and vows, while on the other hand weapons and armies are send by the same States and leaders all over the world to fight. The amount of energy spoiled, and pollution created, by such actions couldn’t it not better be used for people’s normal day to day living?

When we are going back to ‘normal’ again, it appears to be the same old normal in war mongering and hot headed debates without end as ever. If, however, we really want a new normal, perhaps we should look to our ethics again and remember of what is called good or bad. And once we know what is meant by good how much energy do we put into doing what is good and stop doing what is bad.

A new normal can only be created by ourselves and, as it looks like, nothing has changed and even in times of worries, wars and preparations for wars continue as usual. When the new normal is the same old normal as before, it’s further evidence of what the Bible tells us, that God send His Christ into the world not to condemn it, but to save us, because humanity can’t do it by themselves.   

Our church services provide the moments in which we do not glorify ourselves, but become aware that real change and a new normal is only possible through faith and trust in God. The God, Who has revealed Himself through Christ, so that we may have life in fulness and peace. 

Happy New Year

A new year, a new beginning and for many as usual new resolutions.  Perhaps, the words ‘new resolutions’ might be better changed into ‘new challenges’. Challenges, because many resolutions to change behaviour are so easily broken. Often within a month many of them have been too difficult to keep and hence abandoned.

Although, since we’ve been captured by the Covid pandemic I do not hear many speaking about new year’s resolutions anymore. It seems people’s minds have been occupied with coping with Covid, more than trying to change bad or unhealthy behaviour. That should hardly be a surprise when we look to how much people had to cope with over the last few years. 

Already last year the issue of new year’s resolutions in relation to the Covid pandemic was detected by some psychologists. They noted that for many people the New Year offers the opportunity to put their focus on long-term goals, which than leads to the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions give us a chance to consider on what we hope to achieve in the longer term.  Even when everyone knows that the focus will shift back to the short-term demands of day-to-day living before the end of January, it is valuable to consider those longer-term aspirations.

But since the Covid pandemic it seems that thinking about the long-term has become much more difficult. The pandemic has given many a different experience of time, and it made the path beyond the pandemic unclear. For a solution to this problem it was suggested that New Year’s resolutions should be much more short-term than usual.

So, if someone has any new year resolutions for this year is it the best option to keep them short-term? And what do we see as short term? If most resolutions are broken within a month, why bother with long or short-term resolutions, because they are short-term anyway. And if many resolutions appear to fail in the short term, why then should we still look to short term resolutions in our personal lives? 

In contrast to the short term resolutions I would like to quote the saying from the British economist John Maynard Keynes who once said; ‘in the long run we’re all dead’. I know, he said it in the 1920-ies during a discussion about using the gold-standard after the Great War. But, his saying; ‘in the long term we’re all dead’, makes us aware of each of our own personal future beyond our horizon.

Keynes spoke about the long term as death, but the long term view in Christianity is not death, but life. The Bible speaks about life through Jesus Christ, like in the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-4; ‘Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.’

May our new year resolution be to anchor ourselves more and more in God’s promises and set ourselves to learn more from Him through Bible reading and personal life with God. In the long term there’s not death, but life, through Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Christmas 2021

When we hear the Christmas story we might recognise a remarkable parallel between the birth of Jesus Christ and the vaccines against the Covid pandemic.

The Covid pandemic is putting a heavy strain on the population of our country, perhaps similar to how much the Roman occupation had a hold on the people of Israel. And then in the midst of hoplesness and fear a long awaited saviour is born, who is the hope of the nation. In this period of fear in our day and age, a vaccine against the dreaded Covid looks like the saviour against a disease holding people in bondage and fear. A vaccine that restores the hope of being freed from the oppressor of our nation and its people.

But here the parallel ends. The vaccine is the result of human intellect and through the control of the natural state of affairs. The Christmas child on the other hand is not the work of human hands or human intellect and certainly not under the control of humanity. 

Besides, we only have to look around us to see that human intellect has never been able to resolve issues of oppression, or poverty, or hunger, or of envy and of strive and of war. Look at the world and we see nations torn apart by internal conflicts, people desperately looking for safety and shelter. Only look to our own shores and count those try to come here to find a better life for themselves, because their own countries can’t provide it. Even now with a vaccine in our Western world within reach, the majority of the world population doesn’t have that privilege.

Human intellect and its scientific control of the world has in the end not brought much equality, liberty or unity as was the motto of the dream for a new world order. If the Christmas Child would have come in the hands of human control, it would never have grown up in the way God intended it to be.

The child as we celebrate it will grow up and become God’s answer on human failure. At the heart of the story of the Christmas child lies the Grace of God Who has reached out to all people in any circumstance to give them a hope no one and nothing else can give.

This Grace of God is not because we earned it or have established it through our own human intellect. It is God’s own choice to reconcile us with Him again through this child. The child in the manger that will grow up to become the Christ of God, Saviour of us all. Not by human effort, but by the Grace of God.

Advent: Pray

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul speaks about how to pray: ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.’

We can discern 3 important characteristics for prayer and the 1st characteristic is freedom from anxiety. Honest prayer asks for closing the door to the immediate cares and anxieties of the world. In John 20 we read about Jesus appearing to His disciples: 'After the doors were shut Jesus came and stood in their midst and said unto them, peace be unto you.' The doors were shut, it means they had shut out the hussle, buzzle and the fears caused by the world around them. And in that sense of quietness they met Jesus in their midst. It might not be easy in this modern world to close all doors in the middle of distraction, but it is part of being anxious in nothing.

When we shut out the anxieties of this world and leave aside the focus on our own wellbeing and instead concentrate on the things of God, we realise there is no need to be anxious in God’s presence. When the disciples were looking for the right way of prayer they asked Jesus how to pray. In Luke 11:1-2 Jesus told them: When you pray say; Father…. It is the word Father that opens the way to trust and confidence in the God Who has revealed Himself in love and support through Jesus Christ. Approaching God as Father means putting our trust in Him and leaving all other things we worry about behind.

2nd characteristic of prayer is an attitude of honouring God. Supplication means asking in humbleness and earnestly. Supplication is the frame of mind of a petitioner. It asks for a discipline of honouring God for Who He is and want to be for you. Supplication is not seen in a heated debate about whose interpretation of the Bible is right or wrong. But, supplication becomes recognisable in the quiet effort of our prayers based on a living relationship with God. In supplication we also honour God which translates into respect and high esteem of Him.

Honour can be given for many reasons but it is mainly split in two. The one is through accomplishment and the other is by position. The Queen is honoured not because of what she has done, but because of who she is. It is her position which gives her the honour not because she won the Olympics or whatever. Others we honour not because of their position, but because of what they did or what they achieved. But, we honour God for both reasons. Both for what He has done and for Who He is. He deserves the highest honour as God for Who He is and He deserves our hpnour for what He did for us through Jesus Christ. 

The last and 3rd characteristic of prayer is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not only for the obvious things we want to thank God for, but for everything. An attitude of thanksgiving in our lives transforms ourselves and that will have its impact on others. Others are not impressed by grumbling and angry believers, but by a spirit of thanksgiving and praise of God. William Law once said that the greatest saint is the person who is always thankful to God. Being thankful is very important in our Christian lives, but even more so in our prayers. Because thankfulness to God replaces feeling of disappointment, of anger, of evil and all other bad feelings.

I’m not talking about those who just say, thank God for this or that. Once I overheard someone saying ‘thank God for this’ on which another replied saying; I thought you’re an atheist you can’t thank God for anything’. Being honestly thankful to God develops a relationship with Him and that relationship grows further through prayer. Perhaps therefore we find so many references in the Bible about being thankful to God. One of the well-known is in Psalm 100; Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His Name. Being thankful to God is important, not only for our prayesr, but also for our own wellbeing.

It is because of these 3 aspects of prayer: freedom from anxiety; supplication and thankfulness, that Paul end this pericope with : 7. ’And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

Bringing those 3 aspects of prayer into our lives will lead to a peace that passes all understanding. And, above that, it will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Because, without Christ it is not possible to reach God in prayer as He is God’s chosen Instrument to reconcile God with us. Emmanuel; God with us.

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