Study group is working through Micah. Whilst preparing I found myself drawn to write another meditation. This time the passage is Micah 5:1-5 but really its centred on vs 1 and 2. You can read the background here. There is lots of blood and political intrigue… along with some very famous passages.
One of the key themes of Micah is that of land. When Micah (~ 740-690 BCE) was delivering his prophetic messages to the ruling elite of Jerusalem one of the things he railed against was the fact that the inherited land of the common people was being taken from them with impunity. He says that these things were done in the morning light, so degraded was the leadership of the time. Each family considered that God had personally give their land to them. Without the family land, life for these people was very difficult, since the land signified not only their economic provision but also their membership into the covenant with Yahweh.
In addition to the this prophets were delivering ‘God’s words’ to the those who would pay for them, and the priests were going through the motions. The leaders have fallen far from what they were called to be. There is clearly much more going on here as well, but the upshot is that God would bring the Assyrians against Israel.
Chapter 1 describes God coming down from his Holy Place and how the earth reacts to the presence of the Other One. Micah describes himself as wailing and lamenting like the Ostrich and the Jackal as Israel has become incurable and the Assyrian army is at the gates of Jerusalem. There is disinheritance, injustice and false religion. By Chapter 5 Micah is looking forward again to the Assyrian army laying siege to Jerusalem, with all the horrors that entailed. Suddenly, Micah seems to jump and we read:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (5:2)
In the midst of the bluster and evil and despotic failure of the King, prophets, priests – in other words the ruling classes – Micah fast forwards, and turns his attention to a tiny, insignificant village from which an eternal one would spring. The human government, where justice and divine revelation was for sale, and where the elites performed land-grabs from the middle classes of the day, was likely loud and brash and full of pride. Into this Micah thrusts front and centre the insignificant, the quiet and the humble.
Here is the meditation we did in Life Group last week on the passage in Colossians 1. As is usual for our group, we only touched on many of the themes within the verses. In preparing I felt that the tendency is to bring our rational and intellectual minds to a passage -which of course is a good thing. Yet some passages will not give up their treasures like this, hence a meditation.
We read the passage over several times to get us started. You might like to do the same.
In the last post we considered the division that existed between the Jewish people and the Gentiles, ie everyone else, in the time of Jesus. A ‘fence’ between them had been erected that protected the Jews from ethical decay, forbidding intermarriage, cultural appropriation or even eating with Gentiles. According to Williamson Jews saw Gentiles as ‘less than human’ and in response gentiles regarded Jews with suspicion. (1)
This division might not be considered important today. However, it is unquestionable that the recent political events have created significant divides between people in the UK. The reasons might be different, but the divides are just are real and painful as ever. (2)
As a child I soon learnt that I had a rare, somewhat deliberating condition. This aliment, because that’s how this condition seemed to me, often left me feeling like a ‘side dish’ as the kids say today. There seemed to be a code, that the other males fell seamlessly inline with. Despite my best efforts to learn and use this code, I was always several steps behind. It seemed all the other boys effortlessly received regular updates regarding this code, and that these updates were easily understood and incorporated into that most cruel of environments, the primary school playground. I was constantly out of date, never really deciphering what the others were on about. It is only in later life that I have self-diagnosed my condition, and as is often the case with knowledge, came a certain level of understanding.
In this post we look in a little detail at what it means to be dead – no not like that. How did Christ make us alive according to Paul? We also see that a cabbage has much to teach us of the Divine Realm. But we begin with The Essenes.
The Essenes, authors of the ‘dead sea scrolls’ wrote that as a member of their sect you were “raised from the worms of the dead”. The language seems somewhat overstated to us. Paul however, embraced it. We can see similar thoughts as he kicks of Chapter two.
Ever found yourself floundering as you read Paul’s letters? Do you wonder if you’re missing something? Do you start reading a chapter full of determination, and then find yourself at verse 5 thinking about if you’ve fed the dog with little idea of what you have just read? If you are someone who finds Paul easy then good for you! This post is not for you, but rather for those, like me, who have a somewhat more difficult relationship with Paul.
Previously in the first two verses we marveled (!) at how Wesley and Whitfield were able to paint such a cornucopia of theological goodness in so few words. We considered the barrage of triggers that were thrown at the singer by phrases such as ‘joyful all ye nations rise’ and ‘pleased as man with man to dwell’. Unsurprisingly verse three doesn’t disappoint as another volley of Christology is planted in the consciousness, setting free the ‘white horses of imagination’ to kick up their heels and gallop joyously. Such is the power of the poetry and biblical allusion.
In the first part of this mini- series on Hark The Herald Angels Sing I got excited about verse 1, where the writers of this awesome carol describe the manifestation into our physical realm of the angelic realm and God’s presence. Celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth leads to the final restoration of the nations into their God-ordained place of perfection. Wow. But for now…. nothing is eternal. Everything we experience is subject to decay.
Hark The Herald Angels sing is a fantastic romp through some truly inspiring theology. It is too good to be only sung at Christmas – its going to feature at my funeral. The more mystically minded Christians speak about the participation with God as being like swimming in the sea. You can paddle in the shadows or go in further until you are surrounded. Either way you are participating in the experience and being of the sea, yet there remains a vast body of which you know nothing stretching out beyond.
School was a funny old time. The seven years at secondary were not the happiest years of my life, not by a long shot. My school was very academic, and pushy, which was ok as long as I could keep my head down. I was that child who was into things. Electronics. Astronomy. Woodwork. Punk music. Squash. Girls.
But not languages. Definitely not languages. Foreign languages bought me pain. Oh, and fear.
In the previous post we looked at the Satisfaction Theory of the atonement. As we saw, this was developed by Anselm who drew heavily from the honour based culture of the middle ages in which he lived. Now we turn to look at a theory which does not seem have its focus in any cultural setting at all, and as such has a timeless, culture -free quality to it.
When I first heard about this theory I reacted in a strongly negative way. In my youthful ignorance it seemed faintly ridiculous. I flatter myself by thinking I have grown up since my mid 40s! Either way I am less black and white in my thinking , and a lot happier as a result…
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) – considered by some to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers – wrote a much loved book called ‘Cur Deus Homo’ – ‘Why Did God become Human?’ In this he has a dialogue with one of his students, who goes by the superb name of ‘Boso’. Boso wants to understand the doctrines of Christianity, and I therefore consider him my rightful ancestor. He is a clever chap, trained in philosophy – which is where, on both counts, the relational similarity between us breaks down.
Anyway, Anselm sets out to explain various Christian doctrines in as easy a way as possible.
First published this post in October 2011…. having re-read it I figured it deserved another shot.
Just had an interesting moment!
Running “Spotify” on my phone, plugged into the Hi Fi, listening to “What does anything mean, basically” by The Chameleons – and its been a number of years since I heard it. Nearly every song evokes a strong, significant emotional response in me – you know memories of college, old friends that I haven’t seen in years, feelings of studying physics in the uni library, drinking in the student bar, playing in bands, the optimism of youth etc etc. Every song a winner, wave after wave of pleasure. Some of the musical arrangements are frankly beautiful; stunning almost – shimmering veils over pounding rhythms that wont let up. They should have been just MASSIVE. Bigger than the biggest thing ever.
This post carries on the introduction to the recapitulation theories that were framed by Irenaeus (130-202). Irenaeus was taught by Polycarp, who in turn heard sermons preached by a certain John the Evangelist. Imagine what that must have been like – to meet first generation apostle – someone who knew Jesus the man? So, we are right back almost at the source.
When I was at school I read Shakespeare and Chaucer; perhaps I should say I was ‘forced to read’ Shakespeare and Chaucer. To be honest, I did not understand much of school, and English Literature classes were some of the most boring of all! (ha ha, the irony!) I could read the words of these old books no problem, but put the words together and they didn’t mean much to me.
At long last it is time to launch into one of the theories of the atonement, or more correctly one of the early church Father’s writings about atonement. In study group one of these went down very easily, and the other required a bit more wrestling. I could see that their horizons were being opened up – which is exactly what happened to me when I first heard these ideas too. On reflection though, as I look back, it seems to me that I was being in introduced to ‘a half remembered tune’ playing ‘softly in my mind.’  … See what you think!
The very early church certainly proclaimed the cross, yet seemed to not spill much ink explaining how it provided salvation. Sure, the New Testament (which they didn’t have then of course) mentions various metaphors as we have seen. From the second century Irenaeus (130-202) and others began to think of cross in terms of conflict with the powers of the day. This goes beyond the ‘Jesus is Lord’ vs ‘Caesar is Lord’ that we might think we understand, off into the spiritual, cosmic realm.
Recently it has been suggested to me that God does not want us to question the ‘how’ of Christianity. Surely God wants us to have a child-like faith they suggest. I never quite understand what people mean when they use that phrase. I sense an implied criticism, though probably none was meant. I have also become aware that some Christians feel threatened in the context of theological study. Some even wonder if God in some way would prefer it if we didn’t ask. Why is this?
Have you ever wondered if its ok to ask questions? Do you ever question the lyrics in worship songs? Do you feel that accepted answers are just too simplistic ? Me too.
In the last post I introduced two of the creeds. These are recited week in week out by Christians the world over. Given that these blogs are written to support a study on atonement why take this detour into something seemingly so off topic?
Simples. These creeds were written at a time when the church was working out its beliefs – there was really only one church then, but lots of competing theories about who, or what, Jesus actually was. The creeds went some way to giving a unified set of beliefs. What is really interesting is that the ‘how’ of the atonement does not seem to feature very much in either of them. It is almost as if it was not an issue to them. Think about that for a moment. It is simply astounding!
I have become increasingly interested in how the beliefs of Christianity developed. Yawn yawn… Sure, history is cool, but more important to me is how our following of Jesus is to be understood and lived out in a society has changed so dramatically since the documents we use were written. There are gigantic shifts going on – scientific, technological, cultural. Some of the most basic assumptions about our nature are shifting. Our understanding of the universe we live in has mushroomed (though it is still tiny, tiny mushroom in my opinion).
In this post I consider the role of the Creeds – and ask ‘should they even have a role?’ These creeds are short(ish) statements which encapsulate what Christians believe and in some cases were written over 1500 years ago. They are widely used – and by ‘widely’ I mean ‘all around the world’ kind of widely.
As you might know I was/am a teacher – having done some 14 years in the classroom. During my time in secondary schools I watched several wonderful new ‘initiatives’ that were ‘bound to raise attainment’ come into fashion and then quietly fade off the agenda as the mandarins at the top of the profession altered their views. Some ideas even return for a second go attempt at delivering the prize of 100% ‘A*s for everyone’.