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  • Elijah's Stroll?

    I know that when the Bible says 'forty days and forty nights' it probably means 'a long time' but pondering the commentator who told me Elijah had to travel around 150 miles to Mount Horeb (evidently whilst fasting; eisegesis in case you didn't read the last post) he didn't exactly rush did he?  150 miles in forty days - less than four a day on average.  Hmm.  The dangers of literalism.  More likely it took him a couple of weeks at a gentle stroll, with stops along the way.  But the point, I think, is that this story does not happen in the few lines it takes to record it.  This is not a quick fix to Elijah's depression.

    Tonight we have a joyous Church Meeting which will handle some tough stuff - the next step on building disposal and the longer term future of our fellowship (the graph I've drawn of membership figures for the last century looks like Mount Horeb I suspect!).  Quick fixes are not going to happen; harsh facts must be faced - but somewhere in the silence God will speak.

    This whole process has been anything but a stroll in the park, and we are learning a lot about what 'forty' days/nights/years can feel like.  I think Elijah will form the basis for our devotions tonight... just hoping to avoid storms, earthquakes or getting fired!

  • Endeavouring to avoid Eisegesis

    1 Kings 19, the story of Elijah, worn out and demoralised, fleeing for his life; the encounter with God in the 'sound of sheer silence' and the return to pick up his work.

    I have a few general commentaries but nothing specific and have no Hebrew whatsoever.  The commentaries say that God rebuked Elijah with the question 'why are you here?' [why does the exact same question appear twice?] but is that a true interpretation (i.e. what does the Hebrew say, clever people who know these things).  The commentators I've found seem to see Elijah as failing here, but I'm not convinced - he's being blatantly honest about how he sees it (even if there are a load of other prophets hiding in a cave elsewhere).

    The sermon I intend to deliver owes a lot to the incredibly courageous, open and honest address/study/sermon given by Alistair Brown of BMS at the BWA a couple of years ago.  Elijah hasn't failed, he's just human, knackered, scared and vulnerable.  God meets his needs - for rest and food, more rest and more food - and then Elijah sets off to seek God (according to one commentary Horeb was about 150 miles away;it also said he fasted for 40 days but that is definitely eisegesis).  When he gets there he tells it as it is - something we admire in the psalmists - and he has his mysterious encounter with God in 'the sound of sheer silence', then restates his case, before God sends him off with a new commission - to annoint a couple of kings and to appoint a companion-successor.  Interestingly, he only does the latter, it is Elisha who annoints the kings.

    The theme I've been given is (joy!) 'Taking Responsbility for our own Spirituality' and I think that this story of frail Elijah speaks into that somehow.  It isn't a story of spiritual disciplines, though they are valuable, but a story of authenticity.  Elijah had had amazing experiences on Mount Carmel but he was left burned out; he needed a break, and that is OK.  A break to recover physically and then a journey, literal or metaphorical, to meet with God, pour out his heart and find the strength to carry on.  Perhaps the repeat of the question is to show that in one sense nothing has changed - he still feels frightened and isolated - but in another sense everything has changed - he is now ready to go back and do what is needed.  That seems to me to speak of taking responsibility both for and from his own spirituality.

    I'm not too sure I like the idea of God rebuking Elijah, but the 'sound of sheer silence' (evdently a better translation)speaks so much more 'loudly' than a 'still small voice' or a 'quiet whisper.'  God is in the silence... now that's something worth contemplating.

  • Freedom is Coming..! (Well sort of)

    Writing my Mark sermon is going nowhere fast; I also have an Elijah one to do this week for the local penties who are mad enough to invite me back.  But then it's a week off - well sort of.  It's a week's leave of which three days are a university Summer School.  It'll be good to catch up with others and I hope the input is helpful, though Reading does not feature on my list of 'must visit' towns and cities!  So, in the absence of a laptop, I will not be posting.  So freedom from my inane drivel too.

  • Baptism Joke

    Having just read a post on some of Rowan William's thoughts on Ministry and Baptism, I was reminded of this joke about Baptism.  The Anglican in the joke is wrong of course, but it's fun.

    Two long time friends were walking in the cool of the morning discussing the mode of baptism. Both had graduated seminary at the same time, moved to the same town, and each started their ministries there: One a baptist - the other an anglican

    Let's listen in to their conversation:

    Anglican: So let me get this straight...you believe a person isn't baptized unless they have been fully immersed in water - is that correct?

    Baptist: Correct. We believe in full immersion - not pouring or sprinkling.

    Anglican: So if you walked a person into a stream up to their ankles that wouldn't consist in an actual baptism?

    Baptist: No sir, no baptism.

    Anglican: What if you got them wet up past their knees?

    Baptist: Still not good enough.

    Anglican: What about if they waded in to their waist? Would you pronounce them baptized?

    Baptist: No, no, no...what about immersion do you not understand?

    Anglican: Please forgive me, I am slow sometimes...I really do want to understand you and I thank you for your patience. Just a couple of more questions and I'll move onto other edifying topics. What if they were immersed up to their chest?

    Baptist: No.

    Anglican: Neck?

    Baptist: No.

    Anglican: What if they walked all the way in, held their breath, and were up to their eyeballs in water?

    Baptist: No, they have to be immersed.

    Anglican: I think I understand now...You and I agree after all! Wait until the next PCC meeting!

    Baptist: Wha...What do you mean? Did I convince you that immersion is the only way for baptism to be properly administered?

    Anglican: On the contrary - you gave me great evidence against it!

    Baptist: I did?!?

    Anglican: You sure did. You convinced me that getting your feet wet doesn't make one baptized. You convinced me that getting wet up to your knees or waist doesn't make one baptized. You convinced me that being up to your chest or neck in water doesn't make one baptized. You even convinced me that being up to your eyeballs in water doesn't cut it.

    Baptist: So?!?

    Anglican: So what that tells me is that both of us deem water being administered to the head as sufficient to consider one baptized.


    More seriously, looks like Rowan William's book is, as ever, well worth reading

  • trespassers will be...

    ... proselytised?

    I am wondering about new signs for our defunct building after discovering this morning no less than six broken windows and two rear cellar doors ripped off completely.  The local police came along and offered advice on improving security, but in the meantime I was wondering whether to buy some really scary tracts and affixing signs offering to proselytise anyone who ventures onto the plot.  Well it's either that or make them watch all the Alpha videos in one sitting.  Not that I dislike Alpha, I have been involved in a couple of Alpha courses, it's just that all those enormous floral displays and adoring looks from Pippa to her preacher-husband kind of get my goat.  That and a load of seekers who turn up with Bibles and can find all the passages quickly, yeah, right!