bible blog 1148

 

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary along with a headline from world news:

COMMON RESPECT FOR DEMOCRACY MAY LEAD TO SCOTS INDEPENDENCE FROM UK

Demo for Independence

Demo for Independence

Matthew 4:18-25

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

18-19 While he was walking by the lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, casting their large net into the water. They were fishermen, so Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will teach you to catch men!”

20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21-22 Then he went further on and saw two more men, also brothers, James and John. They were aboard the boat with their father Zebedee repairing their nets, and he called them. At once they left the boat, and their father, and followed him.

Jesus teaches, preaches and heals

23-25 Jesus now moved about through the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news about the kingdom, and healing every disease and disability among the people. His reputation spread throughout Syria, and people brought to him all those who were ill, suffering from all kinds of diseases and pains—including the devil-possessed, the insane and the paralysed. He healed them, and was followed by enormous crowds from Galilee, The Ten Towns, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the river Jordan.

gal3Matthew presents the reader with the arrival of the rule of God on earth (the kingdom). This is surprising in a number of ways. First of all, it is concerned with human welfare rather than any religious experience or obligation. There are neither special revelations nor new forms of worship. God,i t would appear, is not much bothered about his own welfare. Secondly, it’s on quite a small scale! People are impressed, yes, but it’s only an itinerant village preacher/ healer doing a good job in rural Palestine. Is this the way God challenges the rule of Caesar? Thirdly it includes teaching. God refuses to impose his rule-people have to learn it, using their human understanding, which means that the exercise of God’s rule in the world may take a little time. 

What’s really going on here? In fact, some small bits of goodness are happening in some small places and the man who is making them happen says, they come from God. Not only the events, the healings and teachings, but also the connection with the source of goodness, are important to Jesus. But the connection is not a matter for public display as if it could somehow be separated from its good work. Worship for Matthew’s Jesus is either formal and public, in synagogue and temple, or it is a secret discipline of prayer to the father who sees in secret. 

The rule of God begins with small, real, visible acts of goodness done by a human being who announces that they are also acts of God; and teaches people how they too may turn to this God and do his work. None of this smells of religion.

1 Corinthians 2:1-13

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

I came to you in God’s strength not my own

1-5 In the same way, my brothers, when I came to proclaim to you God’s secret purpose, I did not come equipped with any brilliance of speech or intellect. You may as well know now that it was my secret determination to concentrate entirely on Jesus Christ and the fact of his death upon the cross. As a matter of fact, in myself I was feeling far from strong; I was nervous and rather shaky. What I said and preached had none of the attractiveness of the clever mind, but it was a demonstration of the power of the Spirit! Plainly God’s purpose was that your faith should not rest upon man’s cleverness but upon the power of God.

There is, of course, a real wisdom, which God allows us to share with him

6-8 We do, of course, speak “wisdom” among those who are spiritually mature, but it is not what is called wisdom by this world, nor by the powers-that-be, who soon will be only the powers that have been. The wisdom we speak of is that mysterious secret wisdom of God which he planned before the creation for our glory today. None of the powers of this world have known this wisdom—if they had they would never have crucified the Lord of glory!

9-10a But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him’. But God has, through the Spirit, let us share his secret.

10b-12 For nothing is hidden from the Spirit, not even the deep wisdom of God. For who could really understand a man’s inmost thoughts except the spirit of the man himself? How much less could anyone understand the thoughts of God except the very Spirit of God? And the marvellous thing is this, that we now receive not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God himself, so that we can actually understand something of God’s generosity towards us.

Centre of ancient Corinth

Centre of ancient Corinth

This wisdom is only understood by the spiritual

13 It is these things that we talk about, not using the expressions of the human intellect but those which the Holy Spirit teaches us, explaining things to those who are spiritual.

Paul was writing to converts who were influenced by an undefined “religious wisdom” that claimed privilege for those who thought themselves knowledgeable and spiritual. He tells them that there’s no wisdom apart from a Messiah who was so hated by worldly people that they crucified him. He, on the other hand, loved people so much, even his enemies, that he was ready to suffer in order to fight these worldly powers to the end. Announcing this story requires no “religious” eloquence but only trust in “the way God works” through means that worldly people think contemptible.

Paul goes on to acknowledge a genuine sort of wisdom which consists in trusting, “the way God works”. Paul calls this way “God’s Spirit” or sometimes, “the spirit of Messiah Jesus”. It is the character of God as manifested in Jesus and especially in his death on the cross interpreted as an act of loving humility and generosity. Attuning oneself to this spirit gives one access to the heart of God. But this wisdom only emerges quietly in a person’s life, through disciplined participation in the shared life of the Christian community, not through a desire for religious pre-eminence. 

In his very different circumstances and language, Paul is faithful to the Rule of God announced by Jesus.

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