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Ultimate healing and love – Passion Sunday 2023
In the account of the raising of Lazarus of Bethany, we see the most dramatic of Jesus’ miracles – the ultimate healing and restoration of life and hope when all hope is lost.
But as John is dismissive of the naïve literalism of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, and at times the disciples, so surely we cannot, should not, belittle this profound, poetic, carefully crafted text, redolent with images and myths from the ancient Hebrew past, by distorting, trivialising and constraining it within the narrow confines of literal fact. The truth is simply greater than that.
Deconstructing the Trinity – Trinity Sunday 2023
Trinity Sunday is often a time when preachers feel they need to reach out for props, to demonstrate in some way the nature of the Trinity. But ultimately all these attempts, however well-intentioned, are doomed to failure because all they can do is scratch the surface – to show a model that is essentially structural and functional. Any representation, whether they use 2d pictures or 3d items, will have edges, boundaries and limits whilst attempting to explain something that is boundless, limitless and ultimately inexplicable.
So perhaps a little like Marc Antony who said to the crowd
‘….lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.’….
I am here not to acclaim the Trinity so much as to…well not bury….but certainly to deconstruct…..
Truth need not be factual – Pentecost Sunday 2023
The American New Testament scholar and Theologian Marcus Borg once encountered an American Indian holy man who shared his people’s creation story by starting with the following words:
‘I don’t know if it happened exactly this way, but I know that this story is true’.
For it is vital to understand that the Bible contains much that is truthful, wise and insightful – and some of it may also happen to be factual. With the stress on ‘some’ and ‘may’. For the measure of the value of scripture is not whether things happened exactly the way they are told, but whether the story conveys truth.
A strange kind of glory – 7th Sunday of Easter 2023
There is a word that recurs six times in today’s short gospel reading in one form or another – glory, glorify, glorified. At first sight, this can sound almost vainglorious, imperious and patrician language. The sort of language that might belong in an imperial court, with flattery, pomp and fanfare, elaborate ceremonial with golden and bejewelled gorgeous raiment.
And indeed we can be tempted to act in such ways in the church itself, for there is always a part of us, against which Jesus warned, that wishes to get back to the awe and wonder, and power, so loved by the Saduccess and their spectacular, if bloodthirsty, Temple ritual. Or we can revert to insisting on strict observance of scriptural rules and taboos of the Pharisees, that actually only serve to constrain and imprison us, denying and thwarting Jesus’ promise of life in all its fullness.
But the Gospels and the witness of Jesus are not always as they seem.