Tag Archives: Jesus

The Poor In Spirit

A little trouble with the Beatitudes, or one of them.

The Sermon on the Mount (fresco) By Fra Angelico 1387 – 1455

We find the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: 1-12. I have had trouble for a long time with the first beatitude, found in verse 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (UK NIV).

The meaning of the other beatitudes seems, to me, quite clear, not so the first one. I have never been comfortable with understanding what is meant by “poor in spirit”.

As an aside, nevertheless possibly relevant, there is some opinion that considers the term “blessed” in the Beatitudes is interchangeable and could be replaced with “happy”.

However back to my original trouble, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. What does “poor in spirit” mean? The nearest I can come to finding a meaning that I can associate with the phrase is poverty of spirit. The problem with this is that it could mean lacking in spirit, possibly lacking in belief in God. Another possibility is that “poor in spirit” refers to people whose spirit gives them a sinful nature and could be happy because of it.

Both possibilities I suggest seem to be at odds with receiving a blessing. All the other beatitudes confer a blessing for a virtue, but being poor in spirit seems prima facie to be an imperfection or disbelief, maybe disobedience. What would seem to make more sense might be ‘Blessed are those who seek forgiveness”.

Any thoughts?

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Dressed For The Occasion

The Wedding Banquet.

14th Century Russian icon of the ‘Parable of the Feast.

Jesus tells the parable of a king who gives a wedding banquet for his son, but no one comes. Some of the invited even murder the king’s messengers bearing the invitations. For which the king extracts retribution.

Since the invited rich and noble did not come to the wedding, the king instructs his servants to go out and bring in people from the streets. In no time at all the wedding hall was filled with guests of all kinds of people.

When the king comes to the hall in which the wedding guests are assembled, he spies a man not dressed in smart, wedding clothes. The king asks the man how he got in, dressed as he was. Then the king had the man bound and thrown outside.

The parable is the invitation of Jesus to the feast and the inappropriately dressed man represents someone who rejects the invitation, but the parable might easily be interpreted differently.

All the guests at the wedding banquet had been drawn in off the streets. The suggestion being that they were taken directly to the banquet and might not have had time to change into their fine clothes, appropriate to a wedding. There is also the possibility that the poorly dressed man was poor and might have been wearing what were his best cloths, or maybe even his only clothing.

It is possible to conclude that the poorly dressed man was quite unfairly treated. While this is not the usual interpretation of the parable, the text is not sufficiently detailed or clear to dismiss this possible interpretation out of hand.

As usual, I am not seeking to overturn established wisdom, just give some food for thought.

The Time Machine

A timeless story, old and new.

No, not a review of H. G. Wells book of the title, though inspired by it. A previous post also inspired by The Time Machine is here.

As the time traveller in the book is unnamed, I have adopted the name George for him, as used in the 1960 film The time Machine.

When our time traveller George arrives in the year 802,701 his first impression is of a kind of future Eden. An impression soon dispelled. But what did the people of the time, the Eloi think of George?

The Eloi were, even by today’s concept, a primitive people. Humanity had apparently regressed even though they were so fare into the future. They had lost or abandoned the accumulated knowledge of history. There seemed to be no technology, no weapons. a peaceful race, at least on the surface.

What would this seemingly primitive people think of our time traveller, George?

Maybe they would consider to be a harmless eccentric, with strange ideas and clothes not quite fitting in with their society. A bit like Jesus in biblical times, not quite fitting in with society.

The Eloi people had, apparently, no knowledge or concept of Jesus but I think it might be possible that George presented a Jesus like figure to them in some ways.

George came amongst them with what to them would be radical, new ideas and thoughts. He upset the established order. Became, in a way, their protector or perhaps ‘Good shepherd’. He was a teacher. The time traveller was able to perform what, to their eyes, might seem like miracles; the Eloi people had not seen matches before to light a fire.

The peaceful Eloi were under the malignant domination of the Morlocks, an underground race feeding on the Eloi treating them like cattle, a source of food and forced labour. Like Jesus tried to show the Israelites how to stand up to the Romans, occupying their land, and their own priests, the Pharisees, George tried to show the Eloi that they did not need to submit to the Morlocks.

Might this portrayal of the time traveller as such a figure by H. G. Wells have been deliberate? Was Wells’ choice of name for the Eloi people chosen from the words Jesus is heard to have said at his crucifixion?

Intercession Prayer for Sunday 3rd September 2017

The 12th Sunday of Trinity.


Audio expires after approximately 90 days.

God of grace and Father of life, You sent Your Son to live among us that we might find true and everlasting life in Him. Hear this prayer offered in Jesus name for Your church, Your world and for ourselves.

We give thanks for our clergy, and ministers of the church nationally, internationally and each in our own home towns. We pray for retiring clergy that retirement will bring new opportunities for them as we give thanks for their service.

When Jesus predicted his own death, Matthew tells us that Peter jumps in with both feet saying that isn’t what God would want. Peter presumes to know God’s mind. Father we pray that words we say and actions we do are as You guide us, not what we think or simply say is in Your name.

God of water, Lord of life. You gave us the water which sustains us and in which we are baptised. As Jesus was baptised in the Jordan, so we give thanks for everyone welcomed into Your family today by baptism in a spirit of love and trust.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Texas, driven from their homes by floods. We pray also for India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Niger, less in the headlines, all suffering flooding of their own, without the massive, modern resources of America to deal with it and the reported over 1200 deaths.

Father God, comfort all who lost someone in floods. We give thanks for those who give aid and shelter until people can return to their homes. Support and strengthen those helping the clean up, that will take months, maybe years.

May the healing power of Jesus fill those hurting in body, mind or spirit. May he take away all that hurts or harms and give peace to those who need it.

Everlasting Father, you call us to live together in unity. Protect and guide all your children, bless our families and renew our communities.

Merciful Father Accept this prayer for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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Wet Feet

And that sinking feeling.

When Jesus walks out on the water to meet his disciples, as he approaches the boat in which his disciples are already, Peter steps out of the boat to go to meet Jesus. Within a few steps of leaving the boat, Peter begins to sink in the water and calls out “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached a hand to Peter saying “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” Did peter really deserve what seems to be a rebuke? Was it lack of faith or simple fear that caused Peter to start to sink? Should fear be associated with lack of faith? There is a suggestion, though nothing explicit, that even Jesus was afraid on the night before his crucifixion, when he said “take this cup from me.”

If anyone were to be the one to leave the boat to go to Jesus, it was almost bound to be Peter. He was impetuous, often acting or speaking without thinking first. That doesn’t make him lacking in faith.

In the first place, Peter was brave enough with sufficient faith to get out of the boat, apparently the only disciple to do so. It is evident that Peter did not start to sink immediately, he had taken some steps toward Jesus. Clearly Jesus was more than just an arm’s reach from the boat. It was when Peter noticed the growing ferocity of the storm that he started to sink, I think through fear not lack of faith.

It was Peter’s faith that impelled him to leave the boat to go to Jesus. It was fear that was the cause of starting to sink, then comes a second act of faith which seems to be generally unremarked upon.

As Peter began to sink he called out “Lord, save me.” He could have called out to the other disciples in the boat to throw him a rope, which I suspect is what many people would have done. Peter may have been afraid but he had enough faith in Jesus for him to be who he called on to save him.

Weeding

Watch out for the crops.

In Matthew 13: 24-30 Jesus tells The Parable of the Weeds, which he then explains in verses 36-43.

The owner of a field has sown a field of wheat and and “enemy” has sown seeds of weed in the field of the wheat crop. “Enemy” is I think perhaps too strong a term. I suggest that business rival, or competitor might be nearer to a correct description.

What is not explicitly stated in the passage in the NIV UK Bible, is that the particular weed sown amongst the good wheat was Darnel, which may also be called Tare. This particular weed looks similar to wheat until it is fully grown. So similar that in some places it is called false wheat.

Darnel is mildly poisonous. It is highly unlikely to kill you if you consume it, but you will feel ill for quite a while.

From the rival farmer’s perspective, that sowed the bad seed, the benefit continues after the season in which the good farmer’s crop is blighted. If the good farmer’s crop mildly poisons someone because of the Darnel, people will be more wary of purchasing from that farmer for a number of years.

When the farmer’s workers discover that the weed Darnel has been sewn with the crop, they ask if they should pull it out. The farmer says no, it is too young to be able to separate it from the good plants. They must wait until it is fully grown to separate the good from the bad.

Jesus explains to his disciples that at the end of the age, when the weeds and crop have grown together, it is possible to separate the good from the bad, the good people from the bad. The bad crop or weeds to be burned.

While not explicitly stated, it seems to me that there is a secondary lesson in that parable. It is found in the action of the farmer letting the crop and weed grow together. By acting too soon the farmer would lose much more of the crop than by waiting, letting the weeds grow amongst it. Patience was needed to know which to keep and which to discard.

God has infinate patience, unlike humankind, who want everything now.

As a minor point of interest to end, I do not think that parable could be applied today, because of the mechanised farming methods. Farm machinery could not, as far as I know, separate the wheat from the darnel.

Intercession Prayer for Sunday 23rd July 2017

The 6th Sunday of Trinity.

Heavenly Father, whose love is wider than our imagination, send Your Holy Spirit as we pray to You in the name of Your Son, our redeemer Jesus Christ.

Thank You that we can worship you in our homeland, that we can do so without fear. We remember places where to worship in Your Holy name might bring persecution We pray that soon everyone of faith may have freedom to worship you.

When Jesus told the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13: 24-30), he showed the need for patience, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Give us patience not to get caught up by the ‘have it now’ inclination, but to have self restraint for the richer rewards to come. Let this patience not be lazy, just waiting. Help us to flower amongst the weeds.

As school holidays begin, we pray for the children and young people, their teachers and carers. May the holidays refresh them for the next school year.

We pray for those leaving school to begin work or higher education. For those nervous about joining a new school, college, university or working for the first time. Prepare and support them for the next steps of their journey, whatever those steps might be. Guide them always along Your path.

We pray for the people of Lincolnshire and of Coverack in Cornwall, affected by flash floods after the storms. Let the resources be available to clear the devastation and return homes to liveable condition, and livelihoods back to business. Lord, help the relief workers making buildings safe and habitable again and help residents rebuild their communities after the reconstruction and refurbishment is complete. We pray for generosity and compassion in finding them temporary accommodation until they can return to their homes.

We give thanks for our homes whilst we remember the homeless and the refugees, wherever they are and whatever the cause. As the world refugee crisis shows no sign of slowing, we think today of South Sudan where towns near the country’s border have lost over 90% of their population.

We pray for the negotiations taking place to agree the conditions of the UK departure from the European Union. We pray for the negotiators of both UK and EU that their discussions be constructive, not confrontational. Help them to quickly reach agreement on citizens rights that are fair to all and ends uncertainty of anyone making a home, living and working in a country other than their homeland.

Father we bring to You those we know who are unwell or injured in body, mind or spirit. Offer them Your healing, to each in the way best fitted to their own need and we each offer to You, Father, the unspoken words of our own hearts.

Living God who loves all that You have made, give to us your compassion that others may see it through us in how we treat our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours. Let our ears hear Your words of grace, given to us by Your Son, Lord Jesus Christ.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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