This week, up and down the land, we heard the Proclamation of Accession, as King Charles III succeeded his lamented mother. Part of that proclamation is ‘beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign to bless His Majesty with long and happy years to reign over us.’
I am sending him – who is my very heart – back to you. (Philemon v.12 NIVUK)
Philemon was a Roman nobleman who lived in Colossae, whom Paul had led to faith in Jesus on a mission trip there. He was wealthy and, as was common at that time, he had several slaves in his household. One of these slaves called Onesimus, who’s name means ‘useful’, had run away, probably stealing some things from his master. In a twist of providence, Onesimus came across Paul who also led him to faith in Jesus. Having discovered that Onesimus was a runaway slave, who had stolen from Paul’s friend Philemon, Paul sends him back to his master to turn himself in with the letter we have preserved in the New Testament bearing the nobleman’s name.
Freedom of speech has been in the news this week following the multiple stabbing of Sir Salman Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in New York and the subsequent death threats to J.K. Rowling over her support for him.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 1984)
Alice laughed…‘one CAN’T believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast…’ (1)
Some people view faith like the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s famous novel: it’s physically impossible to walk on water, to feed thousands of people with five small loaves and two small fish, and to rise from the dead, but I’ve just got to have faith and believe these events took place.
The race for the next leader of the Conservative party, who will also become Prime Minister, is gaining pace. One of the candidates who resigned from his government post said it was a sermon given at a prayer breakfast that convinced him to resign. He commented ‘I made my decision then, sitting there listening to his sermon, and I just thought, it’s about integrity…’.
…the true message of the gospel… Colossians 1:5(NIVUK)
Throughout the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians Paul is writing about the gospel. In addition to the header scripture, he says the gospel is ‘bearing fruit and growing’ (Colossians 1:6), and that we should not move from the gospel, ‘…that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.’ (Colossians 1:23).
‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.’ John 16:12-14 (NIVUK)
These words of Jesus are important because they explain why he didn’t write anything down. It would be the Holy Spirit’s task to perpetuate the things Jesus revealed during his earthly ministry after his departure.
This weekend marks the remarkable and unprecedented Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation vows included a commitment, within her power, ‘to cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all her judgements’, and ‘to the utmost of her power maintain the true profession of the Gospel’. She concluded by saying, ‘The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.’
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Timothy 2:5 NIVUK)
Paul tells us, ‘in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians2:9). His use of the present tense is significant since he is writing several years after Jesus’ ascension.
…Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’ Acts 16:25-28 (NIVUK)
Jailors in the first century BCE had a widespread reputation for cruelty, as Philo observed: ‘Everyone knows well how jailors are filled with inhumanity and savagery. For by nature they are unmerciful, and by practice they are trained daily toward fierceness, as to become wild beasts. They see, say, and do nothing good, not even by chance, but instead the most violent and the most cruel things.’
Heat or eat is an unwelcome choice that many in our country are facing due to the cost-of-living crisis. Rising gas and electricity bills, petrol prices through the roof, and inflation running at over 6%, all exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, are making it very difficult for people on a tight budget to make ends meet. This week a poll in a national newspaper reported that 52% of people in the UK would be unable to pay their bills within months.
…when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John 19:33-34 (NIVUK)
Crucifixions tended to take a long time, which was no problem to the Romans, as they liked to leave the bodies of those crucified exposed for quite some time to serve as a warning to others. The trouble was time was running out for the Jewish leaders. This was the day of Preparation and the crucifixion of Jesus had to be done and dusted by sunset so that they could go ahead and observe the Sabbath. So, these leaders asked for Pilate’s intervention to speed up Jesus’s death and have him taken down in good time.
…it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’ They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. John 18:39-40 (NIVUK)
Pilate was in a tricky position. He had already had some run-ins with the Jews: he celebrated the glory and power of Rome by hanging large banners bearing the image of Tiberius Caesar everywhere in Jerusalem, including the temple. This was blasphemy to the Jews, and they were enraged. Pilate agreed to meet them for conciliatory talks only to surround and threaten to kill them. The Jews called his bluff with many of them laying down their necks. Pilate gave in and removed the images.
This week was the 75th anniversary of the BAFTAs. The winners of an award received a bronze mask modelled on the concept of the tragicomic theatrical mask. These masks have origins in Ancient Greece, where they were used in early plays to represent the emotions the characters were feeling. The two masks, one shown smiling and one looking sad, represented the Muses of Comedy and Tragedy.
…the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him. John 9:38 (NIVUK)
In the ninth chapter of John’s gospel Jesus heals a man who had been born blind. It was a wonderful healing, enabling this man to see physically for the first time in his life. I can’t truly imagine what it was like for him to see after years of darkness, nor can I fully appreciate the deep joy he must have felt following the miracle. It must have been a magnificent experience: to have been blind, and now be able to see.
This week marked the 70th anniversary of the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II following the death of her father King George VI in 1952. Her Majesty is the UK’s longest serving monarch and the first in history to reach the milestone of a Platinum Jubilee.
‘…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.’ John 4:14 (NIVUK)
I find it fascinating that John chapter 4 follows on from John chapter 3. Now you might think that’s obvious, what else would you expect? Tell us something we don’t know. But it’s not the fact chapter 3 is followed by chapter 4 that I find so interesting, it’s the two characters that are juxtaposed in these chapters.
Have you heard of the word ‘xenotransplantation’? It means ‘the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species.’ It made the news this week when a 57-year-old man from Baltimore underwent a seven-hour experimental procedure and became the first man in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig.
…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel… (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NIV)
This verse reveals Paul’s approach to his evangelistic work. He is not advocating a compromise of the gospel message, but rather calls for consideration, compassion and empathy as the good news about Jesus Christ is shared with people from different social and ethnic backgrounds.
In the lead up to Christmas an Australian Drive Time radio presenter, himself an atheist, was criticised for including a seven minute segment on his show titled: Do you know the story of Jesus’ birth? Listeners complained that it was inappropriate and offensive for him to cover the topic of religion and Christianity. One person tweeted, ‘We are a secular country, and the national broadcaster is supposed to be too.’