Week 2 – Bible and History

In the second week we think more about the prophets – Why? Because they were trying to see where God was in the world, and what God was calling people to do. How is God at work in history? What is judgement, and is God merciful? What about other people?

As people deep in prayer they were given insights, pictures, understanding including glimpses of what God would do in the future. For the God of then had a plan for the ‘then’ and the future, to bring in his Kingdom, on the Day of the Lord.

And we too live in the real world of ‘now’ but have faith in and hope for the Kingdom which is to come, not as passive spectators, but active in the world today.

Second Movement – God speaks

Monday 2.1 – A real faith requires a real God in a real world

In the first verses of Genesis, God speaks and we see the Creation being formed, emerging wonderfully, light and dark, sea, sky and land, plants, animals and people.

“And God said; ‘Let there be ..’ and it was so”

And in the Garden, God speaks to Adam and to Eve; God speaks to Cain, even though he has killed his brother; God speaks to Abraham, to Moses.

God is a God who connects and who takes the initiative to do so.

Almost everyone has heard of Pontius Pilate a second-rate, not very good, Roman Governor of a small back-water Province! We know his name, because he was the one who signed off on the crucifixion of Jesus.

The central drama of the Christian Faith is rooted in history. While our creeds may express theology, they focus on Jesus who was born of Mary (in the time of Herod the Great) and who was crucified (executed as an unwanted enemy of the Roman State) under Pontius Pilate.

Scholars may argue over the year he was born and the year he was killed but there is no doubt he lived, and there is no doubt he lived in that period of history and that part of the world.

The Bible moves from the Creation of the universe (by the way – there is a wonderful throwaway line in Genesis 1:16 ‘he also made the stars’), to a particular wooden feeding trough for a first bed, in a small village, and a particular wooden cross outside Jerusalem one Friday. The same God beyond time and in time: Christmas is about God coming fully into history and living life with us.

This week we explore a number of themes – what does it mean for God to speak and act in history?

We know the Bible talks about the Kingdom of God, and it talks about righteousness and it has instructions for living, but we sometimes think the Bible is not about politics which is a rather peculiar leap to make.

We know the Old Testament is about the Jewish people, though we need to realise that their identity as Jewish only slowly emerged. It is probably more accurate to describe Moses as a Hebrew (adopted into an Egyptian family), to describe David as from the tribe of Judah; we might call Isaiah an Israelite for shorthand, and only later might we refer to Nehemiah or Ezra as Jewish.

But, whatever we call them, the Old Testament is very much about how the people of God should live, how they should organise themselves. They have Judges and tribal leaders and then they have kings – neither system of government works too well! They have priests who are involved in the formal religion and prophets who sometimes come from the priests-group but not always, and who are more challenging and disturbing.

And in the New Testament we find Jesus engaging with the religious and political leaders of his day, at local and national level; Paul’s preaching causes disruption and riots in various cities leading to the politicians getting involved. We know that the early Christians suffered persecution at times, and tradition has it that Paul and Peter both were executed for their faith.

The first churches had to find a way to live and engage in their communities and Acts and Paul’s letters give insight into this.

And we today are called to be the Church of England, the church in England, part of the world-wide church, waiting for the Kingdom but engaged for justice, and speaking out about Jesus.  We are not always very good at it!

As we go through this week, as we draw closer to Christmas we explore how God speaks, God’s call to justice, God’s call for right living God’s calling of people to proclaim the good news.

We will also reflect a bit on the complexity of our world, where there is suffering and war as well as joy and hope, where individual lives are shaped by the big things that we feel powerless to change.

That is just like the world of the Old Testament, and the world that Jesus lived in!

We will hear the call to justice and the offer of mercy. Our faith is real, if it is set in a real world, and focused on a real God.