Since visiting Israel, I've had a fresh alertness to, and interest in, the geography of the Bible. Things that a first-century reader would instinctively pick up.
I often hear it said that if you join a local church, you haven't just joined a branch of the church, or a part of the church. You are a member of the church. Each local church is the church. At the same time, the church throughout the world is one.
One thought just struck me that makes this clearer.
In the book of Exodus, the people are told how to build a tabernacle, a tent in which God can live. One of the pieces of furniture in that tabernacle is a golden lampstand. It symbolises that God lives amongst his people.
Over 10 years ago, I first published a piece of software called Bible Reading Plan Generator. It is very simple: You enter a list of books of the Bible you want to read (or a pre-prepared list, such as "Gospels"), and the number of days you want to spend reading them. It will divide those books up into the most evenly lengthed sections possible.
Luke's resurrection account comes in Luke 24:1-12. In common with Mark, Jesus himself does not make an appearance in the account of the empty tomb.
Instead, we encounter the experiences of various other people. Significantly, as you read Luke's account, there is an emphasis on the words spoken by a number of individuals. Language of speaking, of words, of sayings dominates the account.
I'm taking a 3 month sabbatical starting in May. This is something many Christian ministers find helpful. The Diocese of Rochester, within which I serve, used to recommend this every 7 years (although I see that their guidance now says 10 years).
In February 2017, General Synod refused to take note of a report by the House of Bishops on human sexuality. I wrote on this at the time: It really is time to choose.
On Sunday at church, we looked briefly at Joshua 6, the fall of Jericho.
I say briefly. This was an all-age service, and we're running through a Bible overview at these monthly services. So my rule of thumb is that the talk should be followable by someone aged about 7, whilst having application and food for thought for those of any age. That means one main point, and the talk has to be brief.
Children's Bibles are great. They retell key stories from the Bible in a way that children can readily follow. Each one has its own editorial policy, aiming for a particular reading age and style, with consistent illustrations.
But they're a minefield. When you try to summarise to remove extraneous details, it's easy accidentally to remove the most important thing. Like Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralysed man in Matthew 9:1-8.
When you have extra details that need a little explanation, it's easy to do so in a way that removes the most important tensions of the narrative. Like this example ...:
Several years back I wrote about a discovery that the carol, While Shepherds Watched not only fits to the tune of On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at, the Yorkshire folk tune, but that may even have been the original tune.
It's been a joy, and at times a challenge, to preach right through the letter of 1 Corinthians. It's healthy to take a long epistle like this, and to tackle it in a single sermon series, so we don't lose the train of Paul's thought by interrupting the series midway through. The challenge, then, is to decide how fast to go. Too fast, and you get such long blocks that the details get lost and the series is bland. Too slow, and the series simply takes too long, and we actually do lose Paul's train of thought because it's so long since we began.