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.
Earlier this week, our Deanery Synod had an excellent 45 minute presentation from one of the clergy in our deanery, Revd Dr Lorraine Turner. Lorraine's doctoral thesis was on the subject of bullying as experienced by clergy, and her subject with us was bullying.
Clearly, 45 minutes is far too short a time for anything other than the most cursive of introductions, especially for someone who has studied this with the thoroughness required for a PhD. Nevertheless, it was extremely helpful, for reasons including the following:
It is a great privilege indeed to belong to a Christian church, and so to the Christian church.
This last weekend, I reached the milestone of 10 years serving the churches here in Kemsing and Woodlands, also a great privilege.
That gives me cause to look back on the many churches I have belonged to over the years. Each made its mark in different ways, and the person I am today is undoubtedly shaped by the time spent in those churches.
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 ...: