How we can avoid the backward attitudes of Bethlehem at Christmas.
A short parent’s guide to riding the Wild West as a Christian in lockdown!
7 reasons why online services can never be a substitute for physical church meetings.
The smashing of monuments may provide us with a tough lesson in justice.
With calls for church help with COVID-19, we remember a past Flu Friends scheme
What can Alzheimer’s teach us about love? We asked Robin Thomson a few questions about his book on the subject.
Bible Resources for the New Year
We began 2020 at STG with the Joe Wickes of the Bible, the Mr Motivator of scripture: the legendary King David.
“How does a young man keep his way pure?”, he asks. Not with hand sanitizer but by living according to God’s words in the Bible (Psalm 119.9).
We were challenged to don our spiritual sweat bands and keep up the discipline of reading the scriptures in the new year. Here’s a reminder of a few of way to get Bible buff:
Come to Growth Group
As well as hearing talks at church, get into the Bible on Wednesdays 7.45pm in term time. Get in touch for more details.
Get Bible Reading Notes
Read the Bible in a Year
Listen to the Bible
Rest your eyes and workout those ears with a selection of Audio Bibles for free online at BibleGateway. Try David Suche, and experience Poirot reading the Bible to you!
Watch Bible Talks
Not all ‘God TV’ is good TV. Quite frankly, some is self-centred promotion that seeks to line the preachers purse in the name of Christ. But here’s a station that will play some healthy stuff. Find faithful Bible teaching at clayton.tv.
That’s a few suggestions. Share yours tips below. And remember what a profound person once said: “Life changing habits come from small steady steps“!
A new year. Broken resolutions. Change is difficult. Recently, Jason shared his story.
Is the Harvest Festival an outdated tradition or could it be a celebration that helps city dwellers reconnect with a vital part of life in our technological age?
Harvest was a big deal in the village where I lived. You knew it was happening when you saw the clouds of dust rising from the combine harvesters in the fields. You wished it would finish when the tractors clogged up the small country roads. And you guessed it was over when the village pub was heaving with ruddy farmers knocking back the Cider.
The pews of the village church were full at the Harvest Festival. The community understood the importance of the produce they grew. They knew there were no guarantees of a crop. And, although many did not grow pumpkins or worship God, they would dutifully lay a large tuber on the alter table, in the hope that it would curry favour with the ‘Lord of the Harvest.’
In an urban area like Morden, however, the Harvest Service may seem like a quaint but irrelevant celebration. The Sainsbury’s Local stocks tomatoes all year round. Many would be hard pressed to pinpoint picking season – unless they had a grow-bag on the patio. The ingredients in food, how or where it was produced, and the environmental impact on the harvest would be taken on trust from reading packets or websites.
Should urban churches quietly put the Harvest Festival out to pasture, like a much-loved horse that no longer fulfils its purpose? Or perhaps they should radically reinvent the service for modern times, celebrating the produce of urban labour?
The electrician could present at church the air conditioner that he assembled; the IT programmer might gift the software package that she coded; and the Parking Warden might stick a yellow payment notice on the church stained glass window.
Albert Borgmann, a German philosopher, said that in a highly technological culture like our own, machines often conceal the process of production, disconnecting us from an important aspect of our world and humanity. He argued, not that we should get rid of devices, but that we should unmask the processes and practices that are hidden from view. In the production of food, that would mean ‘focal practices’ that showed the origins, work and natural processes that went into the food. From a Christian perspective, this would mean doing things that reconnect people with God.
The Bible says that, ultimately, it is God who gives everyone life and breath, and every good thing (Acts 17:25). He sustains our natural world. Harvest Festivals are therefore more than a thanks-giving for crops but a celebration of the goodness of God, who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). This kindness of God is seen, in general, through the regularity of the seasons but, more specifically, through the giving of his Son, Jesus, who came to earth to die, taking our punishment for our abuse of his world, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). It is this undeserved kindness of God that lies behind the giving of food and money at Harvest services, which are donated to those in need.
A harvest service could therefore be an important part of urban life now. Where townies are largely ignorant of the joys or sorrows of the harvest and unaware of the one true God of grace, harvest maybe a time to remember and reconnect.
Harvest is celebrated in September and October this year. For details of services, visit the events calendar. Gifts of non-perishable food or money for various charities are welcome.
It was reported in the news last year that we should read the Bible not as history but as allegory. Think, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and, less, Mary Beard’s Ancient History of Rome.
Why? Because the fourth century African-born Italian bishop Fortunatianus of Aquileia read the Bible that way. This shows that early Christians understood the Bible allegorically, claimed Dr Hugh Houghton of Birmingham University.
Do we need to rethink our reading of the Bible considering this new research?
Some early Christians certainly did read the Bible allegorically. Medieval mystics had a soft spot for such readings (along with horse hair vests, apparently). Metaphor and stories are found in the Bible, like the parables of Jesus. There are also poetic books in the Bible, like the Song of Songs, and collections of ‘Wisdom’ sayings, like Proverbs, which teach truth but are not recounting historical events.
But, as many scholars have argued, Jesus did treat the Bible’s account of past events as being historically accurate. You can see this in his references to the Queen of Sheba, Elijah, Noah and Sodom from the Old Testament, for example (Matthew 12:42, Luke 4:25-26, Luke 17:26-29). Jesus corrected the religious scholars of his day who “diligently studied” the Bible but misread it (John 5:39-40).
The writer of Luke’s gospel in the Bible gives some large clues as to how this writing should be understood. He starts by stating that his account has been “carefully investigated” from “eye-witnesses” so that “you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” about Jesus Christ (Luke 1:1-4). That suggests that the gospels were intended to be read less as The Lord of the Rings and more as a biography of the Lord of Life, despite what some may say today.
When faced with the claims of this new scholarship, we need to ask whether Jesus and his apostles provide a better clue to understanding the Bible or an Italian Bishop who lived three centuries afterwards.