Saturday, 30 April 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Nathaniel Parks, First Officer of the Kestrel

When Michael Holland was promoted to captain of his own ship, he was replaced by Nathaniel Parks, a tall, wiry Scandinavian, and an old friend of the captain. Martin asked for him especially, as it was an emergency and there was no one available. He knew that Parks was available because a damaged shoulder made him unfit for active duty.

His shoulder was broken and dislocated, and although they repaired it, they were not able to re-grow all the damage, and there was a weakness in the ligaments, which meant it dislocated very easily. He put his shoulder out again about once a year because he puts the safety of others before himself. Working on Earth, he could get treatment immediately, but if he went into space and was injured, he would be a liability to his ship until it was able to get him to a proper medical facility. He was also more likely to be injured on a PACT patrol than working in Security, where his job was more managerial.

He spent many years in Security, where he was frustrated. He got to meet a lot of other species, but he longed to be out in space. Met his wife in PACT training, but she has an earthbound job, so is able to set up home and raise their two children in relative stability. She found it hard in the early days when he was away on missions, but they were not very long, and he always had time at home in between. When he injured his shoulder and was given the job in Security on Earth, his wife was actually delighted, because it meant he was home with her and the children and they were able to build a strong relationship.

But she knew how frustrated he was, and how much he loved space. When his shoulder was healed by the Prin, she was glad for him, and happy to let him go back into space. The children were older, and they had had several years together, and much as she would miss him, she wanted him to be happy and fulfilled. Martin's request to keep Parks as First Officer was granted, and they were both delighted.

Parks was a stickler for protocol, and always referred to Martin as 'Captain' in public, although they were good friends. He has a strong belief in discipline and decides the only way to cope with the changes in the crew, extra crew, and a dangerous mission, is to be strict. This didn't go down well with the crew, who were used to Holland's easy-going manner. But he soon won them round. He is mature and responsible, but likes a laugh and messing about. Life and soul of the party, given half a chance.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thinking Thursday: Jesus and Us

Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightening, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go and tell the disciples. 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me."

* The angel came down from heaven, just as Jesus came down for us.
Many people earn a living as lookalikes of famous people. They act the part, but we are only fooled for a moment. When we look closer we can see they are not the real thing. But Jesus was a real human being.

* The angel rolled back to stone, and Jesus rose from the dead for us.
If you could travel back to any point in history, you could be an eyewitness and see what really happened. The angel showed them that Jesus had already risen when the tomb was opened.

* The angel sat on the stone. His work was done, just as Jesus finished the work and won the victory for us.
After the battle of Waterloo the news was carried to the fleet, and as they neared England they hoisted signal flags to relay the message. 'Wellington defeated…' Then the fog rolled in and they could not read the rest of the message. There was great despair and fear at the thought that Napoleon might be on his way to defeat England. Then the fog cleared and despair turned to rejoicing as the full message could be seen 'Wellington defeated Napoleon.' Our despair turns to joy because Jesus won the victory.

* The angel's appearance was like lightening and his clothes white as snow. At the transfiguration, Jesus showed his true glory in the same way – the glory of God.
The guards were struck down with fear, and Jesus fights for us. He is our advocate in the fight we cannot win alone.

Easter Sunday truly is the greatest day in history.

Us and Jesus
We can respond to Jesus in one of three ways.

* We can try to push Jesus into the past, to say he is not relevant to today. But he is risen and meets us today.

* We can be like the guards, try to seal Jesus in, restrict him. The trappings of religion often do this. But Jesus as the risen Lord wants to have a relationship with us.

* We can meet Jesus, as the women did, and bow down and worship him. We cannot visit events in history, and we cannot change our own history. But Jesus can forgive us and give us a new start.

[Based on an Easter Sunday sermon by Pastor Pete Orphan]

Other posts in this series:

Jesus as Leader
Jesus as Divine
Jesus the Man
Jesus as Teacher
Jesus and Us
Jesus as Messiah
Jesus as Saviour
Jesus as Lord

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Three Miracles of Christian Faith

Meditation for Easter Sunday:
The faith of Christians is based on three miracles.

Firstly, the miracle that the mighty God, creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them, would voluntarily give up his glory and come to live among us as a human being, and suffer and die for all the sins that will ever be committed by us poor creatures.

Secondly, the miracle that by the power of God, he overcame death itself, and rose again, thus ensuring the promise that those who belong to him will also rise one day to eternal life with him.

Thirdly, the miracle that us poor creatures, who committed the sin that he paid for, are offered the forgiveness that we need in order to be fit for heaven one day, and in the mean time live in newness of life, empowered to serve him and our fellow men.

The words 'thank you' are just not adequate.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thinking Thursday: Jesus as Teacher

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus emphasises that he has come to fulfil the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them. With his radical teaching, people could begin to think that he wanted to do away with what we know as the Old Testament, so he made sure that they understood what he was saying. The Old Testament wasn't just a list of arbitrary rules, but was also intended to be a way of God's people living a life radically different from the surrounding nations.

The Pharisees were a group of people who thought it was extremely important to keep God's law, and they were right. Most of their teaching was centred on how to do that, but they had focussed their energy in their actions rather than their hearts. When Jesus said that our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees, he was deliberately provoking his hearers to think about it in a different way.

Jesus fulfilled the law in two ways: he is the only person who ever lived who was without sin, so he kept the law fully, but also he was the person that the law was pointing to, so the law was fulfilled in him. Since the Pharisees were known for their painstaking keeping of the law, the idea that we could surpass them is impossible. So what did Jesus mean? Since he fulfilled the law, the only way for us to be more righteous would be in Christ. When we come to Jesus as our Saviour, we receive his righteousness.

Jesus was continually challenging people to rethink their assumptions. For example, over Sabbath observance.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."

The priests had to work on the Sabbath, offering the sacrifices, twice as many as a normal day. But they were serving God. David was chosen by God, and Jesus is the Son of God. These things are more important.

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" – so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

The Pharisees hemmed every law about with details, and Jesus walked straight through them. It looked as if he was breaking the Sabbath by working, but it cannot be wrong to heal on any day.

So Jesus taught not new things, but new ways of thinking about old things. We need to open our minds to see what he really meant. His teachings were designed to provoke people into reconsidering their ideas, but many people, especially the Pharisees, were not open and resented his ideas. We need to allow Jesus to challenge our thinking today.

[Based on a sermon and Bible study by Pastor Tendai Mbasera]

Other posts in this series:

Jesus as Leader
Jesus as Divine
Jesus the Man
Jesus as Teacher
Jesus and Us
Jesus as Messiah
Jesus as Saviour
Jesus as Lord

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Outside the City

Today is Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem and was welcomed with great rejoicing by the people. This same people, just 5 days later, called for his death.


The past is Jerusalem. The future is our hearts.


We have built cities in our hearts, where we feel safe. In the city is where Jesus was rejected. He died outside the city.


Jesus wants to destroy our cities, our security, and meet us outside where we die to our spiritual Jerusalems and put Jesus in his right place in our hearts.


[Based on a sermon]

Friday, 15 April 2011

Jesus the Man

The family line in Jewish culture was considered to pass down through the man, as shown by other biblical genealogies. So Matthew begins his gospel by giving Jesus' genealogy through Joseph (Matt.1:1-17). It established his humanity, and it was important to show that he was descended from David, because God had promised David that there would be a king from his line who would reign forever.

2 Samuel 7:16
And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.

But a closer inspection of the genealogy reveals some women, and some potential problems. Tamar (v.3, see 1 Chron.2:4) dressed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law, Rahab (v.5, see Josh.2:2) was a foreigner and a prostitute, Ruth (v.5, see Ruth 1:22; Deut.7:1-4) was also a foreigner, and Bathsheba (see 2 Sam.11) committed adultery with David. Why would he include such things? Perhaps it was to point out that God's plans cannot be thwarted, and even where there is sin, his purposes will still work out.

Although he wanted to establish Jesus' humanity, it was important that he was not 'just' a man. Matthew points out that Mary was 'with child from the Holy Spirit' (1:18, 20).

Hebrews 2:14-17
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

In Matthew 3:13-17 we read of Jesus' baptism. John knew he did not need to be baptised for repentance, but Jesus insisted "for it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." Following his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted (Matt.4:1-11). Both these things show that Jesus was human, and it was important that he experience the same as we do, but remain sinless, as the Hebrews passage above tells us.

So, in order to represent humanity before God, it was essential that Jesus be human, and Matthew takes pains to establish this. He lived as a man but was sinless, so he had no sin to pay for, and thus could take our sin and pay the price.

[Based on a sermon and Bible study from Pastor Pete Orphan]

Other posts in this series:

Jesus as Leader
Jesus as Divine
Jesus the Man
Jesus as Teacher
Jesus and Us
Jesus as Messiah
Jesus as Saviour
Jesus as Lord

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Mike Holland, First Officer of the Kestrel

At the beginning of the Kestrel series, Mike Holland is leaving, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't make an impact. He has been on the Kestrel for 5 Holland years, working with Captain Joseph. It was Joseph who promoted him to First Officer, and recommended him for his own command.

Holland has the traditional hero looks - tall, dark and handsome. Martin has used this to advantage on occasion, because when he and Holland stand together, people can easily mistake Holland for the Captain. But Holland is not cocky, he has taken the time to learn all he can from his crewmates. He has taken the time to get to know the crew, which can be a double-edged sword. You can't be friends and their commanding officer too. When he leaves, his replacement finds it hard because the crew are used to a softer approach.

He has been promoted to captain, and due to take over the Falcon, but there is one last mission, and what they discover means he has to take over sooner so the Kestrel can go on a dangerous mission.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thinking Thursday - Jesus as Divine

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
The ordinary people realised there was something special about Jesus, he wasn't just a teacher. But the disciples realised that he was the Christ, the Messiah. But even then they did not fully understand the implications of that, and when he went on to speak of his death, it didn't fit with their idea of what a Messiah would do.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord. This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

Now that they had found the Messiah, Peter was not going to let anyone kill him or take him away. Jesus was angry, not just because Peter was being hot-headed again, but because it was a temptation to Jesus. Just as Satan had tempted him in the wilderness to use his power for his own good, Peter was tempting him in the same way. It would have been so easy to avoid his arrest and death. This marks a turning point – from now on Jesus turns towards Jerusalem. To prepare himself for what was to come, and to give the chief disciples a glimpse of what being the Messiah truly means, Jesus took them up the mountain and was transfigured before them.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

We need to have our priorities right. If we belong to Jesus, how can we better follow him? With the disciples, we are about to see Jesus in his true form, in his glory. How does knowing that Jesus is God help you?

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Before their very eyes, the Jesus they knew changed. In Philippians 2:6 Paul tells us that Jesus took upon himself the form of a man, a servant. But here he took upon himself the form of deity. He was accompanied by Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets - Jesus fulfilled the Law and superseded the Prophets. We don't know what was said, but I think they were there to remind him of his purpose and to strengthen him for what was to come.

Peter as usual, not sure what to do and say, says something inappropriate. He is interrupted by the cloud and the voice of God. Here we have the same words as at Jesus' baptism (Matt.3:17), but now God says, "listen to him." This reflects the promise given to Moses – "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers - it is to him you shall listen." (Deut.18:15). We don't need to know what Moses or Elijah said. We just have to listen to Jesus. He must have the glory.

And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" He answered, "Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

When it was over and they came down the mountain, Jesus told them, "Elijah has come, but been killed, and the same will happen to me." But the disciples, especially Peter, fail to understand. With hindsight, it all became clear. We have the benefit of the evidence and the disciples' gradual coming to understand the amazing truth about Jesus.

Heaven and earth come together in Jesus. The transfiguration confirms that God will save the world through Jesus' death on the cross. It is a glimpse of Jesus' glory. Our bodies are fading away, but we will be glorified as he was glorified.

[Based on a sermon and Bible study by Pastor Pete Orphan]

Other posts in this series:
Jesus as Leader
Jesus as Divine
Jesus the Man
Jesus as Teacher
Jesus and Us
Jesus as Messiah
Jesus as Saviour
Jesus as Lord