Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thinking Thursday: Shine a Light

Have you ever seen a picture of the Earth from space … at night? You don't see land and sea, you see civilization. Pinpoints of light where mankind is living, with electric light. Bright splashes of light for cities, sprinkles of light along the coast and up the fertile valleys, and great swathes of darkness on the oceans, deserts and mountains. It is beautiful and fascinating to look at.

Credit: C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive

With modern technology it is possible to zoom in to different parts of the map, and you can identify your part of the world and even your city or district, and see where the lights are.

But what if there was a map of the light of the gospel in the Earth? Where would the lights be then? And when we zoomed in, where would we find a flickering flame and where a strong, bright light? I bet there would be some surprises.

Would you be happy to zoom in to your town or city, to your district? How bright would the light be there? Would the light from your church be as bright as you expect? Would the light from your home shine bright enough to be seen by others? Would you find Christians among your neighbours, that you didn't know about? Would your neighbours be surprised to find out about you?

Kevin John, a well-known figure in Swansea, spoke recently about his passion for Swansea football team, and his delight that they have won a place in the Premiership. Everyone he meets knows how he feels, and lots of people in Swansea feel the same. The new football kit and other items with the 'Swans' logo on, has already sold out in the club shop. But he wondered if we are just as excited about our Saviour, and let everyone know how we feel.

The news of what Jesus has done, and of the love of God, is far more exciting, far more significant, than the achievements of a football team. Yet we are shy of talking about it. Often, we are afraid we don't know how to answer questions or deal with other people's responses. Yet if someone disagreed with your favourite football team, you would have plenty to say about it. You would share the facts and figures you have remembered from your time as a supporter. How come you don't have facts and figures at your fingertips about Jesus and Christianity?

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven. (Matt.5:14-16)

It is my prayer that we all think about how we shine the light of the gospel in our neighbourhoods, and that we take time to learn and prepare so that we can shine more clearly.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Andrew Chambers, Helmsman on the Kestrel

Andrew Chambers, the helmsman on the Kestrel, is human, from Earth. He joined the Kestrel a year before the first story. There is an incident in his past which nearly finished his PACT career. Only the captain and First Officer know the details, but there was an accident, and Chambers blamed himself. If he had truly been negligent or careless he would have been prosecuted, so he is not as culpable as he feels he is. But because of it, it was difficult for him to find a posting.
Captain Martin gave him a chance and has been building his confidence. He is still relatively young and has many years of service ahead of him, if he can regain his self-confidence. The helmsman Grey Lanx has just left the Kestrel, so Martin has promoted Chambers to helmsman. Chambers wants to do well, but will his confidence desert him in a tight spot?

Chambers' grandfather fought as a volunteer in the Casparian struggle for independence from Ochra, and when the Ochran representative on the main mission in the first Kestrel story finds out, he demands justice under the Ochran rule of family responsibility. This is another mystery to solve, but he turns out to be a good diplomat.

Chambers takes Tobi Enns under his wing, when he is whisked away from the PACT Training School to fill a temporary gap in the crew, and the two become good friends.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thinking Thursday: Jesus as Lord

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise.' Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can." So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Jesus is buried in a rich man's tomb and the women note where it is. There is no sign of any of Jesus' followers believing that he would rise again as he'd previously told them. But, strangely, it is his enemies who remember this story and act to ensure that their victory over Jesus is fully secure.

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."

The women went to the tomb to anoint the body with spices as would have been the custom. They had to wait for the Sabbath (Saturday) to pass first so that they weren't doing 'work' on that day. They were going to minister to Jesus' dead body, so they would be filled with grief.

Though Matthew doesn't say so, the earthquake and the rolling back of the stone happened before the women got there, not at the same time. The guards may have already collapsed before they arrived. What a scene met their eyes! And then the angel appeared.

They should not have been surprised, because Jesus had told them, but they didn't believe it until it happened. It is interesting that they were told to tell the disciples, because in Jewish law women were inferior witnesses. How their feelings changed! Grief, then fear, then astonishment, then joy and worship.

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

The guards and the chief priests and elders respond to the angel's appearance very differently to the women. This is just what they were trying to prevent, and even though an angel appears, instead of realising the truth, they are only concerned about themselves. People still use this version of the story when talking about the resurrection today, even though it is not true. It is a convenient way to avoid having to consider the implications of the resurrection being fact.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Because of Jesus' resurrection he now has full authority, and he sends the disciples out to spread the Gospel, but promises they will not go alone.

It is important for our faith that Jesus rose from the dead. His crucifixion is not enough:

1 Cor.15:12-21, 56-57
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man also has come also the resurrection of the dead. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul draws out the consequence of Jesus' resurrection in 1 Cor.15:58:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
This verse can help us as we seek to obey the command of Jesus in the last two verses of Matthew's Gospel, because it gives us the assurance that by his resurrection, all his promises to us are validated.

[Based on Pantygwydr Baptist Church's Lent Studies]

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, 18 June 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Shom Reuel, Officer on the Kestrel

Shom Reuel is the other non-human on the Kestrel crew, along with Balitoth, whom we discussed last week. He is Altairian. Altair has a lower gravity than Earth, and since the artificial gravity on the Kestrel is set at Earth normal (1G), he wears a back brace on board. However, when in a low-gravity environment, there is no-one more graceful or adept than Reuel. The oxygen is also lower on Altair than on Earth, so his skin is very pink in the higher oxygen on board.

Reuel is humanoid, tall and gangly, with long fingers and toes. Instead of hair, his head has cranial spines, like a coxcomb, which rise when he is excited or agitated. Altairians also have a strange kind of singing or humming, which they do unconsciously, especially when stressed. It can be very soothing or very irritating.

Reuel is keen to learn about humans and often asks about some custom or form of words he has not met before. The Kestrel crew do not always have the time or patience to answer his queries. In contrast, there is a lot about Altairians which is not known. Particularly the structure of the family and their mating practices, which are simply not talked about.

Surprising then, to find that Balitoth and Reuel develop such a friendship that they visit one another's families while on leave (in a later story). They do not share what happened or their impressions of each other's families with anyone when they return, much to Captain Martin's disappointment.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Thinking Thursday: Jesus as Saviour

Matt.26:36-39, 42
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." … Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."

Jesus has finished the years of his ministry, and now comes to the crucial moment of his life. He knew what was ahead for him. He told the disciples more than once that he was going to die (e.g. Matt.26:2, 12). Jesus asked his Father to take away the 'cup'. This recalls Isaiah 51:17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.
 He knows that he is not just going to be crucified, a brutal and agonising death, but he is going to suffer the full weight of God's wrath against sin. No wonder he dreaded it. No wonder he asked his Father if there was any other way. But he knew that there was only one way to save mankind, and he bowed to his Father's will. At the crucial moment, he was obedient. Luke tells us that the strain was so much that his sweat was like drops of blood (Lk.22:44).

Despite Jesus having told the disciples what would happen to him, despite his asking them to watch with him, the disciples did not understand. They fell asleep. And despite Peter's earlier protestations, and maybe the others had said something similar, all his followers ran away. But not before Peter (according to Mark's gospel) drew a sword and attacked.


Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.
 It makes Jesus' obedience even more astounding when we realise that he could he saved himself at any point (with twelve legions of angels!), but he did not. He even prevents his followers from violence, and heals the servant's ear. Also, once again, Jesus says he is fulfilling prophecy. This must have angered the religious leaders, as they didn't believe he was the Messiah. But what must it have meant to his followers, who also were raised on the Scriptures? And for us, it is wonderful confirmation that he really was the One who was promised for so long.

The First Trial
Jesus was taken first of all before Caiaphas the high priest. Before all the false witnesses Jesus said nothing. Only when the high priest put him under oath did Jesus respond.


And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgement?" They answered, "He deserves death."
 When Jesus referred to the Son of Man, he was referring to one of Daniel's prophecies.

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
 Under oath, Jesus finally declares himself before the religious leaders. They are so adamant that he cannot be the Messiah, that they are horrified at his blasphemy. Their minds were so closed that they were not prepared to consider how closely his life fulfilled prophecy. By coming out with it at this point, Jesus ensures that they will seek his death. We need to think carefully about situations where we prefer to listen to our prejudices rather than the truth.

The Second Trial
Jesus was taken for trial before Pilate, because the Jews were not allowed to sentence people to death. But they had to convince Pilate to pass the death sentence, and he was reluctant.


Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You have said so." But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear the things they testify against you?" But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream." Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"

 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
 The accusation of the religious leaders was not sufficient to convince Pilate to pass the death sentence, but they whipped up the crowd to push him into it. They cannot allow this man to live. We should ask ourselves if we ever bow to pressure over something we know is wrong.

The Crucifixion
At the crucifixion, three charges are levelled against Jesus:
And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, com down from the cross." So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Pilate, I believe, was deliberately annoying the Jews by putting the charge above Jesus that he was the King of the Jews. He did not know how right he was. The others all urged Jesus to prove who he was by saving himself. They obviously did not believe that he could, but also they did not realise that by saving himself he would be condemning all mankind. What a temptation to show them all his power and do what they taunted him with!

The Death

Matt.27: 45-54
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping, watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
 The darkness lasts from noon until three in the afternoon. At the end of this time Jesus cries out: 'My God, why have you forsaken me?' Why should he do this? What could separate the eternal bond between Father and Son? Nothing but sin. God cannot tolerate sin, and when Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world, God could not tolerate him, and withdrew. On top of the physical and spiritual agony he was facing, Jesus saw God turn away. He had to face it all alone.

Notice that when Jesus died, the account says he 'yielded up his spirit.' He had previously said that no one could take his life, he had the power to lay it down and take it up again. When his work was finished, he laid his life down. This also means that until it was finished, no matter the suffering, no matter the strain on his body, he did not allow it to die. It was such a momentous death, that the earth convulsed and the temple curtain tore, and even the pagan Roman soldiers realised that something significant had happened.

Six hundred years before, the prophet Isaiah had seen what a momentous thing it would be:

Isaiah 53:1-12

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

[Based on Pantygwydr Baptist Church's Lent Studies]

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, 11 June 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Balitoth, Communications Officer on the Kestrel

Balitoth is one of the non-human crew of the Kestrel. He is from Zoa, a reptilian race, with a longer jaw than humans and sharp teeth. His blood is cooler than humans too, so he wears an insulated jacket over his uniform, except in his quarters, which he keeps at a higher temperature. He shares quarters with the other non-human crew member, Reuel, who luckily is happier with the warmer temperature.

His face doesn't show emotions well, so he has learnt to compensate with gestures, especially in dealing with the more emotional humans. Zoans are not very emotional, as Balitoth puts it, "My people are … unsentimental." This can make them seem to be unfeeling and callous, so he has also learnt to show some emotions that he doesn't actually feel, but are expected of him. Still, he has never been known to raise his voice or lose his calm disposition.

Zoans don’t have marriage. Couples mate whenever and with whoever they want to, and then the children are raised by the whole community, particularly by the older females. Balitoth has several children, but does not keep in touch with them as they belong to the tribe of their mothers. He pays more attention to the children of the females in his tribe, as their children are his family.

The tribe is dominated by the males, but great respect is given to the females, they are not second-class citizens but recognised to have different roles, more nurturing and organising. Businesses are run by tribal families, with the males making major decisions but the females running the practical side.

In the first Kestrel story, Balitoth is suddenly taken ill and has to be dropped off at the nearest planet for emergency surgery. Which is a problem, as Zoans can only be operated on by Zoans, and this is a human colony. But Dr Robinson manages to get permission for the operation to be done by a doctor who has knowledge of Zoan physiology. His room-mate Shom Reuel is very worried, as they have become very good friends. Luckily Balitoth recovers and joins the crew for the main expedition.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Thinking Thursday: Jesus as Messiah

Jesus and his disciples, along with a crowd of pilgrims, are going to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Jesus asks two of his disciples to go and get the two donkeys. (Jesus rode only on the colt, as the other three gospels make clear. The mother would have followed her colt.)

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

The scripture Matthew quotes is Zechariah 9:9, and would have been well known as a Messianic prophecy. By riding on a donkey's colt, Jesus was publicly announcing that he was the Messiah, and the crowds reacted accordingly. The only problem was that they misinterpreted slightly. In those days, a king rode a horse to war and a donkey to peace. So he was also saying that he came in peace, not to overthrow the Roman occupation, which is what the crowd hoped for.

Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

This action was a deliberate provocation to the religious leaders, who were already unhappy with Jesus. Throughout his ministry he had shown miraculous power and had confounded his questioners. Now he was making an open claim to be the Messiah, and the religious leaders could see their hold over the people slipping. They were also worried that this would rouse the Romans to crack down, and ruin the status quo that they had managed to establish. Even today, the idea that Jesus was the Messiah is received many different ways.

The first thing Jesus did, having attracted so much attention, was to go to the temple. There, in the outer court, he caused havoc.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers." And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?" And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

After a peaceful entry into Jerusalem, here is a very different Jesus, but still exhibiting qualities of the Messiah. God's temple should be treasured, and that it was being used for commerce and profit was bound to anger him. He quotes from two prophets:
Isaiah 56:4-7
For thus says the Lord: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."
Jeremiah 7:9-15
Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!' – only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

I have quoted these verses in full because they contain so much to explain Jesus' anger on his Father's behalf. Once again he is attacking the religious leaders, specifically for their allowing the temple to be profaned. And they were indignant, as the original passage in Matthew shows.

So Jesus, without actually saying it, announced very clearly that he was the Messiah, and the religious leaders understood that, and, refusing to accept it, determined to kill him.

If Jesus is king, what practical difference should this make to our lives? How can we show others where our allegiance lies and that we live by the values of the kingdom of God? Do we live by these values? Should we get angry when these values are ignored, and in what way?

[Based on Pantygwydr Baptist Church's Lent Studies]

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, 4 June 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Matthew Grace, Doctor on the Kestrel

Matthew Grace had quite a shock to be called up to replace Dr Robinson. He had been working on a space station, and was looking forward to coasting down to his retirement, so he was not well pleased to be drafted in as emergency replacement. He was also not happy to find it was a dangerous mission, and his paramedic Sam Ryan would be sleeping in sickbay. He initially took it out on the poor paramedic.

Grace was an older man, with cropped grey hair and a round face. He was not so fit as Robinson, he was anticipating his retirement. He had a different perspective on getting older when he talked to Tofi Dathan, the Kohathi. He learned that the Kohathi value the learning and experience of the older ones, who never retire, but take apprentices to pass on their knowledge.

At the end of the first book he decides to retire to Sam Ryan's planet, who badly need a doctor.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Thinking Thursday: Offerings

When God sent Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, He called them to be His own people, and gave them the Law. This included a system of sacrifices and offerings, which to us today seems very strange and even brutal. God wanted to ingrain deep into their hearts, that sin costs.

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. (Habakkuk 1:13)
You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. (Psalm 5:4-5)

If anyone sins, they cannot pass it off with "I'm sorry." That is not enough. Sin requires spilt blood to pay for it. And because we keep sinning, blood keeps having to be spilled. Until the one Lamb came whose sacrifice paid for all sin for all time. The Old Testament sacrifices were not just one lamb on a regular basis, as I found out when I read Numbers 28 & 29. The number of lambs, goats and bulls that were sacrificed was astronomical.

In addition there were food, grain, drink offerings, burnt offerings and more. A large part of life involved offerings. How much of our lives are spent thinking about and giving to God? Check out my summary below, and ponder on your life.

Daily Offerings
2 lambs – food offering
flour & oil – grain offering
strong drink – drink offering

Sabbath Offerings
2 lambs and flour & oil – burnt offering
drink offering
this is in addition to the daily offering for that day

Monthly Offerings
2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs
flour & oil and drink offering for each animal
1 goat – sin offering

Passover Offerings – 14th day of 1st month
7 days not to work
each day – 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs with their grain and drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
this is in addition to the daily offering

Offerings for the Feast of Weeks – the day of first fruits
offering of new grain
no work
2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
this is in addition to the daily offering

Offerings for the Feast of Trumpets – 1st day of 7th month
no work
1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
burnt offering, grain offering, drink offering for the new moon
this is in addition to the daily offering

Offerings for the Day of Atonement – 10th day of 7th month
no work
1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
this is in addition to the daily offering

Offerings for the Feast of Booths – 15th day of 7th month
no work, feast for 7 days
1st day - 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
2nd day - 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
3rd day - 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
4th day - 10 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
5th day - 9 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
6th day - 8 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
7th day - 7 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
8th day - 1 bull, 1 ram, 14 lambs with their grain & drink offerings
1 goat – sin offering
All these in addition to the daily offering

In addition
Vow offerings
Freewill offerings
Peace offerings
Individual sin offerings
For a nation of over 600,000 men, plus women and children.