Revd Alan Hulme, Diocesan Director for Parish Development, preaching at Christ Church, Virginia Water on Acts 2:42-47.
If you would like to contact Peggy please write via Christ Church, Christchurch Road, Virginia Water, GU25 4PT.
You are invited to discover what the Hebrew scriptures reveal concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Amazingly, every central character, every key event, every prophecy, every Feast and Festival reveals ever more brightly the person and work of the Messiah, God’s anointed Son. You will see conclusively that His coming was no accident but part of God’s redemptive plan, revealed from the very beginning and progressively through history and Scripture.
And if you would like to read the book that inspired the series, it is appropriately called Christ in All the Scriptures. Written by A. M. Hodgkin, and first published in 1909, it has rightly become a classic. You can also read the entire book digitally here.
Hodgkin observes, in his introduction “Abraham rejoiced to see My day.” ”Moses wrote of Me.” ”David called [Me] Lord.” (John 8:56; 5:46; Matthew 22:45). We have in these words of our Saviour abundant authority for seeking Him in the Old Testament … To those of us who believe in Christ as truly God, as well as truly Man, His word on these matters is authoritative.”
In the Gospels, Jesus refers to 20 Old Testament characters and quotes from 17 Old Testament books. In Genesis, for example, Jesus refers to creation, the institution of marriage, to Noah, Abraham, Lot, to Sodom and Gomorrah. From Exodus, Jesus speaks of Moses, the burning bush, the Mannah in the wilderness and the Ten Commandments. From Leviticus, the ceremonial and moral law. From Numbers, the bronze serpent. From Deuteronomy, the law of Moses. Then there are references to David, Solomon, Elijah and Zechariah. He confounds his critics not just by quoting Scripture but by identifying himself as the one the Scriptures are speaking about.
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27; 44-45)
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21).
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39).
Twelve years ago, when our son Michael was 11, we had a difficult decision to make. Which secondary school would we choose? We didn’t have a lot of choice. There was Magna Carta or… Magna Carta. And at the time it didn’t have the excellent reputation it has now. Louise was leaving Charters that Summer so we could not benefit from the sibling rule. We decided to apply for Magna Carta, Charters and Ranelagh. Not surprisingly we were turned down for Charters and Ranelagh as we lived outside the normal catchment area. Moving house was not an option. So we appealed – we had nothing to loose. We went to the appeals hearing at Ranelagh and discovered there were about 20-25 other families present. Having never done it before I didn’t know what to expect. Quite soon after the hearing began, the lady chairman asked the appeals panel, made up of several clergy, to retire to another room. I tried not to look at the other parents. I felt bad that we were competing with other families for a handful of places that might be granted on appeal. All would have good reasons for wanting to send their child to the school. After what seemed an age, the panel returned. The chairman made an announcement. The appeals had been upheld – all of them. The chairman closed the meeting.
I don’t know what your memories of school were like but I was bullied at school and as a consequence I have a low tolerance of bullying when I witness it – and intervening gets me into trouble sometimes. And having helped raise three lovely daughters, I have a low tolerance of discrimination against women as well. The Bible says we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that it is sub-Christian to mistreat, abuse, or denigrate any person, irrespective of their race, colour, age, religion, or gender. When Christians are a minority, or society is volatile, there is great pressure on us to avoid offending other people. The temptation therefore is to soften or compromise the exclusive claims of the gospel. How can we avoid being offensive in witnessing for Jesus? How can we share our convictions with compassion? In our Gospel reading we observe Jesus doing so and showing us how.
Last week, in Luke 4, we learnt about Jesus’ manifesto.
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Today it seems uncertainty and agnosticism are more valuable than conviction and commitment. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. The suggestion that a particular faith is the only way to God is synonymous with narrow minded intolerance, fundamentalism or with religious extremism.
Sincerity and Truth
Many people think all religions lead to God because they assume that all religions are essentially the same when you reduce them to their core beliefs. They liken the religions to different paths up a mountain, believing that as we approach the summit we realise how much we have in common. But this just isn’t true and only shows they have not looked deeply enough at what the various religions teach. If you let each religion speak for itself, you find they differ greatly on the basic concepts-God, truth, reality, the basic human dilemma and the solution to that dilemma. They differ so much that many of their statements contradict one another. For example, God cannot be both personal, as Christians, Jews and Muslims believe, and impersonal, as Buddhists and Hindus believe. Jesus cannot be a false Messiah as Judaism teaches, a prophet as Islam teaches and the eternal Son of God as Christians believe. Those are contradictory statements. According to the rules of logic, contradictory statements cannot all be true. Therefore, all religions cannot possibly be true. It is a logical impossibility. And if they are not all true, and if they lead us in different directions, then not all of them can lead to God. The sincerity of followers is not in question. You can be sincere but sincerely wrong.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). What did he mean? I want to give a simple, personal reading of the teaching of Jesus the Christ and his Apostles on the Christian jihad and peacemaking. The most important point I will be making is that peacemaking is not primarily something we do, but rather something we are becoming. I have five headings.
1. The Nature of Christian Jihad.
2. The Extent of Christian Jihad.
3. The Strategy of Christian Jihad.
4. The Weapons of Christian Jihad.
5. The Purpose of Christian Jihad.
1. The Nature of Christian Jihad: “Against Spiritual Forces” Continue reading
I have a problem with suffering. I am sure you do also. A couple of years ago I experienced some of the worst pain in my life and I ended up in hospital. I knew the medical reasons why I was suffering but that didn’t make it any easier. If God wasn’t going to answer my prayer and take the pain away, I wanted to die. When the pain had gone I changed my mind. We struggle to keep their faith when confronted with pain or illness or death.
The problem of suffering is therefore a question we have something in common with our friends. The answer to our question should therefore help them as much as ourselves. For some it is an intellectual and theoretical question about the existence of God and problem of evil. For others it is a present and personal experience. The answer we give will greatly depend on the context. Our culture finds the issue of suffering a huge problem. The presence of pain and evil in the world leads many to question the existence of God. David Hume, the philosopher put it like this:
“Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (David Hulme)
Here is how C.S. Lewis framed the dilemma,
‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both. This is the problem of pain in its simplest form.’ (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)
Rev. Canon Francis Omondi gave a presentation about the persecution of Christians in East Africa and the pressures they face there from Al-Shabaab at Christ Church, Virginia Water. Canon Omondi was participating in a tour of churches in the UK, as part of Suffering Church Week. The Revd Canon Francis Omondi is the founder and International Director of Sheepfold Ministries, he is chair of CMS Africa and Barnabas Fund in Africa.
A husband was distraught over his wife’s stubborn refusal to admit she had a hearing problem. He went to see their family doctor to ask for advice on how to convince his wife that she had a hearing problem. The doctor advised him to go home, open the front door and in a normal voice ask his wife what’s for dinner. The doctor said, if she doesn’t answer, move closer to the kitchen. Repeat the question again, and if she still doesn’t answer, stand behind her and whisper in her ear, “What’s for dinner, honey?” Then, the doctor assured him, she’ll have to admit she has the problem. So the man went home, opened the front door and asked “What’s for dinner, honey?” His wife made no reply, so he moved closer to the kitchen and asked again. “What’s for dinner, honey?” Again, nothing. So he tiptoed over to her and whispered in her ear, “What’s for dinner, honey?” She turned and looked at him straight in the eye: “For the 3rd time, I said, we’re having MEAT LOAF!”
Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9). Clearly those who cannot hear do not get it, and those who can hear, should. What did you hear when this well known parable of Jesus was read just now? I suggest the majority of us think we are like the good soil. We are sorry for others whose hearts are like the rocky, weedy or hard soil.
Lets be honest: Is that what you thought? That is because when the Scriptures are read, we invariably see ourselves in the best possible light, we tick the box and move on to the next passage. This is a very serious mistake. When Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9) he was giving a warning. That is the main point of the parable.