Sunday, January 05, 2014

Epiphany, John Lucas and Rowan Williams

Adoration of the Magi by
Benveneuto di Giovanni. NGA.
Happy New Year!

Although Epiphany is tomorrow we get the readings today. What are we to make of the Magi?  They appear to be astrologers/astronomers (there was no real distinction until about the 18th century) and it is hard to believe that their astrological observations were inherently valid. But sincerely seeking God they were led to find Him - doing the right thing for the wrong reasons as is so often the case with humans even in the relatively rare cases where we get to do the right things.

It was great to see nine friends/acquaintances in the New Years Honours List, of whom the most distinguished is Onora O'Neill who becomes a CH. Curiously she is one of  only two FBA on this and the only FBA FRS there.

The great John Lucas sent us a Christmas card drawing our attention to his musings on the Gospels and the identity of Barabbas. In general John's ideas are very interesting and his point about the gospels not having a "publication date" is certainly valid. However the idea that Barabbas was a misunderstanding and that Pilate was in fact asking about acquitting Jesus on one or other of the charges is brilliant but far-fetched in the extreme. After all Barabbas was a brigand who had committed a murder. However he may well have had the name Jesus which was quite a common one.

Finished Rowan Williams' brilliant "Tokens of Trust" and let me finish with 12 gems from this:
  • The single central thing is the conviction that for us to be at peace Jsus' life had to be given up. It isn't that a vengeful and inflexible God demands satisfaction, more that the way the world is makes it inevitable that the way to our freedom lies through the self-giving of Jesus, even to the point of death. (p88)
  • When we have done our worst, God remains God - and remains committed to being our God...The resurrection displays God's triumphant love as still and for ever having the shape of Jesus (p91).
  • Christianity is a contact before it is a message (p92)
  • When we celebrate Easter, we are really standing in the middle of a second 'Big Bang'. (p95)
  • Perhaps the place to begin thinking about [those mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper] is to hear it as Jesus saying of the bread, "This too is my body; this is as much a carrier of my life and identity as my literal flesh and blood"...We prayerfully give in Jesus' hands the bread and the wine so that his prayer may be made over them...What he prays for happens...So the bread and the wine are given back to us, transformed by the Spirit, to make us more deeply what we already are, and to confirm the bond that God has created between himself and us (pp116-7)
  • What we call [the Bible's] inspiration is its capacity to be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit, making Jesus vividly present in our minds and hearts, and so making his challenge and invitation immediate for us. (p122)
  • It is one of the oddities of the 'Death of God' movement...that it professed an intense commitment to Jesus..yet wanted to sidestep the central importance in all that we know of Jesus of his relation to the one he called 'Abba, Father.' (p136)
  • To be in the Church is to be in the middle of that divine life, which Jesus uncovers for us - the outpouring and returning and sharing...the threefold rhythm of love, Father, Son and Spirit. Those are the waves which surge around you as you try to live the life of discipleship, which is not the following of a distant figure...but participation in the rhythm that sustains the universe.(p136)
  • Ultimately Christians believe in eternal life not because they believe something about themselves as human...but because they believe something about God. [that God is trustworthy] (p144)
  • Perhaps we should add a fifth mark of the Church to the four in the Creed ... one, holy, catholic, apostolic and repentant.
  • One of the odder things in our culture is that we seem to tolerant of all sorts of behaviour, yet are deeply unforgiving. (p152).
  • Prayer is letting God be himself in and for us...being carried on an invisible current of love that is sometimes discernible to us but often (painfully) not. (pp157-8).
May that current of God's love carry us all further and deeper in this exciting year.

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