The 18th September is an important date; it’s Charlotte’s birthday! This year, however, it’s important for another reason; it is the date of the Scottish referendum asking whether or not its people want to become an independent country. As the time approaches the issues surrounding it and their implications for both Scotland and the rest of the UK are being increasingly discussed.
Other issues of sovereignty and power are also in the news at the moment. Today (Thursday 27th February) the German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to both houses of Parliament. She has just said that she will work with Britain to reform Europe – saying she wants it to remain a “strong voice inside the EU”. Her words have been carefully chosen as she walks a middle way between those demanding that the EU must allow all sorts of concessions for Britain and those that say it should not permit this. Ukraine with its struggles demonstrates similar but higher tensions over whom they want in charge and whose culture they want influencing the way they live, Russia or the West. This year also marks the 100th Anniversary of the start of the First World War, a sombre occasion as we reflect on the issues leading to and running throughout that dark period of our history, as well as remembering those caught up in it, both in the forces and civilian.
Whether we are interested in politics or not, there is no doubt that matters of power and sovereignty directly affect us and have real and radical influence on society and culture. We might vote in elections or we might not, we might be monarchist or republican in outlook, or we might follow the news with interest or ignore it completely, but regardless our lives are caught up in their exercise.
I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘How God Became King: Getting to the Heart of the Gospels’ by Tom Wright. It makes the claim that the Gospels are primarily about God in Jesus doing just that, becoming King of the World. Read carefully, this is what the Old Testament longs for and points towards. Our salvation is not so much about personal forgiveness, but our being rescued from the powers that govern us and becoming citizen’s of another Kingdom, God’s Kingdom, with Christ on the throne. When we become Christians we vote in a different referendum, saying yes to the Kingship of Jesus in whom God has said yes to us. But we do not escape this world, nor seek to overthrow it. Rather we stay and through love and grace seek to grow this alternative rule in the communities in which we find ourselves.
May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
John for Everyone Part 2: Chapters 11-21: by N.T. Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
See my review of the first volume of John for Everyone. As in that case, here as always N.T. Wright delivers in his usual thoughtful and relevant way. A very helpful book for personal reflection and for the preacher / worship leader in preparation.
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John for Everyone, Part 1 by N.T. Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
N.T. Wright has the wonderful gift of being able to write in a very gentle accessible way whilst getting across a lot of ideas and inspiration. This commentary is a great example of that. Littered with many illustrations from modern life he traces the key question of Jesus’ identity through the Gospel, drawing on John’s symbolism and his use of and illusion to Old Testament scripture. It is this aspect which I found most helpful having never spotted such parallels before such as between the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking across the water with the Exodus story with the provision of the manna and the crossing of the red sea. N.T. Wright’s formidable knowledge of the Old Testament as well as the context of the Holy Land in the First Century that makes this guide so helpful. Recommended!
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Been reading Tom Wright’s commentary of John’s Gospel. Just got to his section on John 3:14-21 and found this covering his view on God’s judgement. He says,
‘The darkness (and those who embrace it) must be condemned, not because it offends against some arbitrary laws which God made up for the fun of it, and certainly not because it has to do with the material, created world rather than with a supposed ‘spiritual’ world. It must be condemned because evil is destroying and defacing the present world, and preventing people coming forward into God’s new world’
I think this encapsulates why there will be judgement, but how God’s judgement is constructive unlike so much human judgement which is destructive, a seeking after revenge for the sake of getting even in some way.
Been thinking about the New Testament letter, Ephesians, and looking at it as part of our mid-week programme at church. In the process I just discovered this video where the brilliant N.T. Wright covers its message in just 15 minutes in an address to students at Wheaton College
Virtue Reborn by N.T. Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m a great fan of N.T.Wright’s work. He is a rare combination of both readability and intellectual depth – so often theological works are either one or the other, but not both. I think I can fairly say that his works on Romans and Paul in general have profoundly affected my understanding of the meta-narrative of Scripture and Paul’s place within it; ‘Surprised by Hope‘, ‘Justification‘ and ‘Romans for Everyone Part One & Two‘ in particular.
With this in mine I approached this work with great anticipation. Whilst the previous works were very much God focussed, this promised to be the application of his theology for our lives; the practice of virtue in response to the promise of God’s reconciling redemption of the world, the fulfillment of his covenant through Jesus.
In the end I was a little disappointed. Somehow the book never seized me in the way his previous works did. It felt to me as if it repeated itself, going over the same ground again and again and only adding a little more each time. The basic premise I agree with wholeheartedly, if God is going to renew creation and we are to be part of that renewed existence, then we should play our part in striving to live that future life today, practicing the character traits and responses that will mark it so that they gradually become instinctive – this gets over the question of what does it matter how we behave if we live under grace and not law. Having said that I must confess that my reading was broken up with large gaps of time between sessions, and my experience may have been different if I had more of a single run at it. I shall have to read it again sometime! I must also add that the last chapters which I read yesterday and today were useful. I greatly appreciated his description of worship and mission being co-joined twins with a single heart, and his outline of the tools which are available for developing virtue in the last chapter helpful.
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