The Bible reading for this week is the account of Jesus stopping to heal a woman with haemorrhaging whilst he was on his way to attend to Jairus’ daughter. A twelve year old is dying and yet Jesus stops to talk to a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. Why? Once again, we are struck by the fact that Jesus was not in a hurry. Like the account of Lazarus, Jesus does not rush around; even to get to a dying person. He is Lord of time and considers there to be something much more important to address than meeting deadlines. Jesus wanted to meet, engage with and heal broken relationships. The woman had been labelled as an ‘outcast’ for the past 12 years because of her medical condition. No doubt, she was referred to by a range of derogatory terms by the people who saw her. Jesus changes all of that. Jesus gives her a new name: ‘daughter’. For Jesus, the overriding concern was to restore people, all people, to full dignity in God. Similarly, he wants to do the same with us. He wants to restore all of us by giving us the title of ‘children of God’. To Him, this was much more important than rushing around meeting deadlines.
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
The Bible reading for this week is the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Lake of Galilee. It is interesting that the words Jesus uses to calm the storm are the same as the words he uses to drive out demons. With the fall of creation, weather systems were also affected. The fact that Jesus, as a man, had authority over weather systems is a remarkable revelation but perhaps the main purpose of this passage is more symbolic and eternal, rather than a ‘one-off’ physical miracle. The point is that once the disciples knew that Jesus was with them, their fears subsided. As we voyage through life, to know the presence of God in our boat is to quell our fears. In a sense, it is not so much about the height of the waves, but who is standing alongside us. When sorrows inevitably descend upon our lives at some point, take heart, Jesus can stand next to us to help us overcome our worst worries.
1 Samuel 17:32-49
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
For Euro 2020, happening in 2021, it is difficult to get everyone in the locality watching games together as it was during the 2018 world cup. In many senses Covid means we have lost community events, but what is community? The modern-day notion of ‘community’ is multi-layered. We may be members of many ‘communities’: work, friends, family, sport, common interests and others besides. Some of the members of our communities may be in other countries of the world and connected by the internet. However, there is another type of community that has not yet been mentioned. This community is more important than any other. I am talking, of course, about our Christian community – the fellowship of believers. In Mark’s Gospel at the end of chapter 3, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the most important and special community is the one that seeks to do God’s will. This week, let us especially cherish and thank God for, our brothers and sisters in Christ – the Christian church. Let us also remember and pray for the persecuted church which is suffering particularly during lockdown.
One of the concerns of many Christians with regard to the modern-day church is its over reliance on man-made laws. Many Church leaders point to Paul’s teaching in Romans chapter 13 where he urges believers to “submit to the authorities”. However, this teaching flies in the face of the, more important, life and teaching of Jesus Himself. Jesus unashamedly broke the rules. This week, the Bible reading from Mark’s Gospel is one such example. Jesus was being accused by the scribes (lawyers) of having a demon in him. This followed an incident earlier in the Gospel where Jesus allowed his followers to pick ears of corn on the Sabbath and then Jesus proceeded to heal a man’s hand on the Sabbath. Why did Jesus break the religious rules and why did He allow his followers to break the religious rules? The answer is that the law, in itself, is only part of the solution to society’s ills. The complete solution is love. Jesus lived, died, rose and ascended out of love. Love will always trump legalism. As long as the church uses legalism as its default position it will not be able to show grace; it will not be able to show love and it will not be fully the bride that Christ calls it to be.
In the liturgical year, this week is the first week after Pentecost or Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is often something of a stumbling block to people – perhaps particularly those outside the church. For some of these people, Christianity may be seen as some strange religion which worships three gods. This is quite wrong. Christianity is completely monotheistic. There always was and always will be, one God. Jesus himself said “I and the Father are ONE.” However, in order to understand the nature of God we need to see God as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Water can be in the form of ice, steam or liquid but it is still water. A woman can be a manager, mother and wife but she is still exactly the same person. So it is with God. God is Father, Son and Spirit but He is still one God.
Bible readings for today:
How do you communicate to young people the transforming power of the Holy Spirit? I often used to take a plastic bottle of washing up liquid and a small plastic stick with a circular hole in it (children’s party bubbles). The young people would dip the stick in the liquid and blow through the circular hole to produce many bubbles. The question then was what had transformed this greasy, slimy liquid in the bottle into those beautiful spheroids, which, in sunlight, would refract all the colours of the rainbow? The answer is a puff of breath. The Old Testament word for Spirit is the same as ‘breath’. The Holy Spirit is the breath (or wind) of God which brings about change. Specifically, He changes the ordinary into something beautiful. This gives us an insight into the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who came in a special way to the believers on the day of Pentecost, is in the business of changing things for the better. He is also in the business of perfecting us into being fully the people God intended us to be.