Saturday 14 January 8:40 a.m.
Our morning at Synod began with a Bible Study led by The Rev. Canon Bill Cliff
Our Bible study began with an African chant:
God’s love is strong,
holy and true,
Jesus is Lord
and he still loves you
Ask and Imagine Bible Study method at 9:00 a.m. to engage young people. Youtube – Bill Cliff, Clay Videos
- the gospel is always astonishing. If you are not astonished you are not reading it right. The problem in the church is that we have stained glass in our ears.
- the gospel is not fair. Everyone is interested in fair, especially when we are sitting at the table when the pie is cut. The gospel is about grace which is about getting what you don’t deserve and mercy which is when you don’t get what you do deserve. The universe has been rewired to be a place of grace and mercy. If you want fair you get law. But grace is not about fair. It is fair that always trips us up as a church. We are meant to proclaim a universe which hinges and spins on the idea of grace, that we have been given what we don’t deserve
- God always acts first in the text.
So look for the most astonishing, unfair reading you can find in which God acts first.
In the Book of Hebrews the most astonishing thing is who the passage is written to. Who is the preacher addressing in the text? None of these texts are ever written into a vacuum. Text is written into a very real and urgent pastoral problem.
This congregation that the preacher is writing to is tired. They are spiritually and physically exhausted. They are tired of serving the world, tired of worship, of attempting Christian education, of being at odds with the society around them, of being mocked, of trying to keep their prayer life going; they are sick to death of trying to keep something going that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Attendance is way down at church and they are losing confidence fast.
They barely have energy to charge anywhere or do anything. The threat is that some are going to let go and walk away. They are considering walking away.
This is where many of the parishes in my Diocese are.
What does Hebrews have to say to this church?
It all has to hinge around the concept of rest. We must understand the Sabbath rest. This is where we get confused because in English we think “rest” means a lazy boy, a single malt, and a movie.
But that is not the rest Hebrews is talking about. The rest in Hebrews is the same rest God had on the Seventh Day and which we have when we continue in God’s way. It is not a temptation to turn to harder work. This is about grace which is not about earning or working for anything. It has already been given to you “today”.
The people have lost the plot. The preacher is trying to turn them back to what they were looking for in the first place. We must never give in to the temptation to thinking that the current episode is the end of the story. No matter how difficult things may be, it is never the last episode. The last episode is when Jesus returns and wraps up all things in God.
The prescription in Hebrews is preaching and Christology. There’s no appeal to group dynamics. What is prescribed is a return to the long arch of God’s story. Whatever current trouble you are suffering it is only the current story.
Later in Hebrews (chapter 11) “let us run the race that is set before us” – our race, not their race, the one that is “set before us”. The rest you are wating for is the confidence in doing God’s mission and building on what has gone before.
There is a future, God holds it in his hands and we have nothing to fear.