Tag Archives: broken people

Surely the day is coming and now is

Reading
Jeremiah 31.27–34

 

The poet proposes a two-stage philosophy of history which is crucial for the full acknowledgment of exile and the full practice of hope in the face of exile. The negative has happened; the positive is only promised. The poem places us between the destruction already accomplished in 587 B.C.E. and the homecoming only promised but keenly anticipated. The oracle places us between a death already wrought and a resurrection only anticipated. — Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming

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The last couple of Sundays, we’ve been visiting the time of the Exile, which was around five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Do you remember?—the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were taken as exiles to Babylon, and there they stayed until Babylon itself was defeated. Then they were allowed to go ‘home’, though of course most people who had known Jerusalem as home were dead by now. 

It’s impossible to overemphasise the importance of the Exile—for Israel, for us as Christians, for the whole world. 

It was in the Exile that they began to write much of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament. They started to collect and put together the ancient stories of Israel were while they were in Exile. 

Scribes gathered together the old traditions to write the stories of the past, stories like the Flood, or the life of Moses. At the same time, prophets such as Jeremiah spoke new words into the current age.

In Babylon, the exiles had to work out a theology that responded to a place of defeat. The old idea had been that Yahweh was Israel’s God, and the other tribes and nations had their own gods. Yahweh was just the best of the bunch. Until he wasn’t, because the Babylonian gods had defeated him and shown they were more powerful. 

What could the exiles have done with this? I guess they could have decided the Babylonian gods with names like Bel, Nebo and Ishtar were the winners, so they should ditch Yahweh and pledge allegiance to them. 

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“No other god has wounds” (Easter 2, Year B, 15 April 2012)

Readings
Acts 4.32-35 
John 20.19-31

 

 

Peter Campbell: On the Run, from ‘Of Time and its Distance’ 1975

For we bear the face of Jesus,
no other god has wounds;
prepare to take your place beside the King.

 

One time, four Yorkshiremen—Josiah, Obadiah and a couple of others—were having a conversation over a bottle of fine wine—in fact, a bottle of Château de Chasselas. They were talking about the old days, before they were well off:

In them days we was glad t’ ave t’ price of a cup o’ tea.
A cup o’ cold tea.
Wi’out milk or sugar.
Or tea.
In a cracked cup, an’ all.

Of course, this is an excerpt from the famous (and hilarious) Monty Python sketch, Four Yorkshiremen. I mention it because one talked about drinking from a ‘cracked cup’. Today, I want to talk about cracked things, wounded things.

Here in the church, since Good Friday we’ve had a cracked jar—or if you like, a crack(ed)pot. It has these lines through it that show that it’s had some damaging experiences. Is it useless, do you think?

Paul talks about clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4.6-7. He speaks of God shining within us ‘to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’. However, he doesn’t want us to get bigheaded about it, so he reminds us:

…we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We contain a great treasure; the clay jars in which we have this treasure are our ordinary human bodies. These clay jar bodies are all different: some are tall, some short, some taut and terrific, some flabby. They may be black, yellow or white bodies, male or female bodies, young or old. They’re all different but they have one thing in common: these clay jar bodies of ours—and we ourselves—are cracked. We are each flawed or damaged in some way. Does that make us useless, do you think?

Evidently, this jar isn’t useless. It’s still a lovely thing. It’s broken, yet still beautiful. You and I aren’t useless. What do we hear every Sunday after the confession of sin?

You are forgiven.
You are set free from the past.
In God’s eyes, you are beautiful.

That’s the truth about us: we are cracked, we are wounded, yet we are still beautiful to God.

You and I and the pot aren’t the only cracked things. Jesus is cracked as well. When I say that Jesus is ‘cracked’, I’m not being disrespectful. I’m talking about the wounds in his hands and side, still there in his risen state. No other god has wounds.

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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 18 July 2010

Broken to be a blessing

Reading
Colossians 1.15-28

Sometimes, you read a verse of scripture and you think, Whaaat? What on earth could that mean? There was one of those verses in today’s reading from Colossians chapter 1. It’s verse 24; perhaps it made you wonder too. Let’s hear it again. St Paul says:

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

Paul actually says, ‘in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions…’

Hang on, I thought, the first time I read that years ago. Didn’t Jesus die for the whole world on the cross? Didn’t he bear our sins on the cross? Wasn’t it a ‘perfect sacrifice’ for sin? How could there be anything ‘lacking in his afflictions’? Has Paul gone nuts? Perhaps he has! Read a few verses earlier, and you’ll see that Paul says this:

through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Here, Paul says that on the cross God reconciled all things everywhere to himself through Jesus. Because of Jesus, we are at peace with God. We’re not partly at peace, we’re not half-reconciled to God. We are wholly at peace with God, we are fully reconciled, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters, we have a place in God’s loving heart. We are fully alive, and why? Because we been drawn into the grace-full, eternal, loving dance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Notice that all these things are true whether or not we feel them to be true. So what on earth could possibly be ‘“lacking” in Christ’s afflictions’?

Let’s hold that question, while we look at something we’ll be doing soon.
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