31 January 2008

A Mountaintop and a Hilltop

A brief reflection on the Transfiguration, from Bishop Tom Wright:

In fact, the scene at the transfiguration (as it’s normally called) offers a strange parallel and contrast to the crucifixion (Matthew 27:33-54). If you’re going to meditate on the one, you might like to hold the other in your mind as well, as a sort of backdrop. Here, on a mountain, is Jesus, revealed in glory; there, on a hill outside Jerusalem, is Jesus, revealed in shame. Here his clothes are shining white; there, they have been stripped off, and soldiers have gambled for them. Here he is flanked by Moses and Elijah, two of Israel’s greatest heroes, representing the law and the prophets; there, he is flanked by two brigands, representing the level to which Israel had sunk in rebellion against God. Here, a bright cloud overshadows the scene; there, darkness comes upon the land. Here Peter blurts out how wonderful it all is; there, he is hiding in shame after denying he even knows Jesus. Here a voice from God himself declares that this is his wonderful son; there, a pagan soldier declares in surprise, that this really was God’s son.

[Matthew for Everyone, Part 2, page 14]

25 January 2008

The Conversion of St Paul

Today (January 25th) is the date on which the church annually marks the Conversion of St Paul. Here is a quote from a book I have been reading recently, Conversion in the New Testament, by Richard Peace:

Whatever else one might say about Paul’s conversion, it must be conceded that it had a momentous impact on the church. “No single event, apart from the Christ-event itself, has proved so determinant for the course of Christian history as the conversion and commissioning of Paul” [F.F. Bruce]. From that event sprang the ministry of St Paul. From the ministry of St Paul came the Gentile church. From these churches Western Christianity emerged as it is known today. “The importance of Paul’s conversion and of the consequences he drew from it can hardly be exaggerated. He made the free development of Gentile Christianity possible…” [H.G. Wood]. Furthermore many consider Paul’s conversion to be a central “proof” for the validity of Christianity. As F.F. Bruce writes: “For anyone who accepts Paul’s own explanation of his Damascus-road experience, it would be difficult to disagree with the observation of an eighteenth-century writer [G. Lyttleton] that ‘the conversion and apostleship of St Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine revelation.’”

Whatever the wider impact, Paul’s conversion was for him the most crucial event of his life. His vision of the risen Christ while on the Damascus road literally stopped him in his tracks, turned his whole life around, and launched him in a totally new direction. From a Pharisee of the Pharisees, bent on the destruction of the church, he became a tireless evangelist, planting churches around the Mediterranean, despite great personal hardship and suffering. In fact, this very change in Paul himself is a further demonstration of the resurrection of Jesus. It has been asserted that nothing less than an encounter with the living Jesus could have accounted for so radical a change in Paul that he became willing to head up the Gentile mission of the church.

22 January 2008

A prayer on the anniversary of Roe v Wade

Eternal God, author of life, and giver of all that is good:
for the gift of human life
and for the wonder of being created in your image,
for the fatherly care you extend to all creation,
and to us in particular,
we praise you, we thank you, and we bless you.
Help us to hallow the life you have entrusted to us,
especially those who are yet unborn,
that they may live to see the light of day and give you glory.
To that end we implore you
to extend your hand of protection
over those threatened by abortion,
and to save them from its destructive power.
Look with compassion upon mothers
who are driven by distress and delusion
to seek the lives of their own offspring.
Ease the burdens of all women with problem pregnancies
and bring healing to all affected by past abortions.
Give courage to all fathers,
that they may never give in to the fears
that may tempt them to facilitate abortions.
Work in the hearts of those
who turn their training in the healing arts
to the purposes of death.
Enlighten the minds and strengthen the wills
of those who frame and implement the laws of our land,
that they may use their powers to guard the sanctity of life.
Guide our efforts to educate and serve,
that we may conduct them in the spirit of humility and love
that will win minds and hearts to accept the truth,
and enable us to minister to those in need.
Bless our families and bless our land,
that we may have the joy
of welcoming and nurturing the life of which you are the giver.
All this we ask for the sake of your unbounded love. Amen.