Friday, 28 May 2010

Cornerstone of St Giles

Thursday Holy Communion 9.15am 27 May 2010

Reading 1 Peter 2

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
       "See, I lay a stone in Zion,
       a chosen and precious cornerstone,
       and the one who trusts in him
       will never be put to shame."

7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
       "The stone the builders rejected
       has become the cornerstone,"

8 and,
       "A stone that causes people to stumble
       and a rock that makes them fall."
       They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Gospel Mark 10

Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means "son of Timaeus"), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."

    So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
       The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.


Purpose of letter of I Peter was not to pass on teaching or doctrine or ethical instruction, like many of Paul’s writing. Rather, it seems to be to urge Christians in latter part of 1st century to hold firm to their faith in the face of hostility and persecution.

Letter reminds believers of inestimable value of what they as Christians have already received. Not to be taken lightly. Assures them of future reward and vindication for all they have suffered. Emphasises example of the blameless suffering of Christ.

Peter of course suffered for his faith. This letter probably written too late for Peter to be the author, and anyway it is written in far too sophisticated Gk. to be by an unlettered fisherman, even if he used a secretary. But Peter’s suffering probably explains why letter may have been written by his followers in his name.

Three images: one, new believers like new born babes needing spiritual milk in order to grow in faith. Two, a stone. Suggests a building, spiritual house.

Cornerstone is most important part of edifice. Without it the building falls. Jesus himself is the cornerstone of this spiritual house. Normally this would be carefully chosen, but ironically in this case the cornerstone was one picked up from a pile of rejects – the builders (the chosen people?) rejected the stone, yet it became the cornerstone upon which everything depended.

So what was least important became the most important, holding up the building and making it safe and secure. A building that will not fall. But this very stone will be the cause of stumbling and falling by those who did not see its worth.

Like the Temple in Jerusalem, this is a house in which the faithful are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. Holy priesthood is we ourselves.

Third image is light. As chosen people, we are called by God to be his own. We must behave like the holy people we are, and abstain from whatever is unworthy of our calling. This is the light: we are called by God out of darkness into his wonderful light. Image of salvation, but also image of judgement – do we turn towards the light or away from it?

How appropriate then that the gospel reading is a parallel: blind Bartimaeus is blind, but he still has choice. Will he turn towards the light or away from it. That is what Jesus is asking.

51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
       The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Way – Christianity or a sect within Judaism?

Thursday 6 May 2010

Reading Acts 15: 7 – 21

7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. "Brothers," he said, "listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 " 'After this I will return
       and rebuild David's fallen tent.
       Its ruins I will rebuild,
       and I will restore it,

17 that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord,
       even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
       says the Lord, who does these things' —

18 things known from long ago.

19 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

Gospel John 15: 9 – 11

9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.


Last week we read from Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas in Pisidian Antioch. Paul invited to speak in synagogue. Long sermon expounding history of Jews over more than 450 years. Object to explain how prophets foretold coming of Messiah, and how Jesus, descended from David, was the Christ.

Jews in Antioch rejected them. Shook dust off their feet in protest and went to Iconium. Same thing happened. Accepted by some Jews and Greeks but religious authorities opposed them. Then travelled through Lystra and Derbe strengthening church already established there. After that, went by ship to Antioch and thence to Jerusalem.

Here debate still raged as to whether gospel for Jews only or Gentiles too. Some rejoiced when they heard from Paul and Barnabas that many Gentiles had been converted. Others wanted Christianity to remain a sect within Judaism, which meant new believers would have to observe all the law of Moses.

There was a debate. James brother of Jesus was in charge of the church in Jerusalem. Eventually, he was persuaded by the fact God had intervened and bestowed gift of Holy Spirit on all – Jews and Gentiles alike, making no distinction between them.

So the church wrote to all the new believers telling them no further burden would be imposed on them, and sending Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with the good news.

Fact is, faith does not have to be this complicated. Sometimes I think the church puts more people off by its rules and regs, its ways of doing things, its condemnation of those who are different in some way. Read the gospel and see how simple Jesus made the law, compared to the complex web of dos and don’ts men had spun which only entrapped rather than freed adherents.

Today’s gospel passage is short but full of meaning. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

That’s it really. What more is there to say?


The first cuckoo this Spring was loud this morning during the service of Holy Communion at St Giles. One person said it had been heard for some time already, but this was the first time I heard it myself.

The bird was competing with the sound of chain saws and machinery clearing an extension to our graveyard this week.