Tag Archives: understanding

What I really meant…

Anyone who has watched any police programme on the television, will be familiar with the phrase,

Anything you do say may be given in evidence

Jesus is again asked a question, not because the Pharisees particularly want to know what he thinks, not because they are trying to gain a deeper understand of his teaching, but because they are trying to trick him into saying something that they can use to undermine him, discredit him, and generally have something to use as evidence that he is up to no good.

Mark 10:1-12

Teaching about Divorce

1After Jesus left, he went to Judea and then on to the other side of the Jordan River. Once again large crowds came to him, and as usual, he taught them.

2Some Pharisees wanted to test Jesus. So they came up to him and asked if it was right for a man to divorce his wife. 3Jesus asked them, “What does the Law of Moses say about that?”

4They answered, “Moses allows a man to write out divorce papers and send his wife away.”

5Jesus replied, “Moses gave you this law because you are so heartless. 6But in the beginning God made a man and a woman. 7That’s why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. 8He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer two people, but one. 9And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.”

10When Jesus and his disciples were back in the house, they asked him about what he had said. 11He told them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries someone else is unfaithful to his wife. 12A woman who divorces her husband and marries again is also unfaithful.”

Tom Wright reminds us (p 95) of the situation of the man whose territory they are in, Herod Antipas, whose marriage to his brother’s wife involved divorce.  They knew that John the Baptists challenging of that had got him into trouble – perhaps they are hoping that the same might happen to Jesus if they can get him to say something that could be construed as condemnation of Herod – thus their dirty work would be done for them.  Herod would get rid of Jesus and the challenge he posed to them as the accepted religious leaders would be gone.

As ever, Jesus cleverly gets them to answer their own question – the words come from their own mouths.  They cannot deny their own teaching, but Jesus teaches into their understanding.  This is what you think… this is what God really meant.

I suppose the challenge for us, is do we get caught up in what we think God means and wants?  Do we half-remember things, try to put words into God’s mouth?  Do we proffer personal opinion as God’s word? Do we get on our high horse about what we believe – without always checking that out with God?  I know I do…

Forgive me Lord

for the times when I confuse my opinion with yours;

when I focus on what I think,

not what you say.

May my thoughts and my words

always find their foundation in you

This year, I am again following the BigRead using Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone – Mark.  I’ll reflect here – if you’re following it too, or even if you’re not, please share with me.

You don’t Understand

You just don’t understand

The oft heard cry of those who feel that someone else doesn’t get them, they are misunderstood, misinterpreted and it’s all very frustrating.

Isaiah gives us the cry of a misunderstood God:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? (Isaiah 40:21)

Perhaps so many of our problems with God are because we misunderstand him.  We don’t see the answers we are seeking because we are asking the wrong questions.

Because there is actually nothing and no-one to whom God can be compared.  He is outside of our human experience.One of the first questions I had to answer in my Local Preacher training (way back in 1990, so the course before we have now…), was about the deficiency in language to describe God and what he is about.

But what we can understand about God is that he made everything.  He knows how it all works.

And we are left with an assurance into the uncertainty:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom (Isaiah 40:28)

We do not need to understand God fully – if he could be understood, he wouldn’t be much of a God, he would be just the same as us.  But we can rely on him.

He is everlasting – he’s not just a fad, here today, gone tomorrow.  He won’t wear out or become bored by us.  God is in the world for the long haul.  He continues to keep his hand on it, and cares for it – even when we cannot understand what is happening.  God constantly holds the bigger picture.

He has created to the ends of the earth – there is nothing that is outside God’s care and attention.  There aren’t bits that he misses, some things that are in his blind-spot, or parts outside of his love.  His tent is over all.

So should we do nothing and just leave God to get on with it?  Absolutely not!  Being part of God’s creation brings responsibility to care, to love and to hope; to wrestle with things we don’t understand that we might capture a glimpse more of God and what he is doing – and what he asks us to do with him.

For ultimately, God is the one who gives strength to the weary, power to the weak, and hope to those who feel they have none.

Thank you Lord,

that though we can never fully understand you,

we can trust you,

for you care for your creation.

Thank you that you invite us to work with you,

to be art of your love, hope and strength.

We pray

for hope for the hopeless,

strength for the weary,

and power to the weak

– in your name

Do you speak English?

One of the things we discovered on our recent trip to France is that if you go out of season and off the beaten track, people do not speak English.  Secretly we were quite glad, because we believe that if you go somewhere else you should fit in with them, not expect them to fit in with you – and we got by pretty well, and enjoyed the French interaction – even managing to make a phone call in French!

The Pentecost reading however, is a total reversal of that.  There are people living in Jerusalem from “every country in the world” and yet each and every one of them heard God’s message in their own language.  They didn’t need interpreters, they didn’t need to struggle along grasping the odd word, they understood what God was saying to them, because it was in their own language.

But I wonder how often in the church we turn this around?

Do we speak in ways people can understand?  Or have we developed our own language that no one but those from a church culture understand?  Do we do things that make perfect sense to us who do them every week, but are unintelligible to anyone from outside the church?  Have we turned God’s message from being accessible, to beyond the grasp of most people in society?

People need so much to be able to hear God’s word to them in a language they can understand, in a way they can grasp.  God did that at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit blew through the disciples and gave them his power and his message.  Let’s make sure that we haven’t made it all incomprehensible again!

Lord

Thank you for the mighty rushing wind of your word,

for the flame of your passion;

we pray that they may equip us

to speak your word,

to bring your message

to the world;

that it might understand

your love,

your hope,

your peace –

and come to know you.