Archive for November, 2016

Introducing the Jesse Blog

Posted: November 24, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

This year for advent, we will be turning the blog into an online Jesse Tree…and you get to be part of decorating of it!

The idea of a Jesse Tree is to add one decoration for each day of Advent, with the decorations bearing symbols that relate to characters or events from the Bible, so that by Christmas Day, the tree tells the story of all that led to the coming of Jesus.

Apparently there are a million and one variations on the Jesse Tree, so I have gone with a slightly adapted version of the one I found here, not least because I could actually makes sense of most of the symbols!

Jesse Tree.png

I will set up a brief post for each day, but I would love you to contribute thoughts, pictures, songs, videos, quotes…or whatever else you can think of that relates to any of these characters or stories.

All you need to do is send anything you want to see up on the blog to reviveleeds@gmail.com and I will sort the rest.

I look forward to seeing and sharing what you find, and I hope this race through the scriptures will help root us in God’s story as we get ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

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‘The Least of These’

Posted: November 23, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

On Sunday night we will be talking about building church for ‘the least of these’. I must confess that expression taken in isolation causes me a degree of discomfort, with its suggestion of value judgement, hence my very intentional use of quotation marks, but it does of course have scriptural precedent. In Matthew 25:34-46, Jesus says

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

‘The least of these’ are then the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner. Does this mean Jesus saw those people as the least? And does that justify us in using similar language to talk about those groups? I don’t think so.

Even the most well meaning of us can fall into the trap of dismissing or demeaning those we see as less – less wealthy, less educated, less deserving of respect – but Jesus is doing something very different here.

Those he calls least are those his culture called least, but he challenges that attitude by identifying himself with them, and making clear that they must be afforded the dignity of having their physical and social needs met.

He is not calling us to patronise but to live in solidarity, and ultimately his value judgement falls elsewhere. I suspect he may have had quotation marks in mind too.

This is perhaps one of the most familiar passages in the gospels, but familiarity has not lessened his challenge or dulled its edge. It still needles me every time I pass a rough sleeper or see a charity appeal and wrestle with how much it demands of me.

The young people brought this home again at the weekend away, with the artwork and the poetry they produced, taking the abstracted commands of the passage and projecting them across the refugee crisis.

It was reflecting on that artwork, which is currently hanging on our landing, which originally prompted me to write this blog, but I hope it may also go some way to prepare us for this Sunday. And I hope that when you hear ‘the least of these’, you also hear the quotation marks.

matthew25

In Case Of Apocalypse, Please Remain Calm

Posted: November 7, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

It will be good to reflect on our weekend away at some point, but first here is the blog I intended to write last week, but didn’t because I couldn’t find the passage of scripture that had inspired it.

On November 8th, the circus (or should that be horror show?) that has been the US elections draws to its climax, and Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will be named the next US president. One eventuality seems significantly worse than the other, but neither fills me with much hope.

Recently however I reread a parable which I had not previously given much thought to, and it let a glimmer of light in. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of the persistent widow, or the story of the unjust judge, depending on which Bible you are reading.

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Justice was still done even though the judge was unjust, and it was done because the widow was persistent. It didn’t matter that the one in authority was faithless and indifferent, because the one who sought righteousness was devoted and unceasing in her petition.

I won’t say it doesn’t matter at all if our rulers are corrupt and hateful, because it is clear that they can do a lot of damage, but it perhaps matters less than we think, for if we are true of heart and faithful of spirit, we can bring about justice in spite of them.

It may feel like this election is a portent of the apocalypse, but we must pray always and not lose heart, because whether things are bad or worse, there is still hope as long as we are as persistent as the widow.

keep-calm-and-pray-on