Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Jailer Sees the Light

Acts 16 - 16-34 Paul and Silas in Prison

Preached this morning at Warblington Church

I want to focus, this morning, on the story of Paul and Silas’ miraculous escape from prison. But I’m not as interested in the escape itself, as in what happened to their guard.

The guard's reaction to the earthquake which tore down the prison wall is rather odd. In fact, when he thought that his prisoners had escaped, his first impulse was to draw his sword to kill himself. We might wonder why he had such an extreme reaction. I mean, you would have thought that the first thing he would do would be to run into the prison and see whether his prisoners had escaped - and perhaps kill them before they could do so. But no, as soon as the earthquake was over, he drew his sword - to kill himself.

The Bible doesn’t give us the reason why he did this. But it is fun to speculate sometimes. Perhaps he feared being executed or tortured for having been on duty when the prisoners escaped...and so thought that suidice would be the better opion. Perhaps it was because of his own religious convictions. I wonder if he saw the earthquake as a judgment from heaven - a judgment which condemned him for locking up two of God’s prophets. Most probably the guard was a pagan, who would have interpreted the earthquake as a form of divine punishment on him - and concluded that living under divine judgment was a fate worse than death.

But, of course, God has other plans.

The first thing to notice about this story is the circumstances of the earthquake itself. Paul and Silas have been imprisoned, very unfairly. But notice their reaction. Instead of getting depressed, and wondering whether God will help them, they spend their time praying and singing hymns.

A few weeks ago, a member of our Warblington congregation - whom I won’t embarrass by name - passed me an article about Terry Waite - a short piece about his time in prison. I was fascinated to read that the thing which sustained him most of all was his deep memory of the Book of Common Prayer. He found it an immense comfort to be able to recite those familiar words - to effectively hold his own Matins and Evening prayer, there in his cell.

The article was part of a passionate plea from Mr Waite to make sure that with all the various choices that the new Anglican book of Common Prayer gives us, we shouldn’t lose the ability to memorise prayers and psalms, learned by repetition and familiarity over the years. It was a fascinating article - with which I’m sure many of our parishioners would agree!

But that aside, the key point here is that while Paul and Silas are waiting for God to act, they do what every exemplary Christian should do while waiting for God to act - they continually pray, and worship God. Their constancy in prayer and worship means that when the earthquake occurs, the other prisoners who have been listening to their witness, and indeed the jailer himself, immediately give the credit for the earthquake to God.

As Christians we affirm that God is continually at work in our world. Our prayers and worship are not only a way of co-operating with God in bringing the Kingdom to fruition...they are also a witness to the world - a way of making a clear link in people’s minds between their circumstances, and God’s action. That’s why it is important to tell people that we are praying for them. If people know that we are upholding them in prayer, they will be much more likely to see God at work in their lives, and turn to him themselves.

But let’s focus down on the Jailer. His reaction to finding that Paul and Silas have not escaped, and at having witnessed the earthquake during their prayers and singing, is to fall to his knees, and ask “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Do you see what I am saying? It is Paul and Silas’ faithful waiting on God which succeeds in convincing the Jailer that God was at work in the earthquake.

Its interesting to note, I think, that the Bible doesn’t say that God sent the earthquake - as a specific answer to their prayers. Not on this occasion anyway. The text simply says, “suddenly there was an earthquake”. But as in modern days, we can see God at work in every circumstance of life - even in natural disasters. We can see him at work in the cry for justice on the part of poor people, living in sub-standard housing in earthquake zones, thrown up by corrupt builders in corrupt countries. We can see him at work in the acts of mercy carried out by rescuers. We can see him at work in the acts of charity from those living outside the earthquake zones - sending money, blankets, shelter, food.

However, what I really want to focus on is what happens next. A sequence of events takes place, following the Jailer’s question “What must I do to be saved?”.

1) First of all, Paul and Silas make a very simply evangelistic statement: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household”

2) Secondly, Paul and Silas are invited by the Jailer to speak the word of the Lord to everyone in his household.

3) Thirdly, the jailer and his family are all baptised.

4) Finally, they share a meal together, during which the Jailer is described as being ‘full of joy’. His whole being has been transformed through these actions from one of suicide, to one of joy.

And it might profit us to think about that sequence of events - to see what led him from suicide to joy. The events, as they are laid out, sound rather like our own lives as Christians - compressed down to a short evening of activity.

First of all, comes the question: “What must I do to be saved?”

The answer comes in hearing the Word of life preached to them. Through Paul and Silas’ teaching, their Christian instruction if you will, the Jailer finds the answer to his question. That’s why preaching remains such a vital part of all our services. It is not enough for us just to meet and pray and worship - we need to hear Christian instruction - teaching that will help us to plant our feet firmly on the path to salvation.

Next comes the jailer’s response: he and all his family are baptised - in obedience to Christ’s command. Baptism was then, as it remains for us, a sign of new life...a sacrament of grace that initiates people more fully into their new live with God.

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about what the word ‘sacrament’ means? One way of describing it is “an outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual gift”. Baptism is the outward sign that our sins have been washed away, and that God is filling us with his Holy Spirit. We baptise children, as well as adults, to follow, at least partly, in the tradition established by Paul and Silas. See verse 33: “Immediately he and all his family were baptised”. It is not just adults whose sins can be washed away by God, and in whom His Spirit can dwell, but whole families.

Finally, the jailer invites Paul and Silas into his home, and they share a meal together. Caring fellowship is being exercised well as a hint of the Eucharistic rite of gathering around a table to remember our Lord.
So, we have four actions...a sequence of events, which are very recognisable to us. A question. A response from the word of God. Baptism. And then the caring fellowship of a family meal - believers together, gathering in joy around a table.

Being a Christian, then, is much more than believing in Jesus. It is, as the Jailer discovered, about belonging to a which God’s Spirit is alive and at work, where instruction and teaching is faithfully given, where baptism is exercised to young and old, and where regular caring, joyful fellowship takes place.

That is the template for church which is suggested by this story.

May God grant us the grace to remain faithful to his call to be members of the body of Christ together.


Going up?

Acts 1: verses 1-11: Ascension Day

Have you heard the story of the country bumpkin family, who decided one day to go for a trip to London? It was their first trip ever away from their farm, and there were all sorts of exciting things to see and do. They decided that they would stay in one of 'them there fancy 'otels', and so they drove their tractor to the Ritz, in Piccadilly.
The father of the family took his son, and told his wife to stay in the tractor while he got them booked in. The farmer and his boy entered the lobby of the hotel, and looked around them in amazement. There were so many things they had never seen before - marble floors, chandeliers, water fountains. But the most amazing thing was the lift at the end of the lobby.

“What’s that thing there?”, asked the son - as they stared at the shiny doors. “I don’t know” said the father - “let’s watch”. So they watched, as a little old lady of 93 pressed the button to call the lift. When the lift arrived, she got in and was seen to press another button, before the doors closed, and she disappeared. A few seconds later, however, the doors opened again - and a stunning young blonde came out of the doors.

“Son,” said the old farmer, “that’s fantastic! They have a machine which makes old women young again! Go and get yer mother!”

The sense of wonder that that old Farmer experienced must have been a bit like the wonder of the Disciples as they saw Jesus taken from their sight, up into heaven - hidden by a cloud. They must have wondered what on earth was happening. And certainly, according to Luke’s account in the book of Acts, they stood there for sometime with their mouths open. Luke says “they were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men in white stood beside them”. These two men, whom we assume to be angels, then reassured the disciples that Jesus would come back in the same way that they had seen him go up into heaven.

Some people have wondered whether this is in fact a historical account of an actual event. After all, we don’t have the same three-tiered picture of the universe that the people of the ancient world had at that time. Few of us really think that hell is below us, and heaven above us… our understanding of those concepts is rather more subtle these days.

One way of thinking about heaven is to suggest that it is with us all the time. After all, Jesus proclaimed that “the Kingdom of Heaven is among you”. We may even have the capacity to enter, or at least touch heaven, albeit briefly. We might also say that heaven is present whenever there is peace, or justice. Or whenever we pray, or feel the touch of God upon our lives. Tom Wright, the Bishop Durham, describes heaven and earth as not separated by a vast expanse of sky - but rather by a sort of spiritual curtain, which we can sometimes step through and touch.

But perhaps Jesus chose not to worry about that particular theological point. Perhaps he realised that if he simply stepped through the curtain into heaven, the Disciples would not understand that he had been taken from them semi-permanently. After all, during the preceding days, he had popped in and out of their lives, and rooms, very frequently. What was needed was a grand gesture - something which made very clear that a new stage of the Christian journey was beginning. For, as Jesus explained to his disciples in chapter 14 of John’s gospel - it was essential for him to return to his father, in order that the Spirit, the Comforter, could be sent to give power to the Church.

But this event must have worried the disciples immensely. How could they follow Jesus when they could no longer see or hear him? And that’s a question which bothers us too. How are we to live as disciples of a now departed Lord?

The book of Acts, in which this story of the Ascension is told, provides some of the answer to that question. The reasons that the book is referred to as the Acts of the Apostles is precisely because it records what the disciples, the Apostles, then did in response to that question. And its interesting to see what they got up to.

Discipleship, for them, was about being an active witness to the risen Lord. They had seen him rise, and they now set about proclaiming that truth, around the whole of the known world. Their example can be quite a challenge to certainly is to me.

Sometimes, we can be lulled into a false sense of security about the Christian life. We get stuck into doing the good deeds that we feel must be done. We play our part in the organisation of the church. We do our pastoral visiting, and our voluntary work. We help out at church functions, and we give generously to Christian Aid.

But the message of Acts is that, as good and right as all these things are, being a disciple of Christ is not primarily about doing good works - even in a society which keenly encourages them. It is primarily about proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and now reigns in heaven. It is about proclaiming the good news that he has sent the Holy Spirit to give us life, and to lead us along life’s road.

That’s a tension for me, in my daily work as a minister. It would be very easy for me, and quite pleasant too, to spend all my working days visiting the lonely and sick of the parish. It’s something I enjoy doing, and something which I know brings a great deal of comfort to those I am able to visit. But, if I did that, all the time, I would miss out the primary calling of every disciple - which is to proclaim the good news. So, I must force myself, each day, to ask ‘what will I do today which will spread the good news?’ - and sometimes instead of more tea and rather nice cakes, I make the decision to spend time writing the best sermons I can, preparing the best services I am able - God be my helper!

St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminds us that good works, though important, are not the heart of the gospel. In his chapter 2, he says “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast”.

The fundamental message of Christianity - and one which distinguishes it from all other religions - is that we cannot do anything to earn our salvation. All that is required for us to spend eternity with the risen Lord has been accomplished by him. Every other religion is fundamentally based on the idea that I can earn my way into heaven by my own efforts… by how many good deeds I do, or how much I give to charity, or how much time I spend in meditation...or whatever. Jesus’ message liberates us from those kinds of worries. The good deeds that we do, we do as a response to his love, not because we are desperate to earn it. We do our good deeds in co-operation with the Spirit - as a testimony to the love of God...not because we seek to gain anything by doing them.

And that’s good news! It’s good news for those who have the time to do good works. But its also good news for those who are too sick, or too busy, or too old, or too poor to be able to do them. God’s gift of life is just that - a gift. Given by his grace, and not the result of anything we can do for ourselves.

And the best news of all, demonstrated powerfully by his ascension into heaven, and the subsequent day of Pentecost which we will celebrate in ten days time, is that Jesus has sent his Holy inspire us, to strengthen us, to lead us to faith, and to give us His that we too can be disciples who set out to tell people the good news that we have learned for ourselves.

So that’s one of the challenge’s of today’s reading. The disciples wondered how they could be disciples without Jesus to bodily guide them. Like them, we will discover, if we are faithful, that Jesus is still very much with us. By his Spirit.

Here’s a final thought: what do we really believe when we confess that Jesus ascended into heaven?
Simply this - it is our affirmation that Jesus is still alive and presently sends the Spirit, to help us spread the good news of salvation in Christ.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Revd Up!

Hi Fans!

I just thought you might be interested to know that I'm doing a concert. I'll be performing a one man show on Saturday 23rd of June, in St James' Church, Emsworth (directions on request).

The concert is to raise money for my forthcoming trip to Uganda, where my family and I will be visiting charitable projects in the Mbale region. We want to have some money with us, to support their work - hence the concert. So bring your wallets!

The concert will include a selection of Victorian songs (like The Holy City, and Jerusalem) as well as the Songs of Travel by Vaughan Williams. Then, after a cheese and wine break, I will perform some of my own music. If you want to hear some of that before making up your mind as to whether or not to come, check out the Music page of my website by CLICKING HERE

Hope to see you all there!

What next for New Labour?

So - the date has been announced. Mr Blair is to quit his job as Prime Minister - the first one to do so (at least in recent history) without being elected out of office, or drummed out by their party.

Much has been said in recent days about his legacy. Certainly there are positive and negative elements of that legacy. No doubt Schools and Hospitals are better off than in 1997. No doubt the minimum wage, and increased employment, are good for all. But on the other hand, I wonder whether the people of Iraq are especially grateful for his interventions in their country.

And I especially wonder how today's young couples - some of whom I will be marrying in the coming months - will ever be able to afford a house with today's rampant housing market.

The problem with conversations about legacies is that they are always subjective - and they start, I think, from a false premis; the premis that there might be someone, somewhere, who is so perfect as to be able to leave behind an unblemished, wholly positive legacy in such situations.

The Bible tells us that such an idea is nonsense. St Paul, writing to the Roman Christians, reminds us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". (Incidentally - that's one of my favourite definitions of sin...that none of us can ever hope to be as holy as God, and therefore, even the best of us, are to some extent sinful).

These are days when politics and secularism have become, for many, the New Religion. We look to our politicians to provide answers to our human problems, and we seek our own self-fulfillment through secular pleasures, and consumer excess.
No wonder, then, that we expect our politicians - who lead us through the halls of politics, secularism and consumerism - to be perfect.

But the reality is, of course, that our politicians are just as susceptible as the rest of us to the warp and woof of living in a sinful world.

Here's an example. Tony and Cherie have, like many couples, purchased property as an investment for their retirement and old age. They are as tied into the capitalist system as everybody else...and as dependent on it as the rest of us. It would be almost impossible for Tony, or any other capitalist, (even a socialist-capitalist!) to willingly break the chains of wealth, and start a new way of developing an economy.

But there are other models out there. Communism, of course, has substantially failed, because it does not allow for individual freedom of expression or economic development. However, here are another couple of possibilities we might yet want to consider:

1) Jubilee: The biblical concept of Jubilee was a practice of returning all land to its original owners (or their descendants) once every 50 years. This was based on the principle that after entry into the promised land, the land was equally distributed between all the people. Sometimes, land would change hands because of economic circumstances...but the year of Jubilee brought the possibility of a fresh start for all - a new level playing field.

In some ways, we have a similar concept in Britain. Many of our properties are sold on a lease-hold basis only - so that eventually (usually 99 years), the ownership of land does revert to its original owners. To my knowledge, no government has ever seriously grappled with this idea...which could do much, if properly developed, to stem the rampant house-price inflation we are now suffering from.

2) The Philosopher Rulers: The Greek philosopher Plato recorded (in "The Republic") that Socrates had proposed a radical new system of government. He proposed that those who would be rulers of a Kingdom should give up all claims to ownership of property, and should live essentially monastic community with other rulers. This meant that their decisions, taken on behalf of the whole society, could never be influenced by their own sinful desires to accumulate wealth, or even their practical desire to secure a comfortable old age. It was a radical suggestion 3000 years ago, and which has never been fully embraced by any society.

I no longer stalk the corridors of Westminster, as I once did - dropping my pearls of wisdom for everyone to ignore. (It was a thankless, and largely fruitless existence - which you can read about on my website - see the link to the right). Nevertheless, I hope and pray that with a new leader, our Government might be encouraged to really grapple with the reality of sin and selfishness, as endemic and fundamental elements of our society. Doing so will require radical alternatives to consumerism and secularism - and a promotion of new ways of thinking about our society.

Well, I'm nothing if not an optimist.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Samuel Gets His Ears On

(Edited extracts of last Sunday's Family Service Sermon)
1 Samuel 3: 1-19 “Samuel Gets His Ears On”

I wonder how many of you have seen The Dukes of Hazard? There’s a phrase from the old series that I really love. It seems that whenever one of the characters is trying to contact someone else on the CB radio, they invariably asked “Have you got your ears on good buddy?” Obviously it means “are you listening?” Or “are you tuned in?” And the question I want to ask this morning is...have you got your ears on?

As I’m sure you remember...Samuel was a small boy, working in the Temple of the Lord. In those days, boys who were learning a new trade would leave their home, and stay with their new master. In Samuel’s case, that was Eli - the old Temple Priest.

One night, while he was trying to go to sleep, Samuel heard God’s voice calling him. Only, at first, he didn’t know that it was God...he thought it was his master, Eli, calling fro the next room. So Samuel got up three times, on hearing God’s voice, and goes into poor old Eli’s room. Eli couldn’t work out what was happening...but after the third time, the lights came on.

“I know what’s going on!” he said. “It’s God who is calling you! Listen - the next time you hear that voice calling your name, sit up and say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. Which is precisely what Samuel did.

It took him a while, but eventually Samuel learned to hear God’s voice. Eventually, he got his ears on. And there’s a lesson for us in that fact - because it takes time for us to tune ourselves to God’s voice too.

God doesn’t speak to many people in a audible voice… even in Samuel’s day, as the story told us, “the word of the Lord was rare”. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t speaking. God speaks to us in all sorts of ways. He speaks through creation - the hills, the mountains and the sea are living words, telling how wonderful a creator God is. He speaks through circumstances - leading us along life’s path, teaching us wisdom through experience. He speaks through our families and friends - it is God, by his Spirit, who lodges good and wholesome things in our hearts from what others say to us.

And crucially, he speaks through the pages of the Bible. God has a way of speaking to my heart as I open the bible. When I read Jesus’ teaching about how much he loves me, and I should live my life, it isn’t just something that lodges in my sort of sinks into my soul...becomes a part of me...changing me, little by little, to be more like him. (Mind you...there’s a long way to go yet!)

So the first point I want to make is this: Let’s be alert to God’s voice as he speaks to us through creation, through circumstances, through our friends and family, and through the pages of the Bible. That’s a message for all of us...but my next messages are a little bit more specific…

We heard in the story that God was continually calling Samuel...but it took another person, Eli, to point out what was happening. In other words, if Samuel had been in a desert, without Eli to guide him, he might never have worked out that the voice came from God at all. Verse three of the passage said that “Samuel was lying down in the Temple of the Lord”.

In other words, Samuel got his ears on in the community of faith… in the Old Testament equivalent of the Church. It is in the church that we too can learn to hear God’s voice. Let me try to explain what I mean…

Does anyone here like football? My Dad likes football - or at least he did until this year when Torquay United went down to the Conference! Now my Dad will tell you that I know nothing about football. Even though I’m told that he sat me in my baby bouncer in front of the 1966 world cup...I’m afraid that the game leaves me cold. I just don’t get it...I can’t get excited about matter how often my Dad, my brother, and my boss, Simon - try to persuade me otherwise.

But I do get one thing about football...which Simon has taught me. And that is that playing football is like being a Christian in some ways. If you want to learn to play football, you have to practice, practice, practice. You’ve got to do lots of kicking against noisy garage doors. I’m told that you especially have to practice something called ‘keepy-uppy’. But. But. How ever good your ball skills might get, you will never be able to call yourself a footballer, until you’ve played in a team.

The church is like that. You can believe in God. You can even read your Bible and pray on your own...but until you have become a member of a cannot truly call yourself a Christian. And that’s because God has designed us to be people who live together in a family. We need each other. We are, in the Bible’s words, ‘the body of Christ’. It is only by joining that body, being one of its members, that we can truly call ourselves followers of Jesus...Christians.

So, my second point is this...If you want to learn about God, if you want to hear his voice, like Samuel...the best place to do it is in Church. There is simply no substitute for learning from each other within the community of faith.

And so to my final point. Let me quote from verse 19: "The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground." The Lord was with Samuel throughout all the years that he grew up. By becoming an adult within the body of the Temple, surrounded by good people who taught him of God...he became a great man of God himself. Samuel's early start in the community of faith meant that he walked with God throughout his life.

Grown ups - the message of this passage is clear: how we build faith in our young people is vital…as parents, and as leaders. You may not be aware of this...but we actually have a little bit a crisis going on in our town at the moment. There are children all over this parish who never darken the doors of this, or any other church. These are children who will may never have the opportunity to know that they are loved by God. These are children who are learning how to be adults through television and peer-pressure. These are children who, unless we reach out to them, will never have the chance to grow up, as Samuel did, within the community of faith.

We - and all the churches, are doing what we can. Our summer play-scheme has well over a hundred children. Messy Church often breaks through the 90 barrier as well. Our choir continues to attract young voices and much talent. And our young church and Pathfinders groups have continued to serve our young people in all sorts of creative and different ways. But...I say BUT...we need to do more.

Simon and I will be talking this month with the PCC about how we can expand our vision for the church’s work with young people. There is talk in the town of churches working together to provide activities for the young. Perhaps in the future we might consider employing a youth minister - if we, the people of God in Emsworth, could get behind such an initiative with our wallets. But in the meantime, many more people are needed to continue our work with young people.

So let me ask you this (if you are a member of this parish). If you are not already involved with our ministry to children and young people...could you be? Please ask yourself whether God may be calling you to be an Eli...someone who could be important in the life of a child. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands...what I am going to ask is that each one of us should take some time to pray about how we can be involved in the church’s mission to ensure that more young people grow up to be like Samuel...mighty men and women of God.

So - to summarise. Let’s be alert to God’s voice, as Samuel was, in all the ways that he is speaking. Secondly, like Samuel, let us never forget that the best form of Christian growth takes place in the community of the church. And finally - let each of us begin asking God what part he may be calling each of us to play in the task of building the next generation of young Samuels.


History: Cyclical, Cumulative or Linear?

(Edited extracts of a sermon to our Mother's Union Communion - last Thursday)

A group of teachers from around the world have collected some of their student’s knowledge of history, and brought it together into a new ‘Junior School History of the World’. Here’s a short extract:

“The inhabitants of Ancient Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and travelled by Camelot. The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. The Pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain.
Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make bread without straw.

Moses led them to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Afterward, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the 10 Demandments. After that, King David fought with a race of people called the Philatelists. Solemn, one of David’s sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.”

Acts Chapter 13, and verses 13 to 25 tell the story of Paul’s address to Antioch, in modern day Turkey. Paul’s sermon, to a group of Israeli and Gentile Jews, is firmly rooted in history. He essentially makes the case for Jesus being the promised Messiah of the Old Testament - by reminding his audience of the history which came before the ‘Jesus event’. He reminds them that God led the people of Israel out of Egypt, and gave them the land that he had promised to their ancestor, Abraham. Then he appointed Judges, and eventually a King; first Saul, then David - from whom Jesus was descended.

This is a rhetorical technique which both Peter and Stephen have used before him. You will remember, I’m sure, that on the day of Pentecost Peter cites the prophet Joel, and the Psalms, as evidence that Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s plan for the world. Stephen, the first martyr, when called before the Sanhedrin, also uses history as a way of trying to persuade his hearers of who Jesus was.

There are, I think, two common misconceptions about history. The first is that we are somehow the pinnacle of history...that everything that has happened so far has produced the best and brightest human beings that have ever lived. We see ourselves as vastly superior to all our ancestors. We believe this despite the fact that today we have found even more ways to destroy the planet (and each other) than have existed throughout the rest of time.

The second misconception is that history is cyclical...that what goes around comes around… that we are destined to repeat the mistakes and the successes of previous generations. This week for example, General Sir Michael Rose (who happens to be the step-son of one of our own congregation members) is publishing a book in which he shows the parallels between the American War of Independence, and the recent present Iraq crisis. He shows that Americans today are making precisely the same sort of mistakes that the British made in the 18th century...and again gives force to the argument of history as being cyclical.

There is some truth, of course, in both these models of history - the cyclical and the culminative. But the message of the Bible is radically different. The Bible sees history as essentially linear… it has a beginning (at the point of creation); then a timeline of interconnected events; and it will have a conclusion on what is called ‘Judgment Day’. The message of the Bible is that God is in control of history. It is above all else, HIS STORY.

My prayer is that by sharing this with you today, each of us will be challenged to consider our own place in God’s Redemptive Plan for the World - and begin to see ourselves as individuals for whom God has, and continues to work, a plan to co-operate with him in bringing life to the World.