How do we use Scripture in context to make sense of the world today?
This morning i was given the opportunity to do the preach for St John’s Anglican church in Wynberg.
Which you can listen to over here. with the rest of the service!
But since i had to write it out for some of the members who can’t tune in, i thought it might be helpful to some of you if i shared it over here. The disclaimer i would add is that i was only given 15 minutes [#cough took 21!] and so it really is me just dipping in to the topic. But given the Pandemic times we live in and the recent Black Lives Matter happenings, it felt like a good one to speak some Truth into.
i hope you will enjoy and feel free to engage constructively in the comments if you agree/disagree/have additional thoughts:
The Use of Scripture in Context to Teach God’s Word today
Pray: God, please help us to be obedient to the word you want us to hear today.
# The story [Bible] begins in absolute chaos.
Then a Voice speaks: “Let there be light.”
And out of the chaos comes order.
# The rest of the Old Testament is a bit of a Rollercoaster as God’s people follow God and turn their backs on God and it continues as a march between chaos and order.
5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
# When it talks about defrauding labourers of their wages we maybe think of people who clean some of our houses are and paid a minimum wage and not a living wage.
# When we hear ‘Depriving the foreigners among you of Justice’ we think of many Africans from other countries who have escaped war and hardship back home to come here and face xenophobia and other hardships and our call to them.
A Thundering Silence
Then we have the relative silence of God as no official Word comes and there is a kind of silence for roughly 400 years.
The New Testament opens as another chaotic world – this time for Jews under Roman Rule.
# A voice [John the Baptist] speaks out: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” [John 1.29]
Then roughly 2000 years later, give or take and once again we have a world in chaos – Dean spoke last week about ‘Creation Groaning’ and we definitely can see that as we are faced with – I believe – THREE Pandemics:
 The Pandemic of Disease that we all know too well about
 The Pandemic of Racism – recent events showed us in the States and then echoed across the world that racism is still strong in systems and structures and a whole multitude of people across the world have stood up to say ‘No more!’ – and in South Africa we also have the pandemic of violence towards women and children.
 The Pandemic of Selfishness and Greed and although these are spoken about throughout Scripture in depth, I have yet to hear in 40 plus years a sermon directed at Greed as opposed to perhaps a one liner on how greed is bad. It is so prevalent and responsible for so much of the chaos and yet we tend to avoid talking about it.
The Title I was given for this preach is: The Use of Scripture in Context to teach God’s Word Today… and so we have spoken about the historical and present context.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
For 3 months, many of us have been discovering the most glorious Truth: Church is possible without the building.
[Disclaimer: Now I know for a lot of people the building feels significant and I am not trying to knock that. There is something special about the gathering of all believers and our shared times of communion and worship… but the fact that church could continue despite no access to the building feels like a victory]
Church: The People of God doing the things of God
We have witnessed this in many ways – from the voucher system the parish initiated which is actually called Love Our Neighbour
The St Peters and now Church of the Holy Spirit microsite’s that have been housing people who normally live on the streets and beyond that, doing life with them acknowledging their dignity and building into it
The local Community Action Network [CAN] food distributions that so many of our members are involved with
Housing some people who are without accommodation
And I’m sure a lot more.
When we speak of the concept of the world, I know Dean touched on what so many of us have been seeing and talking about with regard to Black Lives Matter these past two weeks.
All Lives Matter?
If anyone would have been a promoter of the idea that All Lives Matter it would have been Jesus, surely?
Our favourite most-known-and-quoted verse reminds us that ‘For God so loved the whole world that God sent Jesus…’
The. Whole. World! All Lives Matter!
BUT When Jesus saw the children being pushed to the side…
When Jesus knew there was a Samaritan woman and her village who needed an uncomfortable and transforming conversation…
When Jesus saw a short guy hanging from a branch above His head…
When Jesus knew a young girl was dying on the other side of town and even when He was on the way to her and a woman who had been struggling with bleeding for a long long time interrupted His journey…
Jesus walking to and dying on the cross demonstrated God’s commitment to the absolute belief that All Lives Matter, but scattered regularly through His life was a recognition and acknowledgement that IN THIS MOMENT…
Children’s lives matter.
Or Samaritan’s Lives Matter.
Or tax collector’s Lives Matter.
THIS. LIFE. MATTERS.
So here it is: The Use of Scripture in Context to teach God’s Word today
THE BIBLE AS A LENS AND COMPASS
The Bible should be seen as these two things – as a lens it helps reveal to us where we are and as a compass it shows us where we need to be going.
In the world, Black Lives Matter becomes a thing – we go to the Bible!
We see a pandemic threaten the life of many – we go to the Bible!
The Bible tells us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”
This needs to be the lens we hold to our actions
This needs to be the lens we hold to our money
This needs to be the lens we hold to our time/skills/energy
Are these things being spent in a way that suggests that I am loving my neighbor as myself?
Love your neighbour as yourself
“Love your neighbor as yourself” ALONE should be ENOUGH to CONVINCE US that Jesus and Justice are inseparable
- But we also have the story of Zacchaeus
- But we also have the parable of the sheep and the goats which calls us to the plight of those considered ‘the least of these’
- But we also have the example of the early church in Acts
- But we also have the Old Testament prophets
- But we also have the Old Testament principle and picture of Jubilee
‘God has revealed to you, o humankind, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to do Justice, and to love Kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ [Micah 6.8]
BUT – I love this big ‘But’ [I cannot lie!]
John reminds us: In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. And the Word WAS God.
Jesus IS the Word. If anything that is being used from the Bible ever appears to contradict Jesus, then we have a problem. Jesus is actually the lens and the compass we should be using to determine where we are and where we are going. Jesus is the final Word on the matter.
God, help us to be obedient to the things we have heard you say today. Amen.
To listen to the words and catch the rest of the service, click here.
[For a post looking at Jesus and Justice, click here]
[An earlier piece i wrote on Jesus and the Black Lives Matter movement]