Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 January 2020


 

The Rev. Bruce Roy led our service today which included a Communion Service.

He conducted the service in a warm, inviting manner, so we felt we were all part of the service. The Communion Service was conducted, as is fitting, with dignity, but the quietness and stillness of it sometimes makes some people feel a little unsure of their place in it.

However the Communion Service is a deeply spiritual experience and the members of the congregation were aware of a great bond, one with the other, throughout, because of that.

Despite the deep importance of the Communion Service, the part of the service I am going to concentrate on is the reflection, which, I’m sure brought clarity and in some cases, comfort to individuals listening.

Bruce spoke about the meaning of scripture, which causes some people to bridle when it comes to the description of events we haven’t witnessed in our lifetime. How could these things be? And if the Bible includes impossible stories, how can we rely on it?


The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give accounts of the birth of Jesus but it isn’t mentioned in Mark or Matthew.

Mark begins with a declaration about John the Baptist followed by the baptism of Jesus as an adult. John is quite different again, speaking in a more spiritual style but again introducing Jesus as an adult being baptised by John the Baptist.

On the surface it does seem a bit odd that such gospel accounts do not quite mesh. Matthew says Jesus was born in a house in Bethlehem then sometime afterwards is taken to Egypt to escape Herod. After a period of time his family decides to return to Bethlehem, but soon change their mind and travel to Nazareth instead.


According to Luke, however, Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. They travel to Bethlehem because a census requires them to do so. While they are there Jesus is born in a manger. After his birth they wait for Mary to go through ritual purification, following which they travel to Jerusalem to sacrifice two birds at the temple. When the sacrifice had been made they go home to Nazareth.

In addition there are accounts of angels speaking to people, instructing them about what to do: people speak of visions adding further uneasiness for some readers. When have any of us spoken to Angels or had visions? And if the visions were what we call dreams, how many of us have acted them, believing they came from God? 

For people who have been taught that the Bible is the Word of God and who have been taught to believe every word as it is written, all of the above can cause deep insecurity and confusion. Some, unable to make any sense of it, thrown out “the baby with the bath water” and desert their beliefs and the church.

However, Bruce explained that the truth of the Bible is to be found in the message of the accounts and that the “facts” were simply a method of producing that message. We are to look for the truth behind the account.

This is easier to accept if we are told of other accounts. During the first a Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was accused of telling lies about statistics of losses suffered on Iraq’s side and other ‘factual information’. However, the King of Jordon stepped in and explained that the people of the Middle East think in terms of the truth of Passion, whereas the people of the West think in terms of the truth of facts. This is the same disparity between western thinking about the Bible that exist for us.

When we read anything in the Bible, we should not concern ourselves about the facts. We should look for the underlying truth of the message. The account may be “true” as in Western thinking or it may not. That isn’t important. There is a far more important truth just below the surface.

Truths about relying on God. Truths about doing what God says. Truths about seeking out God’s way. Truths about courage. Truths that are true no matter what the age.

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