Monday, 23 April 2018

Man the lifeboats!

Genesis 7: 1-5, 11-18, 8: 6-18, 9: 8-13 (page 5 in our pew Bibles) The edited highlights of the story of Noah and the flood, ending with the sign that God would never again flood the earth, the rainbow.
Acts 4: 5-12 (page 912 in our pew Bibles) The view of St. Peter that salvation can be found nowhere else except exclusively in Jesus Christ is a scandal to some and a blessed promise and opportunity for evangelism to others.
John 10: 11-18 (page 896 in our pew Bibles) "I am the good shepherd" finds resonance in the 23rd psalm of course and is the most universally well known description of Jesus.

The flood story is significant because God created the world with the natural and moral order in perfect balance. Albeit with one destructive element, mankind.
When the moral order was overturned there were natural consequences.
In the Bible the moral and the natural orders are linked; moral decisions have natural consequences.
That this is more than a Biblical affectation is apparent as we are much more aware of that nowadays when we realise that our actions and decisions can have dire repercussions in the natural world; from extinctions of species, to plastic waste clogging the oceans, de-forestation causing flooding, and a myriad other problems.
God intervenes to try and eradicate the destructive incident, mankind, apart from one family. We are not told why Noah was “righteous” and deserved saving he just was, and only he and his family were the only ones saved out of all humanity.
In the Christian era, sometimes the church has been likened to an ark, carrying the ones destined for salvation, while everyone else perishes, and the Christian rite of baptism as being saved “through” water because originally the rite was full emersion.
Of course we are baptised into God or as it sometimes says in the New Testament baptised into Jesus and it was the name of Jesus which was the contentious factor in our story from Acts.
As I started to say last week the name of Jesus carried power. Jesus means Joshua which means God “saves” or “heals”.
Now verse 12 which ascribes absolute uniqueness to Jesus.
“There is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved”
And despite modern liberally minded Christians trying to undermine that fact, in our age of pluralism we must acknowledge that if we are to be true to the faith as the Apostles received and understood it we have to say that the church was at its inception exclusive and found salvation nowhere else.
The reality is that the world of the 1st century  was no less plural than our world is now, but the Apostles had no doubts and would go to their deaths believing that.
What drove them was the fact that Jesus was “the way, the truth and the life” and they believed that with every fibre of their being.
This man described himself in various ways but one of the most comforting, even in this technological age, divorced as we are from the countyside is when Jesus said.
“I am the good shepherd”.
Describing yourself as a shepherd was not uncommon and Kingship in general was often equated with shepherding but Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”
Underlying and making a distinction between him and others. The others were like hired hands who wouldn’t risk their lives to protect his own.
He would willingly lay down his life for his own to protect them. He knows us and we know him and we will hear and listen to his voice.
As Jesus might say “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear”

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