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Outer darkness

The Jews were insiders – the chosen race, the people of God.  Israel was a light to the nations, a shining advertisement for the LORD’s grace and glory.  And yet, as Jesus would often say, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (e.g. Matthew 19:30)  Judgement involves dramatic reversals.  Those on […]

Building on sand

Jesus splits the world in two.  But He does it by descending right into our midst. There He is, the son of Mary, an itinerant preacher with no qualifications and no fixed abode.  Surrounded by the poor, the meek and the persecuted, He holds forth with His distinctive northern accent.  Yet as He concludes His […]

Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven

What is God up to in the world? Here’s a word to drop into conversation: God is ouranifying the earth. Ouranos is the Greek word for heaven – it’s where we get the name for the planet “Uranus”.  And here Jesus tells us that God’s desire is to ouranify the earth.  You might say – […]

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God

– I see through you. – My eyes are open. – I long to see the world. If a person has experienced their fair share of impurity we might say they’ve “seen it all.”  On the other hand, we call the naive person “blinkered”:  “Those innocents – bless ’em – they’re blind to real life.”  We imagine that the person with a […]

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled

—  Righteousness – the goodness of God. —  Righteousness – the blessed life in action. —  Righteousness – setting the world to rights. When seen in its true light, righteousness is incredibly attractive.  And incredibly elusive. From its first mention in the bible, “righteousness” is a consuming passion.  In Genesis 15, Abraham is taken outside […]

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth

In The Life of Brian we join the outskirts of Christ’s audience for the sermon on the mount.  “The meek shall inherit the earth” filters through to one listener: “Oh that’s nice innit, I’m glad they get something cos they have a hell of a time.” It’s a brilliant line.  But Jesus isn’t throwing out a […]

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted

What could be more nonsensical than this?  Or insensitive?  “Blessed are they that mourn”? In my Greek lexicons the word that invariably appears next to “Blessed” is “Happy”.  It’s a word denoting a prosperous and favourble condition.  Some dictionaries list “blissful” as a synonym!  So how on earth can Jesus call mourners “blessed”? Well it’s […]

Turning water into wine

Here is a phrase, like “David and Goliath” or “the writing is on the wall“, that doesn’t strictly occur in the Bible.  Instead it arises as a short-hand to describe a famous story. This story is from John 2:1-11.  It’s the first of Jesus’ miracles as John records them.  And according to verse 11, by […]

Prisoners of hope

We have all met people who are prisoners of despair.  What we call depression could well be described in those terms: it is a helpless and hopeless condition with no prospect of release.  They don’t want to collapse in despair but they feel bound to do so.  Perhaps we have been in that waterless pit […]

The Desire of All Nations

There is a limit and a longing to us all.  And that interaction between the limit and the longing defines our human condition.  We are finite creatures, and yet this finite world does not satisfy. The prophet Haggai wrote in the 6th century BC to the Israelites in a strange kind of in-between time.  They […]