Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Those Pesky Foreigners! (Exodus 12)

When the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt, it turns out that there were non-Israelites among them! This is a wonderful preview of how it would be in the New Age (of the NT) when God would create one man/race out of the two (Jew and Gentile):

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2 NIV

And when the Israelites celebrated the passover feast, in haste, to remember how they had been brought out of Egypt in a big hurry (hence naan bread being the only bread available! The first curry houses in the world?!), there would have been some foreigners eating it with them. But those who took part in the feast had to be circumcised to show that they were counted as being among God's people. This means that today, despite our eagerness to include one and all, we do need to remember that as we gather for communion, it is believers that are welcome. Those with circumcised hearts, as Paul puts it in Romans 2.

Take a moment to read Exodus 12, especially verses 43-51:

43 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "These are the regulations for the festival of Passover. No foreigners are allowed to eat the Passover lamb. 44 But any slave who has been purchased may eat it if he has been circumcised. 45 Hired servants and visiting foreigners may not eat it. 46 All who eat the lamb must eat it together in one house. You must not carry any of its meat outside, and you may not break any of its bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate this festival at the same time. 48 "If there are foreigners living among you who want to celebrate the LORD's Passover, let all the males be circumcised. Then they may come and celebrate the Passover with you. They will be treated just as if they had been born among you. But an uncircumcised male may never eat of the Passover lamb. 49 This law applies to everyone, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner who has settled among you." 50 So the people of Israel followed all the LORD's instructions to Moses and Aaron. 51 And that very day the LORD began to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, division by division. Exo 12 NLT

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

True Worship

John 4:19-26 19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." 21 Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth." 25 The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." 26 Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."

Lots of discussions about the building. Development cttee. PCC. But is the building really that important? (The Grk word for ‘church’ means ‘gathering’). Illustration – royal wedding (Westminster Abbey wasn't really in focus, was it?).
Samaritans (N kingdom of Israel, deported to Assyria, those left behind intermarried with foreigners who had been encouraged to move there, who only had the Pentateuch, and who’s worship was focussed on Mount Gerizim – 400BC rival temple, now destroyed) were looking for ‘one like Moses’. Their word for a Messiah figure. That comes out in the woman’s dialogue. She says, ‘I can see that you are a/the prophet?’

Not a place. 'Neither... nor...' v21.
Yet salvation does come through Christ, the Messiah, who was a Jew. ‘…we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews’.
He came full of grace and truth (1:14, 17). He is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (14:6).
After the resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent his Spirit, the Holy Spirit (Spirit of truth 14:17, 15:26; 16:23). The Spirit leads us into truth.

The Father seeks worshippers. Normally we seek God (e.g. in Psa ‘I seek your face’). Here, and in parable of lost sheep (Mat 18:12) and in the parable of the lost coin (Luk 15:8), both showing us that ‘the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost’ (Luk 19:10) we have God seeking us.
Sacred Romance – Brent Curtis and John Eldredge is a great book to read on this subject.
Romances are pretty up and down. Fairly unpredictable. Relationships with people in general can be unpredictable. The word for ‘Spirit’ in the NT is the same as the word for ‘wind’. When explaining how to be born again to Nicodemus, Jesus says: ‘The wind [=Spirit] blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound [=voice], but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."’. 3:8 Let’s be ready for the unpredictable!
Are places important?
That isn’t to say that places are unimportant. The place where you met your wife, or had your honeymoon. But they are places connected with a person, not a religion.
So we need to think more about our relationship with Jesus Christ. We can do that as individuals, but also as a community focussed on Him. He is our life. He, by His Holy Spirit, leads us into all truth. He shows us the way to the Father.

1. How are we doing in our relationship with Jesus Christ:
a. What gets in the way?
b. What could be improved?
2. How are we doing in our relationship with each other – are we encouraging each other to follow the Lord more closely?
3. Are we ready for the unpredictable? (On Sunday, Malc was talking about our lives being more out of control, as God begins to work).