Once again I am struck by the interplay of the lectionary readings (Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21) and certain events of the day. Barth’s dictum again: to preach with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other!
To begin with the latter: the Sunday Times publishes a memo from the Foreign Office which seems to summarise a meeting eight months before the beginning of the war in which it is obvious that the whole WMD story was cooked up (as if we didn’t know that already):
It repays the effort to read the memo carefully.
I could not find any reports on the government actually denying the memo itself, only its interpretation. Very interesting was the move of Mr Blair himself, who does not seem to have said much about the issue itself but rather played the whole thing down as electioneering. How useful elections are; especially with a pathetic Tory opposition (= “New Labour” with an even nastier edge), and Liberal Democrats who will never get anywhere with the ridiculous ‘first-past-the-post’ election system in the UK.
And to add insult to injury, it’s Labour Day. Well, not with ‘New Labour’, it isn’t!
But to return to the lectionary texts. Paul’s famous Areopagus speech (Acts 17:22-31) … once again, the adaptability of the gospel. Just amazing… endless food for thought for mission and theology. Complex of course, in that some aspects are quite unique in the NT (and the natural theology part doesn’t sit well with me either). Still, he points the way away from the idols to what really matters (dare I say, “the idols of death”, a la Hugo Assmann, Franz Hinkelammert et alii?).
Ps 66, powerful as usual: “make a joyful noise” not because you want to “feel good” about yourself; the implication is rather that one feels the very opposite. But the Psalmist points at the history of God and the people; he points at the exodus event. All of the psalm, so easily read in the abstract, depends on this (and it doesn’t help that the lectionary cuts off vv1-7).
Then Peter’s letter (1 Peter 3:13-22), with some rather optimistic views – always important to bear in mind that not all Biblical witnesses are inclined to say “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?” – starting with many a psalm! Peter reminds us what matters right at the end, though: “… the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” All cosmic powers (and that, in antiquity, is of course not “just in the heavenly world”, but rather includes Messrs. Blair, Bush, Saddam … [add your favourites]) are subject to Christ, however powerful, foolhardy, corrupt, brutal or arrogant they may become.
Finally, the gospel text (John 14:15-21) is dominant by the first and last verse, which point to the vital link between faith and action. How does one stop talking about such a fundamental passage?
What a selection of lectionary texts to preach on… and what a challenge to avoid getting side-tracked in a thousand directions, including a number of negative directions: how much abuse is possible with some of these texts (think only of misusing John 14:15 for ’emotional blackmail’)!
On a different note: I rediscovered one of the first CD’s I ever bought; must be almost exactly ten years ago now: Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Voice of Africa”, which contains that wonderful piece “Mannenberg” (with the unforgettable Robbie Jansen and Basil Coetzee), now more than 30 years old of course. When I hear this I get mentally transported back to South Africa.
If you don’t know African jazz, there is a sample of “Mannenberg” at http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/0,,1668314,00.html
Listen to it before you say your night prayers; don’t go to sleep still fuming at Blair and Bush.
Let me rephrase that: let’s not go to sleep just fuming over them.