ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
For at least the last twenty-five years I have jotted down memorable passages from the religious, and occasionally other, books that I have been reading. In this Occasional Paper I would like to share some of these passages with you, adding comments on what they mean to me.
By the way, if you like the idea, you could always start your own collection.
- Knowing God
Dieu defini, c’est Dieu fini.[God defined is God finished]
Pascal was a seventeenth century French scientist and mystic. You may feel that this is one of his mystic sayings, but reflect on it and it has great truth.
If we were able to define God, to express in our language everything there was to say about God, then we would be greater than God! And if we were greater than God then we would have no need of God and so God would be finished.
However, we are not greater than God and we will never know all there is to be known about Him, so He is not finished – which is exactly how it ought to be.
- Good and Evil
Evil lies only in the misuse of good things.
Whatever you make of the story of creation in the opening chapter of the Bible, you cannot avoid noting the often repeated clause, “And God saw that it was good,” and the climax, in Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”
So when God made this world, however, in detail, He did it, it was designed to be good – a world “fit for purpose” in modern jargon.
But, then, along came man (and woman) and, as the classic story in Genesis 3 describes, they went and spoilt it all. Good things were misused, God’s rules were broken and evil flourished.
Indeed, today, nothing has changed. The good world is polluted and misused by human kind. The Genesis story is as contemporary as one could wish for.
- Glory to God
In omnibus glorificetur Deus. [(In order that) in all things God may be glorified.]
The motto of the Benedictine Order
The whole point of our lives, our worship, our love for one another is to bring glory to God.
By nature we are self-centred. Yes, we may try and do the best for one another but we still often try to do it without putting ourselves out too much. Even when we worship our minds tend to wander and so on.
Thanks be to God, however, that He accepts our second-best but yet always spurs us on to do our “first-best”, so that He may be truly glorified.
- God’s Grip
Thank God my salvation does not depend on me, but on God’s love to me; not upon my frail grasp of Him, but upon His strong grasp of me.
When my grandchildren were younger it was a privilege to be able to take them by the hand and guide them across the busy road. But I did not say to them, “Hold on to me,” I took their hands in a firm grip so they could not let go at the wrong moment.
We depend on God like that. If it was up to us to hang on to God we would be tempted to let go when the “traffic” of life was busy and frightening, when things went wrong. But it is God who holds on to us. His grip is sure and He will see us across the “road”, safe to the other side.
“It is our choices, Harry [Potter], that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” [said Professor Dumbledore].
How often have you heard people say that they are not clever enough to understand Christianity? Now it is certainly true that we are not clever enough to be professors of theology – and, perhaps, we would not wish to be, considering some of the weird ideas some of them come up with!
Yet we all have the ability to choose. To choose to follow Jesus or to reject Him. It is this, the most basic of choices, that shows “what we truly are.”
MERCY [Maid to Christiana]: And if there is any grace or forgiveness of sins to spare, I beseech that I, thy poor handmaid may be partaker thereof.
When Christiana, whose story is told in part 2 of “Pilgrim’s Progress”, began her journey to the Celestial City she had to start at the “wicket-gate”. She was admitted after knocking for some time but her maid/companion (Mercy) was left outside for a while before also being admitted.
Mercy then begged for grace, not realising that there is an infinite supply available, enough for all who ask the Lord for forgiveness. The work of Jesus on the cross was enough for all even though many refuse His offer. No one is excluded from the love and mercy of God except by refusing to accept it.
If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven, you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.
By nature we are all citizens of this world. We live in this world, are governed by its laws and partake of its benefits.
Yet, by faith, we can change our citizenship. Once we believe in Jesus, He enables us to become children of God and citizens of His and His Father’s kingdom. He also sends His Holy Spirit to confirm this citizenship in us.
However, He does not take us out of this world, we still have to live our lives “down here”. Yet, we know that we are on our way to a better place, a heavenly one, where our revised citizenship will guarantee us a place.
- Life through death
The Church is the only society on earth that never loses a member through death!
Even if we say we have no fear of death, most of us would have to admit that we do fear the process of dying, maybe the pain or the indignities that may come with age or disease.
Yet for the Christian death is but the gateway to something far better – yes, we may wonder about it as it will be different and, as yet, it remains unknown. However, there is one critical fact, that we go to be with Jesus, the One who loved us with an amazing love, far greater than we have known here. So the Church never loses a member, they just pass from one “branch” to another, the Church on earth to the Church in heaven.
One comes to the rescue, making various changes.
Daily Telegraph Crossword Clue
I always enjoy a good, cryptic crossword, even though I often cannot completely solve it, even with the help of the latest electronic aids.
The answer to the clue given above is SAVIOUR. It is an anagram of “various” – the hint being in the word “changes”.
The first part of the clue tells us what a saviour does, he comes to the rescue of those in need. There is no greater Saviour than our Lord Jesus Christ who came to this world expressly to save us from our sin – and to encourage and help us make “various changes” to our sinful lives.
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
Those of us who are fans of Dr. Who will know that the Tardis seems very much bigger on the inside than on the outside. In the last of the Chronicles of Narnia. C.S.Lewis used the same idea and “Queen Lucy” related this to the birth of Jesus Christ.
He was in the manger as a little baby, someone we would all see as quite small. Yet that baby was God, bigger than our planet, bigger than our universe, but who had become a tiny baby so that He could carry out the plan to save the world from sin and evil.
At Christmas, when we look at pictures or models of the manger we should never forget that the one lying there was truly greater than anything we can ever imagine.
- Jesus Christ
…but you see although He was really man, He was not merely man.
In his commentary on the first epistle of John, Guy King demonstrates time and again his skill with words, putting together similar sounding but contrasting phrases.
Yes Jesus was really man. He walked this earth like any man, He got tired and hungry, He talked with all sorts of folk. Yet He was not merely man. He demonstrated that He was someone very special by His teaching, by His miracles and by His resurrection from the dead.
Because He was not merely man but the unique God-man, He, alone, can save us.
We are more wicked than we ever realised, but more loved than we ever dreamed.
Leaflet on “Christianity Explored”.
John, in his first epistle, twice makes the statement “God is love”. So we stress this fact over and over again in our explanation of Christianity – and rightly so. Yet, often, we do not really appreciate the depth of this love. Nor shall we until we see how unlovely we are in God’s eyes. We are all disfigured by sin. Maybe we avoid the “big” sins like robbery with violence or murder but we do not avoid the ones which maybe do not matter in the eyes of the law of the land – pride, jealousy, self-centredness and so on. But in God’s eyes these do matter and so He sees us as filthy sinners, “more wicked than we ever realised.”
However, despite this He loves us with a love that no human could ever truly imagine. He loves us so much, that, in Jesus, God died for you and for me. Love cannot be greater than this.
Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.
It was said that old-time tramps used to leave signs for one another, showing where it was worth asking for a meal. In one sense that is what the Church is or should be doing, putting out markers saying where “bread” is to be found.
Not physical bread – although this may well be needed – but spiritual bread. The members of the Church, however grand they might appear to be, are beggars to begin with, needing the gift of spiritual bread from God to start their Christian journey.
So Christian Evangelism is all about telling others where or how we found that bread and how or where they can find it for themselves.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.