Monday, 14 March 2011

Be holy. Why?

I have very much enjoyed the series 'All About the Bible' that has been running here in Coulsdon since January as part of the Churches Together in Coulsdon's way of marking the Year of the Bible. Last week was particularly helpful as Bishop David Atkinson gave us a 'quick coach tour' (as my History of Religious Thought lecturer used to say) of Christian ethics. What stuck in my mind was the way Bishop David gave a biblical rationale for ethics: not a legalistic Kantian approach of obeying laws, or a Millsian relativism of doing what is best for the greatest number, but an ethic based on the reflection of God's character: "Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy."

This means that ethical choices, if they are 'biblical', will be made in the light of what reflects God's character. That doesn't necessarily make those choices choices easy as most situations are quite complicated, but it does give a way to start. From what we know of the character of God, as revealed in the bible, we can begin to shape an ethic that includes ourselves individually and as a society.

Today's postmodern society allows for so much indivual choice when it comes to ethics that we, as Christians, should be allowed as much 'air-time' to put a biblical approach to ethics as anyone else. Today, it seems to me, we will win respect not by simply arguing or seeing ourselves in a battle, though sometimes it seems like a battle, but perhaps by presenting an ethic that is as attractive as the character of God. That means we need to know enough about God's character to BE attractive, and not just pick and choose the bits of God's character that our own prejudices feel comfortable with. So justice AND mercy, grace AND truth, power AND self-giving, creativity AND purity, and so on.

As it happens, one of the lectionary readings for today is from Leviticus 19, which has the verse, "Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy." I am taking that verse with me today and will see what happens.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Have a joyful Lent

I have been reading the Bible consistently for at least 35 years, yet yesterday there was a verse in our readings at Morning Prayer that for some reason had passed me by up until now. It sums up entirely what I want to achieve during Lent, or indeed any time.

The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him ,
and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice.

Those words were spoken by John the Baptist about Jesus, and later Jesus described himself as the bridegroom (Mark 2:19), and his disciples as friends (John 15:15). So during this Lent I want to be one of those who is waiting and listening for the bridegroom's voice in the anticipation of the joy of hearing him.

With this is in mind I have been preparing a talk on Lectio Divina for the 'All About the Bible' series being held in Coulsdon during the past 9 weeks. In doing so, it has helped me rediscover the Bible as a means through which we can meet with a friend and hear his voice.

And just in case you think that all this might be rather cosy then here is the word I've taken for today:

If you spend youselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:10)