At the beginning of the week I led our May Parade Service. The Christian Aid material I used suggested running an unfair quiz, which I did. I had great fun preparing two sets of questions one so simple and one so impossible. It was also fun leading the quiz. The look of annoyance on some of the children’s faces was a sight to behold. Then when I asked why such an unfair quiz, one of the losing team gave such a comprehensive answer citing the unfairness of the world in which we live that I gave them extra marks and they won!
Quizzes seem a theme for the week. I am currently sharing the leading in our series of Bible studies on the requested subject of the Old Testament and I’m starting each one with a quiz. The idea of beginning with a quiz started two years ago with a series of studies to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Few of us know much about the history of the Church so we began each session with what I called the Reformation Game. This week I have been preparing my second quiz on the Old Testament but in doing so got rather hooked and have virtually prepared all six!
As I gave Viv a lift in the car, I was explaining that because of spending so much time on these quizzes on the Old Testament this letter which I felt should be on the subject of Pentecost had still not been written. She pointed out a possible connection. At Pentecost or, as it used to be called, Whitsun, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. The Church has a past. At Pentecost there was the immediate past of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and then the past of the centuries of God’s dealings with his people as recorded for us in the Old Testament. We know of the significance of this because of the numerous references in the New Testament to the Old, it is there from the cave of Bethlehem to the cross of Golgotha, on the day of Pentecost itself and then in the letters of the early Church. There is good reason to know and study the first and longest part of our Bible.
All this led me to think of a recent momentous event in my life, the birth of our third grandchild. To slightly alter some words from a song in Mission Praise, ‘How sweet to hold a new-born baby, and feel the pride and joy she gives’ (MP 52). A few weeks later my daughter commented to her Mum how she thinks the baby, ‘has Dad’s eyes.’ With any birth there is a past good or bad, I certainly think she can inherit better looks than mine!
With a birth there is the importance of the past but more than that of the future and the present. With holding a new-born there are thoughts of what will be her future but the present is the most important. She lets you know when she is hungry and something needs to be done about it; there can be that damp feeling telling you something else needs to be done. The present is the most immediate, its demands and actions.
A celebration of the birth of the Church is similar. There is the importance of the past, we would not be here without it or who we are. There are thoughts of the future but the present is the most immediate with its demands and needs for action. One of the demands are the various responses to the challenges of our modern world. Last year for my sabbatical I looked at one of these challenges, ‘What should be the Christian response to Islam?’ I have been asked to share some of my thoughts, so as mentioned previously, on Saturday 22nd of June you are invited to our hall at Tilehurst from 10.30am so together we may look at one of the challenges for the Church today. Someone has offered to provide a light lunch to conclude the morning so a sign-up sheet will be on a notice board but if you forget, come along anyway. It is a question I believe that is both relevant and connected to much else but I promise this time no impossible quiz!
Yours in Christ,Robert