Sunday, 20 June 2010

Down and Out in Wydale Hall

Yes I was one of the hi tech people at the church weekend away as described previously. Ever the info nerd, I was woken up to sound of birdsong at 4am this morning and went downstairs to try out a daily reading extension on the iphone bible app. The suggested reading was Ecclesiastes chapters 7 to 12. As I sat there looking out of the window, I realised that my eyesite was getting slightly worse. Thankfully there is nothing like a dose of Ecclesiastes to set the World to rights.

Quoting Scripture out of context is usually not a good idea, neither is Ecclesiastes the best place for deep meaningful theology, but the wiriter is bang up to date in his jaundiced view of the human condition and life generally. Ecclesiastes should come with a health warning. I suspect only those with a perverse and inappropriate sense of humour could draw comfort out of it. As we are called on to 'confess one to another' , I must now admit to being thrown out of Sunday School as a child for asking perverse and inappropriate questions. You know the kind every Sunday School has one. I remember a few years ago at our previous church, the youth worker told the children that 'Jesus was everywhere' . One little boy in the corner put his hand up and said 'please Miss, is he in the toilet?' . I was that kind of child and worse; I just love kids like that, don't you? Jesus certainly does.

As I sat there, sickened by being woken up by the noisy birdlife, my vision dimming looking out of the window. The following verses leaped from my iphone screen from Ecclesiastes 12:

3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
And the strong men bow down;
When the grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look through the windows grow dim;
4 When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of grinding is low;
When one rises up at the sound of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.

I have no idea of the significance of the grinders, however it's fair to say that life has been something of a grind recently. Any daughter's of music at the church weekend, please stand up. If you are feeling low, then the rest of the chapter is for you, you know who you are.

I have heard it said that the New Testament is reasonably reliable but that the Old Testament writers are less so. As a Christian I believe that every word in the Old Testament is true and inspired by God, but also that some of it is very diffcult to understand. It is a reflection of God's dealings with humanity, his gradual revelation to them of his purpose and above all points to the coming of his Son. Every aspect of human nature is revealed, inclluding that of Ecclesiastes, a Worldly wise, cynical, Non PC, insightful, sexist and bitter man, with a wicked sense of humour. A man whose one redeeming feature is that he realises that God is in control. I believe this man really did invent the concept of the 'tongue in cheek comment' . How about Chapter 7:

26 And I find more bitter than death
The woman whose heart is snares and nets,
Whose hands are fetters.
He who pleases God shall escape from her,
But the sinner shall be trapped by her.
27 “ Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher,

Any night in Filey, you could find half a dozen divorced men at the local pub who would be more than happy to endorse these findings of 'the Preacher'. If you haven't read Ecclesiastes and want an accurate up to date assessment of the bleak futitility of the human condition without God, then get stuck in.

The good news is that Ecclesiastes is only one small facet of the wonderful diamond of God's word. The fact is that Jesus really is everywhere. In the modern, paraphrase of "the Message" Bible, in Paul's letter to the Colossians:

15-18We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

21-23You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.

Every bit of the Bible is about this Message - The Message is Jesus and if we take delivery and accept God's free gift of his Son, we are no longer stuck in the bleak World view that is Ecclesiastes and the one certainty of life - death.

Not only did Margaret persuade me to sample the delights of the Wydale Hall Labryinth (more of that later) but now I'm out here on the blogosphere. Such is the miraculous effect of a Church weekend away.

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