On Being Provoked (Hebrews 10)

Those of you who have ever done any bible study with me will know that I often say as a first question – what jumps out at you, what makes you go hmm?

For me, in this passage, it is the interesting verb in verse 24, how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, or as an alternative translation suggests, love and beautiful work. The response to the sacrifice that Jesus has made for us, the ridding us of the shame and guilt of sin, the faithful promise that we are considered holy and clean in his sight, the response to that gift is a life of love and good works, meeting together and encouraging each other.

But provoke, it seems a hard word to be associated with gentle actions such as love and good deeds. Normally we might see provoke as something negative – eg don’t provoke your brother. Indeed, the word, paroxusmos, appears in Acts 15:39 to describe exactly that – a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas so sharp, cut so deeply, that it made them go their separate ways.

We might translate paroxusmus as provoke, cut sharply, stir up, stimulate, agitate. And I wonder why the author of Hebrews chooses it in relation to good works and love? Perhaps to emphasise how important these actions are to us as Christians. They aren’t an optional extra, but they are the things that should be stirred up, provoked, agitated in us as a response to the sacrifice Jesus has made for us. V 12 “But when Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God and since then has been waiting until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” Our action in a response to Christ’s loving action for us is to love others. What a perfect way to defeat enemies, with love and good deeds.

As we watch our country’s’ leadership dissolve into confusion and as we hear of the UN envoy reporting on the dire poverty he found in our country, it should provoke us to action. We are confident that the work of salvation has been achieved once for all in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our response is the work of the Kingdom now. We must love our neighbours and love God and be provoked to action that is transformative, provoked to love and beautiful deeds.

It is our response to the saving power of Christ that provokes us to staff the food bank, collect food and distribute it to those who are hungry. Even in a town like Beaminster people are hungry now, today?

It is our response to Jesus’ sacrifice that provokes us to donate money to Broadwindsor school to buy new books for the library because there is no money in the school budget, cut repeatedly, year after year, to buy books?

It is Jesus’ love that provokes us to take a deep breath before responding to an email from a church treasurer who declares that the focus on prayer during our year of sabbatical is just an excuse for doing nothing?

It is Jesus’ love that provokes us to teach and pray about stewardship when members of a PCC refuse to agree to give any church money away to support other charities?

It is just as well that Christ has offered the sacrifice for my sin because this week I have sinned many times because I am angry at a government that punishes the poorest in society, I am angry at repeated funding cuts to local services, I am angry that I am accused of doing nothing in my work, I am angry that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are so selfish that they will not share resources to help others. I have not thought good things about any of those people. Yet despite my sinful thoughts and sinful conversations I will pick up again, I will make my confession, I will approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with my heart sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. I will hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

We are saved from our sin because of what Jesus has done for us. The curtain of the temple has been torn in two, we have confidence to enter into the holiest place. We are set free from the burden of sin, shame and guilt. We don’t need to constantly make sacrifices for our sin, we instead respond to the one sacrifice made on our behalf.  Our response is to be provoked to love and good deeds, to encouraging one another and meeting together. We must do this not because we have always done it, or because we want to preserve the Church of England, or because if we don’t do it we are afraid no one else will, or because it makes us look good. We do it because our hearts and lives are transformed by the saving love and action of Jesus Christ. He is patiently waiting for his enemies to be made a footstool under his feet. We must get to work, provoked to love and good deeds, revealing God’s Kingdom: a place of love, forgiveness, beauty, peace, justice, equality and joy.

Hebrews 10: 11-25 – read the text at The Bible Gateway.

Growing in Knowledge

The first in our ten week series on the Way of Life that we hold in common as part of the Community of the Annunciation.

How do we seek to grow in knowledge?

Our primary source of knowledge about God is the Bible. Reading the bible regularly is a great way to increase our knowledge and understanding of God. You could start at the beginning and finish at the end, but I would lay money on you giving up somewhere around Leviticus. Perhaps a better place to start is in the New Testament, with a Gospel. You could devote a few minutes every day at a suitable time or find a longer period on a quieter day. There are many different daily reading bible notes that could help you, or perhaps reading the bible in a year, which is available as an app.

Another place to start is with the Pew News each week – look up the readings you haven’t heard in church on Sunday and read them, alongside the readings you have heard. Ask yourself what jumps out at you? What intrigues you?

Going deeper you could seek out a bible study group or join us on Saturday at 9:00 in St Mary’s Beaminster where we discuss the readings for the next day.

What other reading do you do about spiritual matters? You could look up Sarum College bookshop who have a monthly newsletter with new titles reviewed and suggested https://www.sarumcollegebookshop.co.uk/ or browse locally in Good Books in Bridport.

We have a spiritual book-club running in the team. We meet three times a year to share a book we are reading. Currently we are reading Fruitfulness on the Front Line by Mark Greene. We will meet on 12th November at 11:00 or 15th November at 20:00 in St Mary’s Church Beaminster to discuss the book. Or borrow something from the Rector’s bookshelves in St Mary’s Beaminster.

Increasing in knowledge isn’t limited to reading though. There are many podcasts, documentaries and radio programmes about faith. Every week Bishop Mike and Bishop Martin from the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich do a vlog about the upcoming lectionary readings. Their videos are available through the diocesan website, link here http://www.cofesuffolk.org/

There are also a number of small groups in the team that can offer a forum for talking about the Bible and sharing knowledge about God. And we hope that our weekly sermons deepen understanding and throw up questions – we are always happy to chat to you after we have preached.

Happy adventuring as you seek to grow in knowledge.

 

Dates for Your Diary from Rev. Jo

The next Spiritual book club will take place in November. There will be two sessions, Monday 12th November at 11:00 and Thursday 15th November at 20:00. Both sessions will be at St Mary’s Church Beaminster. You only need to attend one session. We will be reading and discussing Fruitfulness on the Frontline by Mark Greene which is a practical guide to how we live out our faith every day.

Messy Church continues Saturday 10th November at 16:00 at St Mary’s Beaminster. Do join us to explore a bible story in creative and messy ways.

Join us on Saturday 24th November, 10:00-12:00 at St Mary’s Beaminster to paint pebbles in preparation for the Christmas Crib service and outreach. All ages welcome. Bring a black sharpie if you have one and an apron. More details on the website.

Christmas outreach – a date for your diaries. Join us in the Square, Beaminster on Saturday 22nd December from 10:00 to sing carols, share coffee and sweets, and to offer an opportunity for prayer. Come and bless Beaminster.

Saturday morning prayer breakfast. Last month I described our Thursday evening prayer as part of the Community of the Annunciation. We also meet regularly on a Saturday morning at St Mary’s Beaminster. We gather at 9:00 with coffee and croissants and share how God has renewed our hope that week. Next, we read the bible passages set for Sunday and discuss them together. Then we have a time of silent prayer, a time of praying out loud and conclude our time together with the collect and Lord’s Prayer. It is a great way to start the weekend and helps us connect more deeply into the bible passages for the Sunday services. All are welcome to join us any Saturday.

Following a fascinating week of philosophy and theology at St George’s House Windsor I wanted to pose some questions we were discussing. Is there such a thing as “the common good” and “the public sphere”? How might we define them? How should we as Christians act in response to the common good and public sphere? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.