The Three Kings

Yesterday I was involved in two Epiphany services and it got me thinking about those “Wise men” who journeyed to see the baby Jesus.

sp2There are 12 verses in the second chapter of in the gospel of Matthew that talk about what happened with them but all we are told about them is “Magi from the east came“, they go to visit King Herod because they know that this is where a king should be found, get told by his advisers that a prophecy says the ‘King of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem’, they go and visit Jesus and then don’t go back to see Herod. From these 250-300 words, depending on translation, the Christian faith has made up a whole mythology about these “Magi” that is now believed.

Because they brought three gifts then it has been decided that there were only three of them. Because we want them to be kind and humble people we talk of what it cost them to travel from wherever to see this babe. All through I feel we have dumbed them down, turned them into something tame and weak. So these are my thoughts on the Magi.

So they must either have been astronomers or astrologers or both or employed people who looked at and read what was written in the stars. That is almost a given. But why did stars-constellationsthey go to visit a new born king? I think it was because the stars foretold how great this King was. Why go and visit a great king? To get great gifts from him. I believe these Magi had money, either of their own or were in a position to tax the people around where they lived. I think they came in a huge caravan of camels and servants and tents and gifts. Why do I think this? Because everything I’ve read about King Herod is that he was a despot and would not have let in three lowly travellers even if they did say they were off to worship the new king. I believe, from all I have read about Herod, that he would have either dismissed them or had them killed. But he welcomes them in. They must have been an impressive sight and he must have known he couldn’t silence them. I believe they came with gifts, not just the gold, frankincense and myrrh that are mention, but much more. I believe the Bible only mentions those three gifts because they are the significant ones. I do believe that the Bible misses many details out. Why say that they gave other things when Matthew wanted to make a point to his readers of who Jesus is?

But you  know I think the most amazing thing that happens is when the Magi meet with Jesus. So picture a huge caravan of camels, of opulence, of power, coming to the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are staying. Here I believe it was the same house that Jesus was born in (as in he was born in the place where the animals lived) and that many of the wider family had no left after the census and Joseph was waiting for Mary to be strong enough so they could leave. Maybe even God had told him to stay and we just aren’t told that by any of the gospel writers.

So here they are in this little town when this cavalcade comes through. The town is in up roar. The Magi reach the house. They go in. There they see a normal couple. Remember Joseph was a tradesman and so wouldn’t be poor but wouldn’t be rich. Normal. But something happens to these wealthy, powerful men when they see Jesus.

Matthew says “ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

What happened to make them bow down and worship this woman and child? What did they see? What happened? Something in meeting with Jesus caused them to change.

Now I’m sure Herod offered them something to come back and tell him when they had found the child but they don’t. They set off. I’m thinking they went quite quickly because Herod doesn’t chase after them but goes off to kill those poor toddlers in Bethlehem.

I just feel that on this day after Epiphany Sunday it would be good to just ponder what happened when the Magi saw Jesus that caused a change in them. And also how often we have preconceived ideas of what “King Jesus” is like but if we truly looked at Him then we would give him the gifts we had intended for another.

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Creator Christianity

Here are some thoughts in following on from my post yesterday about Pagan Christmas. Whilst I was out walking today and marvelling at how each day is different – yesterday we

offshore-windfarms
Ok so not my view but it’s a great picture 🙂 

had a thick frost, today it is mild and damp. I always wish I took my camera with me because there is a view great view where I walk over the bridge over the A55 and look out to see. In our bay we have wind turbines, lots of them, and it is amazing how the cloud and sea and sky can make them look so different. The other day they looked like they were standing on the ground. Today like they were floating in the air. Some days they are brilliant white, some days grey and forlorn looking. So there I am marvelling about this and realised how much most of Christianity can miss about God and how also the pagan side missed about God too.

Ok so this is generalisation so please forgive me 🙂 Pagans are very much into worshipping creation and Mother Nature, which I think is awesome, and do believe it is one facet of 1bd30002809be66a88e93b426a24e6bcGod. Christians on the other hand can get so fixated in Father God that they miss the nature side of things. Both Father and Mother are facets of God. And they are not the whole even when joined together.

But then things get silly as Christians. If I told you I was a Creationist Christian then you would think that I believe the literal story in the Bible, that God made the world in just 6 days. I don’t. But I do believe God created the world. See I think that to do it in 6 days is actually a bit easy. To make man exactly as he is now is easy. It’s almost what we like in our instant McDonald’s world – that quick instant fix. And in the grand scheme of things 6-7,000 years is pretty instant when put in regard to eternity. I think the whole idea that God took millennia to make the world is awesome. As a creative person I am learning that to make anything really read well – or to make my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table business viable – I have to be in for the long haul, and I do have to be willing to edit, to change, to work with what I have.

2424648436_dd3e5aa7c0_z1-e1358896975823Oh! I hope that’s not blasphemous. I’m not saying that God has been doing editing and changing and doesn’t know what’s going on. But I do think God works on growing things and changing and being in for the long haul. Even for what He is doing with me personally He has to be committed for the long haul and for things to edit and to change. I am not the same person I was when I first met with God 24 years ago. In fact I’m not the same person I was last week. Last week I was gathered with my Interweave friends and that always changes me. Yes one could say that because God is outside of time and space He knew where I’d be and how I’d been today but He did also give me free will to get to here as I chose. And I’m not sure if “here” is where He really wanted me or whether we are both just working with the material on offer at the moment 🙂

So the idea that God takes millennia to get the earth to how it is now, and He hasn’t just done it Himself. He has let Mankind be involved too. My view out my window and on my walks is a mixture of God and man working in tandem. I was going to say harmony but I don’t think that is always the case. As I’ve posted before this view is different to what it was and in a few years it will be different again – maybe. painting_the_earth

So my point today is to say please let us stop doing either/or but yes and. Let us see God in creation and creation in God. And also realise God is in this for long haul not a quick picture.

Results of a Vote

I’ve done my best not to read any blog posts that are appearing today. My facebook feed was crazy enough. In fact at one point Facebook crashed it was so busy.

donald-trump-and-hillary-clinton-with-us-election-state-mapSo what do I think? Well for someone to win the majority of the voting public must have voted for them, even if by a small majority. I know after Brexit there was a lot of talk of the percentage that didn’t vote and that if they had voted then there would be no Brexit. Um! How was one to know what they would have voted for? The same here. I don’t know how many Americans voted yesterday and one can claim that if the rest had voted the result would have been different but would it? I really do hope we don’t get into that because that’s silly.

So in both Brexit and the US elections what do I see people voting for? I see them voting against the “Global Village”. Not so long ago, as the internet took over the world there were a lot of people excitedly claiming that this was making the world smaller, people slide1_1_finding it easier to keep in touch, people knowing what the rest of the world is like, and also migration became easier. But it appears from these two times of voting that the majority of people who voted do not want that. They do not want to be multicultural. And actually when they see what the media is throwing at them why should they? If you live somewhere that has very few people of a different ethic mix to you but you watch the media and all you see is people of cultures and colours you do not know fighting and killing each other do you really want them living by you?

We seem to have got into a way, not just on the news coverage but in general of only showing death and horror. I love a good detective thriller but do have to be careful that this does not colour my view. Watch the TV series Shetland and you can see that this beautiful Scottish Isle is full of drug dealing and murder. Not a safe place to go. The TV show Hinterland, shows that Aberwysth in Wales is full of dour people who hate and kill each other. I could list loads and loads of programs that just drift into our homes now that show the world as a bad place. And then once we get on to the news well…

But actually across the world these wars, not just in the key places we see but across Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, etc etc there are people who are fighting, globalisationand killing, to stop integration of those of a different race, colour, religion, background. And in stopping that integration they are working on a basis of ethnic cleansing or assimilation.

I truly believe that what we have seen in the voting that went on yesterday in US and in June in the UK was a cry from the people to say that they do not want globalisation.

There has just been some major commemorations, which will come to ahead in 2 years time, a hundred years of World War I. In the human psyche a hundred years is not a long time. Yes there have been times of prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation. But a hundred years ago the world was a divide place. People did not move around like they did. I remember less than thirty years ago travelling Europe and being seen as a bit of a hippy for doing it. Someone I worked with had just been on a package holiday to Spain. Thirty years ago were the times of going to Spain and being able to play bingo and drink Watney’s Red barrel beer – warm and flat, and the only wine we drank was Liebfraumilch, spaghetti bologniase was seen as foreign food. Ok so most towns did have a Chinese takeaway or curry house  but that was for drinking after the pub or on special occasions. All this is not very long ago but with the arrival of the internet, cheap plane travel, the EU, borders changing, a lot of people being more tolerant and wanting to help those in war-torn places, so things have changed and have changed fast. I do think these votes are a cry against this change.

tutwiler-kingdom-of-god-july-2016But my hope and prayer is that this vote is accepted, that people are kind about it and that
Christians are willing to pray “Your Kingdom Come” rather than telling God what should be done. I believe God uses all things to good and He will use this. It was no surprise to Him.

God Is So Clever

I’ve blogged before on why I believe in God and what makes me follow Him but I just love it when He does something really clever!

We have started going to a Kesher course. Kesher means something to do with the way Christianity and Judaism is joined together. In honesty I went because I like the woman who is running the course and wanted to support her. And at the time when she set it up we didn’t know many people and so wanted to connect with others. Anyway I am so glad we did. We have only been twice but I am stuck on one thing that we learned this week.

shutterstock_232986844So when Jesus gets crucified the Bible says that Pilate put up a plaque above Jesus on the cross that said “King of the Jews” and the Jewish leaders who wanted him crucified for this very reason got really angry with Pilate and wanted him to take it down. I’d always thought all that was odd. The reason the Jewish leaders had bullied Pilate into crucifying Jesus was because he had declared himself as king, so they said and “they had no other king than Caesar” is what they said. So why get mad about what was there? But also why did Pilate have that plaque put up anyway?

Well it turns out that every person who was crucified had a plaque with their name and what their crime was at the top of their cross. We do often forget that crucifixion wasn’t a heads_on_spikesspecial punishment in Roman times but was something they did quite a bit and then they would leave the crucified person there for ages as an example. A bit like we use to do over here and leave the condemned man hanging on the gibbet at the crossroads or in a cage on the side of the city walls, or heads on poles from Tower Bridge. That sort of thing. As an example. And to be a good example it was good to remind people what the crimes were that could get you crucified.

So Pilate had this plaque which says “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” done because that was the rules that went with crucifixion. Well according to our teacher on Friday the way it would have been written the starting letters above Jesus’ head would have given an acrostic which would have said YWYH – which is the way the Jews would write God and it was unspoken. So here is the man they condemned with the word that Jews saw as too holy to speak in an acrostic above him as he was dying. Wow! Now I think that is so clever of God to get all that sorted.

I think He was still trying to make them see that Jesus was truly God but they still didn’t believe it. Instead these Jewish leaders defiled themselves and went before Pilate, the heathen Roman, on the eve of Passover, to demand he take the sign down. They were so angry that they would rather be unclean and not able to celebrate their most important highhorsefestival. Amazing!

But it also got me thinking of how often we get so stuck on our high horse – whether follower of Jesus or not – that we miss totally what God is trying to say and would rather miss out that accept.

It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

bible-promises-smallOh my! How often have I heard that? I have studied Reformation History too so as well as hearing it in churches since I “became a Christian” 24 years ago I have also read it. I did get in to a bit of a discussion about it at a group we meet with on a Thursday evening. What I wanted was a “where does it say this so clearly?” I know I have been totally guilty of it. I still go in repentance to God regarding a relationship I had with a young man who had started seeing a girl. He was a Christian, she was seeking, he wanted to date her, I firmly told him know and clearly showed him passages in the Bible that made this relationship wrong. What happened? He stopped attending the group that I was a leader of. He did start dating the girl. And I do not know what happened from then because he moved away. I now feel that what I said was naive and not properly thought through.

But yesterday it all came to me very clearly how dangerous this can be – using the Bible to clearly tell us things. I had the privilege of being able to pray with a girl who was running prayer-810x250away from being forced into an arranged marriage. As I have shown before I am very good at making presumptions so I had decided she was Muslim, etc. Oh No! She is a Christian. Her parents are Christians. In fact she said her father was a missionary. Her family are from Taiwan though she was brought up in Canada. For her parents the Bible clearly says that they are to choose a bride for their child. In fact she even saw this as correct and proper. What she was running away from was the fact that she did not want to get married to this man and so her family were trying to coerce her into the relationship. I am presuming they could clearly see that it was ok to coerce their daughter into marrying a man of their choosing. Maybe like many of the things I read in the times of the Reformation, they were doing it for what they saw as the right reasons. (And I googled “Christian arranged marriages” and there are a lot of sites out there who are very pro arranged marriage!!)

Often we try as modern “enlightened” Christians to distance ourselves from the Crusades, for the burnings of both Catholic and Protestants during the Reformation, of Christians having slaves, by saying that they did not believe properly or they weren’t proper Christians – whatever that might mean. But actually if one reads the writings of the time these people could quote the Bible and say that ‘the Bible clearly says …’

the-mystery-of-godWe need to beware when we say the Bible clearly says that in fact there are many things in there that it does not clearly say. Much of this is to do with us not have the original texts in front of us, and we never will. Some of it is because words change over time. And some of it, I think, is because God is a mystery, and wants to remain that way. I believe He is seeking relationship with us, which means we must converse with Him. Ok there are some people who have been married a long time who can say “my spouse would clearly say …” but even at times they can be taken by surprise!

Let the mystery of God reign within us and not keep wanting to have clear answers.