It’s been another busy weekend. Amanda and Terry travelled to Heaton Baptist Church in Newcastle for the Northern Baptist Association’s Spring Assembly. Terry reckons that Heaton Baptist Church makes the best coffee of any church he’s been to in recent years. Our guest speaker was Mark Greene from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Mark is a funny and engaging speaker and Amanda and Terry had both heard him speak a few years ago at Leading Edge in Warwick. Indeed his book “Thank God it’s Monday” is something Terry used to help him have discussions about faith in his workplace. Check out the NBA facebook page or http://www.thenba.org.uk/assembly to see some extracts from the sessions.
Sadly this Sunday we were met with some vandalism to the new ramp at church. It’s really frustrating when we’re trying to reach out to the community and this sort of damage occurs. However we pray that whoever feels the need to do this sort of thing realises in time the implications and costs from such actions.
Tim led our Sunday service accompanied by Jonny and Amanda. Today’s prayer points…Pray for Leah captured by bokka haram who wasn’t released as she would not convert to Islam. Pray for Peter struggling with illness. Pray for Ian that he will feel your healing touch. Pray for those struggling in Filling Station and across the town. Pray we always find the right words and actions to reach those God puts in front of us.
We had a bit of fun with a serious message today as Tim used balls of wool to connect the whole church to the vine that we are instructed to be part of.
Tim led us in continuing theme of looking at highlights from the Bible. Focus for today was on Exodus 3 and Moses’s encounter with the burning bush.
An epic part of this story is that it gives hints as to what is going to happen to Moses. Tim reflected on the fact that this week the public have been talking about the naming of a prince. Queen Victoria always vetted her grand children’s names. Names are important. People agonise over what we are called. Parents have books to refer to. They trawl the internet for backgrounds and meanings behind names.
This passage is all about a name. Moses was doing his best to lose his name, remember his journey is from bulrushes baby to Egyptian prince. We encounter him her in chapter 3 whilst he is trying to lose his Egyptian accent. It was worth losing for him, he was raised as a dirty secret in the court.
Remember he killed the slave driver and goes on the run. He marries, begins a new life and job. Did he have nightmares, we don’t know. Here is a Midanite shepherd trying to live a new life trying to stay on the straight and narrow, one foot in front of the other following the sheep.
But Moses’s eyes stray . Moses’s commissioning start here with a look and a turning aside to see why the bush isn’t burning . God upsets the settled, the recommended or established path. God’s people can be depended on to shift their gaze from the established to the new and the different . This is a story between a wily conniving outlaw (that’s Moses) and a God who bends him to his will. Seems standard story , burning bush , deprecation and Moses humbled. Yet here is the question from Moses, what if the Israelites are sceptical? This is a power play, it’s subtle but it’s there, remember Jacob (which means the heel) grabbing his brother’s foot whilst still in the womb. Remember if you know someone’s name you can get their attention you have power. God’s answer is so perfect. “I am who I am”. A great answer with God saying don’t box me in don’t categorise me . A better translation might be “I will be who I will be.” Moses signs on for God’s mission in the world here.
Tim gave us all a bit of a Hebrew lesson. He wrote the Hebrew characters for God
They are the same as “to be” or “I am” this is the big thing to note and we miss it if we only read the English.
No vowels in the Hebrew . God’s name is unutterable so vowels added. Jehovah is the vowels from the word for lord with the word for god. Or is it Yahweh? It appears 6800 times in the kJ bible.
The Greek for I am is used in the New Testament. This translates to us as Ami or friend.
Gods secret name is unutterable but wrapped up in this name is the holiness of god. I am the vine, I am the way
On the other side of this story , Moses doesn’t need to ask God’s name . By Exodus 15 he knows God well. He had learnt who God is, and had learnt the nature purpose and truth of God.
He followed his ancestors and his descendants followed him . To know God you have to be with him. It’s a full contact participation sport. God will be who he will be. We cannot second guess him. Maybe we have questions for God he will answer. Tim pondered on what God might have in store for us all. Think about the opportunities in the coming week. Most of us don’t see ourselves in the superheroes of the bible. God uses ordinary fallible flawed people to do extraordinary things. Interestingly Mark Greene was making a similar point at the Spring Assembly. He gave the example of a grandmother who didn’t feel she had any meaningful work in her church. She didn’t feel she was sharing the work of the church or the love of God in any way. However after each service she would meet up with her 23 year old granddaughter and talk about what had happened at church that day, what the pastor had preached on and what songs and scriptures had been discussed. She was reaching a younger generation with the word of God. The pastor also got to realise that rather than just preaching to the over 50s he was preaching to young people albeit with a 2 hour delay built in.
God does not ask us to do it on our own. He distracts us to new directions, but never leaves on our own always reminding us “he will be who he will be”.