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Happy New Year

A new year, a new beginning and for many as usual new resolutions.  Perhaps, the words ‘new resolutions’ might be better changed into ‘new challenges’. Challenges, because many resolutions to change behaviour are so easily broken. Often within a month many of them have been too difficult to keep and hence abandoned.

Although, since we’ve been captured by the Covid pandemic I do not hear many speaking about new year’s resolutions anymore. It seems people’s minds have been occupied with coping with Covid, more than trying to change bad or unhealthy behaviour. That should hardly be a surprise when we look to how much people had to cope with over the last few years. 

Already last year the issue of new year’s resolutions in relation to the Covid pandemic was detected by some psychologists. They noted that for many people the New Year offers the opportunity to put their focus on long-term goals, which than leads to the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions give us a chance to consider on what we hope to achieve in the longer term.  Even when everyone knows that the focus will shift back to the short-term demands of day-to-day living before the end of January, it is valuable to consider those longer-term aspirations.

But since the Covid pandemic it seems that thinking about the long-term has become much more difficult. The pandemic has given many a different experience of time, and it made the path beyond the pandemic unclear. For a solution to this problem it was suggested that New Year’s resolutions should be much more short-term than usual.

So, if someone has any new year resolutions for this year is it the best option to keep them short-term? And what do we see as short term? If most resolutions are broken within a month, why bother with long or short-term resolutions, because they are short-term anyway. And if many resolutions appear to fail in the short term, why then should we still look to short term resolutions in our personal lives? 

In contrast to the short term resolutions I would like to quote the saying from the British economist John Maynard Keynes who once said; ‘in the long run we’re all dead’. I know, he said it in the 1920-ies during a discussion about using the gold-standard after the Great War. But, his saying; ‘in the long term we’re all dead’, makes us aware of each of our own personal future beyond our horizon.

Keynes spoke about the long term as death, but the long term view in Christianity is not death, but life. The Bible speaks about life through Jesus Christ, like in the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-4; ‘Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.’

May our new year resolution be to anchor ourselves more and more in God’s promises and set ourselves to learn more from Him through Bible reading and personal life with God. In the long term there’s not death, but life, through Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Christmas 2021

When we hear the Christmas story we might recognise a remarkable parallel between the birth of Jesus Christ and the vaccines against the Covid pandemic.

The Covid pandemic is putting a heavy strain on the population of our country, perhaps similar to how much the Roman occupation had a hold on the people of Israel. And then in the midst of hoplesness and fear a long awaited saviour is born, who is the hope of the nation. In this period of fear in our day and age, a vaccine against the dreaded Covid looks like the saviour against a disease holding people in bondage and fear. A vaccine that restores the hope of being freed from the oppressor of our nation and its people.

But here the parallel ends. The vaccine is the result of human intellect and through the control of the natural state of affairs. The Christmas child on the other hand is not the work of human hands or human intellect and certainly not under the control of humanity. 

Besides, we only have to look around us to see that human intellect has never been able to resolve issues of oppression, or poverty, or hunger, or of envy and of strive and of war. Look at the world and we see nations torn apart by internal conflicts, people desperately looking for safety and shelter. Only look to our own shores and count those try to come here to find a better life for themselves, because their own countries can’t provide it. Even now with a vaccine in our Western world within reach, the majority of the world population doesn’t have that privilege.

Human intellect and its scientific control of the world has in the end not brought much equality, liberty or unity as was the motto of the dream for a new world order. If the Christmas Child would have come in the hands of human control, it would never have grown up in the way God intended it to be.

The child as we celebrate it will grow up and become God’s answer on human failure. At the heart of the story of the Christmas child lies the Grace of God Who has reached out to all people in any circumstance to give them a hope no one and nothing else can give.

This Grace of God is not because we earned it or have established it through our own human intellect. It is God’s own choice to reconcile us with Him again through this child. The child in the manger that will grow up to become the Christ of God, Saviour of us all. Not by human effort, but by the Grace of God.

Advent: Pray

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul speaks about how to pray: ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.’

We can discern 3 important characteristics for prayer and the 1st characteristic is freedom from anxiety. Honest prayer asks for closing the door to the immediate cares and anxieties of the world. In John 20 we read about Jesus appearing to His disciples: 'After the doors were shut Jesus came and stood in their midst and said unto them, peace be unto you.' The doors were shut, it means they had shut out the hussle, buzzle and the fears caused by the world around them. And in that sense of quietness they met Jesus in their midst. It might not be easy in this modern world to close all doors in the middle of distraction, but it is part of being anxious in nothing.

When we shut out the anxieties of this world and leave aside the focus on our own wellbeing and instead concentrate on the things of God, we realise there is no need to be anxious in God’s presence. When the disciples were looking for the right way of prayer they asked Jesus how to pray. In Luke 11:1-2 Jesus told them: When you pray say; Father…. It is the word Father that opens the way to trust and confidence in the God Who has revealed Himself in love and support through Jesus Christ. Approaching God as Father means putting our trust in Him and leaving all other things we worry about behind.

2nd characteristic of prayer is an attitude of honouring God. Supplication means asking in humbleness and earnestly. Supplication is the frame of mind of a petitioner. It asks for a discipline of honouring God for Who He is and want to be for you. Supplication is not seen in a heated debate about whose interpretation of the Bible is right or wrong. But, supplication becomes recognisable in the quiet effort of our prayers based on a living relationship with God. In supplication we also honour God which translates into respect and high esteem of Him.

Honour can be given for many reasons but it is mainly split in two. The one is through accomplishment and the other is by position. The Queen is honoured not because of what she has done, but because of who she is. It is her position which gives her the honour not because she won the Olympics or whatever. Others we honour not because of their position, but because of what they did or what they achieved. But, we honour God for both reasons. Both for what He has done and for Who He is. He deserves the highest honour as God for Who He is and He deserves our hpnour for what He did for us through Jesus Christ. 

The last and 3rd characteristic of prayer is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not only for the obvious things we want to thank God for, but for everything. An attitude of thanksgiving in our lives transforms ourselves and that will have its impact on others. Others are not impressed by grumbling and angry believers, but by a spirit of thanksgiving and praise of God. William Law once said that the greatest saint is the person who is always thankful to God. Being thankful is very important in our Christian lives, but even more so in our prayers. Because thankfulness to God replaces feeling of disappointment, of anger, of evil and all other bad feelings.

I’m not talking about those who just say, thank God for this or that. Once I overheard someone saying ‘thank God for this’ on which another replied saying; I thought you’re an atheist you can’t thank God for anything’. Being honestly thankful to God develops a relationship with Him and that relationship grows further through prayer. Perhaps therefore we find so many references in the Bible about being thankful to God. One of the well-known is in Psalm 100; Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His Name. Being thankful to God is important, not only for our prayesr, but also for our own wellbeing.

It is because of these 3 aspects of prayer: freedom from anxiety; supplication and thankfulness, that Paul end this pericope with : 7. ’And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

Bringing those 3 aspects of prayer into our lives will lead to a peace that passes all understanding. And, above that, it will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Because, without Christ it is not possible to reach God in prayer as He is God’s chosen Instrument to reconcile God with us. Emmanuel; God with us.

First Advent

Advent means coming and it is the season in which the church prepares itself for the coming of the Messiah. The reason why this coming is such an event is because it is closely connected with expecting. When the new King of the Jews was born it was the fulfillment of their expectations. Coming and expecting go hand in glove together here. But did the Jews in Jesus’ day ever expected their new King to be born in a stable? Did they even expect Him to be only recognised as King by the lower classes of society at His birth?

Looking to the latest news it looks like we’re living in a mirror image of the real Advent. Who had expected that Covid would come back with such a new variant that it brings fears back to all the nations?Who had expected that when humanity had gained some control at least over Covid with all their different vaccines, they might well have to start all over again? Who had expected that the stock markets would react so panicking again? And how for example last Friday the decline of the one-day commodity diesel price was the greatest in more than 30 years.

It’s time of turbulence and that also mirrors the time in which Jesus was born. The Jews were expecting the coming of a king to deliver them from the Romans. Are we now expecting the coming of a deliverer from the Covid. Hoping for new vaccines, getting a 4th booster soon? 

What the Jews did not expect was a King which did not fit into their ideas of a king. Their ideas were of a warrior whom they could admire for his strength and authority. Are the nations now looking for a deliverer from the Covid that fits their expectations. A deliverer in the form of a great scientific breakthrough based on humanity’s new faith in science and progress?

Is perhaps God showing us that science and humanity’s potential is essential only an emperor with no clothes on as in the fairytale from Hans Christian Anderson. In this fairytale an emperor, continuing looking for nice and expensive clothes, hires two swindlers who offer to supply him with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. A succession of officials, and then the emperor himself, visit them to check their progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid being thought a fool. When the weavers report that the emperor's suit is finished he walks in procession in his so called new clothes throughout the city. Everyone goes along with the pretense, because they do not want to appear incompetent or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The people then realize that everyone has been fooled.

At the one hand we are reminded again, through the latest developments, that we are only fragile human beings and are not able to control the world as how humanity wants it. David wrote in Psalm 144: O Lord, who is man that You take notice of him or the son of a man that You make account of him? Man is like a breath; his days are as a shadow that passes away. Pandemic, word-wide disasters, great wars, it are reminders that as human beings we are not as powerful as many think we are when it comes to controlling life and death circumstances.

Yet on the other hand, Advent reminds us that even when each of us is essentially only a shadow that passes away, God has reached out to you and me personally by sending Jesus Christ into the world. Advent is the beginning of the celebration for the coming of the Son of men as Jesus called Himself. And He came for you and me.

Christ the King Sunday

What is the truth? Pilate asked, in John 18:38. We all want to know the truth. Without the truth our whole society would not exist. Instead it would have been an utterly dramatic chaos.

Imagine a society in which the truth is not important. Any judgement in and outside the Courts made is based on what is perceived to be the truth. How can the law be executed when there is no truth. Our whole judgement system is based on what is the truth. 

The same counts for all commercial transactions; the whole economy is based on truth. The kilo bag of potatoes someone buys is based on the truth that it are real potatoes and it is a kg. The one who sells it relies on the money in exchange to be true and not false. Without truth the whole system would collapse.

An old Rabbinic saying says that the world rests on only 3 things, which are righteousness, truth and peace. And for our society, the most important of these is truth. The truth is the pillar of our society and of our economy. 

The truth has been for both Greek and Jew very important aspects of life and faith. The word for truth is therefore difficult to translate as is shown by the struggles translators faced in the 3rd and  2nd Century before Christ, when they translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek. Truth is a concept and much more than only a word. 

Speaking the truth in the personal context characterises the thoughts and actions of the person itself and it makes the integrity of a person. And any person with such characteristics is someone whom we want to trust, or put our faith in. 

So, faith and truth are all closely related to each other. It is as in the words of Psalm 111:7-8 said about God: ‘The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy, they are established for ever and ever to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness’.

We have inherit the importance of truth from the Greek/Roman civilization. For the Greek the truth is used to denote a norm because existence means acting on the truth and self-understanding. In the New Testament we find already the importance of truth, not only for the society or for the economy, but even more so for the divine and eternal truth. 

In Pilate’s reply we can sense his desire for truth. Not only to speak judgment in the case brought before him, but in a wider context the search for the ultimate divine and eternal truth. It is the eternal and divine truth that leads to salvation and it can only be offered by the God Who is the Truth in His being and His actions.

Remembrance 2021

As every year, November is the month in which we remember the fallen in wars and those killed in atrocities worldwide during conflicts and struggles for power and control within the nations. We remember the fallen by wearing poppies and many take part in special celebrations for this Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day acts as a kind of warning for the devastation wars and atrocities can bring to so many people, while remembering those who fell victim to this.

Remarkably, it is the same month in which we celebrate Guy Fawkes, who wanted to blow up Parliament, which would have sent many, innocent or ‘guilty’ alike, to an early death. I’ve heard no one ever saying to me that this celebration is to remember that no one was killed in the end. Instead, Guy Fawkes’ Day is celebrated with large firework displays and the option of buying fireworks for at home to imitate the gun-powder plot and enjoying its devastating effects in a somewhat safer manner.

This weird combination of remembering and celebrating events of death and violence, within the same month, even within a week, perhaps shows the real nature of humanity in which love and hatred, peace and war, and many other opposing expressions of our human existence can switch within a very short period.

When God sent Jesus Christ into the world it was not because humanity was such an example of outstanding  love and care. Neither did Christ come into our world because human beings had kept such a good and close relationship with God through faith and loyalty. Failure in all these areas lead to the ministry of Jesus Christ, which was a ministry of reconciliation between God and us, not on our behalf but that of God.

Understanding our own failures over the centuries and the ongoing situation of war and continuation of atrocities worldwide, makes us to recognise that peace and reconciliation is not in humanity itself, but has to come from outside. Standing in the belief that God initiates efforts of peace and reconciliation, we can find the courage to face our own ambivalent human nature with its opposing expressions of good and evil. But, with the help of God we can work on choosing the right path in the struggles we might find ourselves in.

Remembrance and celebration lay so close to each other, but only by our own choices can we make both events reminders of what each of us can do to make our world a  place of peace and reconciliation.

Harvest

Matthew 6:25-33

I happened at a men’s breakfast when one of the guest’s dogs walked in and went to all the other guests begging and looking for food. It’s the first and perhaps only thing on its mind: ‘where can I satisfy myself here with what I love, like and want; food!’

It reminded me of what is on so many people’s mind, when they encounter a new opportunity for the first time: ‘How can I make money here!’

Every so often, churches have a bazaar or sale of things for their parish churches. As usual, the first who arrive are those who go through the items to see whether there’s something of value. Only because they are looking for something for themselves to sell it on for a profit later. What’s on their mind is not how can I help the church, but how can I make money.

Someone went with a group to a car boot sale to sell items for their church and she said, it was the worst experience of her life. In the morning she had been selling items which she found later in the afternoon for sale on other stalls for a much higher price.

You only have to look to the stockmarket or to the crypto currency craze, to see that it’s all about making money. It’s not for nothing that it is said that such markets are ruled by only two things, which are greed and fear. Everybody wants to enter via the same door and leave via the same. The winners on such markets are those who are first in and went out, just before the mob is forced to leave to stop their losses.

Against this backdrop of greed and money making enter the words of Jesus of our reading in: 33. Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.

It is just one simple sentence, but it is not as simple as it looks like, because it’s part of a large pericope of teaching.

In the whole gospel of Matthew are 3 teaching pericopes by Jesus and the first pericope is here. And it’s much longer than at first glance:

The pericope already begins in Chapter 5:1 (introducing the beatitudes) as it says: ‘He went up on the mountain and sat down’. When Rabbis and Teachers of the Law in Jesus’ time taught, they were sitting down, hence the sitting down here meant that a time of teaching on Jewish Law had begun. This teaching pericope then continues to Chapter 8:1 where it says: ‘When He came down from the mountain…’

So, the whole of chapters 5, 6 and 7 are just one teaching pericope, but it is only in our reading this morning that we find for the first time in this whole pericope the word: Therefore (dia touto lego umin = because of this I tell you). Here Jesus captures all His teaching of what He had said in the preceding chapters: Therefore (for this reason/because of this) I tell you….

All what Jesus had said before He concluded with: Therefore, is an inherent part of all He taught to the people beginning with the well-known Beatitudes. And from the Beatitudes follows all teachings about the requirement of righteousness, about not seeking retaliation, about love and forgiveness, about not committing adultery, about not hating others, about prayer and compassion and about serving God and not money.

The ‘therefore’ in our readings introduces an enumeration of what God desires from us and of what is of most importance.

But, that doesn’t mean that Jesus is saying that food is not important or that clothes are not necessary. The Lord’s prayer, which is in the same chapter in the verses 9-13, also contains the prayer for our daily bread, so it is important.

Jesus’ words should be put in the right context. Rabinus in the 3rd century already noted how Jesus in Matthew didn’t say; ‘don’t be anxious about food, drink, or clothes’, but ‘don’t be afraid/concerned about WHAT you eat, drink or wear’.

Jesus is not talking against developing and moving forward in time with new developments. At this harvest time we are reminded again that at the one hand we give thanks to God for the harvest, but at the same time we all know that without new techniques and agricultural developments we would never be able to gain a harvest good enough to feed all the 7 billion people on earth. If we let nature provide only for our food, we would not have much to eat.

Again, the context against which Jesus spoke His words about food, drink and clothing  might explain His teachings. In Jewish theology at the time of Jesus, the gentiles were seen as people of food and drink and raiment, for that was their whole purpose of life. The Jews saw themselves as being completely different, because they were seeking God’s wisdom and guidance. And that’s what Jesus reminded His hearers of and His teaches us as well; Seek God’s Kingdom first, which means to value what God values and to obey what He demands, before we commit ourselves to our own desires for money, wealth and self-indulgence.

It is as G.K. Chesterton once said about this: There are 2 ways to have enough money; one is to acquire more, the other is to desire less. And what about this one: To be clever enough to get all the money, one must be stupid enough to want it.

The words Jesus spoke, reminded the people to love God with their whole heart and soul above all, and not by simply obeying laws and commandments as the Jewish leaders were preaching.

The command to love God with our whole heart and soul is much more important than loving our possessions and striving for more.

In conclusion, Matthew 6:25-33 carries forward the main theme of the preceding paragraphs namely the necessity for exclusive engagement with serving God. Because to seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness is to be concerned with His Will, more than any desire for our money or wealth. Jesus teaches first and foremost an intimate relationship of trust and confidence between God and each one of us, modelled on the relationship between God and Jesus Himself. 

What is the first on our mind; greed and making money and indulging in something which never satisfies? Or getting our priorities right and first seek God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is available free for all through putting faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ before all else.

God’s peace, His shalom, is freely available in Christ Jesus for each one of us, we only have to accept it.

Hans Taling

 

Sunday 8th August - International cat day

Understandably you might wander what a cat-day has to do with Christianity and Church, but thinking about cats, it reminded me of someone who once described a so called ‘cat-theology’.

Cat-theology was set here against dog-theology. In dog-theology the argumentation goes as follows: 'You, feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me; you must be God.' In cat-theology however, the argumentation goes: You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me; I must be God.' The international cat day gives the opportunity to search in ourselves, how much we have leaned towards the cat theology, instead of towards God.

A cartoonist once drew a scientist announcing a breakthrough in understanding cat-language: "Cats only say two things; 'Where's my dinner?' and 'Everything here is mine.'"

If we’ve leaned too much towards a cat theology, these two observations are true to us as well. In the first saying, ‘where is my dinner?’, lies hidden the search for hedonism, which means I do what I want to do, to satisfy my longing for pleasure. Whether it will be in what I want to eat, or want to cloth or want to drink or have pleasure in, the main idea is to satisfy my own longings. 

The second question, ‘everything here is mine’, seems very close connected to it. When everything here on earth is mine, why shouldn’t I want to use it? Every opportunity I have to fulfill my desires is then normal, because everything is mine anyway. 

Therefore, those who profess a cat-theology are commonly called atheists or agnostics. Although, atheists don't want to have anything to do with religion or theology, but even they have to admit that when they believe there's no god, instead they have become gods themselves. If someone rejects God, he or she rejects the existence of a higher authority. An Authority that is standing above humanity itself. This is absolutely not a new idea, or modern thought, because already Protagoras, in the 5th century BC, discussed this subject and hence coined the phrase that humanity is then the measure of all things.

When we believe or accept God’s authority by default we have to submit ourselves to His Rules and Regulations. Not only because of God’s Authority, but even more so because they are the best for ourselves including our society. They provide us with a stable framework of rules and regulations for living. God's love and commandments are not bound to the tidal changes of society or to the whims of those who rule over us. God provide us with the ingredients for a right society under the control of a loving a caring God, who gives us a hope for life and of an eternity, which nothing or no one else can offer.

After the Covid lockdowns and a reopening of our society has begun, the discussion starts again about our future welfare and well-being societal systems. Let us not be guided by a cat-theology and not forget the living presence of God with us and the rules and regulations He left us to follow in order to build a just and honest society.

Considering the wine at HC

With an email to all clergy and churchwardens on Tuesday 20 July 2021, the Bishop of the Oxford Diocese gave advice on how to proceed with Holy Communion after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted from Monday 19 July. 

In the Bishop’s email it was noted that ‘as Bishops in the Diocese of Oxford we advise extreme caution at present in respect of re-introducing the common cup at services of Holy Communion for the time being. This advice comes from the perspective of both the congregation and the priest (who will need to consume the elements). The safety and wellbeing of all, including clergy and ministers, must be foundational in decision making’.  

Two papers, as far as we were made aware of, were publicised regarding the administration of both kinds of the sacraments, bread and wine, which argued against the re-introduction of the consummation of wine to the congregation, in particular in individual glasses.

The first paper is about the Administration of the Sacrament by the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod. The second paper is called Liturgical Considerations written by a representative of the Liturgical Commission and National Liturgy and the Worship Advisor. Obviously, both papers bear less ecclesial jurisdiction than the three defining doctrines, statements and practices of the Church of England (which are the BCP, the 39 Articles and the Homilies) as both papers are either advices or considerations.

Besides, both papers refer to Section 8 of the 1547/1558 Sacrament Act to defend their case of declining the cup to the congregation, or using individual glasses, but the legal content of this Act was revoked with the publication of the 39 Articles.

Even more so, a similar case was brought forward during the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009 to withhold the wine for the communicants. Ecclesial Lawyers argued this was unlawful in their statement that ‘Even if the ‘necessitie’ provision does apply to the BCP and authorised modern liturgies and to public health scares, it certainly does not empower Archbishops and bishops to order communion under one kind only.  S.8 is addressed directly to all the clergy as ministers of the sacrament, not to bishops or Church courts.  If there is a necessity justifying refusal of the communion cup, this is for the officiating clergyman to decide…..Moreover, as a matter of law, necessity is a defence, not a basis of authority.  It is a shield, not a sword.  The courts may accept necessity as a defence to an otherwise illegal act.  However, it cannot order the commission of an illegal act on ground of necessity.  Thus the Church authorities cannot order a clergyman to refuse to administer the wine. https://ecclesiasticallaw.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/swine-flu-and-the-sacrament-act-1547/

The legal position of the Thirty-Nine Articles is established in Canon A2 and A5. Furthermore, General Synod can authorise alternative services to those in the Book of Common Prayer provided that they are neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, which are the 39 Articles.

Based on this statement the 39 Articles remain the prime Church-authoritative statement about the offering of full communion to the communicants during Holy Communion and in particular Article 28 and 30 about receiving of the wine. No mention is made in either Article 28 or 30 demanding the use of only one cup. Therefore, because Article 30 states that the cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people, it is lawful to return to offering the wine to all who are present at the Eucharist after this lockdown, because of a Governmental decree that ended all restrictions.

Once it has been favourably argued that the presentation of wine to the communicant is ecclesially lawful, the next question is how the wine is given to the communicant.

It is difficult to deny that the use of a common cup is customary for the Church of England and individual glasses are not commonly used. This custom is based on scriptural evidence where Jesus blessed a cup to share it with His disciples. Later in his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reiterates this practice.

Debate has arisen however, with what is exactly meant by drinking from the same common cup? Is there a possibility to use shot glasses if the wine is blessed in the one common cup and then poured into an individual shot glass to be consumed?

The use of the word 'drinking' is here under consideration and how literally this must be interpreted. We enter the same debate as in the 15th century when Zwingly argued (in a dispute about the Eucharist) about how we use the 'spirit of the word' to translate it into our theology. Zwingly argued for example that when Jesus calls Himself the door of the sheep, no one will think He is a wooden plank.

The translation of figurative speaking is similar to how we drink the wine. How we drink or consume the wine in itself is not the hinge of the matter, but the blessing of the cup from which each receives the wine. Even when the wine out of hygienic reasons, and based on health and safety rules, is transferred from the consecrated common cup to a small glass when being handed over to the communicant, we can still speak of drinking (as sharing) from the same cup. Arguments for allowing the use of individual wafers at the Eucharist are defended on a similar basis.

As long as we all drink/receive from the same consecrated common cup there is no contradiction in taking the wine in accordance with the command of Jesus to drink this in remembrance of Him as He spoke out in the Synoptic Gospels.

As a concluding remark Luke 22:17 springs to mind, when Luke described how Jesus shared the chalice during the Last Supper: ‘And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said; Take this and divide it among yourselves’. This is what is done during Holy Communion when wine is given from the common cup into an individual glass to each one of us; we divide it among ourselves.

Hans Taling

Mark 5:21-43

It is said about Jesus how He was one of the first who gave women an equal place with men in the sight of God and of a society modelled on the Kingdom of God, which He proclaimed. 

This view might be further established by the events that happened in the gospel of Mark 5:21-43.

The story itself is first about Jairus, who comes to Jesus to ask for help for his dying daughter at the age of 12. Being a kind of CEO of the local synagogue he was a well known and respected person who publically knelt at Jesus feet begging to come with him to heal his daughter. It’s the care and compassion of a father that is publically shown for a much beloved daughter. Jesus answer his call and goes with him to his house.

Secondly, while going with Jesus to his house, a woman came and touched Jesus clothes, also in desperation looking for help. Because she was ritually unclean, as she was suffering from a ‘flow of blood’ for 12 years, it was difficult for her to be publically within the crowd. Besides, she spent all her possessions on doctors and other means to heal her, hence she had no other place left to go to ask for help.

Jesus knew someone had touched Him, because the touch was a touch from the heart and a touch of faith, as Luther said. It is a touch of trust in the salvation and healing through Jesus Christ and as Luther wrote, we should see the story through eyes of faith. Perhaps Martin Luther explained the classical view on this part in the Bible in which he showed how faith and trust go hand in glove together. 

But Mark might have something more to say here than only retelling the story of 2 desperate people whose pleading for help was answered by Jesus. 

The remarkable observation in this story is that both persons who are healed by Jesus are called daughters. Jesus heals Jairus daughter and He heals a daughter of Israel. The young girl in Greek is thugatrion and the woman thugater, so both are called daugthers. 

Whether the number 12 has any significance is possible, but is beyond the point here.

The point is the love and care for daughters shown in this part of the Bible. First it is the father of the young daughter who loves her so much that he pleads for help humbling himself publically, and secondly Jesus who heals the woman and calling her a daughter, while praising her for her great faith.

On several places in the Bible, daughters of Israel are specifically mentioned. Examples are in Song of Solomon where in 5:16 ‘This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem’. And in the New Testament where Jesus said in Luke 23:28 ‘ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children’.

In accordance to Isaiah 62:11, daughters of Jerusalem are the daughters of  Zion, which is synonym for Israel: ‘Behold, the Lord has proclaimed unto the end of the world, say to the daughter of Zion; Behold, your salvation comes, behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him’. 

Jerusalem, Zion, Israel, it all means the same: What belongs to God and what He will save.

It looks like Mark is making a point here about the importance of the women in God’s Kingdom and how the love of God extends to each and everyone, man and woman alike. 

It is the fulfilling of the promise in Joel 2:28 that I will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, on sons and daughters alike, or as Paul later wrote in Galatians 3:28 ‘In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ’.

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