This was the first of three sessions by Bishop Tom Wright. This is a live blog – apologies for any spelling mistakes and/or typos
When you invite a middle-aged bible scholar presumably you want middle-aged exegesis! Loved some of the things +Tim meant such as Street Pastors, doing that on Stockton Tees wearing purple cassock with fluorescent yellow jacket of Street Pastors on top – the girls who dress to kill couldn’t match him!
Moved to work in the academy and the university so not many stories, but like teaching someone to fish they can eat for life, share some stories from past ministry and you will have better stories, but hopefully spread the big picture of some aspects of the mission of God in scripture, focussed on Jesus, and then given to his people in the power of the Spirit. To open up ways to read scripture missionally which will give not just ideas but resource you for the task.
Two words “as” and “so” are critical. All of us, bishops included, would much rather that God got on with his mission and we have a ring-side seat where we could watch. There is no place. As the Father sent me so I send you. God remains sovereign, and we are an angled mirror to reflect God to the word and the groaning and moaning of the world to God.
Watch whatJesus is doing: healing a cripple, welcoming children, washing disciples foot, home truths for the rich and powerful, telling people he is becoming King and demonstrating it. Telling strange but beautiful stories. As the Father sent me so I send you. We can’t do all these things but in the power of the Spirit we can do these things for the world.
We need to ponder, to mull over the gospels. Too often we cut it down to a nice moral lesson on a Sunday morning, and better that than nothing, but the gospel is vast like a mountain outside the back door and we focus on the foothills. The gospel is the turning point of all world history. The only reason we are here is because in the 1st century the living God opened a corner in Palestine and invited us to come with him.
The Sermon on the Mount when reading it would think is 3 out of 9 ok – but that misses the point – they are not blessings for those people but blessings through those people for the world. People say why doesn’t God do something – Iraq, Syria, world hunger, football transfers – they imagine when God does something he sends in the tanks and clean it out, but he sends out the meek, the humble, the mourners, the hungry for justice starting schools and hospitals, bringing love, healing, knowledge for people – that’s how God works.
What is the basis of all this? Start in the middle and work out – the great story of the resurrection. Used to interview parish priests for jobs – which 2 passages of scripture would you take to a desert island – but you already have John 20, Romans 8, Psalm 119. Many Christians over last 200 years have tried to hold the fabric of the gospel together whilst not being sure about the physical resurrection. If Christ has not been raised our faith is futile and we and the world are still in our sins, new creation has not yet begun.
That’s why John emphasises that it’s the first day of the week – he does nothing by accident – so many heights and depths for us to read and explore – it is a new Genesis – in the beginning was the word – you don’t begin a book like that by accident – creation runs its course for 6 days and on the 6th day he creates humans in his image and on the seventh day he rests. On the Friday Pilate brings Jesus out before the crowds, and on the 7th day God rests in the darkness of the tomb. On the beginning of the new week is the beginning of the new creation – something which is the ontological basis of mission – without it we are do gooders trying to make the world less miserable. Yes the world is tough but the resurrection says a cosmic shock wave has gone through the world.
The Church has been at the forefront of the world making it a better place to live, making huge enormous differences due to the living God establishing his kingdom on earth as in heaven.
Breathing on them to receive the Holy Spirit is another Genesis analogy. Go back to John 7:37-39 Jesus has gone to Jerusalem, been relatively quiet during feast of tabernacles and then quotes Isa. 55 and at tabernacles they would pour out water to remember God providing water during the exile. Not into the believers heart, as a lake collecting water greedily, but out of our heart, The cross cleanses the hearts of Jesus’ people so that now the Spirit can be given. The death and resurrection of Jesus is central to enabling the mission of God.
The theme of the Temple used to be seen as an old-fashioned object, but temple theology is the very centre of the missional life of the church. In John 7 there is no place in the Old Testament which is where the v 38 quote comes from but Ezekiel has an image of the city and the temple being restored, with the glory of God returning, and then the river of living water flows out of the temple to make even the dead sea fresh. This is what Jesus and therefore John draws our attention to. Not a safe place to retreat to but a bridge head joining together heaven and earth. Gregory Beale wrote The Temple and the Churches Mission which is worth reading even though it is quite technical.
It all goes back to the end of the book of Exodus. Reading the Old Testament through Genesis good, Exodus the slaves will be free, then ch 20 is the 10 Commandments and then a big sigh but the book continues from Genesis 1 and 2 of heaven and earth coming together in the garden, that heaven and earth will come together in the tabernacle. If you don’t read it at a run you don’t get the drama of it – Aaron building a golden calf downstairs while Moses receiving the instructions for the tabernacle – Moses intercedes and God shows them to build the Tabernacle outside the camp – God fills the Tabernacles. He is joining together with his people. It is a microcosm of the creation, a sign of Ephesians 1:10 to join all things together under the Messiah.
It is those themes that are being evoked in the introduction of John’s gospel. We’ve heard it too often at carol services, we need to refresh it. The Greek says “skne” – seam – the tent, the tabernacle. What narrative are we living in now? Many Jews in the second temple period took it very seriously – that God had abandoned the Tabernacle – waiting for the fulfillment of the end of Ezekiel and Isaiah. They would say in the first century no this has not happened. They realised in Malachi they needed to take care in liturgy because he could suddenly come back but no one knew what it would look like. God never appears in the same way, no one knows, the four evangelists in their own different ways, say it looks like a Jewish man striding through the streets, praying with people, welcoming children, looking in the eye of the rich and respectable who aren’t that respectable, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and gave his life as a ransom for many. That’s the fulfillment of Ezekiel. In Jn 2 Jesus says destroy the temple and he will rebuild it. The tent being pitched in the tabernacle is not just about Jesus but about us and the wider world.
We think the climax of John’s gospel will come, but then we get the farewell discourses with the disicples in the upper room. Jesus and his followers is the real temple – receiving the Holy Spirit. We are to be temple people, through whom the new creation launched at Easter becomes a reality in the world, though whom the living water poured outo n the cross flows out to make the dead sea fresh.
- Mary in tears thinks he’s the gardner, and he says “Miriam (not Maria, but the name she was known as a little girl) Jesus renames us, give us our true names and then tells us to tell others. The Ascension isn’t about being absent, but going to the CEOs office to run the kingdom. All ministry flows from the announcement that the risen Jesus is the Lord of the world.
- Thomas, grumpy, be my guest, see the evidence, let’s not be high and mighty about the doubt, we need to meet the doubters half-way, Jesus says come on, let’s do it together.
- Peter in Jn 18:18 and 21:9 at a charcoal fire – three denials met with three questions. But they are puzzling, most translations don’t bring this is out, he says do you love me, the agape, big love word. Peter can’t say that, he says yes I am your friend – philo not agape. Jesus says feed my lambs. We have all let Jesus down big time, whatever labels and jobs we have. You might expect Jesus to say ok we will put you on a probationary course to get you back in the saddle, nor I forgive you, but feed my lambs, the word of commission functioning as the word of forgiveness. The third time he says, “are you my friend”, but Jesus was saying ok Peter if that’s where you are that’s where we will start, feed my sheep, and by the way there’s some stuff I’ve got planned for you, follow me.
He showed them his hands and his side. It won’t be easy but peace be with you. That’s +Tom’s prayer for this conference. Not just to be beneficiaries but agents of the world.
- Challenged by the angled mirror – we reflect God to the world and the world’s moaning and groaning to God.
- The Beatitudes remind us that it can be God meeting us in the mess, the pain and the grubbiness, not the shiny perfection we often think we need.
- The language of the questions to Peter – very powerful and large implications for us.
- The water as it flows from the Temple must be dirty as it flows through us – as God meets us where we are at. Like the River Jordan – a real disgusting river. A real grace flowing out.