This is part of the series of letters I’This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. This one is to Isaac.Continue reading Last(ing) words: a letter to Isaac
This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Abraham and in particular the part of his story where he very nearly sacrifices Isaac. The story is in Genesis 22, though Genesis 18:1–15 and Genesis 21:1–7 provide context.
Jews refer to the (non-)sacrifice of Isaac as the “Akedah.” Some of what I write in this post draws on a book by scholar Aaron Koller: Unbinding Isaac: The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought (2020: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press).Continue reading The truth of worship: a letter to Abraham
This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Sarah. Her story is broken up and intersects with those of her husband, Abraham, and her slave Hagar. You can find the relevant passages in Genesis 12:10–20, Genesis 16, Genesis 17:15–22, Genesis 18:1–15, Genesis 20, Genesis 21:1–21.
Sarah’s not exactly a comfortable story—both in terms of how Abraham treated her and how she treated Hagar. Nevertheless, Sarah’s story and her identity as a mother figure was of huge importance in Jewish thought and we can see this in New Testament writings.Continue reading The story never told: a letter to Sarah
This is the fourth in the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Abram (later renamed Abraham) looking at the events of Genesis chapters 12–15. I will write another letter to Abraham in a couple of weeks.
I’ll be honest, I have many unanswered questions when it comes to Abraham. And part of me wonders if that’s the point: he wasn’t meant to be perfect. It was just that there were moments in his life when—for whatever reason—he was able to recognise the voice of God for what it was.Continue reading What do you make of your younger self? A letter to Abram
This is the third in the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Noah. The story of him and of his ark is in Genesis 5:28–9:17.
By faith Noah, when he was warned about things not yet seen, with reverent regard constructed an ark for the deliverance of his family. Through faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. - Hebrews 11:7 (NET)
Your story certainly captures the imagination. I grew up with sing-along stories and songs about you, the ark, the animals and all that rain. My choir was actually on TV once singing “Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo” by Michael Flanders and Joseph Horowitz. But since then, it seems many of us have grown tired of hearing the flood spoken of like a children’s story.Continue reading Commission, courage and completion: a letter to Noah
This is the second in the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Enoch. His story is in Genesis 5:18-24. Note that this Enoch was descended through Seth and was the seventh generation (Adam being the first) recorded in the book of Genesis. He’s not to be confused with Enoch son of Cain!
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:5 (NIV)
Sorry, but we didn’t talk about you in Sunday School. Or church. Or our Bible study group. In fact, most of what I know about you, I learned from Wikipedia.
Or rather, I learned about the idea of you and the ideas people have attributed to you over the ages.Continue reading The hidden life: a letter to Enoch
So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. - Hebrews 12:1 (NET)
Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring the “cloud of witnesses” listed in Hebrews 11. The author of the book of Hebrews was looking to encourage Christians in the early church not to lose faith or hope. The author looks back to the Old Testament scriptures and starts naming a number of people who walked by faith, but did not receive the fullness of what they hoped for. I say “starts naming” because we only get half-way through the judges before the author writes about all the names they don’t have time to write about!Continue reading Faith, offering and voice: a letter to Abel
Today is the last in my series on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. It’s on love.
As a neurodiverse person, I’ve had a somewhat reluctant relationship with the word “love.” Growing up, people usually described it in terms of emotions that I either didn’t experience, or didn’t experience in the ways that everyone else did.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: love (a poem)
Honestly, I didn’t know where I was going to begin with today’s poem.
I’d been told plenty of times before that joy is not the same as happiness and that you can have joy even when you’re not happy. As I wrestled to make sense of this, I concluded that joy must be like a sense of inner security that one carries in all circumstances. But isn’t that what peace is about?
I think joy is much more about delight and appreciation.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: joy (a poem)
Today’s word is peace.
I’m almost embarrassed to write about peace, given that I can be anxious so often. I don’t want to write something that feels disconnected from our present reality, and yet I believe most surely that God’s peace has a completeness and depth that will surpasses everything we could hope for.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: peace (a poem)
Once again, I’ve taken out my concordance and found out some surprising facts about the New Testament Greek.
I like to think of patience as “love waiting”, as something that exists in its own right separate from any sense of sin or fallenness. But it’s still true that most of the uses of “patience” in the Bible are linked to the world not (yet) being as it should be.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: patience (a poem)
There is nothing like kindness to cement a friendship.
It’s that feeling of “you didn’t have to do this” that makes it so memorable. The kindness might be a gift in a moment of need, a gentle steer away from a pitfall you didn’t know was there, or someone accommodating you when you make a mistake.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: kindness (a poem)
Once again, I’m struck by how much I discover when I get out my concordance and start looking at the Greek words.
Take, for example, Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:17 where he says that every “good” tree bears “good” fruit. These are two different words in the Greek, but many English translations render both words as “good”.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: goodness (a poem)
Faithfulness is such a big word. I think if there’s one thing, just one thing that God wants us to know about him, it’s that he is someone who fulfils his good promises. And of course, faithfulness is a huge part of that.
As I sat and considered the word in more detail, five words came to me:Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: faithfulness (a poem)
For the next few weeks, I’m running a series on the virtues described as the fruit the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. I started with self-control last week, and this week is gentleness.
I found out some interesting things about the Greek word translated as “gentleness”. The word is πραύτης meaning “meekness”, “gentleness” or “humility” and it’s the same word used in the beatitudes in Matthew 5:5 (“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”).Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: gentleness (a poem)
For the next few weeks, I want to run a series on the virtues described as the fruit the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. I’m starting with self-control.
So often, I hear self-control described in terms of hemming ourselves in, or resisting ungodly tendencies. Yet these descriptions feel lacking to me, as they can only have meaning in the context of sin. The other eight virtues all stand in their own right as expressions that will have a place in God’s kingdom when all sin is done away with.
I did, however, find one notable exception to the rule.Continue reading Songs of the Spirit: self-control (a poem)
Pentecost is often celebrated as the birthday of the church. We remember how the Holy Spirit came in power upon the apostles, how they preached in Jerusalem and how everyone heard them praising God in their mother-tongue. The story is recorded in Acts 2.
Pentecost, if you didn’t know, is so named because it’s the fiftieth day after Passover; it marks the festival of first fruits in the Jewish calendar (Deuteronomy 16:9-12), which is why there were so many Jews in Jerusalem.
For myself, I think one of the most important things about the Holy Spirit that I’ve come to reckon with, is that the Holy Spirit is a person.Continue reading Air, fire, water, clay (a poem celebrating the Holy Spirit)
When I was still at school, perhaps still at primary school, a friend asked me why Jesus couldn’t have stuck around. Immediately, I piped up about the Holy Spirit and Jesus’s Spirit can be with everyone, everywhere, simultaneously in a way that an embodied, physical Jesus couldn’t.
As I look back at my younger self, I’m a little surprised at how bold I was – but in a good way. The Holy Spirit is just as much a person of the Trinity as Jesus is.Continue reading Divine comedy (a poem reflecting on Jesus’s ascension)
I get the impression the resurrected Jesus had a lot more fun than the pre-resurrected Jesus.
During his ministry, Jesus frequently retreated to secluded areas in order to pray. He was pulled into wearying disputes, by his disciples and the crowds. Also, by and large, he kept himself within the laws of physics – the notable exception being when he walked on water.
And the whole time he was walking a fine line between concealing and revealing who he was.Continue reading The strangest part (a poem celebrating the resurrection stories of Jesus)
As if the title didn’t give it away, today’s poem draws on the story of when Jesus walked with two disciples along the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday. The account is in Luke 24:13-35. They were downcast and somewhat astonished that Jesus didn’t seem to know about the crucifixion, but then Luke says they were prevented from recognising him.
Whilst they walk, Jesus is described as ‘opening’ the scriptures to them so that they could understand that the Messiah ‘had to’ suffer and die. It’s only when they reach Emmaus that they invite Jesus in to stay with them and, over a meal, recognise him for who he is.Continue reading Looking back from Emmaus (a poem about how we make sense of our experiences)