Church of England Diocese of Leicester Burbage with Aston Flamville

Thought for the day - Wednesday 24th June

24 Jun 2020, 1 p.m.

Thought for the Day

24th June 2020

Many of you will now that I am a keen bird watcher and that also extends to a great interest in other branches of the animal kingdom. This coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has put paid to many of my plans for this year but within the current restrictions at any one time I have managed to get out with my binoculars and camera and find some very interesting things. In the early days of the lockdown I explored the footpaths in the locality and found the Courting Styles area very interesting. There were good views to be had of warblers and when the flowers came out in the hot weather it was really delightful. During a walk through Burbage Common I was delighted to see a water shrew go hurtling across the surface of a shallow pond. This was the first live water shrew I had seen in the wild, although I had found a dead one at Draycote Water some years ago. The bird song in Burbage Woods and the surrounding area was a real joy, even with my deficient hearing, and it made me reflect once more on the glories of nature and this wonderful world that we have so much influence on. In the past I have often stood and soaked in the beauty of many natural places round the world and meditated on God’s creation. Many people say that they feel closer to God when standing alone in the wild beauty of His creation and I am very much in tune with that.

Just two weeks ago, Nick gave us a very inspiring sermon on the Holy Trinity on the occasion of Trinity Sunday. As he remarked, this is a topic which can cause a certain amount of trepidation in the potential preacher. There is no doubt that it is a complex subject and one that has caused divisions in the Christian church in the past. We often say that the Church of England is a broad church and provides a home for a host of people with many individual interpretations of the Christian teaching and these days there is more room for debate than in earlier times.

As I remarked in my opening paragraph, I glory in the power and wisdom of our Creator God. We dwell on a small planet in a corner of our known universe and can hardly begin to contemplate the immense extent of all that lies around us. Yet, we must acknowledge that this immensity came from nowhere and was formed by God. However much you drill down with known science you come back to one fundamental point. From nowhere this unimaginable collection of galaxies, stars, planets and other objects was formed. To me that was and is the Creator God.

In Genesis we are told of the creation and of how God created all of the animals and then finally man and woman. The nub of the story was that God gave man and woman the dominion over the animals and had created everything for them and had finally made them in His image. We now have to decide how we interpret this story. Here the concept of a broad church really kicks in. Some of my friends believe this story as absolute fact and will not be swayed in any way. Others, including myself, take the view that this story was an attempt by the early scripture writers to express the foundation of the world and the human race in an allegorical way. If we take the chronology of the Old Testament and work forward adding the ages of all the characters mentioned therein we would arrive at a date of just over 6000 years ago for the creation of the world. Now that is something I simply cannot accept. My view is that God revealed his intentions and the reasons for and limitations of the power of humans under His rule to the patriarchs and prophets. Eventually these were set down in allegorical form, at a period of around 3000 years ago, in the form of God’s Testament to his people by the scribes who were setting down the record of those oral stories coming down from the patriarchs and prophets.

There will be many that strongly disagree with my interpretation and I accept fully that this is their undoubted right. Religion is a very personal thing and touches us all in different ways.

When I read the Old Testament and moved forward from that time 3000 years ago I came to realise that the peoples of Israel and Judah began to stray from that strict interpretation of God’s law that had been set down in the first five books of the Old Testament. This is recorded very graphically and shows that there were a series of kings, some good but the vast majority bad, and these led Israel into a steep decline. How much the captives in Babylon had to grieve for and it would have been hoped that when they finally returned to Jerusalem, following their release by King Cyrus, they would have managed to build a new stable society based on the law of God. This was not to be the case and politics once more ensured that the priesthood were influenced and then controlled by the local monarchy and governors imposed by Rome.

This is the time that God sent His only begotten Son to earth to reform society and to amend the abuses taking place in the Temple and throughout the state of Israel. Do you believe that Christ was the Son of God and conceived of the Virgin Mary? I do, and I believe He came to earth to teach the population a new way of interpreting the Jewish religion. That interpretation was not based on pure blind ritual and animal sacrifice but on serving others in need and building a new society that was inclusive. Inclusive of those who were then seen as outside the bounds of polite society. Inclusive of those of other races and who currently worshipped other gods. Christ was the great teacher and must have made a tremendous impact on all of those around Him. He picked His disciples well and even Judas had an important role to play. When Christ ascended to heaven again His disciples did a phenomenal job. They certainly picked up the ball and ran with it and the word spread round the shores of the Mediterranean and to the furthest parts of the world in a remarkably short time. The disciples suffered for their faith, as Christ knew they would, and yet they felt so much empowered and moved that they went on and did the job that Christ had left for them.

So we say that Christ is the Son of God. Does that mean that He is a separate entity? In my interpretation and I believe that of the established church - definitely not. My take is that Christ was a manifestation of God in human form come down to engage with the Jewish nation to teach them a new and better way to worship God and live with their neighbours in a better way. It was necessary for God to take human form in order to have a close relationship with His disciples and to teach them this new way. When God appeared to Moses it was such a terrible experience that Moses was awestruck. How could God appear to many people in that sort of form?

The third element of the Triune Deity is the Holy Spirit and this should mean more to us than it does. In my interpretation I feel that this is a part of God that is always with us. The Holy Spirit should remind us of our duties to God and also to our neighbours. Whenever we pray on our own we should let the Holy Spirit shape our thoughts and prayers. We can read in the bible of those great occasions when the Holy Spirit came among the faithful people to influence their actions and Pentecost is a wonderful example of this. All that were gathered there began to speak in tongues, that is to say in languages that they previously had no knowledge of.

The power of the Holy Spirit is truly wonderful and reminds us that God is with us every minute of the day; all we have to do is to acknowledge the fact. With this knowledge we can confidently awake every morning, get out of bed and meet all the challenges that life has to offer and to help to do God’s work here on earth.

As I mentioned earlier on, this is a very personal view and I hope that I have not offended anyone in sharing it with you. I respect everyone’s right to hold dear to their own interpretation of these matters and I am sure that not two people think of it in the same way.

Don Peacock