Word study: Shema

The Bible Project
Someone in my congregation sent me a glowing commendation for The Bible Project, especially their video devoted to the first word of the ancient biblical prayer called “The Shema”.

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

(Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NIVUK)

The second video in the series explores the word, “Lord”.
Here’s the link.

Four more videos to come in the series.

About the series

“For thousands of years Jewish people have daily prayed these words which summarize the Bible’s call for faithfulness and devotion to God. We will explore all of the key words in this prayer and what they meant in their original language and historical context.” (https://thebibleproject.com/product/word-study-shema-listen-2/)

Guest post #1 : Fire reflections

Wildfires have been raging for days in central Portugal, 90 miles (150km) north of Lisbon, with devastating effect.
 
Reflections and a prayer from Stewart Lamont who is currently serving as locum in our sister church, St Andrews Lisbon.

 

Reflections

20 June 2017

Most of us shuddered with horror when we saw the Grenville tower block in London become a raging inferno with helpless humans struggling inside. Then last weekend a heatwave hit Portugal and created the conditions for a conflagration in the tinder-dry countryside such as they have seldom seen, with dozens of lives lost. Now the landscape north-east of us here in Lisbon is decimated and scorched. The stench of fire is everywhere in the air. These events remind us that not all will go according to plan and that without warning the climate can turn ugly.

Such events are not a judgement on the people of the Portugal any more than they are an “act of God”. No doubt they will inspire fanatics to claim that it is another sign of the End Times, such as is found in Luke chapter 21: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (v. 8-11)

My interpretation of this passage is that it stands as a metaphor for the cycles of devastation which have happened so many times in human history. The point to be taken is that such tragedies WILL happen but we need to be prepared that they will happen and do what we can to avoid them, whether by avoiding war or damage to the environment or making our houses fireproof. When we do nothing to prevent disasters, or ignore the needs of those who suffer, then – in that sense only – the disaster becomes a judgment upon those who had the responsibility to act. The innocent still suffer and alas will go on doing so. Each incident affords us to respond in an appropriate way.

We are consoled by the rituals of mourning, but sometimes they deepen our sense of helplessness or we want a public enquiry and someone to blame. Moments of silence should go alongside moments of reflection on how such events can be prevented. It is long way from the flap of a butterfly’s wings to the creation of a tornado, and a long way from our recycling rubbish to the prevention of global warming, but the link is there. Each small act and each small prayer does not go unheeded by the Jesus of the Scars.

Pray

Let us remember in our prayers those who lost their lives in the fires of London and Pedragao Grande.

Gracious God, fire warms us in winter and cooks our food; it powers the machines which are now integral to our way of life and burns away our waste. Yet fire can consume innocent lives and damage the planet on which you have placed us.

We pray for:-

those who have lost their lives in the recent fires and those who mourn them;

those whose peace of mind and way of life has been consumed in the fires;

and those who will struggle to cope with the aftermath of disaster.

Loving God, grant those who survived such healing of mind and spirit that they may never be haunted by the horrors they had to endure.

May we, amid the ashes of such disasters, rebuild our resolve to ensure that we do all that we can to harness the power of fire and prevent it bringing disaster upon our communities.

We ask these our prayers in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen

Bonus: a parable

The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theatre where a variety show was taking place. Each act was more fantastic than the last, and was applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager came forward. He apologized for the interruption, but the theatre was on fire, and he begged his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience thought this was the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheered thunderously. The manager again implored them to leave the burning building, and he was again applauded vigorously. At last he could do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and took the fun-loving audience with it. “And so,” concluded Kierkegaard, “will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators.”


More on the fires:
from The Guardian


Footnote from Stewart (26 June 2017):
St Andrews Lisbon held a retiring collection for the victims of the Portugal fires yesterday and the Kirk Session topped it up.

Children’s prayer #2

This is the second in a series of prayers written by children from
St Andrews Church, Brussels.

“The heavens tell the glory of God” (Psalm 19)

Thank you for my friends.
Thank you for my family.
Thank you for my school.
Thank you for my heart.
Thank you for my mind.
Thank you that I am not alone.
Thank you that I have you.

Thank you for me

Harry Brink (age 8), St Andrews Brussels


See also Annabelle Brink’s prayer (Children’s Prayer #1)

Balm to heal the world

Balm definition from dictionary.com

The World News in Prayer entry for this week is pretty moving in the wake of recent attacks in Manchester and London and the fear and anger these attacks inspire in us and in our leaders. I want to commend it to you.

You can find the prayer here.

I was particularly taken with this paragraph:

“So again I turn to all the pieces of my faith – to hymns and scriptures, to prayer and worship. Maybe there is a Balm in Gilead, or a Blessed Assurance, even an Amazing Grace.” (World News in Prayer June 8, 2017)

The reference to the “Balm of Gilead” (Jeremiah 8:22) really resonated with me since I was inspired to use the phrase “balm of Calvary” in one of my recent songs, a song called All is accomplished.

Verse 1
All is accomplished,
He bowed his head.
The man, the crucified
His name be blessed.
He bore the blame,
became accursed.
He is the the balm of Calvary
that heals the world.

The Gift ||| My favourite photograph

I had a lot of fun and some headaches selecting photographs to complement the readings and reflections in “The Gift” series.

Do you have a favourite photograph? Take the survey below.

My favourite is #10 (In us). I was visiting a friend near Muizenberg, Cape Town at the time. I was a little early, so I found a shady place a few streets away to park the car. I spent about 30 minutes watching this man at work – pruning the tree from within.

"The Gift" series - photographs

My favourite photograph

  • 1 | The Holy Spirit - 0
  • 2 | For the asking - 0
  • 3 | Re-minder - 0
  • 4 | Defence - 0
  • 5 | Tell me - 0
  • 6 | Guidance - 1
  • 7 | Traces - 0
  • 8 | Adoption - 0
  • 9 | Joy - 0
  • 10 | In us - 1
  • 11 | Promised - 0
  • 12 | Recreator - 0
Submit
Results

The Gift ||| The ground we covered

The Gift

It was good to reflect with you over a twelve-day period on different aspects of “The Gift” the Father has sent to minister to us and through us as we seek to live as Jesus’ disciples and witness to the new life we have in Christ.
May the Scriptures that were featured in the series continue to bear fruit in our lives as we go forward, led by the Spirit, in step with the Spirit, living by the Spirit (Galatians 5:13, 25).

 
The Gift #1 : The Holy Spirit ||| Acts 1:4-5 (NIV)
On one occasion, while he was eating with the apostles, Jesus gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

The Gift #2 : For the asking ||| Luke 11:13 (NIV)
Jesus said: ‘If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

The Gift #3 : Re-minder ||| John 14:26 (NIV)
Jesus said: ‘The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’

The Gift #4 : Counsel ||| Luke 12:11-12 (NIV)
Jesus said: ‘When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’

The Gift #5 : Tell me ||| John 15:26 (NIV)
Jesus said: ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.’

The Gift #6 : Guidance ||| John 16:13 (NIV)
Jesus said: ‘When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.’

The Gift #7 : Traces ||| Acts 1:8 (NIV)
Jesus said: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

The Gift #8 : Adoption ||| Romans 8:15 (NIV)
Paul writes, ‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”’

The Gift #9 : Joy ||| 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 (NIV)
Paul writes, ‘You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.’

The Gift #10 : In us ||| 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)
Paul writes, ‘What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.’

The Gift #11 : Promised ||| Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)
Paul writes, ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.’

The Gift #12 : Recreator ||| Titus 3:3-8 (NIV)
Paul writes: ‘At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.’

The Gift #12 : Recreator

Pentecost banner and stole handmade by Linda Walker
Linda Walker’s Pentecost Banner and Stole (photos: Linda Walker)
 

Titus 3:3-8 (NIV)
Paul writes: ‘At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.’

 

Reflection

Generous God,
this is a trustworthy saying:
Once I was foolish,
disobedient,
deceived, enslaved.

Then kindness,
love and mercy
came my way
and I was
saved, washed,
reborn, renewed,
justified, accepted,
and soaked in hope.

You make
all the difference.
May my gratitude and trust
in you
grow and show itself
in deep-rooted, practical
devotion.
Amen

by Irene Bom


Related Scriptures

Romans 5:1-5

The Gift #11 : Promised

Quayside, Rotterdam - Snoopy-looking mooring bollard, including scarf
Quayside, Rotterdam (photo: Irene Bom)

 

Eph 1:13-14 (NIV)
Paul writes, ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.’

 

Reflection

Holy Spirit of promise,
the pledge and foretaste
of all to come,
I’ve been marked in Jesus,
sealed by you as a sign that
I am God’s possession now,
destined for great things,
to the praise of God’s glory.

This is just the beginning.
Help me to live in that reality.
Amen.

by Irene Bom


Related Scriptures

2 Corinthians 1:21-22
 

The Gift #10 : In us

The pruner in the pruned
‘Pruner in the Pruned’ (photo: Irene Bom)
 

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)
Paul writes, ‘What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.’

 

Reflection

Spirit who lives in me,
help me guard the good deposit treasure
entrusted to me.
Help me keep going strong.

I am a potential joy and crown
to those invested in me,
if I keep the faith
and pass it on.

I can’t do it without you.

by Irene Bom


Related Scriptures

Philippians 4:1
1 Corinthians 16:13
2 Timothy 1:12

All related Scriptures (in one go)