… and the big story of God. For example, when we celebrate communion I’m fairly sure that most people don’t know the wider context of that. Can this week’s gospel (John talking more about blood and flesh) be understood without knowing about Passover and the Levitical laws and kosher practice? But we are not Jews and because the canon closed 2,000 years ago do we see ourselves as separate from that story. I wonder if most people really believe that God has said anything since John’s revelation? How does that isolation from the story affect us?
If the Bible is the story of God’s relationship with people then does our focus on the ancient part of the story help or hinder our sense of connection?
Once, when I was feeling brave, I scrapped the sermon and we talked about what we are doing when we celebrate communion instead. Of course there are many answers to that question but what was evident was that there were no thoughts of the connection to anything further back than the last supper.
That’s not a surprise. After all, in our liturgy we tell the story of the Last Supper from Paul’s point of view. If that’s what you hear every time you gather for communion then why would you make connections beyond that?
Does that matter?
Well, the Bible is the story of God’s relationship with a group of people. Jesus speaks about that relationship all the time so if we don’t know that story then we miss lots of the story. The example at the beginning of this post about Jesus talking about how we should eat his flesh and drink his blood sounds strange. That’s cannibalism. That was one of the accusations made against the early Christians but it wasn’t what the Pharisees had a problem with.
Drinking blood wasn’t allowed and not just for health reasons. They believed that blood contained the life-force of an animal. That’s why kosher butchers drain the blood from animals. But we don’t do that.
Lamb’s blood is also central to the Passover story.
Making these kind of links in the big story of God is really important but I often wonder how easy it is to see ourselves as part of that story? We are viewing the events of the Bible from 2,000 years distance. We are not Jews. We don’t live in the Middle East. We don’t follow Livitical laws or Jewish custom.
The Old Testament can seem so distant and difficult and messy and disconnected from us. The New Testament isn’t much closer to us. In some ways it might be easier to see ourselves in the story because Jesus because some of the Gospel writers and the authors of the Epistles focus on ‘outsiders’, people other than the Jews, but much of that focus on the external is through comparison with Jewish society so we still need to know what’s going on.
But that story doesn’t ends at Revelation, does it?
Well, I’m sure that for lots of people it did.
I sometimes wonder if by ‘preaching the Gospel’ every week we actually add to the sense that God is in the past? The basis of our worship is always ‘this is what God did 2,000 years ago’ and then we apply that to today.
That’s fine, but what has God been saying since then? And how do we reflect that ongoing relationship in our worship and in our communities?