Please find a link to our September 2021 magazine. The hard-copy version will be available in church from this Sunday.
[Many thanks to Beate Bachmann for the really striking cover picture on Pixabay.]
This month’s edition has lot of news and views plus articles on Creation Season and the Bury CAP Debt Centre. There’s also thanks from Ralph and information on a new provision for asylum seekers.
Plus this letter from our Authorised Lay Minister, Nigel Silvester…
Playing by the Rules
July 19th 2021 – Freedom Day. The day the last of the rules imposed upon us because of the Covid epidemic were withdrawn. The rule book ripped up. All those rules which have restricted our behaviours for well over twelve months were gone!
Well, those rules may have gone – for now at least – but actually our lives have, since humans started living in community, always been subject to rules; and will no doubt continue to be so. Our society operates within a framework of rules; many enshrined in law; many based on common practice and tradition. Wherever we go, whatever we do, there is an accepted expectation that we will play by the rules. School rules, work-place rules, rules of the road, sports rules, church rules – the list is endless.
For the most part we accept that rules are necessary and we abide by them as part and parcel of what we do and how we behave. Having said that, I suspect that we all have a list of rules which we find irritating, restrictive and downright unacceptable. There are also rules which are almost expected to be bent and some which are regularly ignored!
As Christians I suppose it’s not unreasonable for us to look to Jesus and his view on rules to give us some guidance on our own attitude to rule keeping.
When it comes to rules, the Ten Commandments, given by God to Moses, are foundational as far as Jesus is concerned. Indeed Jesus was particularly unequivocal that the first commandment – to love the Lord your God – closely followed by love your neighbour as your self – underpin everything else. Read about that in Matthew 22 or Mark 12.
Jesus was once asked directly about his attitude to the tax rules. Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 20 tell the story. As a retired tax gatherer I have always felt a bit of an inner glow when Jesus seems to affirm that we should pay our dues. Tax avoidance schemes were out of the question!
However, when reading the gospels there does seem to be one rule book which Jesus was not too keen on: the multitude of rules set by the religious authorities. There are numerous instances of clashes between Jesus and those who seemed to want to enhance their own positIon by having rules which only they ‘religiously’ kept. The rules about what you could or could not do on the Sabbath particularly raised the hackles. Read Matthew 12 and Luke 13. The Six Woes listed in Luke 11:37-54 have strong words from Jesus to those who (over) loved the rule book!
Playing by the rules is always going to be a tricky pathway. Navigating our way through an ever increasing number of rules will never be easy – especially when the rules keep changing. I have to admit that I still have great difficulty with the off-side rule in football! Rules have provided hours of talking points over a pint of bitter or a glass of wine – and I’m sure will long continue to do so!
What I do feel sure of is that life (unfortunately?) needs rules. The Bible tells us that God set out hoping we could do without them but his hopes were dashed early on in the Garden of Eden. So he gave Moses the Ten Commandments and Jesus endorses that we use them as our foundation. Jesus also endorses a direct relationship with our Heavenly Father and any rules which hinder that relationship should be treated with caution.
Freedom Day? Perhaps that day comes when we do as Jesus says at John 8:31-32: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Take care. God Bless. Nigel
For the July & August 2021 magazine please press here.