URC Daily Devotion 20 October 2023

20 October 2023
 
Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Reflection

I’m a Christian Despite…the Enlightenment and the Church pretending it never happened!

Christian faith is not ‘normal’ and yet much of church life is conducted as if it is.  We can’t authentically pretend we are atemporal exiles from our culture.  We live in a post war (and post-holocaust) world where the misplaced optimism that believed in inevitable human progress is no longer possible.  The changing world drove churches either into the arms of Barth and his followers, or to fundamentalism.

Then came post-modernity, which a disoriented Church seized upon ravenously, twisting to mean that since all was thrown open to question (including those things that made faith difficult) we could pretend that the Enlightenment hadn’t happened at all.  So we sing the old hymns, pray in the old ways, and enforce the old creeds with renewed fervour even when we barely understand them.

But post-modernity means having passed through those ‘modern’ Enlightenment times. It doesn’t mean we can pretend they never happened.  It’s simply not possible to believe as if we were in the (apparently?) simpler times of pre-modern faith. We may still use the same language as metaphor or poetry, but we cannot honestly pretend that we understand the same as the ancients did. Though that is what we in the Church, most of the time, seem to do.  A lot of the time I find that disturbing, uncomfortable, and difficult.

The edifice of Christian faith is, if we are honest, ‘under erasure’… meaning that we still hear the whispers of divine longing for humanity; we are still enlivened by these Gospel stories but the metaphysical and cosmological scaffolding in which we encased them has melted away. 

So, why do I remain a Christian? Well, because of longing and desire: the ‘God shaped hole’ of Augustinian sloganising, the dream of a Kingdom announced, begun, and expected.  These stories are lifegiving and, in them, I meet one who is named in Jesus, but really cannot be named.  In them I find not constraint, but generativity and life; a garden not a fortress.

Prayer

God of yesterday, today and forever:
named in ancient scriptures, and yet beyond our naming,
known in Jesus, and yet beyond knowing:

We are not in exile, but people of our time and place,
afraid to stray afar from the truth of what our forebears knew,
yet knowing that we live in different paradigms,
to us not exile nor wilderness nor (yet) promised land – but a home we are still exploring.

Give us humility and faithfulness.
Give us grace to be disciples and truthful makers of meaning in our age and place. Amen.

 

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott is Principal of The Scottish College in Glasgow and a member of Shawlands URC 

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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