Glencairn Methodist Church
January - 2012
"Bethlehem" by Philip Bryson
I quite like this painting by Philip Bryson. It is very large and has adorned a wall of St Andrew's throughout Christmas, so I will keep it for a little longer, at least through the season of Epiphany.
How would you start to tell the story of Jesus? It would all depend, you might say, on who the person was and their background knowledge.
Would you start as St Mark does in his gospel with the adult ministry of Jesus? First his baptism by John, then his temptations, his teaching, and finally his death and resurrection. Mark's is quite a short story, conveying the essentials.
Or would you start like St John? He gives a philosophical introduction to the Incarnation and Holy Trinity. John recounts the stories of Jesus' "miraculous signs", intended to provide evidence tat Jesus is who he says he is. He gives us the "I am" sayings of Jesus - "I am the Light of the world", "I am the Way and the Truth and Life". He gives us a very full account of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
Or like St Luke? He writes his gospel initially for the benefit of a Gentile, and he starts as any good journalist would, by carefully researching the story and verifying his sources. He gives a full account of the conception and birth of Jesus, and many lovely pictures of God, such as the story of the loving father. He too includes stories of the crucifixion and resurrection.
Or what about St Matthew? Well Matthew is clearly writing his gospel to convince Jewish readers that Jesus is the long awaited Jewish Messiah. And he starts with what is important to Jews - the genealogy of Jesus - to demonstrate that Jesus' family connections are kosher. He gives the male family line all the way down from Abraham through David to --- Joseph? You see this lovely man, the husband of Mary, was Jesus' legal father if not his biological father. And it is through Joseph that Jesus inherits the right to be called "Son of David" - a Messianic title.
But Matthew, unusually, includes a mention of five women in this male dominated list. Tamar was a seductress, Rahab was a prostitute and Bathsheba was an adulteress. Ruth, while a virtuous woman, was a foreigner. So this motley collection of female ancestors gives us the insight that Jesus came to break down barriers - between male and female, between Jew and gentile, between saints and sinners. Mary is the fifth woman, and we give thanks for her obedience to the really challenging task given her, and we give thanks for Joseph who accepted her as his wife and accepted his role in the nurture of Jesus.
So how would you start to tell someone the story of Jesus? I suggest that first you need to be well armed with all the information in the four gospels. Then perhaps the best thing is to start with your story, the story of your encounter with the living Jesus, and why you follow him. This story would be a good start
Epiphany is the season when we think of Jesus coming as the Light of the whole world. In Philip's painting above we see the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Wise men to the crib. We see the sheep on the hills, left alone while the Shepherds went to worship the baby, and we see a great light shining from the stable into the surrounding gloom of the world. Does your life and your story shine with the light of Jesus?
3 January 2012
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm