Note from the Minister

I’d like to use the opportunity of my ‘note from the minister’ to introduce a little series of services that will stretch over the period covered by this newsletter. The series is entitled ‘Seven Kings’, and its (anti)heroes are going to be Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Ahab, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Jehoiachim and Zedekiah.

Who are Jeroboam and Rehoboam? Not to mention Ahab, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Jehoiachim or Zedekiah? Well I’m afraid there are no prizes for guessing that they’re none other than the ‘Seven Kings’ of our title. But why focus on these ancient and obscure figures from the history of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah? What relevance can all this have for us? And if we really have to think about it, why do we have to do so now?

I’ll take the last question first. This is the part of the church year sometimes called ‘Ordinary Time’. It isn’t Lenten-tide, nor is it Christmas-time. It’s just ordinary time – which I find a beautiful concept. Christian life isn’t all high drama and religious ecstasy, festive jubilation or penitential self-humiliation. A good deal of it is just plain ordinary time. And that’s the ideal time to get on with the Christian’s ordinary business, part of which is getting to know and love the Bible. We do that with a view, hopefully, to knowing and to loving the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

For the majority of our friends and neighbours it’s safe to say that the Good Book is a closed book. Or to be precise it’s a book not found on the shelf, a text not stored on the Kindle, an app not even installed on a phone. And if that’s true for the gospels, it’s still truer for the Old Testament. In fact many a committed Christian is distinctly reluctant to peer at all deeply into the well of the Old Testament. Why waste time on a history so full of passion, confusion, violence, and names we aren’t sure how to pronounce?

My hope is that our ‘Seven Kings’ series will answer that question by giving an enjoyable short, sharp shock-raid into the Bible. Hopefully we’ll get a basic sense for the landmarks of this chunk of Old Testament history. Hopefully we’ll also catch the inexhaustible fascination which the Bible exerts – one it has exerted for so many centuries, and one it always will exert on anyone who reads it steadily and without prejudice. Hopefully we’ll also begin to see the sense in which this dynastic chronicle is the history of our family, the chronicles of the clan into whose story we were plunged when we were baptised into the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary.

Out of the many partly or wholly unfamiliar faces in the family portrait gallery (including no less than  forty-four royal faces) only Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Ahab, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Jehoiachim and Zedekiah have made the cut. This was almost, but not quite, a random choice. Saul, David, Solomon were obviously out. (Too famous). ‘Three Kings’ didn’t seem sufficient to give the idea. Whereas ‘Forty-Four Kings’ seemed excessive. (For one thing some of them were queens; for another it would have meant a ten-month series, which even I felt verged on the over-enthusiastic).  So seven it is, for now. Naturally I will be happy to preach on the other thirty-seven, should congregational demand prove insatiable.

What kind of a God will this series invite us to meet? I hope we’ll meet the God whom Jesus calls Father. A God whose people’s history is tortuous, obscure, fascinating, violent, lively, confusing, and full of moments of incomprehensible mercy and grace – which is to say, exactly like our own life.

The God whom Jesus calls Father is a God worth getting to know. So if you’re someone who keeps the Sunday School prize for Old Testament Knowledge on the mantlepiece, I hope this makes you hungry to refresh your memory. And if so far you have never picked up a Bible in your life, I hope this might whet your appetite to begin. As ever, my prayer is that  God would lead us all deeper into the joy and mystery of His eternal life, as we meditate on these seven kings over the spring and summer Sundays of these weeks of ‘ordinary time’.

With love,

Ewan


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