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Reflections of a Lay Pastor: March 3rd 2019: Paul vs Moses

Reflections of a Lay Pastor: March 3rd 2019: Paul vs Moses

There are two related readings today, presumably included in the lectionary deliberately by the church for our guidance, about the authority of the Old Testament laws.  On these laws the Pharisees had built an edifice of control and condemnation;  laws that were no doubt essential to bring wandering tribes from the mentality of slavery into some semblance of a civilized society.  When Mary went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, to tell her of the good news of her pregnancy, Elizabeth’s husband, a priest, should by the law of the Pharisees, have betrayed her to the community and had her stoned to death for adultery.  When Jesus saw a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath, he should have ignored the man’s plight until the next day.  Jesus was pretty firm about how such laws betrayed the spirit of Love that permeated the two commandments that he left for us.

Jesus, Paul says in Corinthians, came to sweep all those restrictive laws away.  In Exodus 34, we read about Moses covering his face to disguise the glow he had received up the mountain from meeting with God.  Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3 suggests that Moses’ veil had the purpose of disguising that the glow was fading.  This indicated to Paul that the old laws had become redundant when Jesus gave us just two:  Love God, Love your Neighbour.

What were the laws that Paul considered to be redundant?  Of the 600-odd laws there were those that prohibited some clothing, some foods, and some behaviours; they were laws that promoted forms of worship and the status of different elements of society.  Altogether, these laws were appropriate to the situation of a marauding band of ex-slaves intent on conquering a populated land, where food hygiene was important, where population expansion was vital, and where enemies must be eliminated. Paul understood that these laws were either irrelevant, or that they were subsumed under the two commands that Jesus gave.  However, being human, he could not understand his own prejudices, ingrained from childhood, that women were inferior in status, that slavery could be conducted considerately, and that procreation was paramount in sexual relationships.

Legislators in the UK have had to overcome similar prejudices as they have reluctantly granted votes for women, as they have ceded the power for women to make decisions about their own bodies, as they have become worried about modern slavery, and as they have removed obstacles to homosexual behavior.  In every case, the church has lagged behind in the name of honouring those very laws that Jesus, in his life, teaching, and example, rejected.

Christianity frequently makes the news for bad reasons.  Christians demonstrating outside family planning clinics;  Christians denying to gay people who love each other the right to marriage;  Christians preventing women access to the priesthood; or Christians disbelieving our devastating impact on the climate.  When foodbanks (often run by Christians) make the news;  when hospices (often run by Christians) are mentioned;  when children (many with Christian motivation) stage strikes for climate change;  the Christian motivation is frequently ignored by news media.  This is our fight;  this is our challenge;  it can’t be done from a settee with the TV on.  What would Jesus do?  What would Jesus say?


About the Author:

Mervyn has worked as an engineer, as a teacher and headteacher in comprehensive schools, as a university lecturer and latterly as a dry-stone waller, and lay pastor of the church. He also serves as Eco Officer. His hobbies include walking and he leads holidays in Italy and here in the UK, especially holidays for families. He has been a local preacher in the Methodist Church for fifty years and has been riding motorbikes for slightly longer. He is married to the girl of his dreams and has several children and grandchildren of whom he is inordinately proud.

One Comment

  1. Rob February 24, 2019 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Unfortunately this is a biased piece of writing mixing in truth with lies (or unintentional errors). Jesus fulfilled the law, the 10 commandments are still relevant today, these commandments protect us from doing harm to ourselves and others but Jesus basically put these laws into the two you mentioned above. You are scewing Jesus’ intention here to fit your own agenda.

    Homosexuality and marriage don’t go together, marriage is between a man and a woman and not for anything else. Romans 1 (which is new testament) says that homosexuality is wrong. Verse 18 in Romans 1 starts with ” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven etc…. Therefore God have them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their own bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error”.

    You can’t ignore what the bible says, you pick and choose elements of the bible to suit your message. 2 Timothy 4 says “preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

    Come on, you are supposed to be a minister of the church, do your homework, preach the gospel of Jesus death and resurrection for our sins, not this social gospel which follows the winds of change in society, which doesn’t lead to salvation.

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