It has often been said that the first evangelist in any parish is the parish secretary. This is because it is usually the parish secretary who answers the phone or opens the front door of the parish office (or presbytery) and so she or he becomes the face of the parish in its interaction with the wider community. Many of our secretaries have done a most remarkable job in welcoming, informing, inviting and pastorally caring for so many people who have been away from the church, or those who have recently moved into the parish as well as the many faithful who are regularly part of the life of the local church.
To some extent, this role is now being supplemented or even replaced by the parish website as the first point of contact that many people – probably already the majority – have with the parish. That it is imperative for a parish to have a website is presumed: so if you have decided upon this course of action, how does a parish go about creating an excellent website within the standard parish budget – ie, as cheap as possible.
This article will begin a series of blog posts on this subject.
As we come to the final of five readings from John 6, we arrive at the crunch moment in the chapter. Although confusion, grumbling and complaining have been part of the whole chapter – and would have reminded the first readers of the people of God complaining in the wilderness of Sinai in the book of Exodus – in today’s passage the tension escalates as many of the crowd get up and leave, declaring the teaching of Jesus to include ‘intolerable language.’ These are not just people who happen to be in the synagogue in Capernaum on this day – they are called followers and disciples.
Just as in last Sunday’s gospel, when the disciples began to argue about the meaning of the words, and to dispute that Jesus was actually wanting to feed them with his flesh and blood – Jesus does not back-pedal or offer a purely spiritual interpretation for this very physical reality. Rather, he allows the many followers to leave him, and even seems to offer the same possibility to the twelve – ‘What about you – do you want to go away too?’
As we arrive at the fourth week of our readings from John 6, we arrive at the section that has been the most controversial over the centuries, as different Christian traditions have offered very different understandings and interpretations of this key text. Until verse 51, although Jesus has been speaking about the Eucharist, it has been through more easily understood spiritual language and imagery – the bread of life, bread from heaven, sharing and partaking. Once we arrive at verse 51, Jesus introduces a new concept in addition to his threefold declaration that he is ‘the bread of life’ when he says that the bread that ‘I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
Immediately, the crowd reacts to this word flesh. Indeed, we are told that they began to argue or dispute among themselves; the Greek words that underlie this text suggest that the argument even became physical, perhaps with fights beginning to break out around Jesus as he spoke.If he intended his words to be merely spiritual or to only invite deeper faith and belief in him, you would expect that at this stage of the discussion, Jesus would begin to backpedal, and explain what he actually meant when he used the word flesh.
Today in I Kings 19, we meet a very different Prophet Elijah then perhaps we are more familiar with – especially from the dramatic story that unfolds in the previous chapter when he single handedly takes on the 450 prophets of the false Caananite god Baal and defeats them. This does not please Queen Jezebel who sets out to destroy Elijah. He is so afraid of her and the warriors that she sends after him, that he flees for his life into the wilderness of the Negev Desert. It is here, lying under a tree that we find him in our reading. (more…)
The church leads us out into the wilderness to be with the people of God – it seems many months or perhaps even years into their wilderness adventures – such is the bitterness and the discontent that they evoke with their complaints against the Lord. It is only when you realise that no, this all happens in Exodus 16; the events of the exodus itself, when the Lord rescued the people of God from their slavery in Egypt happen in Exodus 14-15. It is not years or even months that have passed – it is only a couple of weeks since the Lord acted in such an amazing and all-powerful way to demonstrate his sovereignty and authority.