Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 7 2013 - Matthew 6:1-24 – Lasting Treasure

We in the UK are continuing to go through a time of austerity. It seems likely that the income of most people will fall in real terms again this year. But that is just for those who remain in work. Many face the possibility of losing their jobs. Others have been required to reapply for their own jobs, now redefined and at a reduced salary.

But not everyone is feeling the pinch. The news reports that forecast a general drop in income also report that the average annual pay rise for those in "top jobs" (however that might be defined) is running at around 50%. The rich are getting richer while those less well-off are carrying the burden of the economic crisis.

It's easy to become envious of those who have the most money. Maybe we even dream of joining them through a lottery win – “Would is spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?” Just think what good I could do with all that money! But Jesus challenges us to think again about riches; there are riches more durable than money and more satisfying than a good bank balance.

Some 35 years ago I had a motorbike which was my pride and joy. It was a Triumph 650, ex-police bike. I had customised it in various ways; it was my treasure. Our first child was born on the seventh of August 1978. On the following morning I got up to go and visit my wife and child in hospital only to find that my bike had been stolen – I never got it back. My initial reaction was one of deep anger and a sense of loss. But soon I began to feel that the Lord was teaching me an important lesson; I had lost my motorbike, but God had given me a precious daughter. People are more important than things. And the greatest treasure of all is to know, love and serve God. We need to safeguard our hearts against the false values that characterise the world in which we live.

Jesus teaches us to pray for “our daily bread”. Not to seek after the dangerous riches of this world but to be content with what we have and to learn what is truly “enough”. God’s world is being destroyed through the insatiable desire for more.

That is not to say that we should be indifferent to the injustices of our society. On the contrary, we need to challenge the distorted values of our world; money is not the measure of all things and economic growth is not to be our god. Instead of comparing our lot unfavourably with that of the super-rich, we need to recognise the plight of those in other parts of the world who are struggling to live on a dollar a day. We need to speak up for those whose voice is drowned out in the clamour for more trinkets. We need to work for a world in which people, made in the image of God, are valued rather than being seen as the disposable resources of an economic machine. We are to pray and work for a society that is marked by righteousness and a world that it nurtured and sustained rather than exploited and ravaged – a world where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus challenges us to examine our hearts and to question what we truly value. What are the things we long for and daydream about? What are the priorities in our lives – the things that actually shape the way we live and act?

Heavenly Father, forgive us that we so often view this world as if it were ours to use and manipulate as we please. Help us to see that we are your creatures living in your world that we may live in dependence upon you and in respect for one another and for the world which you have made. Keep us rejoicing in your daily goodness and trusting you for the days to come.

Jan 7 2019 - Genesis 3:8-24 – The dust of death

Genesis three tells us that God walked in the garden in the cool of the day. Surely this was not the first time God had done this – his footfall is readily recognised by Adam and Eve. The implication is that God had done this before – maybe many times before. Maybe it was God's habit to walk around his garden each evening. And on previous occasions Adam and Eve would have gone to meet him and would have walked and talked with their Creator in the cool and quiet of the day.

But this day was not like any previous day. Adam and Eve know they have disobeyed God. They felt naked and vulnerable and ashamed, and so, instead of running to meet God they ran from him to hide in the bushes.

But it is impossible to hide from God. He confronted his disobedient children with the words, "Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" Adam blamed Eve, and by implication, blamed God – it is the fault of "the woman you gave to be with me." Eve blames the serpent and, as has often been remarked, the serpent didn't have a leg to stand on.

We are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We seek to cover our shame with the flimsy tissue of shifted blame. It's always someone else's fault and never our own. We need to stop trying to hide. We need to be honest with ourselves and with others. But we find this really hard. We need the courage of G K Chesterton who, when asked to write an article on what was wrong with the world, responded with the simple confession, "I am."

One act of disobedience changes everything. Human relationships are no longer the source of unmixed blessing; all too often they are marked by tension and conflict. Godly rule becomes twisted into domination, exploitation and the thirst for power. Even marriage can become marked by manipulation and selfishness rather than mutual nurturing and respect. Families can be hard places in which to grow up.

Relationships with the animal world are no longer uniformly harmonious; often they are marked by mutual suspicion and fear. And nature itself has become red in tooth and claw.

Even our relationship with the earth is now marked by conflict. Work is no longer a simple pleasure; it becomes fraught with frustration and futility. We fight to gain a living for our families, but end up losing the battle. At last we return to the dust from which we were made – creation is undone.

The Bible's picture of our world is terribly realistic. To be sure, the world is still full of beauty and of good gifts, but the gates of Paradise are firmly shut against us. We live in a world marked by warfare, inequity, hunger, disease, pain, death and loss. Sheltering behind the shaky walls of Western civilisation we may seek to escape these demons, but death cannot be shut out and it will have the last word.

But wait, the last word is not left to death. In God's judgment on the serpent there is the glimmer of a promise of the light which will shine ever more brightly as we continue our journey through the Scriptures. One day a child shall be born who will crush the serpent's head. God will provide a Saviour from sin and shame and from the judgment that hangs over all creation.

Creator God, thank you that death does not have the last word. Thank you for your promise of One through whom creation undone will become creation renewed. Thank you for the promise of a day when we will be with you in Paradise, when sin and death will be banished and every tear will be wiped away. Thank you for resurrection morning and the hope of a world to come.

Peter Misselbrook