Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 21 2013 - Luke 20:27-47 – Impressive robes

When I was at secondary school (many years ago), every morning began with an assembly. The boys (yes, we were all boys), would be assembled in the hall waiting for the ceremonies to begin. Then the teachers would march in, beginning with the headmaster and deputy head. They would all be wearing academic gowns and would sweep in with gowns following – a bit like cloned versions of Batman. Their gowns were marks of authority and they certainly impressed us boys.

Some masters even taught in gowns, some of which were a little worse for wear. The eccentric English master wore a gown that was ragged and green with mould towards the hem. But on more special occasions such as prize-giving, the gowns were supplemented with academic hoods and hats in a variety of shapes and colours. It was an awe inspiring spectacle for teenage boys. It also gave us something to aspire to – a longing to wear the scarlet hood trimmed with fur and the fancy hat.

Jesus is critical of the scribes of his day (the academics), who loved to sweep about in long robes – to flaunt their status by their elaborate dress. I don’t know whether they were in a variety of colours, but clearly they were intended to impress. They were intended to draw attention to themselves so that they would be greeted with reverence and seated with honour.

Jesus has little time for such outward show. We are to impress others with a humble Christ-like character and servant spirit. If we are to aspire to attire, let it be to this:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14).

Imagine a people clothed like that. They would stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression as those who do not seek the best for themselves, but seek the best for others. Such lives might even be inspirational and aspirational for others, drawing them to the Lord Jesus.

Here’s a few more texts that encourage us to be well dressed:

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10).

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27).

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

And finally, some words from Count Zinzendorf; words which speak of a robe that never gets ragged at the edges or green with mould:

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head…

This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruined nature sinks in years;
No age can change its glorious hue,
The robe of Christ is ever new.

Lord Jesus, let me aspire to be clothed in the robe of righteousness that you alone can give me. And by your Spirit clothe me now with your own beautiful character that I may draw attention not to myself but to you and seek honour not for myself but for your holy name. As you have loved me, let me be clothed with love for you and for others.

Apr 21 2019 - Psalm 46 – God our refuge

We are beginning to realise that we cannot take the stability of our planet for granted. Our actions over the past century have contributed to climate change which is leading to more erratic weather conditions: summers are getting hotter, winters becoming colder; hurricanes are becoming stronger and more devastating; rains are failing in some parts of our world and droughts bring death to plants and cattle; floods devastate other parts of our world bringing landslides and mudslides. Climate scientists warn that we may be reaching a tipping point beyond which there is nothing we can do to prevent increasing chaos. On top of all of this is the frequent news of earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis. It seems as if the very fabric of our world, of our home, is falling apart.

The psalmist did not have these things in mind when he wrote this psalm – though certainly he would have been familiar with earthquakes and their devastation. His concern was the threat from hostile nations that surrounded the people of God. There had been times in Israel's history when the very existence of the nation seemed to be endangered by threats of war from stronger nations around them or, indeed, by warfare between the different tribes that made up the nation.

In an uncertain world, the psalmist delights in the fact that there is a place of safety and stability for those who trust in the living God. God is a refuge – a fortress or place of safety – for his people. As David writes in Psalm 18:1-2:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge… my stronghold.

Even if the worst imaginable disaster might actually happen, God remains our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1). This means that those who trust in him need not fear, no matter what the news, no matter what the threat. "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (v.7).

I have sometimes seen the text, "Be still, and know that I am God" (v.10) on church walls or on greetings cards sent from one Christian to another. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think we need to look at its context in this psalm. In face of the hostile threats God's people face from the surrounding nations, God addresses them with the command, "Be still, and know that I am God." He commands the nations to stop their warfare, to put down their arms and to recognise the God of Israel for who he is. "He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth" (v.9).

It's not easy to get the balance right between the demand to take action and the need to trust God. We need to do all that we can to mend the hurts of our world. We in the West need to repent of our thoughtless and unsustainable lifestyles that have led to the present crisis for our planet. We need to respect God's world and to heal its hurts before they are beyond human healing. We need also to be peacemakers who seek to reconcile the warring factions of this world.

Nevertheless, we who know in the living God can trust in him in every circumstance as our place of safety and of joy; the Spirit of God and of our risen Saviour "is a river whose streams make glad the city of God" – the people of God. Trust in our heavenly Father frees us from fear in the personal crises of our lives as well as the national and global which seem to threaten our world.
Think of the things which make you fearful right now and then read through this psalm again slowly seeking God's help and presence to still your fears.

Father God, we thank you that in the Lord Jesus you have made us heirs of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Help us to care for your world and be a blessing to its peoples rather than being those who threaten your world. Help us also to point others to our Saviour that they also might find their secure refuge and unfailing hope in him.

Peter Misselbrook