at two ment

Last time I considered one of the Bible metaphors that tries to explain what happened when Jesus died on the cross – the courtroom.

Today, we look at another one:

The Money TrapIn order to buy a new car you have borrowed £1000 from a payday lender. You thought you would be able to repay it very quickly but you have been unable to make any payments and the interest at 4670% APR (yes, they really do charge that much!) means that the sum just keeps getting bigger and bigger. You tried paying some of it off with your credit cards, but they soon maxed out and now you are paying interest on those too.

There’s no way you will be able to repay what you owe and you just keep sinking further and further into debt. You cannot see any way out of the money trap. You feel helpless, ashamed and desperate.You are really embarrassed about having got yourself into this situation and try not to let anyone know, but eventually it becomes obvious to your family that you are up to your neck in debt and will soon go under completely.

Your father hears about the situation. Because he is your father and he loves you he cashes in his pension early and uses all of that money to pay off all of your debts. They have been paid in full. You no longer owe anything. You are free from debt.

How do you feel?

This image of the atonement takes seriously the helplessness of each one of us to deal with the consequences of our rebellion against God / falling short of his standards / sin. We can’t sort ourselves out. We owe a debt we can’t repay. But God has paid the debt for us: when Jesus died on the cross the debt was paid in full. It cost God, our Father, but the price is paid.

Variations on that story might include us owing the money and the lender writing off (or forgiving) the debt but the main point is the same – we can’t pay what we owe, but God has done it for us.

Sends a shiver down your spine when you think about it, doesn’t it?

Next time, washing day

Be blessed, be a blessing

some assembly required

I have been given two books. The lovely Sally, my wife, went to a charity shop yesterday and came back with a carrier bag of books (they are selling them by the bag now!) and two were for me. One was a book of card tricks, and I won’t be sharing any quotes from that with you. The other is a selection of stories told by after dinner speakers. This one tickled me:

A visiting clergyman went to a small village to take the evening service as the resident parson was ill. As he had not been there before he arrived in good time and had a look around the church. He saw a collecting box with a card over it: ‘For church expenses’ and he put in 10p.

When the service was over the verger came into the vestry with the collecting box. He said, “It has always been our custom to give the contents of this box to any visiting clergyman we may have.”

coin handHe selected a key from a bunch he held and, after opening the box, he said, “My word, sir, you are lucky tonight: there’s 10p in it!” and he handed the money over.

When he reached home the clergyman told his wife and small daughter of his experience. The girl’s answer was, “Well you see, daddy, if you had put more into the box you would have got more out of it.”

[insert your own application here*].

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*That’s where some assembly is required for this bloggage.

Farther’s Day

I hope you had a good weekend. Thank you for coming back to my blog / remaining subscribed / visiting for the first time.

father and babyYesterday was Father’s* Day, which I recognise is a day that raises all sorts of emotions. For some it is a day to celebrate and say ‘thank you’, for others it is a day that they would rather didn’t happen. For some it means family time, joy and laughter; for others it is a reminder of grief and loss; and for still others it is a day of regrets.

Unlike Mothering Sunday Fathers’* Day is a recent invention. Some cynically suggest it was created by greetings card manufacturers as a way of increasing sales. Others say that it was introduced in a bid for equality as Mothering Sunday changed.

I think that churches have always struggled with both days, but particularly Fathers’ Day. We have to tread carefully with Father’s Day because there are so many different emotions and memories that can be evoked. We have to qualify what we say so that when we speak of those who are good fathers we include those whose experience of fathers has been negative, or when we speak of spending time with fathers we recognise that it is not possible for everyone. I have tended to say that whatever our experience of fathers is, our experience of God our Father is qualitatively different.

But (get ready to disagree) I am not really comfortable with that approach. This is neither because God is not qualitatively different as our heavenly Father, nor because he has none of the deficiencies of our human fathers. I think I am uncomfortable because to call God ‘Father’ diminishes him. We cannot help but consider an earthly male parent in our minds as we call God ‘Father’. And that is inherently inadequate. We need to go farther.

‘Father’ is a metaphor (albeit a very good one) that helps to explain one way in which God relates to us, but it is a metaphor. And metaphors are not meant to be taken literally. They can explain and reveal truth, they can make the incomprehensible more comprehensible, they can illuminate and illustrate. But they are not the whole story.

To say that God is our heavenly Father speaks of his love, consideration, provision, security, his desire for us to be his ‘children’ (another metaphor), discipline, strength, reliability and so much more. But each of those attributes can be infinitely unpacked when it comes to God. And each of those infinite unpackings can be infinitely unpacked. And so on. We cannot hope to comprehend God fully.

I think what I am trying to say is that the Father-metaphor can be helpful for us, but we should never presume to think that we therefore understand God fully because we call him ‘Father’. We should never believe that our metaphorical understanding of him is adequate. Sadly, because of the finite nature of our brains and the limitations of language, we are often reduced to metaphors when it comes to God because we could not cope with the unadulterated truth – our brains would produce an error message and shut down. So we cope with metaphors, we explore them, we use them to help us encounter the living God and relate to him (‘him’ being another inadequate use of language!). And God graciously allows us to relate to him in that way which is more than we can comprehend but is woefully inadequate (in the same way as a supercomputer being used to play ‘solitaire’ – another weak metaphor).

If we gather together all the metaphors for God and understand and explore them completely we still have a relatively poor image of and comprehension of God. But if we are willing to accept our limitations he graciously takes us into them and our experience and understanding of him is expanded and deepened. That is the journey of a lifetime (and beyond). He graciously gives us eternity to explore the infinite**.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Where should the apostrophe go? Is it a day for fathers or is it a day for a father? I am being interchangeable to be inclusive and so that I am correct at least 50% of the time.

**No way anyone will have ‘time’ to be bored in heaven!