As the year goes on, certain dates will come and go. January the first was obviously an important date. But today, January the 28th, is one which means a lot to me. It was on this day in 1986 that the space shuttle Challenger exploded just after launch and the crew of seven were killed. I am a keen follower of everything to do with space and spaceflight. I had been reading a lot about this mission, particularly because one of the astronauts was a school teacher. It would have been the first time a private citizen had travelled into space on-board the shuttle.
I was completely devastated when Challenger was destroyed. I felt I knew the crew, especially Christa McCauliffe the teacher. I took the loss very hard and struggled to come to terms with it. They died doing what they believed in. But they knew the risks and accepted them. If the crew died and there was no God and no heaven, what was the point in the mission? Slowly, as the weeks passed, that old familiar voice that occasionally whispers in my ear made itself heard again.
If there *was* a God and a heaven, then the crew died for a reason. Their mission would go on, just in a different place that’s all. I took comfort in knowing that they lived and died for a purpose. God knows what that purpose is. Literally, God knows. And that should be good enough for me. I still struggled, and took it out on God. And that’s OK, because he understands.
I came out of this time with a firm belief that God exists. That Jesus has made a home for us in heaven. Because the alternative is to think that we are all here day after day with nothing at the end but empty darkness, and that is just to awful to accept. It means that our life here is meaningless and without a goal.
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In today’s readings, we have Exodus 5, 6 and 7. Moses is still having problems with his own people and his pleas to the Pharaoh fall on deaf ears. God tells Moses to show Pharaoh the miracles he has been given. Moses turns his staff into a snake. So do the Pharaoh’s magicians. But Moses’ snake eats the others. Then Aaron, under Moses instructions, strikes the river with the staff and the water turns into blood. Not just the river, but the reservoirs too. It becomes undrinkable and the fish die. But the magicians turn some water into blood and the Pharaoh remains unimpressed. If Moses is going to convince the Pharaoh he will have to try harder.
in Matthew 18, Jesus tells Peter (us!) that we must forgive people who sin against us. Not just seven times, but Seventy times seven! The point he is making is clear. If someone does us wrong, we should forgive them unreservedly and completely. It’s really difficult to do this, but we should try. If you refuse to forgive from your heart, you’re heading for trouble. In Jesus’ parable, the man is sent to prison and tortured until he had paid his debt.
Matthew 19 is not very trendy. It’s one of those times when the interpretation of the passage is open to question. And quite rightly. Only be studying the difficult bits can we be sure we are reading the true word of God. (19:3) “Some Pharisees asked him, ‘Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?’ (8) Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts… whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful.'”
So divorce is a sin? In today’s society, it is not thought to be a sin. In fact, there are couples who would benefit from being divorced. How can we reconcile this? Is it easier to just ignore the bits of the Bible that don’t fit our view of things? Don’t be so hasty. Look back at chapter 18. Divorce may be a sin, but it’s a forgivable sin. 49 times forgiven! And anyone who does not forgive is going to be tortured in the private prison of his own heart.
Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd. A lovely psalm, and probably the best known one. I won’t comment on it here.
And Proverbs 5 continues with a line which backs up what I said earlier. (5:22) “An evil man is held captive by his own sins…”
Don’t worry about the wrongdoings of others. Forgive them. They’ll get what they deserve in time.
So that’s 8% of the Bible done. Almost a tenth of the way through. I’m really enjoying getting stuck into Genesis and now Exodus. And Jesus’ parables mean so much more when read in context. I’m still finding it difficult to squeeze this time into my day, but it is starting to become routine.
But has God spoken to me yet?
I don’t know. Maybe…