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Feed the poor

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They began to pick (2:23)  It always intrigued me that no one moans about the farmer in this story. They're in his field, picking his grain, and without his permission. Where has the farmer with his 4x4 and barking dogs got to I want to know? The reason is simple I discovered. In Hebrew tradition farmers left a certain portion of their crop for anyone in need to take away. The OT has this as an instruction not to reap right up to the edge of the field. You can find it in action in the book of Ruth. This had the double advantage of feeding the poor, and retaining their dignity, as they had to harvest the crop themselves, and maintaining healthy markets. Such practices are challenging to find, but we certainly need to find them today. 

New Wine

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Pour new wine into new wineskins (2:22)  I love fruit trees. Indeed I think my perfect garden would be an orchard with clearings set up so you can sit in the sun and eat. Fruit trees are mostly propagated by grafting the fruiting portion onto a dwarfing rootstock. The reasons are complex but it effectively combines vigour with fecundity.  This is most people's model of church growth,  I suspect. Keep the best of the old and graft in the best of the new. Take a traditional service and add fresh music. Take a well-trained institution and add fresh practices. It may well be a good model, but it intrigues me that it is not Jesus' model. For him both old wine and new wine are tasty, but if you try and graft the new into the old, it doesn't create vigour and fecundity, rather it wastes the wine and makes a stain on the floor. Now that's a challenging thought.

Robins

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The new piece will pull away (2:21)  I think we may have a two-robin garden. It feels like the height of luxury to have a garden big enough to accommodate two robins but I don't know why else we might have two feeding at once on our back lawn. Robins are usually fearfully territorial as I'm sure you know and won't tolerate another robin in their patch except when breeding, and I hardly think this is the time for chick rearing. Our churches are often in a similar position. The traditional church and the new church find themselves coexisting in the same space. Many expect them to be in conflict, like birds fighting over the same worm, but often they find it a blessing to work together, to enjoy their differences, and to delight in their shared desire to worship God. 

Fast (yet again)

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On that day they will fast (2:20) (1/1/2021) As I write, the news is grim. Numbers of COVID cases are rising rapidly, especially across the South East, so that in about a month's time we will be hearing of six to seven hundred deaths per day. The cause of such a spike remain confusing as talk of a new variant is frightening but less than completely persuasive as one major study does not support the assumption that it is to blame. Somehow people are coming into contact with one another close enough to catch a virus, and in large numbers, in spite of all the restrictions. We watch crowded aisles in supermarkets, meet parents who rush to university to pick up their sick children, hear of beauty salons and pubs as the centre of outbreaks, note multi-generational child-care of school-age children and wonder if it is all our fault that the virus being transmitted.  While we cannot avoid normal human contact entirely without ceasing to be human, we could reduce it by being really careful.

Fast (again)

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Can the guests of the bridegroom fast? (2:19) Last year I met up with an old friend. We had not seen each other for a little while and he was a little nervous that we might have little to say to one another. As it was, it was as if no time had passed. We nattered and laughed away as if we were still two students sharing a short corridor in our first year at university. At some point we discussed when we had last met and it transpired that we had last met at my wedding 25 years before. As we look to move out of the season of Christmas, we may want to remember that we are moving into the season of fasting. No, I don't just mean Lent, which begins on the 17th of February. I mean the long gap between the two arrivals of Jesus, between the first appearance of the bridegroom and the second, between, if you like, the wedding and the return. Of course we have a taste of the joy of the permanent and personal presence of Jesus - he lives in his people by the Holy Spirit. Yet we are in a seas

Fast

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The Pharisees are fasting (2:18) What are rules for? The ancient Greeks discovered that laws make you free. A law against theft makes the thief less free of course, but it makes a lot of other people more free - free not to have their stuff nicked. All rules or laws work like this, balancing the freedoms of some against the restriction of others, though the balance is not always set equitably. At their worst, laws benefit only a few, so-called privilege, but, at their best they provide safe boundaries that enable everyone to live well. So why are our current rules not working that way? It could be that the British are natural rebels, but I'm not convinced - we're so good at queueing. No, I think it's a failure to enact laws that make sense to all, that provide the right balance between freedom and restraint, that allow for an element of self-determination while protecting the vulnerable from harm, that do not criminalise the careful while doing little to control the arrogan

Sick

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I have come to call sinners (1:17) Often we say that Christ came to save everyone, and with good reason, but when Jesus gets to air his view he tells his hearers that he has come to save only the sick. I think we can reasonably append those who realise they need a doctor. We are all in need of a saviour but only some of us realise it, and then only some of the time. The first step to getting well is to know that you are sick. This is one reason our political leaders disturb me. It is clear to most of us that there is a distinct lack of competence in our current government. The delay in the first lockdown, the eat out to help out debacle, the millions wasted on failed efforts to track and trace, the muddled messages to protect cronies, the Christmas rules fiasco. I could go on. For those with humility a mistake is an opportunity to learn, but if we fail to acknowledge when we get it wrong we are incapable of getting it right next time. An even greater danger than incompetence is arrogan