Monthly Archives: December 2013

Mark 7: 1-16

In Mark 7:1-16, Jesus’ disciples eat their food without performing a ritual purification of their hands and the Pharisees take the opportunity to challenge Jesus’ honour.

“What kind of teacher can he be if his disciples transgress the revered “tradition of the elders” (that was attaining a status equal to the written Torah)? Jesus responds … with a counterchallenge. He challenges the Pharisees’ honor as followers of Torah, citing an instance where their tradition stands in contradiction to the written Torah (7:9-13), indeed, one of the Ten Commandments, allowing him even to apply a devastating quotation from Isaiah in his riposte. (7:6-7)”[1]

David deSilva comments that “the reader is reminded of the public nature of this exchange as Jesus addresses his last comment to the crowd (Mark 7:16). Presumably Jesus has successfully warded off the challenge and even caused his opponents to lose face with the counterchallenge. In telling these stories, moreover, the Gospel writers make the Christian readers into the public that witnesses the exchanges and gives its own verdict on who won and who lost. Their own positive estimation of Jesus (as an honorable person and as a reliable teacher of the way to please God) is confirmed as they read these challenge-riposte stories actively and appraisingly.”[2]

[1] David A. deSilva; “Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity;” IVP, Downers Grove IL, 2000, p30.

[2] Ibid., p30.

N Gauge Loft Layout – Hereford – 5

The internet has been a tremendous boon in undertaking research on Hereford. There are many sites which provide historical details and photographs: facebook pages, blogs, flickr, local government sites, britain from the air, etc.

You can find some of these in my post on Herefordshire’s Railways:

In addition, it is worth getting a flavour of the area you intend to model and sites about community life in the area are helpful, particularly when they contain photos and cover the historic period that you are interested in. See, for example:


N Gauge Loft Layout – Hereford – 4

Hereford lies only 15 miles or so from my wife’s parent’s home in Leominster. Over the years I have tried to pick up as many background photos of Hereford as I can. A small selection are reproduced below. Most of my photos have been uploaded onto flickr and can be found by following this link:






Mark 5

In Mark 5: 1-20, Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac.

He has crossed the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Gerasenes, where a man ‘with an unclean spirit,’ lives. He is a man who is well known in the region for his madness. Efforts to restrain this man have completely failed: “the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.”

When this man sees Jesus coming, he runs out to him and bows before him. When Jesus says to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit,” the man shouts, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” Jesus asks him his name, and he answers, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Jesus orders the unclean spirits out of the man, and they enter a herd of swine, who run into the sea.”

James Fowler asserts: “Today it is well known that multiple personality disorder generally results from severe and protracted early childhood abuse, often including sexual abuse. Apparently Jesus conveyed such authority and such acceptance of this man (and of others like him) that his soul, split and shattered like a broken crystal, could find healing and reintegration. Grace is the most powerful antidote to shame. This man must have felt a grace of such acceptance and of value as to make possible the opening of his repressed memories and the reunification and integration of his divided selves.”[1]

[1] James Fowler, “Faithful Change,” p143.

Matthew 21

An excellent illustration of the dynamics of shame and honour in the parables of Jesus is found in Matthew 21:38-42 where Jesus tells the story of two sons asked by their father to work in the vineyard The first adamantly refuses, but later changes his mind and goes to work. The second agrees to work, but never actually does.

Tennent comments: “Most Western readers do not sense the real tension in the story. Certainly the first son, who refused to work but eventually did, is being honored by Jesus and compared with the tax collectors and sinners who initially refused to honor God, but were now repenting and entering the kingdom. Western readers find Jesus’ question patently obvious and the whole construction seems to lack the tension that is so ‘often present in parables. However, the tension of this parable is felt when heard within the context of a shame-based culture. From an honor and shame perspective, the son who publicly agreed to work is actually better than the son who publicly shamed his father by refusing to work and telling him that to his face. Even though the one who refused to work later changed his mind and worked while the former never actually obeyed the father, the public shaming of the father is still a greater sin than not performing the task.[1] The first son may have eventually obeyed the father, but the father lost face. The second son may have not obeyed the father, but he protected the father’s public honor.”[2]

[1] J. H. Neyrey, “Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew,” Westminster John Knox Press, 1998: p31.

[2] Tennent; “Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology;” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007: p87.

Sunday 29th December 2013 – Matthew 2: 13-23

Matthew 2:13-23

If I’m honest with you, I hate this Gospel passage, I wish it had not been written. I wish I could conveniently ignore it, suggest it is untrue and set it aside. … I’d keep the bit about Jesus being a refugee. … Now that is a helpful image .. and it has been used down the centuries to infer that God understands the plight of the refugee and the homeless. And rightly so, for I am sure that God does place the needs of the underdog, the dispossessed, the homeless, very high on his list of priorities.

Yes, I like the bit about Jesus being a refugee – I could write about that now. I could use some material from Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tear Fund or CAFOD, perhaps write about the plight of those who are still unable to go home – like the millions of Palestinians trapped in what is one big refugee camp called the Gaza Strip. I could continue to talk about the refugees from the conflict in Syria, starving, this winter, in the Beqaa Valley, or I could talk of the many people who seek asylum in this country in fear of their lives who are not believed by the authorities.

But that is not what horrifies me about this passage. No, what leaves me floundering is the murder of those innocent children and God’s intervention to save his Son, while leaving others to die – at least that’s what the story seems to say. … What kind of God can save one and leave perhaps 30 or 40 (or maybe many more) to die!

Yet God does seem to intervene in favour of one & not the other…. That is the way the story of the Bible unfolds, and it is also the experience of many people around our world. So, if God is able to intervene, and if God sometimes does intervene, why doesn’t God always intervene?

I really do not like this story of the massacre of the innocents, for it holds me to account. I cannot, without discarding the story altogether, talk of a God who does not intervene at all. But if I have any integrity, I must be left with difficult questions about a God that I believe is a God of love and whose love at times seems arbitrary.

I do not like the story. And I’m not sure that I want to try to ‘justify’ it. What I want to do, in just a few short words, is at least to help us reflect on it.

There are two questions that many people ask about faith: Firstly, “Why does God treat some differently to others?” And secondly, “If God could do something, why didn’t he?” … Honestly facing these kind of questions, has to be part of living by faith. … At times, being a Christian is about ‘Arguing with God’. It is about tenaciously holding him to account for what we see as wrong. It has, at times, to be about ‘wrestling with God’ like Jacob did at the Brook Jabbok. Sometimes we argue for ourselves: “Lord, you are treating me like dirt. How can I continue to believe in you, when you allow me to face such injustice?” Sometimes on behalf of others: “Lord, I watch the injustice persistently meted out on the Palestinian people and other refugees – why do you not intervene?”

There is injustice in our world. While human beings exist there will always be injustice. Lust for power, greed, fear & insecurity are all motivators to self-protection. We protect ourselves and our own even at cost to others. And evil is magnified as it is played out on a world stage between aggressive, powerful men (And it is most often men!). Powerful tyrants, who are also insecure & afraid of being deposed. … Herod was just one of these. So insecure that he saw a baby as a threat. So numbed by previous acts of evil that he saw no problem in killing a few young children to extinguish the threat.

One child escapes Herod, and goes on to be God’s answer to the actions of tyrants throughout history, God’s answer to the ugly evil which invades all our hearts. Not an immediate answer. Not a rescue mission to protect the innocents. Not even a political solution that restricted the action of evil people and evil forces. Not much of a solution at all, if you were to judge it by the standards of the world.

God’s answer, to the massacre of the innocents, to all the injustices in life, was to allow the child, that escaped the massacre, … to die. The Bible suggests all history points to this moment – to the death of Christ. “I’ve heard all your questions,” God seems to say, “here is my answer. The death of my Son.”

It’s almost as though God draws a line under the discussion. “This is my answer,” God says. “No ifs, no buts, it’s my last word. I’m happy for you to judge me on this basis – it’s my final word.”

And we shout out, “but it isn’t enough, I still don’t understand.” And God uses no more words, but continues silently to point to the cross. He draws our attention to a shattered, tortured, broken body which has taken the worst that humanity can throw at it. … Even that seems inadequate – just one death among so many. Yet God invites us to question him only in the full knowledge of the suffering of Christ, and on the basis of that suffering. Whatever else we may accuse God of, we cannot accuse him of not caring. We may not want his answer. We may not like his answer. But it is the one he gives us to ponder on.

There is a debate throughout the Old Testament about why God chose Israel – with different authors struggling to understand that they were chosen not for their own benefit, but so that God could use them for the benefit of the whole world. That they were chosen to serve. That they were special because they were chosen, not chosen because they were of themselves special. The New Testament places Jesus at the centre of the story, and he himself says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” … We are left with our questions, even with our anger, staring at the cross and pondering the love which meant that God had to die, pondering the love which meant the break-up of the relationship at the heart of the Trinity.

The Christ-child was chosen, was rescued, in the story of our Gospel this morning, not ultimately for his own benefit, but for ours. The events of the first Christmas are just as messy as the events which ended Jesus earthly life. They are just as messy as the world has ever been, just as messy as our world today.

God calls us to continue struggling with the realities of life in our world, and to do so in the context he provides for us. The death and resurrection of Christ. That is God=s invitation to each of us this morning, to place the reality, the mess of our world in context, as we come to Holy Communion.

N Gauge Loft Layout – Hereford – 3

In order to get a really good impression of the station at Hereford, I visited a few times and also managed to get others to take some photos for me. The station building is listed and is a significant, unique and easily recognised structure. I enlisted some help in making the building, but more of that another time. I must have upwards of 200 different photos of the station building at Barrs Court!

A number of period photos were of real help. A variety of different photographers have loaded their shots onto flickr – a search for photos on the internet also proved to be quite productive!

I’ve produced a few of the many photos I have, below.