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Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

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It’s all about Rescue – Part 1

Creation is not the first belief about God!

In the ancient Hebrew world, God was not primarily ‘Creator’.

The first real nation-wide interaction and exposure to God for the Israelite people was at the Exodus. The people were rescued from slavery in Egypt, hence the first part of Exodus 20

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Exodus 20:2

The people, rescued from slavery, led out by Moses, who then really introduced them fully to God in the next few chapters, initially thought of God as rescuer, then went on to explore what else God was. They posed the question “Who is this rescuer God, what else has he done?”

And then the story of creation was explored and told and passed from generation to generation as were a lot of other stories throughout history. Many of them are other stories about rescue!

In fact, if we read the creation story as not a completely literal, historical account, it too can be thought of as a type of rescue. There is a growing acceptance that in aligning the evidence we have available through scientific exploration and reasoning, and the biblical text, we should be viewing the ‘Adam and Eve’ story as more symbolic, and that in the event of the two – Adam and Eve being real people who actually existed (I’m not denying it as a plausible possibility), they were called away from the race of people that existed at the time and as-it-were, ‘rescued’ – set apart to and for God. See ‘Who Were Adam and Eve Part 1 and Who Were Adam and Eve Part 2 for a bit more exploration into these concepts.

From the beginning then, we can see God is a rescuer, saving people, drawing individuals out into relationship with Him.

The next most obvious, perhaps most famous rescue story is of course that of Noah in Genesis 6 + 7.

God the rescuer, rescuing Noah from the adverse and oppressive, the wicked and sinful.

But (at risk of being accused of jumping around) if we go back almost to the beginning and look at some of the earlier stories in a bit more detail, we can discover yet more rescue.

One of the most striking is God’s rescue of the first convicted murderer.

Genesis 2 holds the story of Cain & Abel – the story of the first farming rage incident and the first recorded murder.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 2:2-16

What fascinates me is God’s double rescue – firstly in verse 7

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God is offering Cain a way out before he even gets to murdering his brother – God is saying, bring me a sacrifice in the way I have asked for it and there’s no problem any longer. God is also warning Cain that if he doesn’t, God can see that he is going to face temptation that he will find hard to resist.

Then, after Cain murders Abel, you might think that as punishment, God would just finish him off, but instead, God protects him from anyone else – Verse 15

“the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him”

God rescues the first murderer. Yes, Cain faces a punishment / consequences of his actions, but God will not allow him to be harmed. That’s fascinating. That’s incredible grace. Not to totally condemn or reject the first murderer, the first person to kill someone else is rescued by God from anyone seeking revenge.

It’s all about rescue, really, all about rescue.

There are more, lots more, but they will have to be covered in part 2.

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Murder

At 21:40 on Tuesday, Half a mile away from my front door, in a florist shop, on Shrewsbury Street, Old Trafford, a robber was stabbed and died shortly after.

You may find it shocking, scary, paralysing…

You might find it more shocking that I don’t feel any of those things.

When something like this happens, I’m not scared, I’m not petrified or shocked, I’m not paralysed by fear or worried to go out of my front door, but I am saddened.

This is my community and I love it.

I am saddened for two reasons:

  1. That there are people that want to steal from others
  2. That people still believe the myth of redemptive violence

Now, I’m not getting all ‘holy’ on you, I have no idea how I would react if someone came in to my clinic waving a gun around and trying to get my hard-earned cash from me, (I don’t have a knife in the place to stab them but who knows what else I might end up doing?) but if your first reaction to someone threatening you is to attack them, surely, somewhere down the line, something has gone wrong.

So what can we do about it?

Firstly, will you all pray for Old Trafford. As the Rector of St Brides said, “this place is really resilient”, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see consequences and repercussions in the coming weeks and months.

I can’t predict what will happen, but I can ask you to pray that all the churches, the mosques, the Hindu temples and other places of worship will find ways to connect with the local population to bring the peace and intimacy of God into their lives.

Moreover, I will ask that you petition our magnificent creator and loving, compassionate God to find ways to powerfully act through the Christian congregations and the individual Jesus followers in our neighbourhood to discover new and compelling ways to open people’s hearts to Christ.

There’s no way that we can alter the saddening and tragic loss of life that we have experienced this week, but there is a way that we can work to attempt to prevent this happening again.

Pray with me that we, as a community of believers at the bethel and as a wider community of believers in all the churches of Old Trafford, will be able to connect with and genuinely speak the words of Paul:

I have become [the Church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:25-29

Let us be Christ-centred, Bible based and Active-in-love, open to the movement of the spirit of God among us, filled with the nature and person of Christ as he lives in us as believers (Romans 8:9), so that we can improve people’s lives by introducing them to Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.

May Jesus work in us and through us, may people see his face in ours as we see Him in their faces and love them the same way we would love Him.

“In another’s eyes I see my plea for forgiveness, and in a hardened frown I see my refusal. When someone murders, I know that I too could have done that, and when someone gives birth, I know that I am capable of that as well. In the depths of my being, I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and have life and death.”

– Henri Nouwen, from With Open Hands

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