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The Parish of

St. Peter,

Bushey Heath

August 2020

 

From the vicar

 

What is the Christian to make of the Old Testament?  This question in various forms occurs from time to time in the life of the Church and those of individual believers.  It is also a matter of interest to the enquiring non-believer, in particular the secularist who seeks a rod with which to beat the faithful.

 

The Christian who is handed a bible containing two distinct parts might well wonder why he is being asked to take notice of, and count as the received word of God, the older part – a text which clearly belongs to another faith.  The secularist, familiar with instruction booklets and legal documents of various kinds, wonders why the Christian does not approach the bible as if it were such a text, taking each section to be of equal value rather than giving more weight to one part than another.  The result for the Christian might easily be a sense of bewilderment, whilst for the secularist there is clear evidence for a charge of cherry-picking or even outright hypocrisy and dishonesty.

 

Unsurprisingly the question of what to do with the Old Testament has a long history.  Discussions on the matter go back to the very beginning of the faith.  For the very first Christians, being Jews, there was the question of how the coming of the messiah and his death and resurrection had changed their understanding of the (Old Testament) scriptures.  What did it mean to say that scripture had been fulfilled and, in particular, what would happen to temple sacrifice now that Jesus’ death, which they saw as the definitive sacrifice, had taken away the need for animal offerings?  The answer for the early Church lay in the Old Testament itself which both foretold the coming of the messiah and contained the expectation that God would initiate a new and more intimate relationship, not only with the Jews, but with the Gentiles also.  The prophet Isaiah had written about the inclusion of the Gentiles.

The Lord says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant… I will give you as a light to the nations,  that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49: 6)

The prophet Jeremiah predicted the time when the people of God would no longer be dependent upon a written code to enable them to keep the covenant, but would enter a more intimate era characterised by the presence of God in their midst.

"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,… I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jeremiah 31: 31-33)

Texts such as these made it clear to the first Christians that although the Old Testament would remain a foundation document describing God’s initial call of his people Israel, it was also a text which had been superseded by the coming of Jesus whose life and death fulfilled the hopes and expectations of the prophets.

 

The next issue for the early Church was the relationship between Gentile believers and the Law.  What should be required of them and which parts of the Law should be deemed to have been superseded?  These matters are first recorded as being dealt with formally by the Council of Jerusalem, the primacy of Jesus already being an integral part of the preaching of the Apostles.  The Council (Acts 15) dealt with some of the practices that the Gentile converts were to be asked to adopt and became the formal precedent for treating the Old Covenant differently to the New.  From this point the split between the testaments would be clear and permanent, marked by different understandings of God, the sacrificial system, the Sabbath, circumcision and so forth.  This was inevitable because for Christians the expression of faith did not begin with the giving of the Law and obedience to it, but with the resurrection of Jesus, the knowledge of his presence and the acceptance of salvation.  See Galatians 3: 23-26.

 

The Second Century gnostic Marcion took matters to extremes by abandoning the Old Testament altogether (along with parts of the New Testament which he also rejected).  Marcion taught that the God of the New Testament was a God of Love and therefore could not be the same as the God of the Old Testament whom he deemed to be a God of Law.  This latter God was the creator of the world (as demiurge / fabricator), but was distinct from the ‘good God’ he proposed to his followers. Therefore he declared that the Old Testament could be abandoned.

 

The Church rejected such teaching and took a rather more positive attitude towards the Old Testament.  It was deemed that Marcion had failed to value the Old Testament as a foundation document which pointed towards the New which would be much harder to interpret without it.  It was clear that through the years of the Old Testament the relationship of God with his people was developing and growing and that a knowledge of the discoveries and revelations would enhance the human-divine relationship in every age.  God was not an object for examination, but someone to be discovered in a relationship.  Considering this, Marcion’s abandonment of the Old Testament was simply too brutal.  Its various books may have contained an incomplete teaching belonging to a different culture, but they would still make an important contribution to Christian understanding and faith, showing what it had grown from.

To be continued…

 

PRAYER FOCUS

For protection from pestilence and disease; for all those struggling with bereavement and loss.

 

St. Peter’s open for public worship

We are now able to offer the government's 'Track and Trace' provision. A contact form and privacy notice are available in church or electronically. Please may make use of this if you wish.

If you are planning to attend please note the following:

·       Please use the hand-gel provided on entering and leaving the building (or bring your own).

·       Please keep the requisite distance from members of other households (currently 6 feet).

·       Please note that some areas of the building may be closed to assist with cleaning.

·       Communion will be given in one kind from a central station with the host received on the hand.

 

From the diary…

 

Sunday 26th July                                  Trinity 7

Tuesday 28th July,         10.00am                    Mass

Wednesday 29th July,    10.00am                    Mass

Thursday 30th July,       10.00am                    Mass (Memorial of William Wilberforce, abolitionist)

Friday 31st July,              7.00pm                    Mass (Memorial of Ignatius Loyola)

Sunday 2nd August                               Trinity 8

Tuesday 4th August,      10.00am                    Mass (John-Baptiste Vianney, Curé d’Ars)

Wednesday 5th August,  10.00am                   Mass (Memorial of St. Oswald; MU Corporate)

Thursday 6th August,     10.00am                   Mass (Transfiguration of Our Lord)

Friday 7th August,           7.00pm                    Mass

Sunday 9th August                               Trinity 9 (no Family Service at 11.15am)

Wednesday 12th August, 10.00am                  Mass

Thursday 13th August,    10.00am                  Mass (Memorial of Florence Nightingale)

Friday 14th August, 7.00pm                           Mass (Memorial of Maximillian Kolbe)

Sunday 16th August                             Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

No midweek services

Sunday 23rd August                             Trinity 11

No midweek services

Sunday 30th August                             Trinity 12

Wednesday 2nd September, 10.00am       Mass (MU Corporate Communion)

 

Plant Sale

You will be pleased to know that the Plant and Cake Sale earlier in July was a great success. The amount raised was around £1,400 with further sales and donations in addition to those on the day. Thank you very much to all those involved and especially to Enoka David for so much careful and generous toil in the garden preparing such a vast array of plants for sale (twice) and to our 'makers and bakers' for their wonderful contributions. Lyn Walker, Jenny Jenkins, Anne Swerling and Ranjan David did much work in many ways and thank you to Sean and Liam David for helping behind the stalls on the day.

 

Contact details:

Vicar: Fr. Andrew Burton SSC, a priest of the Society. (020 8950 1424). Usual day off Monday.

Churchwarden: Mrs. Anne Swerling (020 8950 8923).

 

www.stpeterbusheyheath.org.uk / www.achurchnearyou.com