This week we looked at another "special" topic. This time it was special people and the subject of election, one of those topics we need to come back to every now and again. The prayer time didn't flow so well but many prayed. We are still on zoom. Numbers were good, so good we split into two chat rooms at the end.
The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.
We were a smaller number in the morning last Lords Day as I preached from Luke 8 again. We were on earthly loyalties and kingdom loyalties. Lots of Filipinos there, as we had some visitors and some returning regular congregation members. In the evening, I preached on Psalm 26. A good day then but there are still people you wonder where they are.
I enjoyed reading this large and comprehensive volume by Gerald Bray which very helpfully covers the long history of Christianity in these islands. He is especially good on the early stuff. Much was familiar but some was new and it was good to see how it all joins up. I had not realised that scholars now say that Wycliffe did not translate the Bible. I did enjoy some of the etymological notes (eg sinecure, Dingwall, church ales).
Really speaking it is an Anglican history and few opportunities are missed to downplay what is not of that ilk. Hence the Great Ejection involved 1000 not 2000 men, William Carey was not the big deal we all thought he was and as for Andrew Fuller - not worth a mention. The scholarship immense, the jokes few and far between, the thing mostly rattles along but there are some dull moments too. Inevitably just as Homer nodded so there are slips. To say that the 1859 revival in Wales mainly affected the Welsh speaking areas is rather redundant as at that time that was most of Wales. Whoever told Mr Bray that Dr Lloyd-Jones' first name was Dafydd rather misled him. It was David. I'm sure the Protestant Truth Society will be disappointed to learn from p 517 that almost nothing has been heard from (or about) them since 1982.
There was some confusion last Wednesday evening. One of our members had arranged for someone to speak to us on Sunday evening via Zoom but we are live in person again now so I asked about doing it on a Wednesday night when we are still on zoom. I'd thought that was the plan then and enjoyed a little more free time on Wednesday but in the end I had not read my whatsapp messages properly and there was no outside speaker. I had prepared to read Psalm 20 by way if introduction and so I just read it and gave a little more time to expound it (the Psalm has seven petitions and then some closing material). Anyway we had plenty of time to gather items for prayer and then pray too so it worked put okay in God's providence.
Last Tuesday was a lovely hot day and so I put on a flowery t shirt and shorts and made the most of it walking and reading in the garden. (Someone gave me the new Stephen King Billy Summers which one can't really recommend but that is well written and interesting all the way). I also found time for a bit of TV (an old police drama series on catch up The Commander).
We began the Lord's Day with communion We were not too many but the main services were quite full am (c 35) and pm (c 15). We were very international in the morning with Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, The Philippines and S Africa all represented. (I was sorry not to get opportunity to chat with the man from Afghanistan who I have not seen in a while). These were all familiar faces to some extent and one of our families also had relatives we know visiting. I preached on Luke 18:16-18 in the morning and Psalm 25 in the evening and although they weren't bad homiletically I felt they lacked something somehow. Preaching is a strange thing in some ways. We never get the full picture. At the end of the morning meeting I had a long chat with an Iranian whose English is limited explaining why I wouldn't baptise his young daughter.
A Nigerian couple in membership at the church are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary and we were kindly invited to a celebration in a nearby Chinese Restaurant. They have seven children so we were a good number. (The other week another couple celebrated 40 hears of marriage. We are on a mere 33).
We were on Zoom again for our meeting last Wednesday. We looked at another of these Special subjects - the fact that human beings are a special species, with an emphasis on the fact that we are made in God's image. We were not that many but we had a good time of prayer.
It was good to be back in Childs Hill for both services. We had a good number in the morning and not a bad one in the evening. In the morning it was nice to meet plenty of old friends and some new ones from Eritrea and Malaysia. In the afternoon my niece came for tea with a friend who is a worker in a church in Harpenden. They joined us at the evening meeting. Also in the evening a fellow turned up towards the end in need. We have met him before. I preached one offs from the end of Matthew 7 and on various passages on the subject of providence in conversion.
- Genesis. It was right that Joseph revealed his dreams. It makes more sense to see him as good. This is why his father, Jacob, favoured him.
- Job. Job had only ten more after his recovery and only the girls are named. Job is given ten more children not twenty because he still had ten in heaven. The girls are named against convention in order to underline that tradition is not always correct.
- Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. There is nothing wrong with the traditional view that Solomon wrote the first as a young man, the last as an old man and the bulk of the middle one throughout his life.
- Proverbs 31 is not a mere appendix about what to look for in a wife but the climax of the call to the son by his father to marry wisdom. This wisdom points to Christ, the wisdom of God. We must marry the Bride Christ (as well as the Bridegroom as is taught elsewhere).
- 2 Kings. Elisha's request to Elijah for a double portion and why it was a hard thing to give is to do with the fact that a double portion is the eldest son's portion. When Elijah says he has asked for a hard thing it is not that it is hard for that to be done but being the eldest son involves great responsibility. For Christ it meant death on the cross.
- John 14. When Jesus speaks about going to prepare a place for his disciples he is referring chiefly to the work he is about to do on the cross. It is by this means that believers can enter heaven.
- Acts 16 says that the jailer was baptised along with his household. It is most likely that this reference is to all the other prisoners who also believed.
- Romans 14:22, 23 makes clear that faith resides in the conscience, which is the soul in its moral workings.
- 1 Corinthians 11:14 speaks of long hair as a shame to a man. Paul is probably being ironic here as he let his hair grow throughout the 18 months he was in Corinth planting the church.
- Revelation 20:3. How to understand the thousand years and the short time is difficult and there are various views. Those who rightly take it to refer to the period from Christ's first coming to his second still allow a short time at the end when Satan is again set free. It is better to take the thousand years and the short time to run conjointly. In one sense the period is like a thousand years of Satan bound but, in another sense, it is like a short time when Satan is free.
Another plaque I have noticed this time round is the one to Joseph Parry (1841– 903) the Welsh composer and musician. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, he is best known as the composer of "Myfanwy" and the hymn tune "Aberystwyth" (see below), on which the African song "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" is said to be based. Parry was also the first Welshman to compose an opera; his composition, Blodwen, was the first opera in the Welsh language.
Born into a large family, Parry left school to work in the local coal mines when he was nine years of age. He then went to work at the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, where his father was also employed. In 1854 the family emigrated to the USA, settling at Danville, Pennsylvania, where Parry again found employment at an iron works.
Though Parry had a great interest in music, he had no opportunity to study it until there was a temporary closure of the Rough and Ready Iron Works. Some of his co-workers were also musicians, and they offered music lessons while the iron works was closed. Parry joined a music sight-reading class taught by one of the men. He continued to study harmony with another co-worker, and learned how to read and write while he was learning about harmony.
He soon began submitting compositions to eisteddfodau in Wales and the USA and winning awards. During a return visit to Wales for the National Eisteddfod at Llandudno, Parry was offered two music scholarships, but was unable to accept due to family obligations. A fund was established for the support of Parry and his family while he studied music.
He went on to receive a Doctorate in Music from the University of Cambridge; he was the first Welshman to receive Bachelor's and Doctor's degrees in music from the University. He returned to Wales in 1874 to become the first Professor of Music at Aberystwyth University, later accepting a position at Cardiff University.
Aberystwyth was first published in 1879 by Stephen and Jones in Ail Lyfr Tonau ac Emynau English tr. Second Book of Tunes and Hymns). It was paired with Charles Wesley's words, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul", and first sung at the English Congregational Church in Portland Street, Aberystwyth, where Parry worked as an organist.
(Enoch Sontonga worked in a Methodist mission school near Johannesburg. Sontonga, like Parry, was a choirmaster; in 1897, he set new words to Parry's music and called the hymn Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. Welsh missionaries often brought various copies of hymnals to their African missions; it is believed Parry's hymn reached Africa in this manner. While Sontonga wrote only one stanza of lyrics and a chorus for the song, Samuel Mqhayi composed seven more stanzas in 1927. The song became the national anthem of South Africa and four other African nations.)
It was my privilege yesterday to be listening rather than preaching. We were listening to my son, Rhodri, in Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth. Numbers are limited at the moment and the congregation was scattered across the building. He preached from Ezekiel 18 in the morning and that great text Zephaniah 3:17 in the evening. How good to hear your own son preach the Word faithfully. It was nice to chat with people outside afterwards. The services can be found here.