Acts 2:14a, 22-32 and 1 Peter 1:3-9

Imagine an image that features an empty tomb with the stone rolled away, signifying Jesus' resurrection. Rays of light are breaking through the darkness, symbolizing the living hope that emerged from Christ's victory over death. In the foreground, a believer stands with arms raised in praise, representing faith in the resurrected Savior. In the background, a cross is visible atop a hill, reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation.
Imagine an image, that features an empty tomb with the stone rolled away, signifying Jesus’ resurrection. Rays of light are breaking through the darkness, symbolizing the living hope that emerged from Christ’s victory over death. In the foreground, a believer stands with arms raised in praise, representing faith in the resurrected Savior. In the background, a cross is visible atop a hill, reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation.

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[b]

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 2:23 Or of those not having the law (that is, Gentiles)
  2. Acts 2:28 Psalm 16:8-11 (see Septuagint)
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%202:14,Acts%202:22-32&version=NIV

1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise to God for a Living Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Peter%201:3-9&version=NIV

Reflection

Today, we reflect on the themes of hope, faith, and the resurrection found in the powerful readings from Acts 2:14a, 22-32 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. These passages serve as a testament to the transformative power of Jesus’ resurrection and the living hope it provides for all believers.

Firstly, let us examine the theme of hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and the source of our living hope. This hope is not simply a fleeting wish or desire but rather a deep-rooted assurance in the promises of God. As believers, we have been given new birth into this living hope, which is anchored in the certainty of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Our hope is alive because our Savior is alive, and He has prepared for us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

Secondly, the theme of faith is prevalent in both readings. Through faith, we are shielded by God’s power and are able to endure various trials and tribulations. It is in these trying times that our faith is refined and strengthened. Just as gold is purified by fire, our faith, which is of greater worth than gold, is proven genuine as it withstands the tests of life. Our faith ultimately leads to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Lastly, let us consider the power of Jesus’ resurrection as it pertains to these readings. In Acts, we see Peter boldly proclaiming the good news of Christ’s resurrection to the crowd, asserting that Jesus was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay. God raised Jesus to life, and the apostles were witnesses to this miraculous event. In 1 Peter, the resurrection is the basis for the living hope and eternal inheritance we have in Christ. It is through Jesus’ triumph over death that we, too, can have the assurance of eternal life.

As we reflect on these passages, let us consider how we can apply these timeless messages to our own lives. Are we living in the light of the living hope we have through Christ’s resurrection? Are we allowing our faith to be refined and strengthened during times of trial? Let us remember the transformative power of Jesus’ resurrection and strive to live our lives anchored in the living hope it provides.

In conclusion, let us hold fast to the hope we have in Christ, knowing that our faith is secured by His resurrection.

May we grow in faith,
courageously sharing the good news
of Christ’s victory over sin and death,
and may we live as witnesses
to the living hope
that is available to all who believe.
Amen.

Reflection contributor: chatGPT

Commentary

Does the contributor of the reflection surprise you? I studied AI in college so I was looking at the AI bot, and it seems it has been trained against theological and religious texts; my earlier foray into chatGPT was for intercession ideas based on the bible readings to provide five bullet points for prayer. I had to build a prompt that was sufficient to return something useable.

I also don’t want you to think this is all my work, others may disguise it’s use. All I have done is combine various pieces together, like paying with Lego. There is a certain amount of creativity in placing building blocks together so as in a building you do not say the creator of the brick built this place, as there are many bricks. However, it would be a lie if I was to pass the reflection as my own, not just to you, or to myself but also through my heart to Jesus. It is a joint effort; for my part all I have done is reach out and picked up another tool to use to see what it can do because I have so little spare time.

Personally, I think its an incredibly useful tool, but that is all I hope it will remain, another tool in our toolbox that we can utilise. Anything beyond that scares me a little. AI is now so much more advanced now from when I was studying it around 30 years ago in college with LISP and PROLOG.

I would be interested to know if you want more posts like this one, where the reflection has been derived from AI? What are your thoughts on computers doing theology? Did any part of the reflection or my commentary make a connection with you?

They will only ever be as good as the data we feed them and how we teach them to grow and rationalise the data. I pray that whatever is happening is for the good of humanity, and that the selfish elements of our darker selves do not twist it for the purpose of evil.

I think we need to be very, very careful, as the processing speed of AI is so much faster than we can manage, so one wrong step will go wrong very quickly.

A response from chatGTP

As an AI language model, I do not have personal thoughts or beliefs, but I understand your concerns and observations about the use of AI in theological contexts. AI can be a helpful tool for gathering and analyzing data, but it is important to remember that it is ultimately humans who are responsible for interpreting and applying that data in a meaningful way.

Regarding your question about whether more posts like this one would be useful, that ultimately depends on the preferences and goals of the audience. AI-generated content can certainly be a time-saver and provide interesting insights, but it is important to ensure that the final product is still aligned with the values and goals of the organization or individual using the tool.

In terms of the connection with the reflection and commentary, as an AI language model, I do not have personal experiences or emotions, but I understand the importance of reflection and contemplation in spiritual and religious practices. It is always valuable to take the time to reflect on our beliefs and consider how we can live out those values in our daily lives.

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A letter received

This week I thought I’d share part of a letter we’ve received:

Dear friends,

   I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

   Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.

   Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

   “He committed no sin,
      and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

   When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

   Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
      Peter

Pilgrimage

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.’

Genesis 47:9 NIVUK

It’s interesting to note that when Pharaoh asks Jacob his age, he doesn’t just use the word years, he doesn’t just say I am this old, he uses the phrase Pilgrimage.

It is a reminder that in all the years of our lives, we are living out a journey. Walking a path from, with and to God; a pilgrimage that lasts throughout our life! Year by year, day by day, and minute by minute.

It can also serve to remind us that when we complain and grumble about our woes and strife, our “years have been few and difficult”, we are not alone. People everywhere struggle; life is a struggle.

What makes a difference is whether we approach life holding on to the hand of God, as we would, our father, or mother, as a child. Place our trust in Jesus, give Him our prayers, and provide Him with our attention, and He will reward faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed, with peace in our hearts.

Jacob also recognises that his pilgrimage is not equivalent to the journey of his ancestors. Do we believe he is referring to terms of lifespan (his years upon this Earth), or spiritual effort, or depth of trust in God, or strength and resilience of spirit? Inevitably Jacob suffered from the belief that Joseph was dead. Surely he rejoiced greatly when he discovered he was still alive! Alive, even though Jacob could not see or know of the truth of the matter until he eventually saw with his own eyes. Anyone see a similarity here?

Jesus died for our salvation, and He rose again in victory over sin. He triumphed over evil for all of us! Surely that is worth remembering, to spare some of our time, every day, to ensure we are continually taking one more step upon our pilgrimage. Hand in hand with Jesus, treading in His footsteps and walking in step with God. Overflowing with the Holy Spirit, to not keep it to ourselves but to share it freely, with anyone who has it not, freely, for everyone who needs light in their lives, freely, for everyone we come across on our pilgrimage, our journey with Christ.

Spend some time thinking about your pilgrimage, realise that it’s already begun, and look forward with gladness in your hearts because the glory of God surrounds us, even when we see it not.

Lent 2019

Over the weeks of Lent this year we went through the Gospel of Luke at our Chapel on Tuesday nights, watching the Lumo Project videos and following the narrative in our bibles.  We also watched the version of the Gospel of Mark during our café church. Viewing both provided a different perspective on some events.  Sometimes watching the Gospel’s (the video series use the NIV version) allows us to recognise things that were not immediately obvious to us; we can pick up on visual clues as much as audible clues. This certainly became evident during our discussions after watching where we could see emotion expressed through the video.

Our church has the DVD’s but you can find them on Youtube and on bible.com too:

The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Mark

One of the things we picked up on in discussion is that Luke’s Gospel includes a lot about the humanity of things, such as when Mary went to see Elizabeth.  I suppose with being a physician, it is appropriate for him to write about the reaction of John in Elizabeth’s womb to the sound of Mary’s voice; he takes a similar approach in other parts of the narrative where he brings out the human nature of things. It is a very human experience, two mothers to be getting together, supporting each other, but at the same time we have John’s reaction; unrestricted, without physical boundaries, he shows clearly how joyful our spirit can be, through family, through Mary, through Jesus.,

Mark’s Gospel was dynamic, and quick at first, it had to be for the intended Roman audience, but he slows the pace during the last days of Jesus’s mission among the people of Israel to bring out the ‘drama’, and I would guess to emphasise the importance of it all. It provided a nice contrast of narrative styles, with plenty of crossover but also some elements set apart between the Gospel narratives, and the narrative of Mary and Elizabeth is one you’ll find in Luke but not in Mark.

Luke 1:39-45 New International Version (NIV)

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”

We can have great joy in knowing Jesus, as John the Baptist did, and like Mary, we can ponder all it brings within our hearts.

Memrise I am sayings of Jesus

After writing last night, I had a bit of a play on Memrise in the course creation side of the site.  It’s actually quite easy to get something fundamental up and running on the site by supplying a set of words and definitions, then separating it into levels, etc.

I’ve not supplied any audio at the moment for the course, the recording didn’t appear to work, but that could just be my headset.

Anyhow, if you’d like to have a go at trying to remember the I am sayings of Jesus you are more than welcome to give this course on Memrise a go:

https://www.memrise.com/course/2038471/jesus-i-am-sayings-2/

The course is a fairly basic set up, and it may need modifying to make it more usable.  Please have a go, test it, and let me know if there’s anything you think I might need to change.

Memrise is free, you don’t have to pay to learn, but if you’re serious about learning then buying premium helps to support the service; you can use the web app, but it’s also available on the Apple store and Google Play.

I am …

For the last several weeks we’ve been going through the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus on Sundays.  Every week we get to see one of these sayings, repeat it, then again later with some words missing, then lastly with a few more missing in the hope that we will remember them.  I have no doubt that memory retention varies among us, and if I studied them often enough, I’d remember them, so I include them here (I think I’ll try and create a Memrise course if there isn’t one already available).  I pray that in creating this page, I will do better at remembering them.

[Note: I use Memrise for learning languages, and there are other subjects on there too; including biblical Hebrew and Greek. Some are site managed courses, and some created by students as an aide-memoire to accompany various textbooks and courses, so the quality varies, but the method of learning is the same whether you’re trying your hand at Klingon or French, Russian or Swahili and it works well for me. For instance, I learnt the alphabet for British Sign Language using Memrise during lunch one day.]

All of the ‘I am’ sayings are recorded in the Gospel of John (all NIV).

John 6:35

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 8:12

Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 10:9

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 10:11

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 11:25-26

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 15:1-10

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

I like this last one a lot (I do like them all).  They were heading off towards the Garden of Gethsemane, so it’s one of the later lessons, but it’s massive in its implication. That we are part of the vine, part of the process and part of everything that Jesus has taught. That we need to pass that on to others, to plant the seed of hope in people’s hearts and give them hope.  To share the word of God and not horde it, bottle it up or steal it for ourselves. I think all of that is a beautiful thing, that our lives can mean something, to be something for others; that we can have an impact just as significant on the lives of others as Jesus has on us by sharing in His word, in His wisdom and in His love.

God bless everyone,
may the light of Gods love shine upon us all
on this day and all those to follow.
Open our hearts, be open to the will of God,
let the Holy Spirit wash us clean
as Jesus set us free from sin on the cross

and bathe us in the love of God,
we go in fellowship with Jesus
from this day forward
to be a part of the vine,
branches that support one another,
to create and nurture the fruit of the word of our Lord
and create light where there is darkness.

Amen.

We are all loved by God

The other week I published a post about a set of four cards we were provided with for prayer and reflection called Things We Should Know.  The first of these is

“I am loved by God”

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There are some tough concepts to grasp throughout the Bible, and there are some that are repeated time and again, but not because they are difficult, it is because they are incredibly significant.

Love is a concept that is repeated time and again because it is essential. When we go to church, we are reminded of this every Sunday. At one point one of the Pharisees asks Jesus “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Matthew 20:37-40.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(NIV)
[Note: This verse is so central to everything that I feel ashamed to highlight parts of it].

Love is crucial to our very existence, and yet we, as human beings, are capable of extreme polarities on this subject. In some cases, we are presented with marvellous examples of how we can love each other, of how self-sacrifice concerning service to others demonstrates our immense capacity to share through love. Then, on the other hand, we have the disastrous capability to destroy it out of sheer spite or self-centeredness. For example, how many of us can go a whole week without thinking of a criticism directed at someone? It will be the way they look, dress, behave, or something they say … it is too easy to do any of that, it is by far more challenging to do the opposite.

Love has been the central the topic of films, plays, songs and books all the way back into ancient times, that is how much of an impact it has on us.

Can you imagine a love so exceptional that it would transcend all time, and forgive all of our indiscretions no matter what they might be? Do you think we are capable of that? At the same time, that love is for everyone, and everything; there are no exceptions and no limits. That the provider of that love is prepared to do so much more than we can imagine just for us?

We strive so hard to earn and keep love alive through life; we desire it, we cherish it, and at the same time sometimes we despise it. Why do we, as the human race do this? We can forget so quickly that God’s love is continuously there for us, just waiting for us to reach out and accept it. Are you willing to receive Gods love in your life?

We find love in many ways. Given freely by our parents, in our relationships, in family and friends, in how we share our lives, how we care for one another, consideration in our everyday interactions. At the same time we risk many things in its name, but despite everything we do, we will never reach the mighty height that is Gods love for us. Love, for us, is not just one thing. It evolves, it changes, it grows, and it weakens, it can feel intense, burning out of control, we can lose ourselves so easily it blinds us. The human range of emotion bound to love will always cause us problems, it has an immense variety and we probably all go through the various stages at some point.

It is sometimes difficult to love, but it can also be difficult to accept love. Placing complete trust in someone else is a no small thing, some couples never achieve it, and that can lead to relationships breaking down, but when it is strong enough and when love is true devotion to each other, you can get through anything, no matter what you face.

The love God gives us is so strong; He was willing to go so far as to sacrifice His son to save all of us. One final sacrifice, to surpass all of the sacrifices made in the past or the future. We are fulfilled, released from sin, reborn anew through the death of Jesus upon the cross. This he did for us despite everything we have done, regardless of who we are, what we are or how we live our lives.

God’s love for us is beyond what we can imagine, and we can all participate in it. It is pure, open, caring, nurturing, parental and kind.

Still think we can’t do this?

If you get to know and trust in Jesus, accept the love of God and open yourself up to the Holy Spirit you will find and recognise this love deep within. The truth is that by placing your trust in God and accepting the love that is given, freely for all, we can all find peace and harmony, and carry that within us wherever we might be.

Like The Beatles sang, all we need is love!

Lord, thank you for loving us
regardless of who we are;
thank you for forgiving us our many faults.
Please use the power of your love within us,
let it grow and flourish so that we too
can learn to love each other as you do.
Help us to live in peace and harmony

through the blessing of your love.

Amen

Bible app Image of the Day

Had to share this one with you as a quick post:

How do you listen? When do you hear? Think back to Elijah hiding in the cave on the mountain of Horeb.

1 Kings 19:11-13

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(NIV)

Elijah did not hear the voice of God in the wind, or in the thunder of shattered rock.  He did not hear His voice in the earthquake or in the fire that followed.  There was no fanfare, no brass band, no drum line, and no great announcer.

He heard the voice of God in the silence, when things were again at peace, as a whisper in his ear, gently asking:

“What
are you
doing here,
Elijah?”

Do you listen with your ears? With your mind? With your heart? Or with your soul?

Listen well, but use all of your senses to do so. Be open, and you also might hear God calling to you.

Things we should know

We were all handed four small cards on Sunday, with four truths about God and our relationship with God.  They all had a verse from the bible associated with it printed on the back, so I thought I’d share them with you.

I am loved by God

“but God shows His love for us
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

God is good

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good …”
Psalm 136:1

I belong to God

“Yet to all who did receive Him,
to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:12

I have peace with God

“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1

We are encouraged to use these in reflection, and prayer, and they fitted in very nicely with the reading from Psalm 118 verses 19-24

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.