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Yearly Archives: 2016
Convocations, they used to call them. A Trumpet blast, rallying call to the whole nation to assemble together in submission to God and his will. Old Israel had lots of them; their weekly convocation was the Sabbath, but their annual convocations started with Passover, which was just about this time of the year!
The Wesley Version
In 1755 John Wesley created a form of service adapted from the works of Joseph and Richard Alleine. These works came from the Puritan tradition of pastoral and spiritual guidance. Wesley therefore insisted that the Covenant Service be located in a framework of pastoral care, preaching and guidance.
There would be a series of meetings relating to the Covenant involving sermons, explanations and exhortations. An invitation would then be issued for “those as will” to come to the Covenant Service. After a day’s “Retreat” for people to prepare themselves in prayer, fasting, reflection and self-examination there would be the Covenant Service itself. This would be held in the context of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Many Methodists and others still hold this service year by year.
The ‘biblebase focus event’ version!
We have planned our own version of this for this coming Saturday. April 9th 2016.
The venue will be Bracknell New Covenant Church and we will start with welcome and a cup of something at 9.30 am.
The rest of the day is scheduled thus…
9:30 am Tea /Coffee
10:00 – 11:00 New Exodus – New Covenant – Wayne Crossley
11:00 – 11:30 Tea/Coffee
11:30 – 12:30 Preparing for the Covenant – Ron Bailey
12:45 – 1:45 Light Lunch Soup etc.
2:30 – 4:30 Renewing the Covenant – Ron Bailey
4:30 – 5:00 Snack & Scatter
The afternoon session will be in the context of a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
The day is without charge but an opportunity to share in the costs will be available.
The First Passover
The first of the annual ‘convocations’ was the feast of Passover, or as Leviticus expresses it “Jehovah’s Passover”. It marked the people’s last day in Egypt and the beginning of their freedom. The event is a new start of such dimensions that God reset the clocks and made this the beginning of their year.
Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,“This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Ex 12:1–2 NKJV.
How desperately men and women need a new start. “In the beginning God…” We need a God who can give us a new beginning by effecting a decisive break with the past.
It began with a forward look to what God was beginning but all of the subsequent Passovers were a backwards look to the historic event that culminated in them becoming “God’s people”, “a holy (set apart) nation”. We know the story so well or, at least, we think we do…
The lambs were slaughtered and the blood was to be splashed upon the doorposts and lintels of the house where they were actually eating the meal.
And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Ex 12:7 NKJV.
It’s easy to miss but the main feature of the Passover was that they would ‘feed on the lamb’. In the moment when God’s judgments were falling upon the nation of Egypt and the power of their oppressor was being broken the people of Israel were feasting on God’s provision for their journey. Not that they were taking their ease. They were instructed to be on their sandalled feet, their few belongings on their backs, their staffs in their hands. Ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Their bread was to be without leaven/yeast signifying that there was no time to wait, but the absence of the leaven was to hold another significance. Jehovah’s Passover was to be the culmination of 7 days when leaven was banished from their homes. It became a time of great fun for the children as they scoured their homes looking for bits of leaven that Mother had hidden as part of a game but its deeper significance was that the leaven was to be hunted down and eliminated. It signified the removal of sin from the lives of God’s people.
The Last Passover
The first Passover was in Egypt; the second was in the Promised Land. The first looked forward, all the others looked backwards. They kept the annual feast sporadically but new moves of God among the people often found expression in super Passovers as the nation remembered its birth and its destiny.
When the time was full Christ invited his disciples to join him in the Passover celebration. They gathered together in an upper room and followed the prescribed tradition with its various elements and cups of wine. He declared that with ‘great passion’ he had desired to share Passover with them “before I suffer”. And that he would not celebrate the Passover again “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”. Mysterious words. Everyone spent Passover looking backwards but he was looking forwards to its “fulfilment”. They had all thought that the Passover was a commemoration of the past. It was, but it was also a prophetic glimpse into the future.
When the Passover was complete Christ introduced an innovation. He took a piece of unleavened bread, gave thanks and broke it. As he distributed it among the disciples he spoke those wonderful words;
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:19–20 NKJV.
The first Passover heralded the Sinai Covenant; the Last Passover heralded its fulfilment in the death of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”.
A new Passover
Paul took the symbolism of the Passover and transposed it into another key; that of the New Covenant;
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:6–8 NKJV.
As the biblebase focus day gets nearer we have our opportunity to allow God to search our hearts and lives and to deal with any ‘leaven’ that might have worked its way into our lives. The early Methodists, of Wesley’s time, would spend several days under the ministry of the word of God and set aside time to pray and to search their hearts.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Cor 13:5 NKJV.
How strange this language is to most of us. We are saturated with the language of God wanting to restore a ‘healthy self-image’. Are we ready to let God search our hearts and to ask ourselves the searching question “am I in the faith”? O, I can hear the protests. “It will unsettle people and bring them into condemnation, they cry.
So here is our convocation, our call to “Renew the Covenant”. To reset the clock and make a new start. Will you join us?
So what does that mean? What is a covenant and why do they need to be renewed? It’s a long story…
What is a covenant?
A covenant is a legally binding agreement between two or more people. Perhaps the covenant we are most familiar with is the one we call a marriage. It sometimes creates a new legal entity, as in marriage. Each person in a covenant has privileges… and obligations.
God has always worked in covenants. Although he brings many one-off blessings into our lives his intention is always relationship and that can usually best be described in terms of a covenant. There is a cryptic verse in the prophecy of Hosea that seems to suggest that God entered into a covenant with Adam right back at the beginning. (more…)