Thoughts for Monday 29th June 2020

Psalm 47; Genesis 22:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12


Monday 29 June  - Rev.  Jerry Eve


I’m not sure what others think, but I miss the applause on Thursday evenings. It was good to stand at our front doors and hear all our neighbours joining in. I’m aware we’ve been asked to clap our hands at 5 o’clock on 5 July to mark the anniversary of the NHS, and I just hope I can remember that.


Our psalm today is most often known, not as the 47th, but as ‘O Clap your Hands’. It’s a song lyric. Clapping our hands is something we do both to make music, but also then to show our appreciation of that music once it has been made. It’s great for keeping the beat, but also then as an expressive gesture.


As far as I’m aware, there are no New Testament references to clapping hands. There are, though, quite a number of Old Testament ones. The first is at 2 Kings 11, where we find both a brutal and touching story. The king of Judah has been murdered, and his mother (who’s portrayed as a sort of Livia character out of I, Claudius) seizes the throne for herself, having every other contender put to death. Except, that is, for a prince called Joash who is hidden away by an aunt. When he is 7 years old he is crowned, when everyone who is present at his coronation claps their hands and shouts, ‘Long live the King’.


It’s not just people who clap, but at Psalm 98 (‘Sing a New Song to the Lord’) it’s rivers at verse 8; at Isaiah 55:12 it’s the trees of the field; and at Job 27:23 it’s the east wind.


I do find our Old Testament passage from Genesis, I have to say, part of a really difficult story indeed. I know there are Christians who are able to find some helpful connection between a patriarch who is prepared to sacrifice his son, and the account we have in the New Testament of the crucifixion. There are plenty of theologians who have linked the two. But for me the very idea of child sacrifice (or even a doctrine that claims Christ’s death was necessary for my salvation) is problematic. I don’t (and can’t) believe in a God who would ‘demand’ an innocent life. To my mind Abraham’s actions weren’t so much obedient as criminal. And, it’s not that Christ died for my sins at all, but rather because of them.


Let us pray: (curiously, a setting of Psalm 47 which has no hand-clapping; just some light applause at the end!) Amen.

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