Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A different viewpoint

Readings for Sunday 19th March, Third Sunday in Lent: Exodus 20:1-17;Psalm 19;1Cor 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
While there is a lot of traditional reading in the scriptural reflections
the law of the Lord is perfect reviving the soul....The Ten Commandments....Stop making my Father's house market place....God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom
There is in all the readings a serious confrontation
of our complacency
and lack of faith.
There is here an invitation to re-imagine
our relationship with God.
Is this, we might ask, what God is asking each one of us to do right now?
Both as individuals and as a parish, perhaps even as a nation, and as a world.
One of the things that saddens me about elections
and political processes
is that we settle for considerably less than this.
Each time we assent to the doctrine
"Politics is the art of the possible!"
We are letting go of idealism and imagination.
Where, I want to ask, is the vision, the optimism, the hope?
And we so often settle for second best.
The Ten Commandments
Despite the fact that we often look at the Old Testament
in a negative way
and claim for ourselves
a superior "New" Testament.
We miss two important points:
1. We fail to see that the covenant of promise
which God makes with us
as summarised in the Ten Commandments
is a radical departure
from what had always been and what we somehow imagine
is the way of the world.
They set before us
a God who is personal
that is, he is "I" not "It"
who calls us not into some supernatural cabal
but into personal relationship.
God is not a power to be harnessed
for our own benefit
like some sort of witchcraft or magic
but rather an invitation to live life
in a powerful and holy way
which is what we are intended for.
What ever "ism" we may choose to use as a god
to run our life: captitalism, racism, sexism,
nationalism, materialism
God will not simply submit to being a sort of "guiding principle"
which some how imbues these other gods o with power
God stands aside from that,
transcends that
challenges and ultimately defeats
all these other gods.
The God of the Sabbath shouts out loudly
against being simply "useful"
and reminds us that God is interpreted
in God's own terms
and cannot simply be packaged.
"As God", one commentator puts it, "refuses to be 'useful'"
so the social commandments remind us,
"our human counterparts are not objects and commodities to be used" (Brueggeman in Texts for Preaching)
This is radical and important stuff!

The Cross
What Paul reminds us is that the Cross continues this tradition
of confronting us with the need to be rightly-oriented to God.
We so easily get it wrong.
Our energies are spent in money-changing,
instead of God-nurturing.
This critique is at the heart of Paul's message.
Everything we do is to be seen
through the truth of the message of the cross.
The Cross says God is not aloof from pain and suffering,
and that love is not about hearts and chocolates
but about death, forgiveness, and pain.

We don't get this. We want it to be otherwise.
So Paul is pretty blunt.
This is foolishness and a stumbling block.
It is what binds Christians together,
and also what sets us apart.

What to do?
This week you may like to take time
to be with God
and to open up your cross-life to him.
If you are not sure about what this means
then ask God to help you understand it more.
As you reflect on your life
ask yourself the question
"How does the Cross speak to me about this?"
My sickness, my grief.....My lifestyle, my sin
What is God seeking to draw from me at this time?
How might I respond?
Lord make sense of suffering and pain for me
Lord help me to know more of what it means
to stand at the Cross
and to boast only in that.
Lord let me love you more

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