Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wake up....!!!!

Readings for Sunday 29th July 2007 Proper 12, Year C. The 8th Sunday after Pentecost.

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

Special thanks to MU who helped begin the thought processes this week

I don't like being woken up
let alone being woken up at midnight.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Who is knocking at the door?
When we thought about this together on Monday
we had a mixture of feelings
If it is your friend who is knocking
then in a way
it is a privilege
that you have a friend who believes that they can come knocking at the dead of night
If you are not sure who it is who is knocking
then there can be an element of fear
If you have children who are out then this fear
can be even greater as you wonder
what on earth has happened.
All in all it is a pretty disturbing sort of event.
But let's not make it harder than it needs to be.
Parables are a straightforward teaching device
which usually have one point.
They are not allegory
where every detail needs to be interpreted.
What is the one point?
Well, because there are a couple of parables rolled into one
we may see two or three points.
But let's focus on this knocking

Who's that knocking at my door?
We can see the 'knocker' as either being ourself
or God
If it is God, then this parable
reminds us that God persists with us.
That is a reassuring thought.
It is reinforced in the conclusion
How much more will God give the Holy Spirit?
How might you know that God is 'knocking'?
We have to be a bit intuitive here
Is there something that keeps grabbing our attention
but we 'roll over and try to go back to sleep'?
I find that I need to pay attention about some of these things,
if someone crosses my mind forcefully
over and over again
is there some prompting here.
We don't need to be superstitious or ridiculous
about such things
sometimes we will ring a person up
or pop in to see them at work
and we will have come at just the right time.
Other times it might just be good that we have said hello
and it doesn't seem to be so obvious.
If God was speaking to us...we asked last week...
would we hear
If God is hammering at my life
can I drag myself out of bed?

But there is another sense
of course in which it is you and me
who is knocking at God's door
and we are simply being told to persist.
Ask and it will be given to you, Knock and it shall be opened
Seek and you will find.
These, to me , are very reassuring words
Coupled with the reminder
of the last verse of this section
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him
Don't get fixated on "you who are evil"
it's merely making the point that God knows better what to do than we do ourselves.
And that we should persist,
in fact we should keep on knocking
and hammering until we get a reply.
Let's not make it too hard.
This may mean that
we have to keep knocking and asking
until we get what we need
rather than what we want.
This is a major reason why we think our prayers don't get answered.
Sometimes we are saying....God give me a black dog
And maybe we have to keep on praying until we get a brown rabbit!
Or maybe there is something much more important, you need to focus your love on a person rather an animal you need to allow yourself to open up the grief in your life when your last pet died, or a relationship ended or the disappointments of childhood?

We need to persist until we get fed,
but maybe we may get scones instead of bread,
or cake
or we may need to learn how to cook!

There is, I say again
great reassurance in the fact
that though we may not be terribly good at this praying
that God is
and that as we stick with it,
as we keep tapping at the door
God does indeed hear and respond.
But we need to persist.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The right thing

The readings for Sunday 22nd July, Proper 11 of Year C are :
Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52, Colossians 1:15-28,Luke 10:38-42

I guess that no one other than the sociopath wants to do the wrong thing!
But we also seem to have a bit of difficulty doing the right thing.
St Paul at one stage is so frustrated with all this that he protests
It is almost as though the more I try to do the right thing
the more likely I am to do the wrong thing.

he says in Romans 7 for example

15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ...he goes on in verse 18 ....... I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

This is quite a complex, yet real argument about our inner struggle with sin
and our difficulty with doing right
The key to doing right is understanding that it will not just happen accidentally
It will be a decision we make
and which we stick to.
Unless we decide to do the right thing
it will not just turn up out of the blue.

The lessons point us to various dimension of that
Amos the prophet does not shy away from
telling the people that they have not done what is right.
he suggests, what we all basically know to be true,
that we actually know what is right, merciful and just.
For Amos wrong has come about because the people have
chosen to NOT do it.
you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
Yes, when we not only ignore the plight of the needy
but we also exploit them
make no mistake
we are not doing what God wants.
This sort of wanton abandonment of what God wants
will bring about a famine
not so much of of food and water
but of the living Bread and of the Word.
When we choose not to act as God's people
we starve ourselves of the very food
that will keep us spiritually alive.

How to do right
Paul's teaching is clear for us
we do what is right by keeping
Jesus at the Centre
of our life and faith
The work of reconciliation in us happens
as we continue secure in our relationship
with Jesus
who is as Paul says
The image of the invisible God.
We see the will of God made visible in Christ.
This is why the other picture we see is the contrast of this morning's Gospel.
Two sisters,
Martha and Mary,
who pay attention to Jesus in different ways.
What ever else we may make of this story
there is perhaps a warning here for us
of what is a great danger
for us.
Let us not make the mistake
of thinking that extreme busy-ness
is the same thing as doing God's will.
We are often guilty of this.
We mistake busy-ness
for faithfulness.
So the point of the story
is that Mary who sits
at Jesus feet
is doing the right thing.
This rankles us somewhat,
as indeed it rankles her sister,
we have sometimes sat at meetings
and said this to each other.
So careless are we with what is committed to us
that we make the mistake of thinking
  • that doing anything is better than doing nothing
  • that activity is always a sign of doing good
  • that paying attention to what God wants of us is a waste of time
This is not what we are getting this morning
Quite the reverse.
the lessons perhaps help us to see the great dangers in these attitudes
when we do not pay attention
when we do not know what it is that Jesus wants us to do
then we are not actually so much
in danger of being diverted
as in peril for our life.
and on the threshold of sin.

We make choices all the time
the choices that as Christians
we seek to make 
should be God's choices
How sure are we that the choices we make
for our own convenience
for our own comfort
out of our own busy-ness
are attentive to what God wants?

We recognise what God wants
in our openness
to what Jesus wants
are we so busy fussing around
that we do not take the time to listen

So listen now...
and each day
can there be a time in your daily prayers 
(do you indeed pray?)
to ask the question
if there is one thing that you want me to hear today then what is it?

Lord, this week
let me put aside the busy-ness that I so easily find 
which fills my life
and let me hear you speaking
and give me courage to respond.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Justice, mercy and humility.

The readings for Sunday July 15th (Proper 10)  can be found here
One of our best loved stories....The Good Samaritan...features this week
If you can't read the cartoon then click on it to go to a larger version.
It's worth it!
My suggestion would be that God's will is not terribly hard to discern
Most of us have a fairly well developed sense of it.
Indeed, theologically we would say that baptism orients us towards God
and so we grow in that direction.
Like plants towards the sun.
So I am always puzzled when I meet someone who is genuinely hard
who hates refugees
who thinks that poor people deserve everything they get
because they are lazy.
Very few are so perverse as to think that the poor are being punished by God
for something or other,
but secretly many of us despise the poor.
So it is opportune to be told, reminded if you like,
by the prophets, like Amos, Hosea and Isaiah
that God's measuring stick
....for Amos it is the famous plumbline....
is not just right belief or thoughts
it is not just correct religious practice.
In fact at times the prophets are downright dismissive of such things,
as indeed Jesus can be.
But we are to heed in the call of Jesus
the call to care for the poor, the needy.
To look around and see 
that there are people in our society
who are in danger
and it is part of our job to walk around with open eyes
and respond as we can to their need.

Fear et al
What I think it is that makes us like this
is fear!
The cartoon illustrates this quite well.
I can be compassionate until the fear button is pushed.
For this man when he hears the beaten up man speak Spanish
(the language for Americans of illegal immigrant...what would it be for 
an Australian...Indonesian, Sudanese, Vietnamese!!)
suddenly his world view is changed.
This is confronting for us at this time.
One of the things this story confronts us about is
Will we challenge our own fearfulness,
will we stop to help the person who has been beaten up,
will we venture into the dangerous environment
where we know people are in trouble?
Will we confront our own inner ghosts...terrorism, illegal immigration,s
fear that our comfort may be jeopardised...
and respond rather to God.
Often we just say No!

God wants more of us than we are often prepared to give.
There is a reason for this.
God sees that we need to to be challenged more deeply
than we often begin to suspect.
Where might this be for you?
Can you at least pray for courage to be a little braver
than you are inclined to be?
Can you, can we take the next step?

This week
  • Where is God asking you to respond to the desperate need of others?
  • What prevents you from doing this?
  • Can you find someone else to support you in venturing into difficult territory?
God of the Samaritans, God of the Poor, God of the Broken
give me the same eyes of compassion that you have.
The eyes and heart of Jesus. Amen.