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.


Stephen said...

In short we could make this harder than it actually is.I think we have some idea that the first step to keeping Jesus at the Centre is to try and do so.
If we try, then it's not unreasonable to assume we will have a bit of discipline with things like prayer, worship and...I would say...I think we should just talk to him and try to listen.
This is not always easy. We are also both intelligent guys, so we can think fairly well also.
I am conscious the words flow easily from the pulpit, but they are also hard for me to implement as for you.
I do it, because in the end I have become convinced it is the only meaningful way forward.
The point of the homily also is that we need God's help to do this, so pray for the Holy Spirit to refresh this struggle and this task.
I am not being trite when I suggest that this seems to work. It is not easy...but it seems to work.

Trevor said...

Trevor's comment on the other blog page but meant for here.

Paul's teaching is clear for us.
We do what is right by keeping
Jesus at the Centre
of our life and faith

I first walked into a church as an adult perhaps 13-14 years ago - I was then heading towards my 40th birthday.

It was bewildering, confusing, exciting - all those things. But in the years since, as my attendance at that church has waxed and waned (but my relationships with some of that congregation have remained as strong and as reassuring as ever), my confusion, my questions, my sense of bewilderment has coalesced into one main question:

"How do I live my life with Jesus at its centre?" What does it mean to do that? How do I do that? How in the first decade of the 21st century in comfortable and prosperous middle class Australia is a life lived out in that way?

I know that "struggle" is now part of the jargon and babble and cliche of present day life - but in the absense of a better word, it is a struggle, a Jihad, to work out what "keep Jesus at the centre" means and how to do it. The words seem to flow easily from the pulpit - but how do I grab hold of them and do something about them?

Trevor in 100F Salt Lake City.