Monday, September 24, 2007

reviewing the situation

Readings for 30th September 2007 Proper 21

What sort of heart do you want to have?
Most of us think that people who are soft-hearted are weak,
yet we don't want to be thought 'hard hearted'.
When we look at the way God deals with his people in the Old Testament
we see both of these sides
he is sometimes hard because the people constantly turn away from him.
But I don't think that is the predominant way we see him,
rather time and time again
God is persuaded to NOT punish his faithless people.,
Here this morning right at the end of Jeremiah remonstrations we read quiet words,
sealed by a notary and stored in a vault
thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
that is, God promises after almost a whole book of despair and disillusionment
that he will re-establish his covenant promise.
God will be tender-hearted towards his people
and not cruel and vindictive.

The curious story of the Gospel reminds us that
unlike God
we are often not tender or soft hearted at all
we are often hard hearted
Worse than that
we just don't care.

It is role-reversal story of Lazarus and the Rich man
( one of the seven familiar stories to us from literary tradition)
A poor man, Lazarus, who has been ignored and brutalised
during his lifetime
is called upon to be kind
to a rich man who has simply ignored him.
[This is not, I would suggest
a commentary on what happens to us after we die.]
It is, like all the parables of Jesus,
an invitation for us today.
To change
to stop being hard-hearted
and start being tender-hearted.

The tragedy of the way this rich man (now cast out) has treated Lazarus
is not that he has been particularly harsh
it is that he has ignored him
which is a different sort of harshness.

He has stepped over his suffering
every time he has driven out of the house.
This is what gets us too.
It is not that habitually we are unkind or uncaring (by and large)
it is that we choose to ignore.
This is more subtle and more serious,
to combat it
it requires
that we actually choose to act differently
to not just step over the problem
and/or pretend it is not there.

We have to choose to be people
who are not disengaged
who will try and make a difference
visiting Churchman Steve Chalke said this week
somehow over the course of the 20th century, post-Wilberforce and friends, the church began to shrink and it began to shrink back from active public service into its own buildings and as I often say, has spent, in the UK at least, the last kind of 80 years singing itself to death. I've nothing against singing and songs and I think music and art is a part of the richness of what the church is, but we moved indoors and we've been entertaining ourselves to death,
I think he has a point
one of my major concerns for us,
for the church
is that we have ceased to be a vibrant, caring, world changing community
and chosen to be inward looking & self-indulgent
"singing ourself to death".
The warning of this parable
is that this is exactly what this rich man chose to do
and it is the wrong choice.
It is the choice of apathy and carelessness
In the end it is hard-hearted and cruel.

We do not have to do everything
We do have to do something
At the very least we have to respond to what is lying at our doorstep.
What is the need that God is asking you to respond to,
what is the need that God asks us to do something about?

This week
  • We ask ourselves the brutal question--where have I become hardhearted?
  • Where can I respond to genuine need?
  • Pray for courage to do it!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Money! Money! Money!

The readings for this Sunday, 23rd September can be as follows Jeremiah 8:18:9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Luke 16:1-13


We continue our reflection on how we grow our relationship with God
and the idea would seem to be quite direct
You can't serve God and wealth.
I actually think it is as blunt as that.
It is not so much a statement about God
as about the fiendish nature of money.
It is not a spiritually neutral phenomenon.
It requires of us a certain degree of commitment
and we can be deceived about thinking that we have this well under our control.
The story that we read as this morning Gospel is a curious story. It is not so much a single pointed 'parable'
as an illustration of what happens when things go pear-shaped.
A man gets caught defrauding his boss
he knows he is going to get sacked
and so takes steps to avoid being found friendless.
He rings up all his friends and cuts their debts to the company in half.
At least when he is out on the street
he will not be without friends
People always like people who have saved them money!

Then as if this story is nopt curious enough
when this man finally encounters his boss, 
the boss laughs and compliments him on his trickiness.

What is going on?
Unlike other parables...maybe this story is not so much a parable
as an illustration...
we are not really being told how to behave
rather we see what what the world of money is like
it is slippery and slidey
and people do all sorts of strange things.
Not so the world of God
the Lord reminds us.
God's world is not like this chaotic world
and you can't deal with God in the way you have to deal with money.

Don't be stupid about it, Jesus reminds us,
In the world you will need to be as wise as those wo are trying to rip you off.
But you can't be like this and serve God.

This is a timely warning for everyone.
The lure of wealth is very seductive.
The teaching of Jesus is very clear.
No one can serve two masters.

This week
  • Can you reflect where you have given in to the seduction of money?
  • Where is God calling you to be generous, where you have become greedy; where do you need to confront your selfishness?

Monday, September 10, 2007

I once was lost

The Readings for this Sunday are Proper 19 for Year C, 16th September 2007

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 and Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

YOUTUBE Reflection here

The idea of today's Gospel is about finding what is lost

In two very straight-forward parables we are caught by the idea of what do we do when we have lost somethign important or valuable.

The answer is that we put some vigour into searching for it. Whether it is money, a possession, or something or someone we love dearly

We try to get it back. Each of us knows this. And as with all the parables they could well have the words "The kingdom of heaven is like this..."before them

It is like searching for something that is precious. It is like trying to find something that is lost. We don't just sit back and say "Ho, hum!"

We look, sweep and search until we find.

What is it that we might have lost?

We would get a variety of answers if we asked a group.

But I suspect we would often say something like:

We have lost focus, direction, motivation, enthusiasm.

Does Jesus come to address this sort of lostness?

I think the answer must be Yes!

YOUTUBE Reflection here

...more coming

Monday, September 03, 2007

Reaching for Christ

Readings for this week September 9th (proper 18) are taken from the following selection :

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
[Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Psalm 1]
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

The potter at his wheel is a very evocative image, more so to those who would have witnessed it (like Jesus) in their own backyards.
They would have seen the craftsman start to make
and then decide it wasn't quite right and squash it all down and start again
often the amateur looks on with amazement
wondering why the work has begun again.
To us it looks OK
to the artist, the craftsman, the master
they see something that needs more and more and more work
So, this is a quite a useful image for you and me
of the way God sees us
we may think we are OK
or that there is not much that can be done
but God views us rather differently than we view ourselves.
So Paul revisits quite a lot of his old friendships, and this one with Onesimus and finds with maturer and deeper reflection that things change
He was not always given to kind reflections,
but he does not stand still and there is a sense in which he becomes more compassionate, more charitable as he grows older.
So might this happen to all of us!