Thursday, October 30, 2008

The grace of God

As we continue to think about the Christianity Explained series our theme this week is the grace of God and some readings are: Hosea 14:4–7;Psalm 85; Ephesians 2:4–10; Luke 18:9–14 (if you are looking for the Commnon lectionary Readings they are here for all All Saints Day; or here for The 31st Sunday of the Year)

What the grace of God assures us is that God's love for us is so great
that he will do everything he can to bring us into the fold of the loving relationship
We are so perverse that we often seem to think
that God will only love us
if we are good enough
or if we are worthy.
The truth is that God loves us
not just when we behave,
or when we have totted up enough brownie points
to merit being loved.
God just loves us!
That love is not bought or sold
it is freely given.
We are often told that the Greek word for 'grace'
is closely related to the word for gift.
God's gift of love is a "grace"
and is truly and freely given.

So we see exposed in the Gospel we have chosen today (Luke 18:9-14)
the story of two men
who stand before God.
One, a religious man, an upstanding man
stands before God
and tells him what a good person he is.
And, I suppose he is, not humble but 'good'
We also see he seems arrogant
and we would probably say
there is a a lot of 'self-justification'
The question , it seems to me, about this man
is what need does he have of God,
he seems to think he is doing OK by himself.
We can all be a bit like this.
BUT if we are honest we should also recognise
that this sort of self-righteousness
is rather shallow, and not entirely truthful.
None of us can entirely justify ourselves because we cannot undo the wrong we have done.
The murderer, however repentant, cannot undo the murder;
nor the one who has hurt another with unkind words and actions
cannot make up for the hurt

So there is a contrast with the other man
who is actually crushed (it would seem) by the mess he has made of his life
His response is not to try and point out that he is not really all that bad
but rather to throw himself on God's mercy.
There is no other choice.

The truth is that the first situation
the self-righteous justification is actually a deception
and the second, that all have sinned and fallen short
is the reality.
The story tells us that it is the sinner who opens himself to God's mercy
who goes away put right.
Because God gives him what he cannot earn.

We find this pretty hard.
We don't like the realisation
that we cannot force God to like us by being good.
We have all really been mis-taught that if we are good enough
then we will 'get into heaven'
The truth is that god gives eternal life to us freely
we do not have to earn it.
In fact it is this trying to earn it that often seems to stand in the way!!
Our self righteousness and self justification
(often aimed at saying how bad others are
as much as how good we are)

This week
Instead of trying to bribe God be being God
can we think about what God might be trying
to give us that we don't think we are worth of?
Can we also try to model this in our relationships with others?
Instead of trying to give people the impression that if they
behave as we want them to then we will love and like them
can we rather give the impression that we are trying to love
unconditionally. This is hard and radical stuff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jesus - His Resurrection

The readings for this Sunday when we look at Jesus-His Resurrection are Acts 2:22–24; Psalm 16:7–11; 1 Corinthians 15:1–8; Mark 16:1–8 (readings for the 30th Sunday of the Year in the Revised Common Lectionary can be found here)

It is easy to get fixated on the important questions of bodily Resurrection,
as key as they are I think we miss something of the richness
if that is all we think about.
Key amongst the experiences of Christians
is not just exactly how Jesus is amongst us
but the reality of the shared experience
that where two or three are gathered
then Jesus seems to be present.
Indeed in the Eucharist we talk about Jesus
being really present.
Many of us would attest to feeling this
but it is also something that we hold by faith
that is, we believe it, and act upon it.
Pray to know Jesus, really present
trust the guidance of the Spirit
and listen to God's voice

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jesus-His Crucifixion

During this season we are thinking about Jesus and his life and meaning today's theme is about the crucifixion. Some readings are here:Isaiah 53:3–6Psalm 89:39–461 Peter 2:22–25Mark 15:33–39
If you want to follow the Revised Common Lectionary then readings can be found here

How might it be if we lived without the burden of sin?
What would our world be like?
So often we excuse our bad behaviour by suggesting we have no other choice,
because we are just like that
But what if we were not.

We present a mask, often,
because we don't like what we believe we are;
and we certainly don't want others to encounter it

What we need to realise about the Crucifixion,
is that it is about God seeing us as we really are.
We may not like it but
There is nothing about us that Jesus does not love
We often find this difficult to believe.

What we see on the cross is that
God loves us
in a way that often we cannot love ourselves.
Often our greed, our sensuality,
our passion, our self-centredness
disgust us.
We often don't love or like ourselves.
We are embarrassed and ashamed by our mistakes and our frailty
So we are often self-deceptive,
we think of ourselves as different from what we really are.
We certainly try to present an image to the world
that is not what we are.

The message of the Cross is that there is nothing about us
that God does not love.
He loves us so much
that he will not allow us
to be destroyed
by the sin and corruption
that would seek to separate us from God,
or cause us to think and believe
that we can be separated from the love of God.

This is what is happening
on the Cross
everything about is laid upon Jesus.
God's love for us is so great
that we are totally identified
with his own Son.
The net effect for us
is that everything that would separate us from God
is destroyed in the Body of Christ.
Lies, hurtfulness, shame, mistakes...
St Paul tells the Corinthian Church
that it was for this purpose that he who is without sin
Became as sin, and put sin to death in his own body.
What ever power sin might have held
before the Cross
it no longer holds.
He himself bears our sins
in his body on the cross.
so that free from sin we might live for righteousness.

What is asked us of us
is to have faith in this sacrifice.
We are free from our sin.
Put aside the self-indulgence
that we cannot escape sin
We can...through faith in Jesus.
Nothing too big, nothing too small!

God loves us so much
that we do not have to live with the burden of sin.

So let us live that way

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Taking responsibility...not apportioning blame

Readings for the 27th Sunday of the Year, October 5th 2008 can be taken from the following: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 Psalm 19 Philippians 3:4b-14 Matthew 21:33-46

We have today a triptych of readings
about our relationship with God
and how we are to respond to the call of God on our lives.
The Ten Commandments
are an essential statement of universal values
which are widely, some would even say universally, accepted.
They could be seen as a legal code, I suppose,
but in reality the spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures
contained in the prophets
sees them more as a distillation
of a way communities might live together
and some of the fundamental principles
like the sanctity of life, the respect for property,
the importance of truth and integrity in relationships
Preceding all that is the key idea
that we are worshippers of the one true God,
the God who is (for want of a better word) jealous
and who will brook no rival.

The Gospel story is about recognising that
there is a responsibility for those who are in this relationship.
The responsibility is not to be legalistic
but to participate in a dynamic and active way in the life of the kingdom
The condemnation that Jesus holds out in this parable
is for those who make the mistake of thinking and acting
that this relationship is legalism
or for those who take the privilege of the covenant
without any responsibility.
It is a sombre warning
for those of us who religiously inclined.
God will try and try again to draw us into relationship
but if we simply ignore that invitation
or prefer legalism
then eventually we will be excluded.
Not because God is damning us
But because we remove ourselves
from the generosity of God's grace.
Relationship with Jesus
Paul's wonderful dissertation in Philippians
which also continues today, reminds us
that we can have perfect credentials
our ancestry impeccable
but all this is rubbish
by comparison
with what is being offered in Christ.
A relationship in God.
It is this that will motivate.

It is taking responsibility
to have a vital life in Christ
and not apportioning blame
or creating an elite
which will see us drawn into the kingdom.

This week
  • Is there one thing that may be standing in your way to being more faithful in Christ?
  • Is there one thing where God may be inviting a deeper, better response (an act of forgiveness, more fervent prayer, an act of charity...etc) and can we make that transition instead of preferring a legalistic way of little or no accountability.