Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What God requires of us...and what we need to do!

Reflections for the week beginning Sunday 19th July (Proper 16) 2 Sam 7:1-14; Psalm 89:21-38; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 Read one or more of these readings when you wish to be quiet with God.
(This is probably three-in-one sermons)

This week's readings point us to a range of ways we can respond to the call of God in our lives.
  • We should do what God requires not what we think God requires
  • There are some fundamental movements that the Gospel will always seek to draw out of us
  • God desires healing and wholeness for each one of us and this is a profound dynamic which naturally draws people to Jesus

What does the Lord require?
There is no doubt that David was responsive to God's will, but as we read his story
we also discover that he is sometimes willful and disobedient.
We are all rather like this.
While we may seek to be God's people and to do his will
our understanding of what that will might be is often slippery.
I, for example, sometimes say that my problem with hearing the voice of God
is that I need to be clear when I am hearing God's voice
and when I am hearing Stephen's voice!
I am more than occasionally capable of deceiving myself.

If nothing else when we are tempted to say "The Lord says to me...."
we should have at least a mild suspicion that we may not be quite as clear about this as we think we are.
We should at least test this.
David, for example, says...The Lord says build me a house...
this would seem to be a logical conclusion of his work in establishing Jerusalem
He has fought long and hard to get here
The Ark of the Covenant, the focus of Israel's ambitions
has finally been brought into the city
now there is one thing only to do. Build a temple.
But it is not to be.
This is a salutary lesson....
The Lord's voice is more than the logical conclusion of our thought processes.
At times we act as though that is all it is.
Or even that we are so fully aware of our own thought processes
that we are always open and upfront about them

God's unremitting work
Ephesians 2 reminds us that the work of God
is dependent on God and not on our efforts.
This is often a hard lesson for us to learn
We are so focussed on being good and getting it right
that we often ignore completely
the profound dynamic which undergirds the basis of our faith.
God has already acted
and achieved in Christ
all that needs to be done
to perfect his work in creation.
We, often seduced by the notion that salvation depends on our personal goodness or holiness,
need to learn this lesson.
It is God's desire to bring the whole of creation together.
Our common humanity is signified by God's own unity.
Though different and able to be appreciated in many different ways
we are drawn back time and time again to the fact that God is UNITY
In the example Paul gives he is referring to those "who are far off...and those who are near"
those who are inside the covenant (the Jews) and those wo are outside(the Gentiles).
Note that Paul does not say we should work tirelesssly to bring those who are far off closer
he actually says that Christ
has already made both groups into one, and broken down the dividing wall.
We are already one!!
We simply have to reach out and take that
We, like David, don't readily get this
so locked are we into our own egotistical way of seeing things
So Paul reminds us that our efforts need to be directed
not to reinventing the wheel
but to building on Christ
who is already in place as the foundation and cornerstone.
Our work is not invention of new ideas
it is building on the firm foundation.
To do this we need to nurture our own relationship with Christ
through prayer, through worship through service and ministry.
Each time we pray, each time we share in the Eucharist
we are saying I want to be built up
We affirm the fact that this work
established and complete as it is already in Christ
will be worked out in me
and in the world.
It is already established and seeks its fulfillment
Our focus is building on Christ
what ever else we think we might be and do
we only succeed
in so far as we are built on that sure foundation.

Take time
There is a sense in which this is a tireless work
we all know the truth
of what Jesus says
There is an enormous harvest to bring in and all too few labourers!
As we read the Gospel today we recognise that even Jesus struggles to make time to renew himself
for this heavy and taxing work.
We busy folk know the dynamic of this story,
we like to take time to prepare
but we have competing demands
and they crash in all too readily.
Jesus habitually used to find himself overwhelmed by the demands of his ministry
So he would take time to step aside and be quiet.
But today we read, as we do quite often,
that the demands of life run wild
and do not respect Jesus's own personal needs.
We all know something of this.

This does not stop Jesus
from trying day after day to capture this time.
Even, we see, right at the very end of his life
when he could be excused for trying to flee
or to protect himself
Jesus goes out into the garden of Gethsemane to pray.
How easily we forget this!
We often, usually, even habitually
put our prayers to one side.
And then we wonder why we get a bit lost.
It is not only, I think, because we lack faith.
It is because we lack discipline!!
It takes discipline
to continue to build on the foundation.
But that is actually the only thing that will work.
David learns that when you get distracted
and think you are the foundation
then you are heading off in the wrong diretion.
Paul reminds us that
Christ is our foundation
and that we build on him.
Prayer, The Bible, Service, Worship, Eucharist...
these are the places we experience
building and the establishment of Christ's kingdom.
Jesus's experience shows us
that to do this we need discipline,
decision to act.
There are lots of competing interests
Christ is the true foundation
already established,
we need to commit ourselves to him
through the disciplined life.
Lest we forget and think that we are the Messiah.
Lest we find our ourselves
building in the wrong place.
Lest we find that our necessary needs are
crowded out.

Pray and act this week
to do one fresh thing to re-establish God's building program
in Christ, on the sure foundation
in a firm, committed and disciplined way.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff..about 3 sermons worth.

stephen clark said...

Yes, I did say that it was a "three in one"!!
I think I am going to preach about the 2 Sam part at 10 a.m. and Ephesians at 8