Thursday, August 27, 2009

Being set free-for freedom

Readings for Sunday 30th August 2009, The 13th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) :Song of Songs 2:8-13; Psalm 45; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8,14-23

It is good to be challenged.
On TV these days we are challenged all the time!
There are endless game shows, Australian Idol, Temptation, Survivor
in which there is challenge.
But these days I often just find the News challenging!
Some days...Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Al Qaeda, Bombings, bank hold ups
Plane crashes, global warming, petrol, endless political drivel and infighting......
the news comes on and I feel my heart sink.
I often don't want to be challenged with so much stuff that I can do nothing about.

Today's readings remind us that there is about life a sense of challenge
which is good and right
and if we are not to be overwhelmed by it
we need to focus on the meaningful challenges

Right relationships
The curious passage in The Song of Songs
is a an invitation to see that our intimate relationships
are called to be exciting and thrilling.
Many of us settle into a passive neutrality in our closest relationships
as though this is what God intends for us.
At least this passage reminds us that
there may be more that is possible
and we need perhaps to respond to the challenge
to seek depth
than to avoid the challenge and risk of getting close to another person.
This is not always easy!!

Responding to challenge.
James remind us there are certain challenges that we need to watch out for in relationships
and he names some key principles:

  • generosity---which he sees as an inspired choice that we make about the character of our life. We choose to be generous

  • we need to listen rather than speak---this again is a choice that we make about the way we conduct our relationships

  • be slow to anger---another choice.Often we think of anger as something that overtakes us, that we have no control over. But james in suggesting that we be slow to anger is saying . We choose whether or not we are angry.

  • Other choices her talks about are : turning away from wickedness, and putting into practice with our lives what we say with our lips
It is important to get the force of all this.
The challenge is to make choices in our lives which put the gospel into practice
and not just mouth platitudes.

Jesus puts this another way when he talks about the competing interests
of religion and the heart.
In a major thrust of his teaching he reminds us that it is not the rules and regulations of religion
that is important
it is the affairs of the heart.
In the end the bad and good that we get caught up in
comes about from the decisions of our heart.
This is not popular stuff.
But it is reality.
Wickedness, evil, sin...however we name it..
comes about from choices we make and not accidently.

Accidents do happen!
I hear you say
and the consequences of accidents can be dire.
But what we are concerned with is not what accidently happens
but what deliberately happens.

Whe St Paul says to early churches
"It is for freedom that we have been set free" (cf Galatians 5)
he is not making the claim of some political manifesto
but rather a statement about God's intentions for humanity
...that we might be free to choose to do God's will
rather than to be pushed about by our own selfishness and sin.
In classical theology
we understand this to mean that we cannot actually do this
without the grace of God given to us through the life death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ.
To be free from anger...we need Jesus
to be a truly generous person...we need Jesus
to be lovign and caring...we need Jesus.

We fail in so far as we think we can do this of ourselves.
One of our Prayer Book collects says...we have no power of ourselves, to help ourselves
we are reminded that we need to allow God to dwell within us
and to reach outside of our inward looking self
if we are to be as God intends us to be

This week
Perhaps this is "tough love" or a reality check.
Stop copping out and blaming others for behaviour:
meanness, hurtfulness, poorly controlled anger, spite, and all other manner of sinful relationship stuff
take ressponsibility and choose to be free.
We cannot do this without Christ.
So our prayer this week?

Lord make us free
as Jesus himself is free.
Free to love you radically
and put aside our sinful ways. Lord make us free. AMEN

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