Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The mulberry tree - courage to live

Reading for Sunday October 3, 2010: Lamentations 1:1-6 and Lamentations 3:19-26 or Psalm 137 • 2 Timothy 1:1-14 • Luke 17:5-10-The 19th Sunday after Pentecost

It is worth making sure that the little section of gospel that we read this week
includes before and after so Luke 17:1-10
should fill out the whole story
It tells us two straight forward things

First, we are to have faith.
Second , we are to go about our ordinary business.

It is interesting that these two ideas are juxtaposed
because it reminds that it is not a question of
faith OR day to day to life
But a reminder that both go hand in hand

In the centre of the passage (vv 5-6) we read
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

It seems clear from the context that Jesus is expressing some disappointment at the apostles' lack of faith

And it is easy to be distracted by what he says
thinking that what Jesus is saying we should aim for
is to be miracle workers.
I don't think if we look at the whole passage that this is the guts of what he says.
He says first of all...
Don't cause other people to stumble
and he particularly says
Don't cause the little ones to stumble.
We might wonder who these 'little ones' are
it's possibly more than children, but it certainly includes children,

Then he says you must forgive those who repent,
every time they do so.

What we are seeing here is just a simple day to day application
of what it means to live the life of faith for the "little ones" who are vulnerable
and put the forgiveness of sins into practice.

Then at the end of the section (vv 7-10)
he gives a couple of example about how slaves and servants
should not expect to be treated with kid gloves
we should do...what we ought to have done

So there are two little ideas.
Faith is practised, and transmitted to the young
It is about putting things like forgiveness into practice

And there is the reminder that what we, as God's servants, are required to do
is to do what we ought to do.

Caught in the middle

In between these there is a little chip from Jesus
‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you'
Jesus is chiding his disciples fro not actually having faith.
If you had just a little bit ..he says...things would be different
He is not saying the life of faith is different from your day to day life
rather he is saying, I suggest,
that your day to day life is to be lived out in the spirit of faith
and it will bear a different and abundant kind of truth!

Forgiveness, caring for the 'little ones'
even going about what we 'ought to do'
are not put aside
so that we can live a different life
called FAITH
but they are rather the very vehicles wherein faith is worked out.

We might look at what it is that we do day to day
and ask God to show us where we can be more faithful
As Paul writes again to Timothy this week
we hear Paul telling Timothy to go about his day to day duties
and to not be afraid to see this as faith.

What we can expect is that if we do this even with the tiniest little bit of faith
then it will be abundantly, wildly fruitful.
Where can we allow God
to show us that our work
our family life
our duties
our joys and our burdens
are acts of faith.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can be more faithful
in what you ought to do.
And as Paul says, to have the courage to it
for God did not give us a spirit of weakness
but a spirit of courage to be faithful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Up for review

Readings for 26th September 2010 Proper 21
can be taken from:
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
Steve Chalke said in Australia a few years ago:
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!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dealing with money

The readings for this Sunday, 19th September 2010, which is also the 17th Sunday after Pentecost 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 only a statement about God
it is also 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's 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 who 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?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

On being found

How do you find things when they are lost?
Your car keys? Your wallet? Your dog, your child?

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

These two stories, a man losing a sheep
a woman losing some money
are easily understood
This is the point of these stories that Jesus tells us.
they lock into our experience.
We know what it is like to lose things
we know what it is like to be lost!
We also know what it is like
when we find what we have lost
indeed if we have been lost ourselves
we know what a feeling of relief it is
when we see someone who is coming to our rescue.
Both of these things are caught up in these two simple images.

We can easily see that these two engaging stories
work in two directions
The first is we are searching.
Clearly what we are searching for is God.
We might sometimes call this happiness, fulfilment,
or whatever
But St Augustine reminds us
Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you
If you are like me when I search
I don't always do it well.
Often the distress of loss works against me
When you start behaving erratically
instead of methodically
rushing around madly, instead of carefully;
then things start to go awry.
Perhaps we need to to take note,
wonder where we have been,
try and think more carefully.
This week , instead of running around madly,
hoping perhaps that God will be impressed
by our busy-ness
can we just take time to be with God
and look at where God has been with us.
And maybe revisit some of the places
and look again
at the highs and lows
the joys and sadnesses.
Where has God been with us?

It also goes in another direction
Where we, are not the seeker, but the lost?
God is looking for us.
We get something of this in the way Paul talks about how he himself was lost.
But God pursued him.
What ever else we might think about what we are looking for,
we can be sure that God is looking for us.
The psalms tell us that we cannot flee
either to the mountain tops
oir the ocean depths
God wants us!
This should be reassuring

Again this week
can we perhaps cooperate with God
and sit still long enough to be found
it may be a quiet time
reading the bible
or just simply doing nothing.

So as you think about these two stories this week,
seek carefully for God
and allow yourself to be sought and found!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

On being lost

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.

And we do it as if our life and livelihood depends on it.

Indeed it does

What is it that we might have lost?

If we think of our relationships...

what might we have lost?

Is there some way we can regain some of the lostness in our relationships?

If we think of our sense of purpose...

what do we believe life is all about?

What is its purpose?

Have we just fallen into a pattern of not caring, not wanting anything

Being able to cope, but not terrible satisfying?

Where is Jesus inviting us to greater and greater purpose and meaning?

This week

Spend some time inviting Jesus to show you:

where you can pursue your relationships with greater vigour and purpose?

where does you life need to find purpose and focus, and what do you need to do?

YOUTUBE Reflection here