Monday, September 26, 2011

True responsibility

Readings for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost (proper 20) 27th Sunday of the Year. Oct 9 2011, Ex 20:1-20*; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4-14; Matt 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.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Questions about authority

Readings for the 26th Sunday of the Year, Sunday 25th September 2011 Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 ;Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32 (proper 21) 
The authority of spiritual teachers 
is often called into question 
so we are not surprised to read this week
that Jesus's authority 
was called into account. 
In fact it happened on a number of occasions, 
and one thing we can see from the passage 
is that the question is complex. 
So there are a couple of observations we might make. 
One is that we often question authority
when we are trying to trip people up. 
So often, as in this case, the questioners are not interested in getting the right answer 
but rather in getting the replier to put himself offside with one group or another. 
We are used to this because we see it all the time in the political arena. 
Second,Matthew gives us a bit of an illustration to help us better assess. 
You would be better, he suggests, 
to look at what a person does 
rather than what they say. 
Even if a person says 
"I am going to do the right thing" 
but then doesn't do anything 
we should look at the action 
rather than believe the words. 
Even, bizarrely, if someone says they are not going to cooperate with you 
but then does 
Then believe the action rather than the words. 
Children do this all the time 
they believe what we do rather than what we say.  
It is interesting that as we read Philippians 2 
and we are here reading about the nature of Jesus again 
we read about what the action of being godly is like puts aside pride and selfish ambition, 
it is humble it is obedient it does not presume on greatness. 
And in fact it deliberately puts these things aside. 
How unlike you and me this is! 
So often, full of our self-importance 
we forget that we are urged to not presume on our own rightness, goodness, holiness, intelligence or strength.  
St Paul in another place reminds us that the reason for this is because 
it is not when we are strong, powerful and great 
that God is glorified 
But it is when we are weak 
aware of our limitations and trusting only in God 
that God can be God for us.  

  • Where are we guilty of not practising what we preach? Is there a way we can better put into action what being a faithful Christian means?

  • Look for one opportunity this week to humbly follow Christ, so that we may better trust.
Lord Jesus, you became obedient you offered your life, that others may live. May that same Spirit infuse my life this week, and every day. AMEN

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Strange Attractors

Sunday Sept 18, 2011. 14th h Sunday after Pentecost.. Exodus 16:2-15; Ps 105:1-6, 37-45, Phil 1:21-30; Matt 20:1-16

It’s easy to think that the story of the workers in the vineyard (this week’s Gospel reading)
is a commentary on labour relations
however, commentators on the New Testament
remind us to be careful about assuming a parable is a detailed analysis of the human condition.
The great British Scholar CH Dodd makes this point:
At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile  drawn from nature or common life,  arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness,  and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application  to tease it into active thought." 
(C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961, p. 5)

Jesus tantalizes his listeners with these challenging stories that invite us to engage
with what God is like
What do we make of this?

This story challenges us about how we will “live …life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27)

What is God like?
And how do I put this into practice?

The point of the parable is that God is a generous, loving and forgiving God
and we are called to do likewise.

We are not always like this!
We very easily get sidetracked.
We grumble when we are treated well
because others (who we judge less worthy)
are also treated well.
Paul at the beginning of his letter  to the Ephesians reminds us that God’s character is a generous character
In a wonderful way Paul says of God
“God who is rich in mercy”
The strange and tantalizing thing about this parable is that even though the owner of the vineyard
is outrageously generous
we still find those who demand that they should be treated better.
The sad story of events in the Exodus journey that we are also following (today in chapter 16) is that the God who deals with his people richly
is soon deserted when the going gets tough.

But I also want to ask about events of our own day.

How easily we forget
·       that the God who we believe deals with us generously
·       forgiving our sins on demand
·       hearing our prayers and responding
·       always overlooking our faithlessness
·       and giving his only son that we might be made whole

Also calls us to act likewise.

How easily we forget to be generous
to refugees
to drug addicts
to gay people
to aboriginal people
the list could go on…

Are we like God?
Are we rich in mercy?

This week 
                Where is God calling me to act more generously?
                Where am I being invited to repent and change my small minded attitudes?   
                What do I need to do in practice to better reflect my Christian life and witness?
Will I live differently

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

If God is for you

If you keep the Sunday of the Year (Proper 24) then the readings are 
EXODUS 14; Exodus 15:1-21; Psalm 14, ;Romans 14:1-12 ,  Matthew 18:21-35 but we will BE PARTICULARLY FOCUSSING ON BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY

The wonderful story of the crossing of the Read Sea (Exodus 14) 
is an archetypal story
That is: it is a story of the human condition....not just a recounting of a story that may or may not have happened
but a story owned by humanity
the "Crossing of the Red Sea"
This story says that if we trust in God
we sometimes come to points
where we cannot go forward
we are at the bank of the sea
and the enemy are amassing behind us.
What do we do?
The Moses story tells us
if we trust in God
then even though it looks as though we cannot go forward
we go forward.
What does this mean?
Apart from (and above) everything else
when we we don't know where to go
faith tells us to trust God.
It's easy to give in
but God calls us to go forward.
When we are invited to forgive'  or to 'love'
or to 'act''
Stick with it
Where is God inviting you/me
to have the courage of faith
the promise is that ...though we might be frightened
yet...if we are sure God is telling us
Love, forgive act
then trust God.

Let the faith of God be your steadfast rock
it's worth it!!!