Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dining out with Jesus

Readings for 12th Sunday after Pentecost -Proper 20 (19th August 2012) read one reading each day to prepare yourself for Sunday's worship
1 Kings 2:10-3:14*; Psalm 11; Ephesians 5:11-31; John 6:51-58
A riot of discussion inevitably follows the commentary of Ephesians 5
(which is about the relationship of husbands and wives)
But you need to read it to see what it actually says:

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind.

There is much misinterpretation of this passage.
And we can see that misinterpretation often is caused by self-serving attitudes
rather than a balanced or comprehensive reading of the text.
Indeed the first rule of any scriptural reflection should be 
to make sure that you have read what goes before
and also read what comes after.
The Bible is not simply a collection of disconnected phrases
which you can pull out like a magical promise box
and presume that the words will speak to your particular situation
at that particular time.
We often want it to be like easy would it be
to just have God on tap
and pull him out with a certainty
even though this may all be a bit cryptic.

[There are plenty of stories that give the lie to this...unfortunately
many people will tell you how, when in trouble, they flicked their Bible open
and there was the answer.
As I say, we may want God to be like that,
but it doesn't seem to make sense.
Why would we have a whole narrative Bible, of most complex and sophisticated story, poetry, worship and theology
if all God had wanted us to have was a collection of random phrases?]

What we are often doing is trying to find an easy way of dealing with a complex situation.
We want a quick fix---when what we need to do is to tread carefully
and think intelligently.

The first reading (about Solomon's choice of wisdom over riches and power) reminds us
that we are easily seduced by fear and greed
and often less than honest about our own motivations.

If we take more than a cursory look at the Ephesians passage, too,
we see that it is more than just an instruction for wives to do what their husbands tell them to.
Indeed that looks like a misreading if we think carefully about it.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. ......Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

This is about a mutual submission, 

not the dominance of one party over another.
Indeed, I often joke with marriage couples....that women only "have to be subject to their husbands" while men have to love as Christ loved the Church
to my mind that means dying!

In reality as we read the whole passage we see that there is a toing and froing
which reminds us that
there is a mutuality about this relationship
in which husband and wife should be subject to each other....and both should love the other to death!!!
This, to my mind, is the reality (and experience) of marriage.
But is complex, rather than simplistic.

Wisdom vs Power and MoneyWe read, too, in the reading about Solomon
that this legendary king is confronted with a choice all politicians are....
what will we pursue in the exercise of our office.
The reading of the Solomon story shows us that if we trust the knowledge of God
if we prefer wisdom to selfish gain
then the other things will fall into their correct perspective.
This, of course, gladdens the heart of the godly person
but also exposes that much about modern day politics and life is distorted and untrue.

The Gospel reminds us 

that even though 
is telling us that we should stick with the stuff that is close to our hearts
as the food we eat is to our day to day life
and relationships;
like the relationship and life he invites us to have with him.
That so often we would prefer to not engage with that
choosing rather to be theological or theoretical.
It is not that theology and theory are unimportant
they have their place.
BUT principally and primarily
we are called to feed on Jesus
and be as concerned with him day to day as we are about food and our ordinary concerns.

As you think about your eating 

in the last week

what does it tell an image

about the quality of the relationship that God wants with you and me

The words 
-- intimacy and reality

spring to mind for me.

-- Nourishment and nurture

-- time to be with others

are all important things to recognise as

"godly imperatives"

Is your spiritual life

as good as your dining-life?

I hope so!

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