Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Profound gentleness

God is the essence of integrity
and God abhors hypocrisy
Jesus often talks about this 
and today we are invited 
to try and take this all a bit more seriously

Reading for Pentecost 24, Sunday 11th November (Proper 32) Ruth 3:1-5, 4:3-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:19-28; Mark 12:38-44

There is certain profound gentleness about this week's readings.
The story of a woman who finds a genuine life partner. 
And who, against all odds, becomes the mother of a great man.
Along with the gentle reassurance for the woman 
whose generosity is seen by God;
even though she gives little in what we euphemistically call "real terms"
she gives everything she has.
God sees what is real
 and sometimes even we recognise it
and so we are heartened.

In the middle of this there is something of a sterner reminder
that God abhors hypocrisy
and that there is about life
the mystery of sacrifice
which tests us to the very core of who we are.

The writer to the Hebrews
spells out in great detail
that sacrifice will be at the core of what our relationship with God is all about.

Getting it straight
Now we need to understand that there is a common misconception about sacrifice
that it is essentially about the taking away of life.
This is not necessarily or particularly so.
In fact if we look at the detailed instructions about sacrifice
in the Hebrew scriptures
we see that a lot of it is not about animal slaughter at all.
There are all sorts of sacrifices of grain and produce
which do not involve bloodshed.

In fact if we look at the word sacri-fice we can see that it is about making(the fice part of the word) things sacred or holy (the sacri part of the word)

Christ died that we might be made holy

In fact the writer of Hebrews uses the idea of Christ entering into God's presence
(going into the most holy place)
so that we too might enter into that presence

Simple reflection
The story of Ruth is an interesting but gentle tale
about one woman's journey into the heart of God.
It seems a simple love story
yet it needs also to be read in the context of the sort of ethnic tensions
that still exist in those lands we call HOLY today.
Ruth was not a Jew
she was what today we would call Jordanian or Lebanese, or Syrian, perhaps even an Iraqi.
Yet her faithfulness to her Jewish mother-in-law
and her willingness to do what needed to be done
saw a simple little tale
become an object lesson
in the all accepting love of God.

The Jews (like all of us really) were racked by ethnic division then as now.
And yet we read of one the greatest heroes
(in backwards order)...his father was Jesse, his grandfather was Obed, who was the child
not of a Jew but of a Moabitess.
David was the great grandson of a Palestinian outcast.
Be careful about what you hear. There is more than meets the eyes.

Likewise in the letter to the Hebrews
it is the call for us to be holy
and the permission to enter the closest presence of God
that we need to hear.
Not just the bloody sacrifice of Christ.
So obsessed are we about guilt and sin
that we fail to hear that there is cause for rejoicing.
Christ died, so that we could be close to God.
God is close, not far.
Don't push him away

A simple tale that we all know to be true
.. the rich can afford to be generous
But do we also pay attention to the great warning
God is not looking for who gives the most
either in real dollar terms
or even proportionately.
God looks at the heart
and despises hypocrisy.
The hypocrisy that judges others and fais to critique oneself.

Where is God inviting me to be tolerant?

To step outside my prejudices and to be more accepting?

Where do I hold back from drawing close to God?

Is there a time and place to be quiet and listen?

Is there an opportunity to serve God through care for others?
Where in my life am I most hypocritical?

Where can I change and be more honest?

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