Monday, June 21, 2010

Tell what God has done for you

The man who sat at Jesus' feet and who was healed (or if you wish saved) by Jesus wants to go with him and his other disciples. After all there is room in the baot and just look at his options! He is standing on the beach with Jesus, with the disciples in the boat in front of him and the townsfolk who chained, shackeled and jailed him at his back. He wants to go with the one who freed him, the one who wasn't afraid to come near him, who wouldn’t tolerate a life to be consumed by evil. He wants to go with his Master and learn more about the kingdom of God. He's ready to follow Jesus. There's room in the boat, and he'll leave without looking back -- there's no one to say good-bye to. Seemingly there is no one and nothing left behind. But Jesus To others along the way to the cross, Jesus issues the invitation, "Come, follow me," but to this one he says, "Go home and declare how much God has done for you." At the very end, we see isn't simply a story of one man's healing, but a story of one man's calling. It is more than about one man being set free, it is about the world hearing what God is doing in terms saving the world.

Therefore, Jesus doesn’t bid this particular man to follow; he can proclaim God’s wonder and greatness from where he is. In this case the call is to ministry and to proclaiming the good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind release of the captives and the year of celebration of God where it has not been heard before. And it is a sign that the proclamation of the kingdom is not just for a chosen few or even a particular nation. It is for the whole world. And this ministry involves staying rather than leaving. Jesus does not reject the man's application for discipleship, but accepts it fully. “I even have a first appointment all lined up for you,” Jesus says from the boat.”Your congregation is standing right behind you. You need to stay here and you must go and tell...

No doubt there is going to be a struggle. This man is going to have to turn around and face all those people who were much more comfortable when he was chained and under control so to speak. We aren’t told how this man faired in the days after Jesus left that beach and when back to the other side of the lake. There were no plans, no schedules, no money and no rules except that this man now had to declare to those same people what God had done for him. The people had seen what Jesus could do and they were genuinely afraid of what he could do. They had two thousand pigs to feed the occupying force of the Roman Army. He had cost them their livestock and their economy. And now there is that possibility that as they listen to what God has done for this man that their lives are going to be transformed too.

So let us turn around see our congregation and our community and go and tell what God has done for us this week and let us do so for Christ’s sake and the building up of his kingdom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whose coming to dinner?

“Who is coming for dinner?” There are times in our house where that question gets asked because things change from what they normally are. And it will usually come from the younger members of the household who want to know the plan and where they might fit into it. There of course will be another familiar question that also gets asked,” What are we having?” and the implication there is “will I be satisfied and will there be enough? Such a question is always directed at those who are hosting such a dinner.    

“Simon the Separated” is the host. Pharisees were the religious elite in the land and they were picky about who they invited to supper. They were very careful about who they allowed themselves to be associated with. And at the same time let us remember that in the ancient Middle East there were people who were invited to the table to participate in the meal and the discussion and then those who simply showed up. They could listen to the conversation but did not participate in the meal. Like the time that Jesus and the disciples showed up at Simon Peter’s house and Peter’s mother in law was sick, in bed with a fever. Jesus went to her and healed her and then the meal began in earnest as the mother in law took over the household. By the end of the evening the whole of the town was outside her door wanting, pleading to be healed and to be near Jesus.

Simon had another reason to ant Jesus under his roof. Simon had every intention of testing Jesus to see what Jesus was like and if they would agree on things. Simon wanted to know if Jesus was like him. Simon was not the most generous of hosts to Jesus he did what he had to be hospitable to this guest but nothing more. There was no one to wash his feet or kiss of greeting. There was no oil (the equivalent of deodorant in this case) offered. There was nothing that said that Jesus was welcome in this place. There was nothing between these two men that suggested that the relationship was anything more than a polite dinner invitation and that it would not be anything more than that. Simon wanted to evaluate Jesus before he made him welcome and made him a friend. Jesus was simply escorted to his place and Jesus reclined with others at the table.

As the meal begins, an unnamed woman, an uninvited guest to Simon’s home, comes from within the crowd and takes the place of a servant at Jesus’ feet. This woman had a large and powerful reputation as a sinner. And as she knelt down beside Jesus’ feet she did two things. First, she began to cry. Not a loud sobbing so as to attract a lot of attention but a steady flow of tears that feel on the feet of Jesus. Tears made Jesus feet wet and she removed the dirt and grime from his feet with her hair. She kissed his feet as a sign of gratefulness and devotion. Then she took a long necked, globular bottle of nard and broke it open and began to rub Jesus’ feet with the ointment. Simon the host watched all of this wondering if Jesus was judging her; wondering if he was any kind of prophet at all because he allowed this reprobate touch him. And Simon passed judgment on them both.    

The interesting thing is, Jesus knew not only who the woman was, he also had Simon’s number as well.  And so he told Simon a parable about making the right call. “Who loves more Simon?” Jesus asked his host, “The one who has little to be forgiven or the one who has been forgiven much?” Simon rolled his eyes and sighed, “The one who has had much forgiven.” Jesus smiled and confirmed, “Simon you have judge rightly. Simon do you really see this woman, she has greeted me and welcomed me in ways that you have not. Simon, this woman has cared for me and shown her devotion towards me when you, my host have not. So she is showing that her sins, and they are many, have been washed away because she has found forgiveness. She has been forgiven and she is going on ahead of you. Simon will you learn to love more?”

Then Jesus did something else he turned to the woman and said, “Your faith has saved you, now go and live in peace.” Why is that important? Jesus sends her on her way so that she can go and live the life God intended to live, at peace and in relationship with him. It is why God created her and why Christ sets her free. And because she is free from the chains of her despair and the desire for revenge, she is free to proclaim what God has done for her – that God has visited and is redeeming his people and raising up his salvation for his people in the house of his servant, David.   

But where does this leave us? I think the best place for us to start is at our table here with Christ. We too need to have the kinds of encounters that both Simon the Pharisee and the unnamed woman had at the table with Jesus. We need to hear and to heed the call to repentance – not because we have been bad but because we are chosen and we are loved.  And out of the experience of being at table with Christ, we need to bring to bear everything that we receive from the Scriptures proclaimed, and everything we hear and receive from preaching as an exhortation to Christian life and living and to pour it out in confessional prayer, in intercessory prayer and in praise and thanks giving because we are people both of freedom and of hope. Too often we have experienced liturgy as: “You’re bad. Yes I know I am bad and there is no health (salvation) in me. You are forgiven. Yes, I know that I am forgiven and that Christ offered himself for me.” We know the theology and we know the words: new let us allow those very thoughts and words to fill us up that God might through them, transform our hearts and minds that we might live life on a new and higher level.  So let us go in peace, to love and to serve the Lord knowing that our faith is making us both whole and new.       

Friday, June 4, 2010

We need to remember: God is with us!

There are times when we need to remember that God is with us. Those times are often not when we are happy and content, they are moments when life is hard and we have suffered loss. These are times when we seem to be without hope and feel totally lost and alone. It is in those moments that we need to see God and to know his presence. We want to know not only that God is here with us and that God actually cares about what is happening to his people to us, to me. Jesus’ earthly ministry, the presence of the Spirit and the witness of Scripture all point to a God who cares about his creation and that God desires to bring not just health but total salvation for the whole of his creation.

And to highlight what God has done in the past in small ways, Jesus demonstrates publicly and in powerful ways. Where there were only a couple of witnesses to see what Elijah and subsequently Elisha did for boys who were the life and the futures of their respective families, now there are hundreds of witnesses for what happens to a young man from Nain and his widowed mother. In the case of the prophets, the people sought them out as men of God while in Nain, God seeks out the widowed mother stops the procession to the cemetery and consoles the mother. It needs to be considered that no one expected God to intervene in this desperate situation. It was death. And death comes to us all. And more than likely people had tough of divine action as being a thing of the past.

It is like a man who after spending some time reading his bible and about all the great things that Jesus did decided to go back to Church. He had not been in Church since he was a boy. He was greeted at the door with the welcome and the usual papers at the door. He sat through the serve not quite sure what to do but he followed as best he could. H e went home a little disappointed that he had not seen some of the things that he had read about in Scripture. So he went back the following Sunday and the Sunday after that hoping that he would see some of the things he had read about. Finally one Sunday, at the door after service, he asked the clergy about not seeing some of the things that were in Scripture but that weren’t in the Church – where were the blind to receive their sight, the lame being made able to walk and the deaf to hear and the dead to rise he asked. The clergy responding by telling the man, “Oh we believe in these things very much. We love to hear all about them but we don’t do them here.” The Church never saw the man again.   

How does the world know that God is here and that God is acting in this world if the Church does act like it? Remember what we were told from Scripture, “Jesus saw her”. Jesus looked and encountered this woman in her deep grief, her protection from the ills and nastiness of society stripped away and her ability to care for herself driven away in her old age because of the loss of her only son. We know what Jesus would do – he moved to stop the tears. The question is, faced with the same kinds of circumstances, what would you do? The only way that the world is going to know that God is amongst us is if we begin to act like Christ; to in some foolish sense dare to stop the tears and raise the head and get the eyes of those we encounter to look for the presence of the Saviour.

And do we know where people are hurting? Needing? Crying? Where can we move to, not only to find them, but to bring the presence of God into those moments, into those places and spaces where we can pray and be an answer to prayer as God sees fit. Jesus moved to bind up the broken hearted.  He acts to give the mother her son back. It did not depend on her faith or how the young man had lived his life. In this particular instance Jesus chose to act and to restore not just one life but two.

So at the beginning of this long, green season, let us remind ourselves and those around us that “God has visited and is redeeming his people and has raised up a mighty salvation for us in the house of his servant David”. Let‘s go and make it known that God has remembered his promises to us and is fulfilling them so that we know he is near. And let’s do so in Jesus name.