Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How has the word of God taken hold of you?

Have you ever reflected on the power of a “word”? And no I do not mean a single word but rather word that is a statement. For example, have you ever said to someone, “Get out!” or “hide!” or even “Now!” wanting to protect them from harm or consequences of something that you know to be dangerous, possibly even deadly for them?

Jesus stops in this week’s Gospel (Matthew 13.1-23) to reflect on the nature of the kingdom of heaven and the power of the word that is being preached across the region by him and his disciples. Some are expressing joy at seeing all the things that are happening: people are being healed, given their sight, their hearing, their ability to walk. There are people being freed from evil and people who were not in the community that are now in the community. They are even working on raising the dead! Jesus and the disciples are making other people aware of the nearness and the presence of the kingdom of God. People of the world are coming to know that we have a heavenly Father, and that this is his world.

A word about parables: gives us a chance to see and understand who God is – in this particular parable it might be that God could be seen as ”a lousy farmer” – who would broadcast his seed into places that are not prepared to receive it and prove to unproductive. He does watch to make sure that the seed doesn’t go to places it cannot produce the fruit of what has been planted. It goes everywhere – the path where everyone in the house walks, into the thrones and bushes, and onto the shallow ground where it has no root.

But the parable does not consider the nature of the farmer beyond the fact that the Farmer gets the perfectly good seed to the land. The Parable actually points to the ground, and how the ground responds to the seed – and the people to the word of the kingdom. Those who don’t respond are choked out by different things. Some people are unable to receive because evil steals the word before it can take root.  Some have insufficient roots to withstand the test of faith. Other people are snarled up by the cares, changes and chances of this life while yet others are drawn inextricably to wealth and fame.

God sends his word and it does not return to him null and void but accomplishes that for which it was sent. The word of the Lord endures forever. It is a word of promise to his people who are cut off and far away from their homeland and think they are never going home again. They believe that God had been beaten and that they are by consequence, forsaken. Therefore God sends his word to his people. It is a word of promise that the bonds of affection will be renewed, that they will return and that they have not been forsaken. A “word” is sent forth to cause both action and a change in circumstance both personally and corporately.

In a Christian context this means that we need to deal with the things that will choke us out. We need to get our priorities sorted and deal with the sin in our lives. We do this by being in Christ. This does not mean that we have more faith in Christ but rather at we are in him and he in us.  It means that through baptism we have died with him and have been raised with him to live his risen life. It means that we leave behind the old life with its structures, its sin and death. We leave it behind to discover that we are living his life – the gift of an eternal life in freedom and in service to him. We are not ruled any longer but sin and death – we are truly alive in Christ.

So ask yourself this week, “How has the word of God taken a hold of me?” Consider how have the roots of your life in Christ taken hold of you, shaped you and strengthened you? The word is not just words – it is an experience too! After all the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  So go! And in the going make disciples!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Engaging our city and our culture with the Faith of our fathers

I remember once being in a discussion group with a bunch of my peers. All of us were teenagers and there may have been one or two 20 somethings in the mix. We were at a Provincial AYM youth conference discussing one of our favourite topics – how to be Christians in a non Christian world. There was a young lady in this group that said something that I will never forget: “I would rather be known for what I am and be alone,” she said, “than be known for what I am not and be lonely.” I was reminded of this statement this week when I went to read Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 11.16-30).

I will confess that it both enrages and saddens me that the lectionary removes what Jesus has to say about communities that reject the messenger and the message that would bring so much to the community. It is as if the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary believe that everyone will be fine and safe because, in the end, God won’t reject anybody. Jesus died and everybody gets saved... the problem with that is that is does not square with the overall message of Scripture. God in the Old Testament rejected Israel and punished them with exile and the loss of the Promised Land. And as I read it, it was a lack of respect for God and a willingness to listen and do as directed through the judges and prophets that lead to the situation of exile in Babylon. Do we really think that God will not discipline the Church in the same kinds of ways?

This brings me back to the young lady and her statement. We have a proclivity as human beings to make religion about what we can believe and prove. We burden each other with things like proof rather than calling on each other to reach out in faith. There is a reality in the Christian faith. Proof is not faith nor is rule keeping a sign of salvation. Faith displays the truth. Faith reveals the truth. People look at each other through their own lenses, passing judgement without the facts and try to shape their beliefs to benefit themselves rather than working on their relationship with God and neighbour. People in need do not need to be told that they are need. They are in search of the fulfillment of the need. People need answers and response to their needs – God is willing to engage our city and our society in real and meaningful ways... but is the Church ready?

Faith is meant to open people’s ears and give people their sight where God is concerned. The Church has made mistakes and has fallen into error in working out its ways in mission. The greatest mistake is to think that we can be a better Church by looking and sounding like the world with its life and regulations than trying with everything we have and are to live the life that God has called us to.

We need to trade burdens with Christ. We were not designed or destined to carry the weight of the world, but rather to carry the weight of the cruciformed life. We are made to live a live that is moving towards the glory of God, to know and to be in his presence. We need to seek his face, together in hope, alone if necessary. It is time that we looked for God’s handiwork in our society and joined him. It is time that we live our Master’s life and enter fully into the incarnation. Let us respond to the call of the kingdom and participate.