Saturday, 28 November 2015

Advent 1 Malachi 3v1-6, Luke 21:25-36

What are you waiting for?

The prophets speaks of a messenger who will prepare for the coming of the Christ, a prophet who will deliver the people, make the way straight.

Like the rest of the church throughout the world we are waiting, because that is what Advent means-waiting/coming. It is a time of preparation, of waiting for Christ's coming. The preparation is a spiritual one. It’s a good time to be in church.

The story of the angel Gabriel coming to Zechariah speaks of preparation for such a deliverance through the birth of a baby, who will be a prophet. Someone who will begin to build the upside down kingdom and restore values to society. John the Baptist was someone who would be set aside to speak truth into a society that had lost its way. He would turn people back to God and restore families. Hope to the Hopeless! We desperately need such people.

How many of us have given up hope. Good news. We have stopped praying for miracles, for healing both physical and emotional, for healing of broken painful relationships, for change. How many of us face seemingly difficult and hopeless situations at this Advent time? Situations that perhaps only you know of, and yet the message of God to us is one of hope whatever our situation.

Hope comes to us in unexpected ways, when we least expect it, in a dream, or in a moment of inspiration, through a friend, or even someone we dislike. God uses surprising people as a vehicle of hope. We may feel the presence of God suddenly, feel peace and strength and realize that God is with us in all things and especially in the crisis we face.

There can be nothing better than to hear words of hope. An infertility broken. A diagnosis wrong. A wrong forgiven. A brokenness mended. New possibilities imagined. Hope of a better world, hope of peace between Muslim and Christian, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Nigeria. Hope born of years in prison, or of a death for a dream. Of such things others maybe have much to teach us.

This Christmas there will be no hope in the noisy shopping rituals and the exchange of presents if there is not also a humbling, a waiting, a vulnerability, to Christ’s coming again, the perspective of God with us-Immanuel, can change us, forever, completely. For many of us we need to feel the brush of angels wings and the whisper of hope this Advent, this waiting time. Today this message challenges us to live lives according to gospel values rather than those of the consumer capitalism that surrounds us. God given hope is not optimism, or sentimentality, based on ignorance or naivite. It is based quite simply in a trust in God. The God who brings light into darkness. and speaks to us. Prepare the Way! For Christ is coming again. Will we hear him, will we see him, will we receive him this Christmastime?

The Christmas festival is symbolized by light, a light shining in darkness and the coming of hope. The story of the coming of Christ is a vehicle, a carrier of hope for us all to feed our spirits and our imaginations. We like the church throughout the world, are waiting for the coming Christ. The message of hope runs like a golden thread through the story of Gods people focused on the hope of the Messiah, the one who will come to deliver the people. We need to spiritually and then in word and deeds Prepare the Way.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Pentecost 23, Mark 12:28-34-Remembering Love

We are remembering this month those who have died on All Hallows Eve-the dead, on Bonfire Night- a man who tried to blow up parliament because of the persecution of Catholics at the time and on Remembrance Sunday-those we have lost in two wars that devastated this country and much of the world.

The gospel story in Mark is also about remembering. In this passage we are reminded to:

To love God-and walk with humility on this earth.

Love our neighbor-to respect all life as equal so we care for our neighbor as ourselves (Syrian refugees)

Love yourself- to respect yourself and let no one put you down because of who you are!

We recall earlier clashes with the scribes and the Pharisees about commandments. They are always trying to catch him out-legalists.

Jesus is quoting from the Jewish Shema in Deuteronomy 6v4. He adds Leviticus 19v18 a text about neighbourliness, which was original. This was new rabbinic teaching. Heaven must be shown on earth. The text in Leviticus is about not exploiting people, the weak and the poor (tax credits debate).
This includes leaving food in the fields for the poor
Not stealing, dealing falsely or profaning God
Not oppressing your neighbor, exploiting your employees, discriminating against the disabled
Not being unjust, slandering someone
The scribe however is only partially there, he understands but he is part of an elite a system that did not practice justice. How near is this to our own situation today?
Jesus in answering this man has silenced them and in turn challenged the temple cult and the uncaring capitalists of its day.

The man who asks Jesus the question “What is the greatest commandment?” has been watching Jesus. He is a scribe, one of the ruling religious elite. He is told he is "thoughtful" and has been not far from the kingdom. The story shows that the scribes had forgotten what is important and needed to be reminded of that.

And we must love our neighbour! Loving our neighbour means acting with compassion. Neighbour in Hebrew means fellow citizen or friend. Love even extends to the foreigner and traveler within our gates, our country. (Asylum seekers, migrants) This is no easy task and many people feel anything but love to their neighbours and foreigners. But this is what Jesus calls us to do. Love, pray even for our enemies! It’s hard.

Psychologically it would be difficult for a person to love others if you don't first love yourself! You have to love yourself! Jesus reminds them of that too.
So Jesus reminds his hearers that the heart of God’s Law (the commandments) is to love and be loved. 




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