Thursday, 6 July 2017

Pentecost 5 Matthew 11v20-30, Woes and Grenfell Tower

             

This passage in Matthew is a wake up call to the cities that failed to respond to Jesus 
ministry even though he performed miracles in them. Jesus condemns the unrepentant cities of Israel. Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. They have rejected all Jesus, his disciples and what he stood for so they are condemned. He them to Hades, a place of the dead. 

As Christians we must face the reality of rejection, the gospel, the good news of God will 
not find a place in many hearts –so ours is not a ministry of chasing numbers! 
We are not told how the mission of Jesus and the disciples has gone, but rejection was 
the norm throughout Galilee. (Can you believe it!) 

The people are weary with their situations. There is an acceptance of this, an acceptance of 
the weary, which is why Jesus tells them to lean on him. Are we weary? We need to lean on 
Jesus. There is an invitation to come to Jesus and lean on him, as though we were 
yoked with him like the double harness of cattle. He says his burden is light. . 

We have a body of wisdom in our sacred text the Old Testament. There are over two 
thousand references to the treatment of the poor and 200 explicit texts. In the books of the 
Law, the Torah, Yahweh/God is the protector and defender of the poor.
Exodus 22v21-22 reads “Do not mistreat a stranger or oppress him, for you were aliens in 
Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan”. 
The landowners were commanded to leave part of their crops for the poor in 
Deuteronomy 23v24-25. The Old Testament made sure poor people had means to earn a 
living. 
The prophets are even more explicit about the treatment of the poor.  Amos condemns not only the 
neighbouring countries but the Israelites themselves for 
1. Selling people into slavery and debt
 2. The oppression of the poor 
3. The abuse of poor women 
4. The exploitation of those in debt 
Amos 8v4-6 reads 
“Hear this you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 
…buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandles and selling the sweepings of 
the wheat.” 

The people in Grenfell Tower were mostly people of  colour apart from some disabled people in 
the top floors. Some were refugees and artists. 

Nobody in the 20th floor above survived. There were no sprinklers and only one stairwell down.and young children. Because of deregulation and subcontratcting no one knows who has died 
and how many. But the tenants are working it out.

Given the cladding and insulation encouraged the fire and was a result of cost cutting, serious 
questions of culpability will have to be answered by the council, government and 
contractors. 

More importantly the God we believe in and the man we follow has very serious things to say 
about the treatment of the vulnerable and so should we. As people of God we are commanded to care for the poor, if you don’t believe me, read your bible. 

Grenfell Tower is a blot on our landscape morally as well as physically. It is a blot on us and 
as people of God we have to realize that there are expectations that God and other people 
have of us . We need to get our house in order. 
And we need to do it quickly. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Luke 15v11-32, The Prodigal Son


In the parable of the Prodigal Son we are introduced to a farming family, a father and his two sons. The younger son decides to take his share of the property (about one third) and make his own way in the wide world of sex, drugs, rock-n-roll! The wayward son, now starving, has to undertake a job as a pig handler. He is so down on his luck he is willing to eat the pig slops to survive. He soon recognizes his sin, both against heaven/God and against his father.

The father welcomes his wayward son back into the family. The parable is not saying the father is, or represents, God, but the situation does illustrate the way God treats a repentant sinner. The father now rejoices because the "dead" son is "alive". The Jews called the ungodly "dead", but in the New Testament it applies to those who have not responded to the kingdom message (the gospel) and who therefore cannot share in the resurrection-life of Christ.

The elder brother's reaction is very bitter. He claims his father hasn't even given him a "young goat", a fairly worthless animal. Like the wayward son, the stay-at-home son is also lost, lost in himself.
In describing his wayward brother, the elder son calls him "this son of yours." His father describes him as "this brother of yours" - an interesting twist.
Irrespective of the elder brother's tantrum, the father does not withdraw his love from either son.
Repentance and forgiveness bring fellowship and joy, but sadly, to only one son.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of those stories which has a locked-in interpretation. The parable is often used to teach the truth that God welcomes the repentant sinner. The story of a loving, forgiving, accepting father, illustrates the way God treats those who turn to him for mercy. Indeed, this idea has a central place in the parable, but there is more.
As verses 1 and 2 show, the parable addresses the muttering of the Pharisees who cannot accept the way Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them." In the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, Jesus makes the point that God joyously accepts those who come to him in repentance. In fact, he actively seeks after them and rejoices "over one sinner who repents." Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the Prodigal Son so as to illustrate the way people respond to God's grace, his unlimited loving kindness. The wayward son repents and enters in to his father's joyous acceptance, but the righteous son stays aloof and so fails to experience his father's love.
So, some argue that the Parable is all about the elder son (the Pharisee, the self-righteous, rather than the younger prodigal son. It could be teaching us to accept the lost brother, the new convert, but rarely does a congregation not welcome a new convert. Some argue that it's all about welcoming the outcast, the poor, the oppressed within society and in the third world. For some the parable is all about forgiving and accepting a brother who has gone astray and may have hurt us in the process. 

In truth, this parable is all about the two sons. One son lost to his father in body, the other lost to his father in mind. Both had free access to the father's unlimited bounty, both needed to rely wholly on his kindness, but only one chose to do so, and this the worthless son. Reliance on the free grace of God in Jesus Christ is the only means of accessing the fullness of his promised blessings.  The rewards of eternity are wholly on the basis of God's freely given grace.

Compassion

Compassion
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