Friday, 13 September 2019

Luke 14v7-14 Pentecost 12

The passage today is about humility. It is one of the many attributes that those of us who follow Jesus should emulate. But the passage goes on to talk about generosity, compassion and social justice. 

The setting for the story is a dinner party. Earlier in the passage jesus has helaed someone who is sick so its not an ordinary dinner party! The Pharisees have criticised Jesus for healing the man on the Sabbath, the holy day. How ridiculous we might say! The religious authorities don’t care that Jesus has healed somebody but care he has broken their laws about the Sabbath. This is legalism at its best. The next two stories are about humility which should be a characteristic we exhibit! Sadly most Jews at the time were more interested in status than humility. Are we the same? Do we just invite our friends and family to our parties? Gods way is different. 

So the seat of honour is next to the person who has given the party. People often use such events to benefit themselves in some way. Its similar to the way we approach God. Do we come with humility before God? Do we understand what we are dealing with? Don’t show yourself up by assuming that you are the most important guest. It could be embarrassing. Honour at that time was determined by age too! So tsit where you are least noticed! If you promote yourself you will fall! And God will cause it! Whereas if you are humble God will raise you up. So we are reminded of the beattitudes in Matthew 5v5. “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth” and the Magnificat Luke 1v52; “ He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and exalted the lowly”. So this is not a one off passage it is a theme of Gods attitude and actions. 

It's easy to invite a friend for dinner, but not so easy to invite someone like the beggar. And the unclean man wont invite you back!  But God will repay it. Generous hospitality toward the stranger fulfils the law and secures a person's righteous standing in the sight of God. At the resurrection of the righteous (Dan.12:2-3) we will be judged like sheep and goats and receive blessing or cursing, the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous.

Humility is just one of the spiritual fruits of being a Christian. In the letter to the Galatians Paul writes: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (5:22, 23).

But how do we naturally exhibit these fruits of the Spirit? By grounding our life in three actions. Firstly by reading and absorbing the Bible, especially the gospels. Really understanding the importance of Jesus teaching, so it becomes part of us. (read Mark, note the commands of Jesus: Mark 1v15.) Secondly by praying, on your own or with others, out loud or in silence. Thirdly by meeting with other followers of Jesus so you can encourage and support one another in your Christian journey. Nobody said our journey would be easy or linear. Only age is linear! Our life journey will have ups and downs and to have Gods peace we need to stand apart, to take stock, to listen to God. 

Everyone at a gym are all united in one aim, to get fitter, and they come often and they do get fitter. In our churches we need to have the same attitude. To be like Jesus we have to learn humility and generosity. We need to soak ourselves in Gods priorities by reading the gospels and praying for others and we need to help one another, encourage one another. We need to practice radical love not just for our family and friends but for strangers. This is what being a Christian is about. We are not called to be a holy huddle but to practice what Jesus taught us or our words are meaningless. 


Friday, 16 August 2019

Good Samaritan Luke 10


Luke is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. So today the homeless, the refugees, the desperately poor would fit into this category. Jesus has entered Samaritan territory we are told in Luke 9v52 and so we get the story of The “Good” Samaritan. The "going down" expresses movement from a high place to a low place, the low place being Jericho. The road drops 3,300 feet in 17 miles and was notorious for its hazards!

The priest does not stop because of a fear of the robbers, or fear of defilement from a corpse.
A Levite came up to him, quite close, and passed on.
A Samaritan, who was travelling when he saw him he took pity on him attended to his wounds. Oil was used on wounds as a liniment, while wine (alcohol) was used as an antiseptic.
Then he put the man on his own donkey took the man to the inn, staying the night with him to care for him and paid for his ongoing care the next day. As a neighbour, the Samaritan did everything he could The next day he gave money to the innkeeper to look after him.
When I return (like Jesus will) I will reimburse you any extra. 
Who seems to you of the three to have become neighbourly to the one who fell into the robbers?
Go and do likewise.  

The lawyer when asked by Jesus recognizes that the Samaritan has acted properly (but he can’t bring himself to say the word Samaritan.) The lawyer must see behind the Law, laws to love. Even non-Jews who demonstrate this kind of love can enter the kingdom. Salvation?

The story invites the question can a Samaritan be good? Its like today “Can a Muslim be good? Can a migrant be good?

Jesus is approached by a legal expert in Biblical law who asks what a person must do to gain eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer/theologian what he thinks the scriptures say. The theologian gives the answer, "love God, love your neighbor." Jesus replies "Indeed, do this and you will live." Yet, here lies the problem, doing God's law is no easy matter, and it does help if our neighbour belongs to a group of people we like/our group. So, the theologian asks Jesus "who is my neighbour?" Jesus doesn't actually answer the theologian's question (my neighbour is even my enemy), rather he illustrates in a parable what it means to love "your neighbour as yourself".
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus confronts the expert in the law with the simple fact that eternal life is not secured by righteousness, by doing good. 
The point we learn, is not who deserves to be cared for but rather the demand to become a person who treats everyone encountered - however frightening, alien, naked or defenceless - with compassion. We must take the same risks with our life and possessions that the Samaritan did.

Religious Jews (the legalists) of the day believed that by obedience to the law they were able to perfect their standing before God and thus guarantee their place in the kingdom. This religious Jew did not need a legal definition for "neighbour", he needed to act in a neighbourly way (with mercy) to inherit eternal life. The problem was he had never loved at the Samaritan and loved him. Therefore, he stood under the condemnation of God and was in dire need of divine mercy. Jesus deliberately shocks the lawyer by forcing him to consider the possibility that a foreigner might know more about the love of God than a devout Jew blinded by preoccupation with petty rules.
Elsewhere in the gospels Jesus states this summary of the law, here it comes from a Jewish expert on the law and Jesus agrees with it. The law is idealistic and beyond even the most faithful person of God. 

Jesus illustrates what it means to love "your neighbour as yourself", what it means to be neighbourly. 

Jesus' extension of the obligation to love even our enemies gives it new, radical perspective.  Our Christian faith calls us to the love of the Samaritan. 

Luke emphasizes that Christ came for all: all sectors of society, all peoples, and both sexes. Samaritans, despised by Jews, are welcome in the Kingdom. The lawyer has learnt that his love should be for everyone; if it is, he has eternal life.

God can be experienced in barren, inhospitable places or circumstances. God can speak in any situation.

We need to rediscover the Samaritans theology of kindness. This is wisdom to plan for the stranger. The theology of kindness creates a welcome environment , practical hospitality  and signs we care. Gospel kindness feeds us physically or spiritually. True welcoming is more interested in the needs of the stranger.  It’s entertaining angels unawares.



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