Friday, 30 November 2018

Advent 1 Luke 21:25-38

In this strange passage from Luke’s gospel we have the signs of the end and the coming again of Jesus. It’s a very strange text for Advent. 

Having spoken of the destruction of Jerusalem, the disciples ask Jesus "when will this be and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" Jerusalem was surrounded by armies." Jesus goes on to outline the signs of dreadful portents and persecution, and then identifies the sign that heralds the end. 
There will be the shaking of the powers of heaven, v25-26;
The coming of the Son of Man v27.
Saying, v28:"when these things begin to take place .... your redemption is drawing near."
Parable, v29-31:The parable of the fig tree;
Saying, v32-33:"this generation will certainly not pass away until ......... my words will never pass away."
Saying v34-35:"that day will close on you suddenly like a trap"
Saying v36:"be always on the watch, and pray."
The back ground of the passage is Daniel 7:13. Jesus will come back. 
The destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem happened in  AD 68-70 so it occurred in the generation of those hearing Jesus words. The prophets used such imagery of judgement on Israel’s enemies but Jesus has turned it on its head and applied it to Israel itself. 

The nations will be distressed. The seas will be distressed, a possible illusion to global warming.  (The Jewish people then feared the power of the sea). People will faint with fear and panic.  Even the stars will appear to shake. 

So then Jesus alludes to Daniel 7:13-14 and the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus, God, the Ancient of Days. Gods kingdom will come. And this coming heralds the end times. And he comes with his angels, just as at his birth, and the people of the earth will be gathered together. 

 So when these things take place, stand up, look up, your deliverance is near and you will soon be free,  

Then we get the parable of the fig tree. As new sprouts on the fig tree tell us that summer is near, so the presence of these signs tell us that God's eternal reign is upon us. The early Christians witnessed Jerusalem surrounded by armies and they knew well that the end of the restored kingdom of Israel was at hand. History tells us that the believers fled Jerusalem before its destruction by Rome in 70AD. These same signs will herald the end of our age and the realization of the kingdom of heaven. Let us pray that we too will be able to read the signs in that day. So, read the evident signs and don't be caught out.

This is a teaching parable, a lesson from nature. when they sprout leavesyou can see for yourselvesthat summer is nearWhen you see these things happening, Gods kingdom is near. (Mark uses the phrase “at the door”).

Now the symbol of the fig tree coming into leave is a sign of Gods coming blessing (Joel 2v22). So Jesus emphasis was to direct the hearers to the blessing that was the coming salvation. The fig tree is spindly and looks dead in the winter so it is easy to notice the sudden change to growth with the green shoots ( I know Ive got one!) . The dead fig tree is suddenly green and has life. The winter is over and summer has come. A new season has begun. 

In the same way God will give signs of change if we watch. What signs of new life can you see? What signs, green shoots of change? What possibilities of a new season, hope. Light in darkness? 
So be careful that you are not weighed down with the anxieties of life because that day will come suddenly. it will come upon all of us, everyone in the whole earth.

So be always on the watch, alwayspraying, 

We are living in a time of darkness, a time of waiting for the light but don’t get used to the darkness because better times are coming. Look out for them.  
And in the meantime, be the light in the darkness yourself in your lives and light up your corner of Gods world. 

(with thanks to Bryan Finlayson and Joachim Jeremias)

Friday, 6 July 2018

Pentecost 7 Mark 6v1-13 Healing, homes, hospitality

If we change just a few small things in our life on a regular basis we can make 
a difference to our own lives, other peoples and the planet. For example if we 
take one bus a month instead of using the car we would save one billion car 
journeys and two million tons of co2 every year. 

Or walking even five minutes a day increases your heart rate from 70 to 100 
beats this is good for our heart. Also walking lubricates our joints and reduces 
stiffness, and it reduces our blood pressure. The more we walk the healthier 
we will be. 

Life is complex so we have to work out what is of vital importance. One man 
decided it was flossing his teeth. If he did that every day he was happy! 

This passage is about what was vital for Jesus task on earth. 

There is growing trouble after the raising of Jairus’s daughter. 
Jesus leaves Capernaum to preach in the villages of Galilee and begins 
twenty-five miles away in his hometown of Nazareth. At first his teaching in 
the synagogue astounds them (a Mark word!) but they cannot forget that 
though he is a good teacher now, and popular, he grew up with them and was 
a carpenter like his father. There is a shift of mood as Jesus' ministry begins 
to deepen. 

So Jesus left his hometown Nazareth, with a group of disciples. When the 
Sabbath came he began to teach. In the early part of Jesus' ministry he went 
to the local synagogue and was invited to speak. Most people were amazed. 
This amazement quickly becomes rejection and unbelief. They become 
scandalised by his teaching. "Where did this man get these things? Does his 
wisdom and miracles come from God or Satan?" There are references to 
Jesus brothers and sisters and his mother Mary, and then to his father Joseph 
and his own trade, a carpenter-builder. They are local. They are suspicious of 
him. Jesus is insulted by the crowd, his neighbours. He is only Mary’s son, 
perhaps indication Joseph was dead or that he was illegitimate; A carpenter, 
whose mother, brothers and sisters we know. The brothers are named. The
sisters are not. 

So they refused to believe in him and his teaching. "A prophet is not without 
honour except in his own country." Would you accept someone you knew 
from childhood telling you how to live your life! 

Even Jesus had limitations and could not do anything there except heal a few 
people by laying hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. So he
changed his strategy! And we need to hear this! Because the churches need 
to change their strategy. He left the synagogues and moved to the villages. 
Tis was the last time he went to his hometown Nazareth or to the synagogue. 
He called twelve of his inner circle of disciples and sent them out in pairs to 
give the good news, taking a walking stick, no bread, no bag, and no money 
in their pockets. "Wear sandals, but only take only the clothes you are 
wearing", he told them. "When you enter a house, stay there until you leave 
that town. 

If the people in a certain place refuse to welcome you or listen to you, leave 
that place. Shake its dust off your feet as a warning to them." 
So he regroups his and apprentice disciples are sent out to exorcise demons 
and heal the sick. What an apprenticeship! 

So the disciples went out. They encountered many people disturbed with 
demons and put oil on many sick people and healed them. 

Despite failure Jesus and the disciples had regrouped to continue their 
mission. What a message to the churches today. Despite apparent failure we 
must regroup and continue the mission of Jesus. 

The disciples were completely dependent on being housed and fed by people 
in the villages they were visiting. A model of hospitality. No salary, no houses, 
just hospitality. It is expected they will be rejected by some people. Its 
inherent in their mission that there will be rejection. 

They are to take just a walking stick and their sandals. Sandals are a logo of 
discipleship in Mark. So it is houses and villages that are the basis for
mission, not the synagogue or the church. 

So maybe we need to look at our model. 
1. Maybe we need to focus on healing more 
2. Maybe we need to focus on homes more 
3. Maybe we need to focus on hospitality more 

Like other daily habits these habits of healing, homes and hospitality could 
change the church. 
Discipleship consists of calling/naming/sending. 
Discipleship depends on hospitality for sustenance-we could be entertaining 
angels unawares 



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