Monday, 4 June 2018

Pentecost 2 Mark 2v23-3.6


Jesus’ ministry after the wilderness experience invokes conflict. Our lives are full of conflict. Todays gospel reading is one example of many that illustrate the conflict that he endures. 

Marks gospel is like a manifesto. It is about good news, a good news that is subversive to the powers that be, whether religious or political.

Jesus gets the good news from God
Mark gets the good news from Jesus
Readers get the good news from Mark

The life of discipleship entails conflict.

Mark’s gospel is about repentance and resistance, repentance from all that which prevents us from living as God wants us to live and resistance to the powers and principalities the ideologies that set out to thwart ours and Gods task, namely to build Gods kingdom on earth. It is a call to justice to compassion and liberation. For the religious aristocracy or the sign seekers he has nothing.

Marks gospel is a call to discipleship

Jesus and his disciples were hungry as many people in first century Palestine were at the time. Constantly hungry.

They eat the grain from the corns in a field and were criticised by the Pharisees. Pharisees were the legalists, the nit pickers who decided what you could and couldn’t do as a Jew. Jesus basically tells them not to be so silly, if you are hungry of course you must eat and pick grain, even on Gods holy day, Saturday for the Jews, Friday for Muslims and Sundays for Christians. Jesus was also concerned with feeding people. So this passage and the next is about Sabbath observance and the holiness code. 

We may think this passage is just first century nonsense but we face such nonsense today too. In the last few weeks I heard of a Christian leader who said that he believed that in theory women could be church leaders, but he had never encountered a woman who is good enough. This church belongs to a group of churches called New Frontiers, who actually subscribe to the view women that should not be church leaders. So it’s a law in these churches that they adhere to. 

This brings us to a fundamental principle. Jesus taught us that the only laws we should obey are to love God, love our neighbour and love ourselves. The Holy Trinity of the greatest commandments. That does not mean as some teach that we only love Christians or only give foreign aid to Christians as some Christian NGOs believe or we only help migrants or asylum seekers who are Christians. 

So we are given a principle to apply to all the situations we encounter. Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself. 

The next story has him healing a man’s hand on the sabbath, again interpreted as a violation of Jewish holiness code. Jesus says in response to the nit pickers is it better to save life or to kill on the Sabbath? The word used for his anger here means he was incandescent with anger! They had lost the plot, but they then set out to kill him. This religious group who held power at the time caused Jesus death. 

Pharisees taught the Law of Moses, with an emphasis on minutia or what scholars have called insect law/nit picking. The Jewish Halakah. 
Could the same be said of us? Are we hypocrites? Do we nit pick and ignore Jesus two commandments to love one another and love God? 

The Pharisees were puffed up with their own importance. They did things so they looked good. They were insincere. Hypocrites. Whitewashed sepulches! Empty graves! They loved to be greeted with respect.
 
Managing conflict is a sign of maturity. It can also be an increasing sign of separation. As a Christian on our journey without a shadow of a doubt we will not grow until we learn to accept conflict and trouble as part of life’s journey. There is nothing worse than seeing how we consistently avoid conflict through wheeling and dealing and compromising ourselves. We mature as we face it and those we look to for advice are surely those who in the face of adversity have matured and wisened. Unless you can face conflict people can buy you!!!


So in our lives, what do we need to front? If your going to be a Christian there's going to be conflict.Our mandate is to give life and not to kill. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me …to proclaim release to the captives”

Pentecost Acts 2v1-13



The word "Spirit" is from the Latin spiritus meaning "breath". In the Old testament word Spirit in Hebrew is  רוּחַ (ruach). In the language Jesus spoke Aramaic it is rûacḥ. The Greek translation of the Old Testament and New Testament it is πνεῦμα (pneuma). 
The term, "Holy Ghost", comes from Old English translations of spiritus.
It is like a power that can take possession of you, with spiritual manifestations like healings and prophecies. Gods Spirit is immanent in the universe, and in us as our soul and life-giving energy. 
In Hebrew it literally means literally means "spirit of the holiness" or "spirit of the holy place". 
It is the Spirit who gives the followers of Jesus spiritual gifts, that transformed the disciples from a cowering group to be dynamic messengers of the Christian faith. 
But how do we receive the Spirit? The Holy Spirit is present with us from the moment we choose to turn to God, usually when we realize the limit of our own resources and shortcomings. There are times when we experience anointings of Gods Spirit and we can ask God to send his Spirit to help us. 

Without the Spirit we are like members of a voluntary group. It is the Spirit that marks us out, inspires us and gives us that 5th dimension. It is the Spirit that gives life to the churches and without it we are like hollow shells (white anted).
 
The Holy Spirit is like Gods breath in our lives. It can be gentle or drive us to do something new, something different. Acts 2.
The Holy Spirit is like a fire! It’s like a furnace that purifies us and rids us of impure presence in our lives. Isaiah 6. 
With Gods Spirit in our lives we turn away from what is destructive in our lives (Gal 5v19-21).
It manifests in our lives through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). We become at peace with ourselves, God and others.


"One night I was working at one of the clubs we ran in the West-End and I hit this guy with my knuckleduster, but when I hit him he fell straight back and smashed his head on the curb. I could see blood everywhere and people around started screaming, so I left the scene and I remember being in my car on the way home thinking, ‘I could get ten years for this.’ Slowly it came to me that I might have just killed someone and I don’t even care. I used to care I used to want to make a difference but here I was just taking and destroying everyone around me. The only person I cared about was myself and I didn’t think that would ever change.

I came home and I heard a voice speaking to me in my heart, it is a voice we all know, our conscience, God within us. Up to his point, I felt God was just a nice little story to keep us from being bad, but now I was faced with the fact that God was real and it didn’t matter what I thought.
Though I was never aware of God’s love or presence in my life up to this point, in one moment I felt Him withdraw Himself from me. People say that separation from God is hell, well if that was hell I pray that no one ever goes there because it was the most terrifying experience in my life. I had people put guns to my head, I had been stabbed but this was terrifying because I was fully aware of the choices I had made. I cried out to God for another chance not because I was sorry, but because I did not want to stay in the desolation I was experiencing. Right then I felt lifted up, I walked out of my flat and said the first prayer I had ever said in my life. I said, ‘Up to now all I have done is taken from you God, now I want to give.’ As I said that prayer that emptiness within my heart which the drugs, power and relationships could not satisfy was filled with the love of God. I could not believe God could love someone like me with all the terrible things I had done, but He kept showing me that He loved me and accepted me. All throughout my life I had felt useless and it didn’t matter if I lived or died, but God showed me that it did matter because He loved me and created me". (John Pridmore) 
That was the Spirit!
So pray for the Spirit as individuals and as churches. We need it!

1. We need to grow together in love.
2. To support one another to turn away from what is destructive
3. To lean on God and pray so we Gods presence in our lives. 

"If you believe and I believe and we together pray the Holy Spirit must come down and set Gods people free..." African hymn

Let us pray together for Gods Spirit, in our own lives and the life of the church and in our communities. 



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Dust and Ashes by Brian Wren

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