Sunday, 22 June 2008

Threat and Promise

Pentecost 6 year A Sermon 08
by the Rev Peter Marshall
Our readings today spoke about threat and promise: The danger and the temptations when we strive to live out our human lives, and the hopes that we have .
In Genesis 21 we read of the threat to Abraham and Sarah – that they would remain childless. But to them had been the promise that they would be the founders of a new nation who would become as numberless as the grains of sand upon the seashore.
Let us see how this theme of threat and promise works for Abraham and Sarah? Earlier in the book of Genesis, in Ch 16, we read how Sarah brought her Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, to her husband, Abraham, to become his second wife, with the suggestion that perhaps through Hagar the longed for heir could be born. And so it came to pass. Hagar the slave girl gave birth to a boy child. His name was to be Ishmael – which means “God hears”
But then Sarah herself surprisingly becomes pregnant and gives birth to Isaac. Isaac and Ishmael grow up together. At about three year’s of age, the age when nomadic children were weaned, Abraham prepares a great feast as a celebration. But Sarah sees the two boys, Ishmael and Isaac, playing together. She is angry and jealous. Ishmael is the older boy. “I will not have this slave girl’s son sharing the inheritance with my son” . “Drive them out into the wilderness” And a compliant Abraham agrees. He gives Hagar some food, a skin full of water, sets the child upon Hagar’s shoulder, and sends her away. Mother and child wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the food and water were all gone, Hagar lay the child in the shade of a bush, and walked away, saying, “ How can I watch the child die?” Still weeping, she hears a voice, “Do not be afraid, Hagar, God has heard your child crying. Get up, pick up your child, and hold him in your arms, because I will make of him a great nation” Hagar opened her eyes, and she saw a well full of water, and she gave her child water to drink. God was with the child and he grew to manhood and lived in the wilderness of Paran.
Threat and promise. The threat of childlessness. The threat of a lonely death in the desert. But a promise fulfilled in the birth of the boy Isaac. But also a promise fulfilled in the child Ishmael, because it is through Ishmael that all people of the Moslem faith, trace their ancestry back Abraham, the founding father for Jew, Christian and Moslem.

Now let us turn to see what Jesus has to say about threat and promise, about fear and faithfulness, about the present and the future. Jesus’ words to his disciples are disturbing. He warns about trials, sufferings, betrayals. “I send you out as sheep among wolves”. He said. He talks of disruptions in family relationships, of persecutions and physical violence. He says, “If the master has been called Beelzebub – the Devil – how much more his household” In other words, if you are prepared to be my followers, can you expect to be treated differently from the way I am treated?
We may think that these words are a far cry from our existence here in New Zealand. But I’m not so sure. At the end of March, this year, the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services published a programme entitled “Let us Look After Each Other” The Council is made up of representatives from the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army Churches.
The programme advocates support for families and communities in nurturing and protecting our children, providing older people with a range of choices for their homes, support and lifestyle, enabling access to good and affordable housing for everyone, using our nation’s prosperity responsibly to eliminate poverty.
The programme met with a mixed reception. Some politicians approved of it. Some preferred not to comment.
But the New Zealand Herald, in an editorial, condemned the report. The editorial, entitled “ Church call to go backwards for seventeen years”, claims that the report seeks to gear our economy to the circumstances of the most vulnerable members of society.
Of course, one way to discredit people who hold different views is to use smear tactics. So the Herald went on “The 20th century saw experiments with severely egalitarian economies in the form of communism,
and they were not pleasant societies.
Another way to dismiss your opponents is to portray them as na├»ve and uninformed. So the Herald says “To focus public policy on improving the life of the most vulnerable in our society, would be a recipe for general poverty” “It sounds too much like the parable of the Good Shepherd – which the Church leaders perhaps take too literally” Well there we are! The Herald is a more reliable interpreter of the Gospel than the leaders of the combined Churches! The Herald’s editorial concludes with this gem of wisdom,” If we want to be a successful global player we must accept the fact of poverty at the margins of a competitive economy”

That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “ You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth, I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”. So long as there are newspapers, spokespeople, or commentators offering these opinions , then these opinions must be confronted. If I am to be a follower of the author of the parable of the Good Shepherd, then I must use every ounce of knowledge, of understanding, and of faith to refute them.
This is where the real threats to our world lie. Not in individual acts of violence, not in the misbehaviour of ill-disciplined youth. The real threat to our world lies in the crass greedy individualism that grasps wealth, authority, and an uncaring affluence that cares nothing for the wellbeing of other humans , or even for the earth itself.

What does Jesus have to say about promise?
First, Jesus says, Do not fear. Don’t be afraid because the beginnings of the Kingdom seem frail and insubstantial. What begins quietly and in secret, in the end will be proclaimed from the housetops
And do not fear those who kill the body, for they cannot kill the soul. If God cares about the sparrows, will he not care about his sons and daughters? That is God’s promise. Jesus invites us to take up our cross and walk in his footsteps. “Whoever loses his life for my sake, will gain it.

A fortnight ago, Diane’s “Thought for the Day” consisted of some words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, of course, was executed in a concentration camp in the last days of World War 11. The threat to Bonhoeffer was final. How did he understand the promise? This is what he said.
“The world is not overcome through destruction, but through reconciliation. Not ideals, nor programmes, nor conscience, nor duty, nor responsibility. Only God’s perfect love can encounter the world and overcome it.
Nor is this some universal idea of love. Rather it is the love of God in Jesus Christ, a love genuinely lived, that does this.
That was the promise by which Bonhoeffer lived.
And it was the promise by which he died
A promise that can light our way into the future,
whose light can never be extinguished.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Getting our feet dirty


Pentecost 5 year A Sermon Matthew 9:35 - 10:2; 5-23

Did you hear Jesus encouragement
Keep going... don’t give up... there are so many who need to hear the good news... so many...
who are harassed and helpless...
so many who need healing.

Last week our Presbyterian Moderator, Pamela Tankersley... encouraged our church... reminding us of Jeremiah’s instructions to the Jews in exile...
to go out from their insulated cultural community and seek the welfare of the whole city of Babylon

Now most of us haven’t been forced to move here...
as they were, but still the word from God is the same.
Seek the welfare of the place to which you’ve been sent. And most of are not native to Wanaka.

For thousands of years... God’s been sending his people to new places... starting with Abraham and Sarah...continuing with the exiles in Babylon... Encouraging them to... bring shalom – to bring peace with justice and mercy and compassion... wherever they find themselves... I think today’s gospel story is a continuation of that sending out....

Word slide
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

Jesus was on a mission to all the villages in Judea...
and what was his response to the people he found?

Word slide
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. But there was only so much one person could do...so

Slide words
Jesus reported to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few...
there are so many who are harassed and helpless... and God needs people who can work with them... people with compassion

so Jesus tells his disciples to pray ....so
Slide words
“...ask the Lord of the harvest... to send out
labourers into his harvest."

And I guess they did pray as Jesus asked...
that God would send lots of people to go out to get their feet dirty ..But then uh oh... praying’s not enough....and Jesus tells his own followers...
to go out and do it... and he...

Slide words
gave them authority over unclean spirits,
to cast them out, and to cure every disease
and every sickness.


The work Jesus is sending them out to do...
was important ...because in those days among devout Jews... anything unclean... had the effect of separating people from community... anything unclean had to be kept away from the pious and religious...
the unclean were untouchable... whether spiritual or physical...anything scary and weird... anything that disfigured or disabled ...the mind, or the body or relationships with others. [pause]

Blank slide
But what is God’s word in this for us today?
What unclean spirits make people harassed and helpless...
here in our community...where do we find dis-ease and sickness? Just for a minute... try to name some of these in discussion with your neighbour. [Discussion and response]

And did you notice... Jesus gave them specific instructions... to concentrate on people in their own community first...
Slide words
"Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather... to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel.”

There’s a need among those who are like you...Jesus is saying...don’t think God’s work as just in foreign lands...
or among atheists and pagans. Your first mission...
is among the harassed and helpless in your own community. [pause]

And for Jesus’ disciples this meant the scribes and the Pharisees... the carpenters fishermen and shepherd and their families.



For us it might be engineers...builders...entrepreneurs ... real estate agents...shopkeepers...high school students ... families with toddlers and teenagers... doctors physiotherapists and chiropractors... teachers...and retired golfers... skiers and snowboarders.

And Jesus said...Slide words
“As you go, proclaim the good news,
'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'”

Tell people that God’s reign is breaking in right here
wherever compassion and healing are happening whenever unclean spirits are cast out and people are restored to community.

When these things happen... God’s kingdom is near ... not Caesars...not Herod’s... God’s kingdom is near... not the kingdom of greed and power... not the forces that tear marriages apart and ruin young people’s lives...

God’s kingdom is near... where compassion and healing and restoration to community are the rule so
Slide words
‘Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers,
cast out demons.’

Jesus is encouraging these guys he’s recruited off fishing boats: This work isn’t just for specialists...
I’m sending you out to do it...When you’re doing this work ...you’re bringing the kingdom of heaven on earth.
[pause]
When you are doing this work...
you are bringing the kingdom of heaven on earth.

And forget all about payback...
Slide words
‘You received without payment; so give without payment.’

You are now operating in the realm of grace. So
Slide words
‘Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,
no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, or sandals, or a staff - for labourers deserve their food.’

But what if there’s not enough...I can imagine them saying... what if we run out of money...or food...
Hey Jesus is saying...there is no place for that kind of fear in this work... because there’s so much to do! God will provide what is necessary...

God will provide what is necessary...

And what’s more Jesus says...I want you to find worthy allies... wherever you go...
Slide words
‘Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it... is worthy, and stay there until you leave. ‘

And isn’t that interesting...Clearly Jesus followers are going to find people who are worthy who hadn’t yet heard the good news and don’t already know Jesus!!! People who are already cooperating...
with the Kingdom of God...
living within its boundaries... already...

And Jesus is saying... Make these people your allies and your base of operation...people interested in compassion and mercy... will welcome you...
and those who aren’t... well just

slide words
‘...shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.’

Don’t waste your time judging those who reject God’s message of love and choose to live without compassion and mercy for their neighbours...
they’ll be accountable for their choices...
to the only one with authority to judge.

And Jesus warns them...there are dangers and risks involved... in bringing the kingdom of God near...
to the helpless and harassed. You’ll run into people...
with a real stake... in keeping people harassed and helpless...and they’re not just working for the Romans...

Slide words
“See, I’m sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves...so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ Keep your wits about you...you’ll need to be street smart...but don’t be corrupted yourselves. And be careful out there...because you will be persecuted and betrayed... because of your connection with me.

Slide words
‘Beware of them... for they’ll hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;
and you’ll will be dragged before governors and kings... because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.’ [pause]

I wonder if Judas remembered these words... on the night he betrayed Jesus...I wonder if Peter... recalled this warning after Jesus arrest...when he denied knowing him. Betrayal... Jesus warns them... is one of the pitfalls of this work. And as he prepares them to carry out his work in the world...little did they know... that Jesus hiself would endure all those things... long before they ever did. And

Slide words
‘When they hand you over, don’t worry about how you’re to speak or what you’re to say; for what you say will be given to you at that time; for it’s not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’

In fact those you call brothers and sisters will be out for your blood...
Slide words
‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you’ll be hated by all because of my name.’

Slide words
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The one who endures to the end...will be saved.

Salvation comes for the one who endures and won’t retaliate...the one who forgives their enemies...
and loves them...for they know not what they do... [pause]

Blank slide
Today in Matthew’s gospel story...
Jesus encourages and equips his followers...
and sends them out...

2000 years later this call is remains a key part of what it means to follow Jesus...every time we gather as his disciples... the word of God is broken...
and shared among us... and we are sent out...
to get our feet dirty in his name...
in service to the harassed and the helpless around us

sent out with the authority... to cast out every evil... ...that separates people from God...
from others and even from themselves...

Sent out to carry the good news that there is a God who loves them... and a healing community to which to belong...sent out to proclaim the kingdom of heaven... has come near.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Christ centred, Community facing

Pentecost 4 year A Sermon
The Right Reverend Pamela Tankersley
Moderator of the General Assembly

Hebrew Scripture: Jeremiah 29:1 &4-14
Gospel: Luke 4: 14-30

The story read for us today is a beautifully crafted one.

The narrator sets the context: Jesus, after his baptism in the river Jordan and having been led into a time of testing in the wilderness, returns to Galilee begin his ministry. We hear that empowered by God’s Spirit, he has been doing wonderful things: healing the sick, exorcising demons, preaching and teaching. It seems he sets up house in Capernaum – which is at the North of Lake Galilee.

Perhaps there is a sort of rivalry between Capernaum and his hometown Nazareth?

And now he is returning to Nazareth – which is over to the west of Lake Galilee, and is of course the town where his folks are. He is returning home. Can you imaging the talk, the gossip? The locals, in such a time of highly oral communication will have heard that he is coming. Some will be sceptical, some excited, some curious, some with high expectations.

What’s the language?

O I knew him as a little boy, you know…
Did you hear about the man he cured of leprosy…
The stories about him can’t really be true…
I wonder if he will do anything marvellous here…
I hear the powers that be aren’t impressed…

But now its time of the Sabbath, and here is Jesus in the Nazareth Synagogue (as was his custom, the text tells us.)
Let’s pause a moment to consider who else is there.
Can you imagine it?
Perhaps it is important for us to note who is NOT there.

The women – archaeology has shown us a separate place for the women to observe the proceedings
The children – until they were about 12 and admitted to the Temple they would probably have been with the women
The Gentiles - though there may have been around a few “God-fearers” as they were known, such as the Centurion we hear about in later stories.
And also – the ill, especially with those diseases known to be communicable or to be a sign that God had cursed the recipient, such as ‘leprosy’
And some occupations deemed the worker unclean, for instance tax-collectors and shepherds.

So the scene is set up with INSIDERS and OUTSIDERS: those inside the synagogue – the men - and those outside the synagogue - all the others, probably able to observe what is happening.

Jesus, as an itinerant preacher, comes inside and sits down, as is the custom. The attendant goes to the structure on the wall that holds the scrolls and takes the Scripture for the day for Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus has chosen this one, but we assume it just happens to be the reading for the day: we know it as Isaiah 65.

The effect is probably electric. Is their a text from scripture that speaks to you and your community with particular poignancy? This reading is THE favourite for all Jews –it is the announcement of Jubilee.

He reads: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, to release the captives and to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Then Jesus says quite calmly. Today this reading has come true in your midst.
Wow!! They are stunned.

Jubilee is HERE in our midst, and through this Jesus - who is one of us! The text says they marvelled at his gracious words and all eyes were turned to him. We might say, “you could have heard a pin drop.”

The significance is not lost on them: for all Jews believed the Jubilee was a promise of God to them, who had since the time of the exile known only oppression and captivity. In the immediate context they longed for freedom from Roman occupation and demands. They are looking for a political saviour.

I guess after the pause there was quite a buzz!

The sceptics are gone: isn’t this Mary and Joseph’s son?
But Jesus, always perceptive, speaks into their excitement:

I know what you are saying – why don’t you do for us what you did in Capernaum? And you will quote to me the proverb, “Doctor heal yourself.”
In other words, begin with your own people: “yourself” is “us” Charity begins at home. In this inaugural story, Luke has put Jesus firmly on the inside, at the centre of his own community.

But…says Jesus (and is there a pause?)… but I tell you a prophet is not to be found in the inside of any institution, a prophet is not accepted there.
And in Jewish fashion, he tells two stories of famous prophets Elijah and Elisha;
Elijah who saved the widow of Zarephthath in Sidon – in Phoenicia, not in Israel, and Elisha who cured a Syrian, not a Jew.

Both these prophets go to the outsiders and not to the insiders….

And we read “When all who were in the Synagogue heard this they were filled with rage!”

Can we wonder? Jesus has rejected their prior claim on his Godly power to enact Jubilee, and declared it was for outsiders!

But do you wonder how those who were not in the synagogue heard this? The “impure”? the women, the gentiles, the outcasts?

So they hustle and try to throw him over the cliff – and the stones would have followed, but his time was not right and he walked through the crowd and on his way to be with the outsiders. Luke, of all the Gospel writers, records how Jesus was found with those on the margins of society, a prophet on a path of confrontation with the Insiders.

Now let us turn to another prophet: Jeremiah, a prophet of Judah.

You will remember that in the 6th century BCE, Jerusalem of Judah was laid to waste by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The destruction of Jerusalem meant the destruction of the Temple -and of the Holy of Holies where the Arc of the covenant was to be found. So in this destruction, the people of Judah, whose theology was entirely temple-oriented, must have felt that not only was their state, their city and their Temple destroyed, but also their God.

Nebuchadnezzar was very astute: he took as exiles to Babylon all who might be able to rebuild Jerusalem: the artisans who might rebuild Jerusalem physically, the Kings and captains who could rebuild it politically, and the priests who could rebuild it spiritually. We know how these exiles felt: we hear their lament in Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and we wept when we remembered Zion. How shall we song the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

It is to these lamenting people that Jeremiah writes a letter (as we heard in Jeremiah 29). In effect he says this is how you shall sing the Lord’s song: Build house and live in them, plant gardens and eat the fruit form them, marry and have children and marry you children to that they might have children, increase in number and do not decrease.

And then he says the words that I think are helpful for us a church that is “exile” in many ways The Lord says ‘Seek the shalom of the city into which I have sent you (I use the word shalom, which is the original Hebrew word mostly translated as welfare or peace, but it is more than any of these words) and pray for its shalom, for in its shalom, you will find your own.’
There is a sense in which Jeremiah is saying; work through your lament, build up community here, and love your enemies, go beyond your own circle of insiders and work for the good, the shalom of all, including the outsiders. God (who has not deserted you in the destruction of Jerusalem) has SENT you here for a purpose, and is not about to rescue you. And then comes the lovely words of Jeremiah 29:11, which many of us have found a personal source of inspiration, but which in their original context are to a community of people in exile; “For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans for your shalom and not for destruction, to give you a future with hope.”


Jeremiah is prophesying that the renewal of God’s people will come after a long time and it will come about as they seek the shalom of the people beyond their own circle, where God has place them. Is this not consistent with the message of our first scripture passage for today?

So what might we conclude from the two stories?

Well, it’s clear we are called to be outward facing, to seek the shalom of our communities –here in Wanaka and Hawea and its surrounds - to bring reconciliation and mercy, justice and compassion here for our neighbours, for insiders and outsiders, continuously drawing the circle wider.

Perhaps we need to give away our exclusive claim to Jesus and see him wherever Jubilee values of compassion, justice making and peace are celebrated, and give away the power innate in holding Jesus, being prepared to risk that those who do not yet know him might find him in settings other than our church. We need to recognise that we are called to be in partnership with the community, with other shalom seekers, and see all that we have as tools for Christ’s mission.

For in these words, in this fragile place where we find ourselves as the Christian Church in Aotearoa in the 21st century, we have a word of hope. As we face outwards in mission, as we are an incarnational church embodying Jesus in the world, God will be with us. Indeed, maybe we need to see that Christ is already there with the outsiders, calling us to join him.

I want to finish with an ancient Celtic quote – one that I found on the wall in a home for elderly people;

I sought my God my God I could not see
I sought my soul, my soul eluded me
I sought my neighbour and there I found all three.

My prayer for you is that as you seek your neighbour, in the way of Jesus, you will become truly Christ-centred and community-facing and you will know the hope and joy of being God’s people.

May God bless you today and always.

Amen.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The house built on rock


Pentecost 3 year A Sermon
Matthew 7:21-29

Only the house built on the rock will continue to stand.

People are rattled by Jesus... and you can understand why. Preaching on a mountain like Moses...this young man...
this Jesus is teaching...
with the authority of a great rabbi and prophet...
He’s laying out his yoke...his interpretation of scripture...
his understanding... of God’s will...

Not only is he preaching with inner authority...but in the grand finale...we just heard... of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount... there are warnings... too.
Two of them just before this passage:
Make sure you get through the gate – it’s not very wide.
And watch out for false prophets... because they can lead you off the path... entirely.

The third warning we heard just before... in today’s reading. A warning I’ve always found disturbing and confusing. Wondering if it was about me...when Jesus says

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
On that day...on the final Day of Judgment...many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord...did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name,
and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then... I will declare to them, 'I never knew you;
go away from me, you evildoers.'

Jesus seems to be saying ‘Don’t think because you’ve been tagging along with the crowd or throwing my name around or dealing in spiritual theatrics...
Don’t think these things reserve a seat for you in the in the kingdom of heaven...
because it’s more complicated than that...

Now I’ve always worried about these words...
but as I worked through this sermon...
I realised Jesus isn’t warning us about some random unpredictable mystery of salvation...some riddle we might never solve til it’s too late...
and we’ve already blown it...

No in these words... Jesus is summarising what he’s just been teaching about... in his Sermon on the Mount ...everything we need to know... about how to live as his followers in God’s kingdom ...in the kingdom of heaven... As opposed to other kingdoms we might choose to live in... like Herod’s or Caesar’s....or...
well you name the power...

Remember...in this sermon Jesus taught us to pray...
God’s kingdom come on earth...God’s will be done on earth... And what a relief...when we realise Jesus is referring back to the words of his sermon…
about how to live in the kingdom of heaven…
Blessed are the poor in spirit… for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the peacemakers ...the merciful...

Now at the end of his sermon,,, Jesus is warning...
These aren’t just nice words... this is critical stuff...
your choices matter...if you want to be part of the kingdom of heaven you have to do these words...
you have to do the will of my father. [pause]

Jesus isn’t talking about where we go when we die...
but about God’s dimension in this present moment...
where God is right now... where people steer their earthly lives according to Gods will...revealed in Jesus words.

These are the people who on that day...on the final day of judgment... will be known by Jesus... recognised by Jesus...because they spent their lives... in the kingdom with him...people living day to day...
hour by hour ...moment by moment...
by the standards and purposes of Heaven.


Now if we panic and say... ‘but how do we know what these standards are?’ We ignore what Jesus has just been preaching about...it’s all been laid out... there on the mountain top...
and what’s more... Jesus reassure us... that

Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them... will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

Now to really understand what Jesus is getting at... we have to hear his words...with the ears of those... first century Jews... sitting around listening to him.

You see...just down the road about 130 K’s
King Herod is busy rebuilding the Temple...
restoring the Temple to its former glory...
as a symbol of Israel’s status as a chosen people.
They talked about it as God’s house... built on real Jerusalem rock... resistant to natural or human storms...

And guess what...when we fast forward through Matthews gospel... Jesus promises...
that Peter’s confession of faith... will form the rock... on which another house will be built... a new Israel...a new community that believes in him... a house that listens to Jesus’ words and...and does his father’s will.


Fast forward even further... to his last sermon in Matthew... and Jesus is predicting...
the Temple built on the rock...will fall...

Biblical Scholar Tom Wright notices... that ‘Once we’re aware of this larger picture... we can see more clearly... what Matthew wants us to understand from his gospel...his version of the good news. It’s a message not simply for those who sat round Jesus on that mountain top...it’s a message for Matthew’s first century readers and for all of us:

When we build our lives on Jesus’ teaching...
we will be part of the house that lasts forever.

"The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it didn’t fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them... will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!"

Forty years later...Roman legions destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem...that house did not survive...

You see in his Sermon on the Mount...Jesus is claiming his authority...and the enduring nature of the house he would establish...a house that does the will of God. We can see this in his choice of words...

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

The word Matthew used the word we translate as Lord... is a respectful title in Greek...kurios: meaning... the one in supreme in authority, the controller; the Master.

So to say that Jesus is Lord... is not about speaking a magic charm... that gets us into heaven when we die...

To say that Jesus is Lord... means that for the one who says it...Jesus is the supreme authority...on God’s will. It is his yoke that insists we love our enemies rather than seek revenge...it is his yoke that prescribes a life of shalom making...of peace making...a life of mercy compassion and justice...

And not everyone is willing... to carry this yoke...
not because it’s heavy...but because it’s costly... because something may have to be sacrificed...
if we chose to carry it.

We might have to give up our dreams of...
victory over the Romans and live in peace with them live as though God loves them too...
even if they don’t know it.

You see if Jesus is the supreme authority...
if Jesus is Lord...then he’s the one who has the final say...on what scriptures mean...on how we should live every moment of our lives...he’s the one who is the Master...not just of what we believe...
but what we do.

In the end... all the signs and wonders...all the miracles and acts of power in the world... done in Jesus name... don’t mean we actually know him...

Accessing the spiritual dimension
and driving out demons using Jesus’ name...
doesn’t mean we know him...
unless we acknowledge his authority in all things...
in every moment...every encounter...
every relationship...every decision...

And yes it’s hard...and yes... when we recognise how costly it is... this makes us poor in spirit.
And yes only then...
do we realise we can’t live in the kingdom of heaven without knowing him...without the strength of the Spirit he sends

So in the week ahead can we ask ourselves...
as individuals... as families... and as a Church:

Who is the supreme authority... for our relationships and how we order our lives?

Are we content just to read and hear Jesus’ words...to think how fine they are...
or we willing to do them?

What kind of houses are we building...
as individuals as families and as a church?

It is my prayer that we will choose Jesus’ rock on which to build... for his house... endures forever...