Thursday, 15 July 2010

Come Unto Me

Thursday 15 July 2010 Holy Communion at St Giles

Gospel Matthew 11

28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."


Must be one of shortest gospel readings in lectionary. 3 short verses. Comes at end of chapter full of failure and woe.

Chapter 11 follows long passage of teaching. Given to disciples by Jesus. Mission of 12 (last week) followed by persecutions to come. Discipleship has cost – Jesus has come to bring not peace but a sword. Will set family members against each other. But despite cost, we should have no fear. Anyone who acknowledges Jesus will be acknowledged by him in heaven.

Then comes news from John the Baptist in prison. He asks what’s going on? What he hears being done does not sound like what he thinks a Messiah should be doing.

John hoped his mission of condemning sin and demanding repentance would be adopted. But it wasn’t. There is a theme of rejection.

Woe to this generation who rejected Jesus. They are likened to a group of children who did not dance when John and Jesus played the pipes. John called for mourning and repentance. Jesus invited them to rejoice. But they would not.

The OT prophets were rejected. The next words are those of disappointment. The Scribes and Pharisees opposed him in Capernaum. Jesus was laughed at by the crowd in his adopted home village.

So he moves on from John the Baptist who looked and sounded like the OT prophets. Jesus widened his scope after his rejection by the chosen people. He thanks God that what has been hidden from the wise and intelligent has been revealed to infants. Us.

So all this talk of rejection and disappointment can be left behind. And here we reach today’s gospel reading. It is full of encouragement for us. It is so short, I’ll read it again.

28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Amen

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Carol Doyle


You can follow Carol’s progress in Tumaini by reading her blog:

Click here to open a new window on Carol's Blog

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The ‘Good’ Samaritan

Sunday 10.00 St Giles Cheddington

Gospel Luke 10.25-37

An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


  • Good Samaritan
    • Second most well known story in gospels
    • After Prodigal Son
      • Both unique to Luke
  • Jesus rejected by Samaritan village
    • John & James – call fire down on them?
    • Hated enemies for centuries – Samaritan never called Good
  • Encounter with Lawyer.
    • Lawyer asks question about salvation – Jesus responds with another question – ‘Haven’t you read your Bible?’
      • He says yes - Love God and neighbour. Jesus: do that and you will live.
    • Lawyer then follows up with point of clarification – that’s what lawyers do.
      • By asking “Who is my Neighbour?” lawyer seeks to restrict gospel.
    • No Jew would ever class a Samaritan as neighbour
    • No help need ever be given to the enemy.
      • But the gospel cannot be limited or confined within a set of rules
  • Many people have interpreted exchange between Jesus and Lawyer as antagonistic – not necessarily. But lawyer is testing Jesus.
    • Wants to be made right with God.
    • Feels, somehow, Law is not enough
  • Lawyer is respectful – called Jesus Teacher – has genuine question about Jesus’ teaching and how it fits within the Law
    • Jesus himself is immersed in the Law – has not come to abolish it – extends it by making it simpler and easier to understand
  • We criticise Lawyer for presumption – no one can inherit eternal life – only a son can inherit – even then only by grace – free gift of his father
    • In seeking to justify himself – sounds like self-righteousness – sounds like he believes we can earn salvation by what we do – in context of Law means he wants to set himself right with God.
  • Having answered with questions – Jesus now tells a story – Tale of Righteous Neighbour
    • Story goes from bad to worse – we know nothing about the man who was attacked – ignored by both authority figures, priest and Levite
    • Shocking to hearers when third man appears – a Samaritan
      • Sharp intake of breath – all parables shock, exaggerate and surprise – no way a Samaritan could be Good
      • Not bare help – exaggerated sacrificial generosity
  • Sounds like a simple story with a meaning – but what is the meaning?
    • Our neighbour is the one we least expect?
    • We should sacrificially care for those most unlike us – downtrodden, marginalised, rejected, helpless – put ourselves out for our worst enemies and those who hate us?
    • Those in positions of authority and power – set themselves up as examples to others – least likely to offer Christian compassion?
  • All of these and more? There is no one message from a parable – each of us derive our own teaching which may vary every time we hear the story.
  • Let me invite you to become part of story in order to try and appreciate what it means for you. How listener enters a parable story determines its meaning for them. Pick a character and think how you would react:
    • Man half-dead – last week in Regent Street – cyclist on ground – no sign of injury or any vehicle close by – I walked by – then looked back to see someone calling on mobile phone. But I first walked by. How would that feel from perspective of man if he had been mugged and seriously injured and saw me step over him and walk on?
    • Priest and Levite – would put themselves in danger if stopped – might be defiled if dead – could not see his dress – passed by on other side – how does that feel? Lawyer would not be surprised they did not help
    • Samaritan – inexplicably stopped to help – sacrificial, costly, great personal risk – lifted body onto horse – might not be accepted at Jewish inn – would have suspected his motives – just a good man?
  • Parable not really about who is my neighbour? – they are all the injured man’s neighbour, and he is theirs – just because Samaritan stopped to help does not make him more the man’s neighbour than those who passed by
    • Maybe we should all hear the story as a beaten up and dying person in need of life-saving compassion – then model our lives according to what we learned
    • Maybe we should model ourselves as someone who ourselves has been abused and homeless – act accordingly when we see someone in need
    • Injured man is only character in story with no identity, no name, no origin, no place.
      Only when the righteous neighbour comes along and offers life saving mercy does his ‘otherness’ cease – only then does he become a person with an identity – only then is he really a neighbour because of what the righteous man has offered him, common humanity
    • All the other characters can offer – Priest, Levite – are excuses
  • Jesus’ final remark – punchline Go and do thou likewise – can only be understood once you appreciate what it is to be a righteous neighbour
    • Now no longer a definition within the Law – now we must interpret Christ’s command as outside the Law – purely Christian response – not counting the cost – not identifying with the person in need before helping
    • Go and do thou likewise parallels first reply - do this and you will live – by answering the question ‘do what?’ Who is my neighbour? – the ‘other’ - the despised - the rejected - the marginalised – the one in whom we see Christ’s own face

This is what was going on in Matthew 25 :
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Mission of the 70

I have called you by name – you are mine!

Reading Galatians 6.(1-6)7-16

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Gospel Luke 10.1-11,16-20

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’

“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”


When I was taking A-levels – parents moved house – left me with elderly neighbours as lodger to finish studies. Not well off – served heart, offal, hard grisly stewed meat, bread and dripping, dumplings, and lots of green veg. I tried refusal – met with stern lecture – not about starving peoples of world, but courtesy to woman who had cooked the meal – about politeness and hospitality.

Once asked to reflect on deprivations of mission of 70 or 72. 70 just means many.

· Risks on road (bandits)

· No money or possessions (cannot be robbed)

· Depending on hospitality of strangers

· Not being welcomed

· Not being able to choose travelling partner

Or was it – eat whatever is set before you?

Hospitality in Cheddington means reciprocating – you ask someone to dinner – you expect to be asked in return. Society works that way. Mission of 70 is more about dependence on others rather than hospitality.

· Jesus dined regularly

· Never gave a dinner party

· Always a guest

· Someone else provided and prepared – even at Last Supper

· No returning the favour – Jesus graced meal by his very presence

Paul writing to Galatians – sharing good things with others – carry each other’s burdens – reaping what you sow – doing good to all people. Vision of the Reign or Kingdom of God – also described in mission of 70.

What is this Kingdom, and when does it come about? NIV: Kingdom of God is near. NRSV: Kingdom of God has come near to you. Confusing.

Does near mean near in time or near in location? Is it temporal or spacial?

1. Time - If they had welcomed the gospel, would they join the mission effort and inherit the Kingdom now, or at some point in future?

2. Location - Have those who rejected mission of 70 missed out on something that they would have seen and experienced here and now had they accepted the good news?

We don’t know. Church teaches Kingdom is a partial reality – we can glimpse and be part of it now – but will not come in all its fullness until end of time.

A clue is how 70 received by Jesus on return. They did experience many wonderful things. They were able to do in name of Jesus what they did not have power to accomplish of themselves alone. So something had changed for them.

But – warned by Jesus not to trumpet and boast in what happens on earth – but look forward to Kingdom in heaven where their names are written down.

Reminds me of favourite verse Isaiah 43:1 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. How special when we meet someone to be called by our name – we are individual, recognised as a person not just someone we meet. How special to be called by our names, and to belong to God.

How do we belong? In what capacity are we members of Kingdom of Heaven? We are workers, with Christ, in harvest of souls. Jesus told the 70: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

For us in church – it’s important to note the 70 were sent ahead of Jesus. He sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Did not revisit places he had already gone to.

So it is with the church – body of Christ. We are preaching return of Jesus Christ in the future. We are, by our lives mainly but sometimes by our words, to announce the present and future reality of Kingdom. In this we are not alone. Not from our own resources. We only have to ask Lord of the harvest to send workers who will join us in mission – for the harvest is plentiful, but we the workers are few.

There’s a lot of worry about mission. Will our message be welcomed? Will we be shunned, side-lined or ignored? Much of the concern is allayed by two things:

1. We must not rely on ourselves, but ask for God’s help in others

2. Most of the time, our words are not needed or even welcome. This is not evangelism as we understand it, but living in Christ by example, so that as we yearn to be more like him, this will be apparent to others.

This passage is a continuation of our gospel readings from Luke that extend through to October. Jesus has turned his face towards Jerusalem. He has seen his destiny, and will not be diverted from it even though he knows what it means.

This same Jesus invites us to walk with him. He is not hiding the difficulties. He tells the 70 they are like lambs in the midst of a wolf pack. He does not hide the dangers, but promises to be with us and to call us by name.

We are to help bring God’s reign nearer. So let us ask him for workers to join us in the harvest, and join the mission of the many in bringing it about – not only in the future, but now in its partial reality. Amen