We are each, singly, a testament to our maker.
Friday, 13 August 2010
Thursday 12 August 2010 – Holy Communion at St Giles
Reading Ezekiel 12
The Exile Symbolized
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.
3 "Therefore, son of man, pack your belongings for exile and in the daytime, as they watch, set out and go from where you are to another place. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house. 4 During the daytime, while they watch, bring out your belongings packed for exile. Then in the evening, while they are watching, go out like those who go into exile. 5 While they watch, dig through the wall and take your belongings out through it. 6 Put them on your shoulder as they are watching and carry them out at dusk. Cover your face so that you cannot see the land, for I have made you a sign to the house of Israel."
7 So I did as I was commanded. During the day I brought out my things packed for exile. Then in the evening I dug through the wall with my hands. I took my belongings out at dusk, carrying them on my shoulders while they watched.
8 In the morning the word of the LORD came to me: 9 "Son of man, did not that rebellious house of Israel ask you, 'What are you doing?'
10 "Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This prophecy concerns the prince in Jerusalem and the whole house of Israel who are there.' 11 Say to them, 'I am a sign to you.'
"As I have done, so it will be done to them. They will go into exile as captives.
12 "The prince among them will put his things on his shoulder at dusk and leave, and a hole will be dug in the wall for him to go through. He will cover his face so that he cannot see the land.
Gospel Matthew 18
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27 The servant's master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart."
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.
Rev – Tom Hollander played Mr Collins in Pride & Prejudice – like playing clergy – suggested and co-wrote Rev. Everything exaggerated. Things happen fast. Each episode took a theme – evangelical take-over – parents trying to get children into C of E schools – the position of clergy in the community etc.
Comedy is like that. Things are out of all proportion – larger than life – exaggerated to make a point. That way, it is memorable.
It’s the same with parables. This one started with a simple question. Someone had upset Peter. He had forgiven them. Then they had done the same again, and again. What should be do? How many times was he expected to forgive?
7 is a magic number. 7 times? No – Jesus says. Seventy times 7 – or 77 times - the Greek can be translated either way. That’s very different from the Law in Leviticus, where after a few tries at reconciliation the whole community would end up excommunicating a recalcitrant sinner.
But Jesus’ story is memorable because it is so unbelievable. To forgive 77 times is a huge number. It’s the same as saying you always forgive, and keep on forgiving with no time limit.
The King, in the story is God. He writes off an enormous loan of 10,000 gold talents. An inconceivable amount. An impossible sum lent to a servant. Those who heard the tale would laugh out loud in disbelief.
The point of the parable is that God freely, recklessly and endlessly forgives, however huge the sins, regardless of their magnitude and how long they are repeated.
Our debtors are nothing by comparison. A few hundred silver coins – a substantial sum, but nothing like 10,000 bags of gold. It’s all told to illustrate the teaching, and to ensure we remember it. God forgives recklessly through his grace. We must do likewise – again, and again and again.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
This is the first of our August services when we join with Wing and Wingrave. The service included the baptism of Oliver Ireson.
Reading Colossians 3.1-11
Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Gospel Luke 12.13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”
May be coincidence – two passages on same theme.
Colossians – set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Then later – as if Paul wanted to reinforce his message: Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Then in Luke 12: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”
Paul’s emphasis is on Judgement. You died, he says, with Christ. So turn away from earthly things, and rid yourselves of the sins of this world. Take off your old self and put on your new self which is being renewed in the image of its Creator.
Like the Emperor’s New Clothes. Except, far from parading naked, the new garments are the image of God.
Gospel passage also about lure of worldly things but also about self-reliance and its futility when today you live but tomorrow you may die and sometime soon you will die. ‘You can’t take it with you’ as the saying goes.
This parable can make us feel guilty, when we have so much and so many people in the world have so little. We all have possessions, and have to provide for our futures if we are not to be a burden to others. But story not about money itself but love of money, overreliance on wealth, caring too much for possessions. About what riches really are – rich towards God and not in eyes of bank.
Parable starts with an argument between two brothers. In Judaism, inheritance goes to older brother – not usually split. Younger brother complains, and asks Jesus to rule against the Law in his favour.
Jesus refuses, and accuses him of greed. A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Then Jesus tells them a story.
Story well-known. Farmer has many good harvests. Pulls barns down – builds bigger ones. Stashes possessions and relaxes. Eat, drink and be merry. But the moral of the story is that very night he dies. Has put himself right with the world. Has not put himself right with God.
Story is called ‘The Rich Fool’ – that’s what he is. His emphasis is on himself. My goods. My grain. My barns.
He relies on himself and his good fortune. Things material rather than things eternal. There’s a comparison here between Faith and Personal possessions. Which do you rely on? Material reliance is seductive. It feels good to have no money worries, but scrooges tend to feather their own nests and ignore the very real needs of others.
Nothing wrong with money. It’s what you do with it, and how much it means to you that may be wrong.
Today we baptize baby Oliver, and invite his parents and godparents to give him a start on his journey of faith. We welcome him into the body of Christ – the church – as we welcomed his brother William and his mum Claire last September.
Maybe he will be a rich man one day. Maybe not. But we want to prepare him for his decision, when he is old enough to make it, to walk that narrow road of faith – that is where his true wealth lies. Amen.