Monday, 24 October 2011

View from the Vicarage

November 2011 Village Newsletter

Behold – a Mystery. The Turn of the Screw…

…and not the one by Henry James

‘It’s a mystery’ said the plumber, and he wasn’t referring to his bill. ‘How did THAT get in there?’ For several weeks, the water in the vicarage had been making moaning noises. Alone in a big house, as nights draw in, the sounds were disconcerting to say the least. Then in the cloakroom, the water stopped running altogether. Armed with a screwdriver, I tapped a joint through the wall in the garage. Some water was restored, and the moaning disappeared. For the time being.

The diocese sent a tradesman. He drained the system and dismantled the limiter valve in a pipe. ‘Guess what it was?’ he asked. ‘Can’t’ I replied, as I tried not to lose my place in next week’s sermon. He showed me the limiter valve, and inside the pipe was a cross-headed screw. Moaning resolved. Water flowing freely again.

Here’s the mystery. How did a ¼” cross headed screw, now entombed in limescale, get into a pipe in the Vicarage garage, and when? We’ll never know. It’s a mystery. One of my favourite bits from Handel Messiah is A trumpet shall sound. It begins with a bass who sings Behold, I tell you a mystery. One of the prayers said during Holy Communion starts ‘Great is the mystery of faith.’ The response concerns the death and resurrection of Jesus.

You see, some things defy rational explanation. We talk about them with youth groups, at confirmation classes, and when tragedy strikes. Why did this happen? Why is the world the way it is? How can we have faith in what we are asked to believe?

I do find the word ‘mystery’ something of a comfort. I’m in the minority, I know. These days we expect not only chapter and verse, but live video and learned analysis too. Nothing defies explanation. Someone is responsible and must be held to account.

The trouble is, life is not like that. It seems to me that we can only scratch the surface of knowledge. We know more than we did, but much of our so-called ‘knowledge’ is mere speculation. Even the Big Bang theory is being abandoned in favour of something called Inflation, and heaven knows there’s enough of that already. And even the most erudite are unwilling to speculate on what occurred before whatever it was that went bang in the first place.

Now you might be the sort of person who sits worrying how a cross-headed screw might find its way into your plumbing, and whether there might be more of them lurking and ready to start moaning at dead of night. Me? It’s just a mystery, and will ever remain so.

Faith is a continuum. There is a big overlap between mystery and faith, whatever some people would have you believe. We all range along that continuum. Sometimes we are high in faith and low on mystery. Other times, we are doubting Thomas. That’s the mystery of faith.

The church, of course, can help with our struggle. Being a Christian separated from others is not impossible, but very hard. It’s like practising football alone. You look a little silly when the opposing team turns up. When young, we ask lots of questions, but look for certainty. When older, we ask less but are more willing to explore, to reflect, and to accept that much of what we don’t understand comes down to a matter of faith – it’s a mystery.

Robert Wright

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Division and Conflict

Gospel Luke 12. 49-53

When the Gospel is announced the reader says

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

Not Peace but Division

49 I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!

51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.

53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Fire and water – two most destructive elements. Paraffin on stove. Paper warehouse in Liverpool. Exploding incinerator. Water in house – leaking pipes, blocked gutters, flat roofs.

Yet here is Jesus talking of fire and water as desirable. He has come to bring fire on earth. How I wish it were already kindled he says. And about the baptism he will undergo how distressed I am until it is completed.

The baptism might of course be through water, but I suspect he is here referring to a baptism of fire. Does Jesus want to bring fire, division and conflict as this passage seems to imply? No – but what he is saying is that these things are a likely consequence of his life here on earth. Like us, whenever a painful and distressing experience lies in the future, we are keen to get it over with and not allow it to hang over our heads.

The words of today’s gospel reading were addressed to the disciples, not to the crowds or to religious authorities. So Jesus is reflecting on his own fate, and he is probably more prepared to be honest about his feelings in front of his friends, black though they are, than he would be in public.

I expect, like me, you will find it odd that Jesus speaks in this way, especially as all this talk about division and conflict runs counter to so much of what he preached about love, peace and harmony. But clearly Jesus was aware it was not love and peace that awaited him, nor will the end times and the last judgement be so for many. You only have to read Revelation and some of the apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament for that.

For Christians, persecution may come, but the baptism of fire is baptism by the Holy Spirit. And Jesus’ suffering and death brings about our own atonement, as we discovered last week, so that we may know pardon and peace both now and in the world to come. Amen

Friday, 14 October 2011

Nature of Prayer

Cheddington Sunday 9 October 2011

Trinity 16

First Reading Exodus 32.1-14

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold ear-rings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their ear-rings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Gospel Matthew 22.1-14

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.

All Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus spoke in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


A common worry – almost universal amongst Christians – nature of prayer. How to pray. What to say. Listening/speaking. What to expect by way of answer?

Promises in Scripture – whatever in my name I will give you. Mountains moved. Everyone who asks, receives. One who seeks, finds. Knock, door opened to you. You know the references. You’ve heard them often, and probably pondered them.

Did Jesus lie? One web site called Evil Bible is headed by that question. What should be a comfort and reassurance can become a major challenge to our faith. Often we face this question when we are most in need.

Children have a simpler faith – they believe the promises. This makes it harder when they pray for success in exams and feel badly let down if they fail. What to say to them? Your faith was deficient? You have to ask in my name. Two or three must gather together. God does not micro manage. etc

Is it a coincidence? – both readings about revelry and unworthiness with an implacable God as chief protagonist? Maybe – but we can learn a lot from both accounts.

There are several illustrations in NT of Kingdom of Heaven depicted as great feast. It’s clear from the start what the parables are about, and that God is represented by the King. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. Probably Jesus is referring to himself – like God’s servants the prophets, mistreated, abused and killed just for doing their duty and asking invited guests to the banquet.

Matthew’s account only one with this parable within a parable. Man who turns up not properly dressed. Point is not that he is poor, or cannot afford the proper attire. No – everyone else has the right clothes, even though they are rounded up from the streets. No – this man is unworthy. He has disqualified himself by his unpreparedness. God is implacable faced with abject sin and deliberate unrepentence. It’s too late now for the man to turn around. This is one picture of the final judgement.

Different picture of God altogether in Exodus. In OT you would expect to find a steadfast and wrathful deity, and a loving, forgiving one in Gospels. Seems to be wrong way round.

Moses has been absent 40 days and 40 nights. Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive “the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandments.” Before leaving, he told the elders to wait for him and said they should consult Aaron and Hur if there is a dispute.

There certainly was a dispute. The people gave up Moses for lost. Moses a determined and forthright leader. Aaron an appeaser. Moses would not compromise. Aaron went along with the people’s wishes. For a quiet life.

Prepared to misunderstand what the people wanted. Come, make us gods who will go before us. It’s clear the people were abandoning God of Israel as well as Moses. They declared the golden calf to be the gods who brought them up out of Egypt.

Aaron goes along with what they want, but declares tomorrow will be a feast day to the Lord. It’s the same word for God that Aaron and the people use. But for the people, gods is plural. For Aaron, God is singular.

Although the rebellion could not be much worse, how does God react to Moses’ pleas? At first, He threatens wipe out civilisation and start again, as he did in the Flood. Noah was the only trustworthy man and was saved. Likewise, only Moses will survive.

But Moses argues with God. He reasons. He debates. He uses the relationship with God that he has built up. A relationship of trust. Moses is not sycophantic. He challenges.

God relents – returns to his desire for salvation. Determines to engage more with the children of Israel, not just through Moses. Provides intermediaries. The Law. Books of Scripture – the Covenant, that the people can hear read to them. The tabernacle. The priesthood. No longer are they to be terrified by direct, powerful presence of God as they were by Mt Sinai. A better way is found for them to encounter God.

All this has been achieved through prayer. Moses interceded direct. God changed his mind. It’s an encouraging picture as we make our own intercessions to the Father. Whatever we ask of God in the name of Jesus, He will grant.

It was too late for the man who refused to wear his wedding garment. Or maybe had he repented even at that very last moment, he might have been saved. The King was not implacable. He tried again and again. Everyone was invited to the feast. They had many chances, but refused. They were undeserving. Even at the very last, they could have been rounded up from the streets. God invited both good and bad, it says. Only at the very last was anyone truly lost. Many called, but few chosen. Not exactly the portrayal of a hard hearted, implacable, unforgiving God. No – a Father who scans the horizon for his lost creation, then runs to greet him, kisses him and forgives his grave offences without even asking for any remorse or apology.

So this encourages us to try again and again in our prayer. Like the parables of the Unjust Steward and the Persistent Widow.

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.. Amen

Made Righteous through Faith

Cheddington Thursday13 October 2011 Midweek Communion

First Reading Romans 3

Righteousness Through Faith

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished

26 — he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,

30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.

31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Gospel Luke 11

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.

All Glory to you, O Lord.

47 Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.

48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.

49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.'

50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,

51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.

53 When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions,

54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Hard to overstate importance of this reading, both as a foundation text for the Reformation, but also as an aid to our understanding of what was accomplished by Jesus on the cross.

Paul starts by affirming that all have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness and glory of God. No works of the law can change this sorry state that we as humanity find ourselves in.

Yet God comes to our aid. Through the death of Jesus God accomplishes three things. He justifies, he redeems and he effects atonement. It would take too long to explore these three, but here’s a few thoughts.

Justification does not mean that God stamps ‘not guilty’ on our heavenly passport. Instead, God repairs the breach between humanity and God through his grace and the death of Jesus Christ. Justification means we are ‘made righteous’ not through anything we have done, but freely by the grace of God himself.

Secondly, redemption. Bonds can be redeemed. Slaves are redeemed. Glass bottles used to be redeemed – you took them to a recycling centre and got back a few pence for each one. Redemption is a liberation. It brings freedom, and ownership passes from one person to another. This is how God has redeemed us. Once we were slave to sin. Now we are free.

It’s not, I think, that Jesus had to die in order to redeem us. He did die, through the evil of wicked men, but still, that was the path God chose for our redemption.

Thirdly atonement. At-one-ment. A purely invented word to suit the purpose. Here we have the language of sacrifice. Like in the Old Testament when an animal was sacrificed. This is not a debt paid to an angry God. But through its action, we are made one again with the God from whom we were estranged through sin. We are at one again.

How this came about it’s hard for us to begin to grasp, and certainly too complex a notion for us to explore in a few minutes on a Thursday morning. It’s enough today for us to be thankful, as we join together in our communion with each other, and as we tell again the story of what God’s grave has done for us, freely, undeserved and abundantly.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

William Tyndale

Cheddington – midweek communion

Gospel Luke 11

When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

5And he said unto them, If any of you should have a friend, and should go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;

6For a friend of mine is come out of the way to me, and I have nothing to set before him?

7And he within should answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my servants are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give them to thee.

8I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he would rise and give him as many as he needeth.

9And I say unto you, Axe, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

10For every one that axeth receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh shall it be opened.

11If a son shall axe bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he axe a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?

12Or if he shall axe an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

13If ye then, which are evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall the Father of heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that desire it of him?

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Tyndale. Translator of the Scriptures. Reformation martyr 1536. Born Gloucestershire early 1490’s. Studied at Magdalen Oxford. Moved to Cambridge – exposed to influence of continental Reformation.

Ordained 1515. Brilliant linguist – worked for a time as a tutor in a college near Bristol. But fell foul of local clergy by preaching in public on College Green.

Intention – to make truths of Scriptures available to ordinary people in own language.. Wanted to produce plentiful copies at prices everyone could afford. In a dispute with local clergyman, he said “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.”

Started work on NT, but increasing clampdown on ‘heretics’ led to Tyndale crossing channel to Hamburg where he could work in greater safety. Travelled to Wittenberg 1524 – met Luther. But even in Europe he was not safe and kept moving on.

First translation published in 1525. 18,000 copies produced. Smuggled into England concealed in bales of cloth via Antwerp. Cat was out of the bag, but Tyndale still not safe.

Continued to work. Started OT, though only published Pentateuch and Jonah. Eventually betrayed and captured near Brussels. Imprisoned 16 months, before being strangled and burned at the stake on this day, October 6th in 1536.

Sadly, the official change in attitudes came too late for Tyndale. Miles Coverdale continued his work, and only a year later Tyndale + Coverdale published with official permission.

Today’s reading from Tyndale is almost word for word the same as the Authorised Version published in 1611. In fact, it is estimated 90% of the KJV is pure Tyndale. He was a master of beautiful language and economical choice of words – so his influence has not only been incalculable on Christianity in the world but on the English language itself.

It takes some explaining how Thomas More could be a saint, whereas Tyndale remains unrecognised, except by those who know and love him, and recognise his bravery and sacrifice for the sake of us all. A true martyr for the faith. Amen

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A New Contract

Trinity 15 – 2 October 2011 at St Giles

Gospel Matthew 21.33-46

When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus told a parable: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Most of us react badly to rules and regulations. Give us a set of rules, and we try to find ways round them. There’s a whole industry called tax avoidance, seeking ways to circumvent the rules, find legitimate ways to pay less, at least until the loophole is closed and a new one exploited.

Rules are negative. Tying us up in knots. Knots are like nots. They restrain. Hold us back. We strain to break free.

On the other hand, without rules society cannot function. That was the message of August’s riots. Faced by wholesale lawbreaking police are powerless. They can only meet force with force, which is usually counterproductive. Policing – indeed law itself depends for its success on consent, at least by the majority.

Is this the way the Israelites regarded the 10 Commandments? Would they have preferred to be free from rules? Wasn’t that what they had, before God’s law was handed down to them? I can’t compete with Charlton Heston, as he came down from the mountain surrounded by smoke and fire – wind blowing through his magnificent mane of hair – but I recall he encountered chaos not order, as the people revolted against God’s law and turned on their leaders thinking Moses would never return.

Life had not been good for the people since that celebration on the banks of the Sea of Reeds, after their escape from Pharaoh’s pursuing army. They had spent years testing God by their disobedient grumbling. They quarrelled with Moses. He was in despair. He has just about ‘had it’ with the people he was meant to lead from bondage into a land flowing with milk and honey. The people even longed to be back as cruelly oppressed slaves in Egypt, so short was their collective memory.

Against such a background, the 10 Commandments are not an oppressive set of rules but a revelation of freedom. God had a contract with the people. A covenant, as Scripture puts it. A contract means you have to behave in a certain way, but in return the other party has to fulfil their side of the bargain.

Already, in Exodus 19, God has told the people that if they agree to terms of the covenant, they will be for Him a treasured possession, a priestly kingdom and a holy nation (19:5-6). The 10 Commandments in chapter 20 specify how they are to behave. Hardly onerous, you may think, in return for such favourable treatment from God.

It comes down to this. Israel becomes a treasured possession for God in return for doing two things. Worshipping, loving, and honouring the One God; and treating each other and all creation with respect and consideration.

Most people would call that freedom, not oppression. But taken out of context – divorced from the contract – painted up on church walls by the altar – the 10 Commandments are reduced back to just a set of rules. And the Christian faith looks a lot less attractive to those outside.

Of course, the chief priests and elders didn’t see it that way. They challenged Jesus’ authority, and as he often did when faced with religious leaders, he told them a parable. The first was about two sons. The first was disobedient, then changed his mind. The second was obedient, but didn’t do what his father wanted.

If those challenging him didn’t get the message first time around, Jesus immediately told them another parable. This time it’s the Parable of the Tenants.

The parable begins with a situation that was business as usual in Roman-occupied Palestine. A landowner established a vineyard complete with a fence, a winepress, and even a watchtower. He then became an absentee landowner, returning to his own country as often happened in the far-flung territories of the Roman Empire.

Familiar territory to the chief priests and elders. They probably had vineyards of their own. They naturally thought the owner of the vineyard represented themselves. So they were outraged at the treatment meted out to their servants. They would not have sent in a second set of servants. They would certainly not have put their sons and heirs in harm’s way.

We, as Christians, see the parable very differently. God is the Owner. His servants are the Prophets. His Son is Jesus himself, who predicts his own death at their hands. Jesus is the stone the builders rejected, which becomes the cornerstone of God’s new order, his Kingdom.

The rules the tenants had to follow were hardly onerous. In fact, they were freedoms. They were given the freedom to run a beautiful vineyard. They only had to acknowledge its Creator, and give him his share of the harvest. That was the deal, but they couldn’t even do that.

We, of course, hope we represent the ‘other tenants’ to whom the vineyard is given. But we also have a contract. The Son is now in control of the vineyard.

If we fail, we ourselves could become like the old tenants and share their fate. They did not fail because of an argument about religious practices in the synagogue, but their collusion with the Roman empire, and their exploitation and abuse of their position as leaders of the people.

But are we pure in our dealings with the new covenant? Do we spend too long on politics in the church? Are we too fussy about how things should be done? Do we argue with each other about matters which are unimportant in the big scheme of things? Do we collude with society and meld into its ways? Are we visible as people set apart and called to mission, or do we blend in and fail to stand up for the truth? How active are we in our faith?

This is a puzzling parable. We think we understand it, but then another interpretation comes into view. It signals a new relationship between God and his people. The terms of the contract are new. It’s for us an unknown future, in which we are richly blessed but at the end judged. It would be all too easy to focus on the blessings, and forget the judgement.

That is, unless we constantly remind ourselves to be anchored in Christ, the cornerstone that supports and holds up the entire edifice, the Kingdom of God, of which in the end we hope to be a part. Amen