Sunday, 24 July 2016

Is God unjust?

Trinity 9 – 24 July 2016 – WING Buckinghamshire

Gospel Luke 11

Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


Daily repetition of Lord’s Prayer — masks shocking nature of Jesus’ words.

· God addressed by name

· Jesus calls God by familial Abba

· We are to pray with shameless audacity (11:8)

· God may otherwise deliberately lead us into temptation

Jesus was praying probably aloud— disciples asked — they wanted to be taught to pray in practical way — like John the Baptist taught his followers. Did Jesus’ disciples not already know how to pray?

God portrayed as unjust — like Unjust Judge in Parable of Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-18) — parable taught by Jesus ‘to show them that they should always pray and not give up.’ Here again in Lord’s Prayer — householder does help through neighbourliness but petitioner’s shameless audacity.

Jesus says Ask and it will be given to you — is that your experience? — are ALL prayers answered? — if not, what did Jesus actually mean? — or are we doing it wrong?

These are contentious issues — should not discourage us from prayer — we should seek to understand its place in our daily lives.

Not optional — Jesus prayed regularly

· Commenced as Holy Spirit descended on him at baptism

· Wrestled with God in Gethsemane

· But encouraged active listening — previous chapter with advice to Mary and Martha — better way is to listen and learn rather than busy yourself with activity all the time however helpful.

Whatever difficulties in interpretation — God is compassionate — wants to give us what he wants us to have — including daily bread although that might sound hollow in places of famine and deprivation.

Our ultimate aim — to be tucked up in bed as inheritors and members of God’s household — not outside knocking with our petitions as “friend of a friend” or even neighbours. We long to become full members of God’s household and share God’s mind in the fullness of the Kingdom.

Lord’s Prayer — 5 petitions:

1. Hallowed be thy name — hallowed and sanctified mean made holy — having received gift of Holy Spirit

2. Coming of the Kingdom — we are asking for something God longs to give — Kingdom is revealed in Jesus. Kingdom not yet fully come — has come near or is at hand (references throughout the gospels)
Kingdom like rising dough — all ingredients are there — will in fullness of time come to finality — we are to proclaim the Kingdom even though it is not yet come in all its fullness

3. Daily Bread — trust in God’s mercies every day — God knows our needs before we ask for them — be like lilies or ravens.
Beware of excess — we only need essentials of life not excess that leads to inequality and sin of possession
God is present to us through Jesus in breaking of the bread — Lord’s Prayer comes in Eucharist

4. Forgive sins and debts — different translations affect meaning — forgive also means Release — debtors released from indebtedness at Jubilee — word debt also means sin
Jesus offers release of captives and eyes for those who are blind:
Nazareth in Temple — quoting Isaiah 58 and 61
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

God will not forgive us unless we forgive others.

5. Lead us not into temptation — NRSV “time of trial” — Jesus himself was tempted in wilderness and elsewhere — when Satan’s moment came, the Holy Spirit led him through — and the Spirit will also guide us in time of trial — this is what Jesus told the disciples to pray for in a number of references in the gospels.

What is Prayer? — to petition God? — to remind him of his duty towards us? — to seek to change his mind?

Amusing yes, but how often do Christians treat prayer in these and other ways that are wrong?

How would you define prayer?

· Shape our mind to God’s

· Align our thoughts and intentions to those of the Creator

· Make us fit for the Kingdom?

· Help us live the only life worthwhile — one rooted in God’s love.

13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


Sunday, 10 July 2016

Good Samaritan Redux

Sermon Notes – Trinity 7 – Sunday 10 July 2016 at Great Brickhill

Gospel Luke 10

The parable of the good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

27 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.”’

28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 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. 35 The next day he took out two denarii 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.”

36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’



Good Samaritan — Luke 10

What more can be said? You all know it backwards.

Next week Little Brickhill — Baptism

· Brought up-to-date

o Lawyer/Judge — hurry — might have to try the case — probably dead anyway — no time to get involved with police

o Bishop — big service on TV at cathedral — vestments tainted blood

o Doctor — insurance would not cover intervention — did not have equipment — liability insurance

o Shady second hand car dealer — did not want white leather seats in SUV get dirty

o Illegal immigrant wanted by Border Agency? Escaped convict from local prison? Name your own…

· Love others, even those we hate? — is that all there is to it? What should children learn from it?


· Who is Jesus? Who do characters represent?

· Why told to a lawyer? Why his question? Seems obvious answer.

· What is it teaching — message?

o Treat everyone as you would have them treat you?

o Don’t judge book by cover?

o Expect the unexpected in others

o People expected to help often fail — others who do pitch in are often the most unexpected


· Behind his question, lawyer asking about Justification — follow the Law not enough

o “Who is my neighbor?” he asks

o Jesus responds with Good Samaritan story

· Virtue of Philanthropy practiced in ancient world — expected as part of Law

o Lawyer and audience would have been surprised no recognized official would help

o also surprised aid given by Samaritan

· EsplagnistheJesus had compassion

o Occurs 3 times in Luke

§ Father of Prodigal son

§ Jesus and the widow’s son who had died[i]

§ Good Samaritan who took pity on the hurt man before giving first aid

o First two — God
Why not Good Samaritan stand for God or God’s agent?

· Compassion belongs to God

o We must emulate it

o Lawyer could not even pronounce name of Samaritan 37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

o Shows how far the Lawyer was from showing compassion and acting it out in his dealings with others

Example Story

· Jesus says ‘Go and do likewise’

o But is this just an example for us to follow?

o Yes — but not only

· Primary focus not man in ditch

o If Samaritan stands for God, Samaritan must be at centre of parable

o Lawyer is admonishedGo and do likewise means he has not been showing compassion — Lawyer is told to emulate Good Samaritan — we don’t have his reply

Profound implications

· Jesus identifies with Samaritans

o James and John had just offered to call down consuming fire from heaven on them

o Have we heard such violence and antipathy towards people not like us on other people’s lips — or even perhaps our own?

· Image of Samaritan as a Christ figure changes whole interpretation of the parable

o Parables have different interpretations based on hearer, age, stage in life, state of mind etc.

o What does Good Samaritan now say to you?

Having worked that through, ‘Go and do thou likewise.’ Amen

[i] Luke 7:13 Jesus raises the widow’s son

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Thomas the Apostle – Sunday 3 July at Stewkley

Gospel John 20

Jesus appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’


Put Jesus’ appearance to Thomas in context — opens with Empty tomb — discovered by Mary Magdalene, runs to tell Simon Peter — Peter and “other disciple” run to tomb — find it empty — go home.

Jesus appears in Garden to Mary M — takes him for gardener — is persuaded it is the Lord — tells disciples — no mention of whether or not believed.

Jesus appears in Upper Room — breathes on them Holy Spirit — Thomas not present. Disciples told Thomas — did not positively disbelieve — wanted physical evidence — to see what other disciples had seen.

Week later — all in Upper Room together. Jesus targets Thomas (twin Aramaic; Didymus Greek) — sees and believes.

John ends with purpose of gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Most scholars agree chapter 21 later addition. Does this increase importance of Thomas encounter?

Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany — “fear has never been a good advisor” — growing up in DDR she knew about fear. Fear led Mary M, Simon Peter, the “other disciple” to draw no particular conclusion — only reported what they had seen with own eyes.

Our modern scientific way of thinking is based upon physical evidence — scientists propose hypotheses, test against physical evidence, see which best fit the data. Before our Easter services — Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!! — how many of us say this with absolute conviction? Want facts — we are not stating our absolute conviction but our faith that sustains belief. This is how Thomas thinks.

Look closer at Thomas. Many people inclined not to be too hard on him — bad press. We associate with Thomas and the way he acted — would do the same ourselves. We want to call him believing Thomas rather than branding him a doubter for all time. They feel the message of Thomas is that we are like him.

Thomas, people say, represents us — we would have done the same — the words Jesus spoke to Thomas are effectively spoken to us — Christians and non-believers for all time. But are we being too soft? Do we excuse Thomas too readily — mainly to gloss over our own wavering faith?

At this point, let’s recall Thomas’s words:

‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

Look again at events — empty tomb reported by Mary M — verified by Peter and ‘other disciple’ — Mary M then says she has seen the Lord — this time, she proclaims her encounter to the disciples.

Jesus appears to 10 disciples in Upper Room — Jesus does not just appear, but in a Pentecost moment he bestows the Holy Spirit of God on them:

21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

So when Thomas arrives, there is the witness of 10 manifestly changed people — plus Mary M the first to discover the truth. Perhaps we should be harder on Thomas — it’s not surprising we associate with him, but Jesus did not let Thomas off too easily does he?

29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

To Thomas’s eternal credit, let’s remember he was the one who made one of the most positive and insightful statements of belief in the whole gospels:

27 Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

We don’t know the end of the story, but oral tradition has it that Thomas the Apostle travelled to India. Wikipedia says:

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as Tamilakam in present-day India in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians.

What is not in doubt is that the words spoken by Jesus to Thomas are also addressed to us — clear from words spoken to Thomas — those who have not seen yet have believed are particularly blessed compared to those who had the benefit of sight.

But that carries its own sting in the tail — Jesus chided Thomas for his doubt — that’s why he called him doubting Thomas. Of course we will continue to associate with Thomas — we are failing human beings — but the words of encouragement are tempered with disappointment — that applies to us too, not just Thomas.

‘Stop doubting and believe.’ Jesus said to Thomas. He says the same words to us today. Amen