Thursday, October 31, 2013

Grace for a Traitor

Luke 19:1  He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2  A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3  He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5  When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." 6  So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7  All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." 8  Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." 9  Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10  For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

This is an extraordinary story:
A Jewish collaborator with the Roman oppressor receives a blessing from a community leader who most often associates with the oppressed. This is a prime example of the unmerited generosity of Jesus. He is able to see beyond the traitorous activities of a greedy tax collector and offer him an opportunity for a new beginning with God and community.

We who follow Jesus are challenged to show the same undeserved generosity to the people we meet. This is difficult to do – but unavoidable. We are offered a way to do so by borrowing from the story of Zacchaeus – as we invite Jesus into our private spaces he helps us to become generous. As our thoughts turn towards Christmas, let us be challenged to prepare gifts for those who are not able to give us gifts in return.   


Ordinary 31 / Pentecost +24
53 God Can Change Lives
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 323.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

     


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I once was blind....

John 9:1  As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3  Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. 4  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 6  When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, 7  saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8  The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" 9  Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." 10  But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" 11  He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight." 12  They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." 13  They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14  Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15  Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see." 16  Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided. 17  So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet." 18  The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19  and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" 20  His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21  but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." 22  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23  Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." 24  So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." 25  He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." 26  They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 27  He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" 28  Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29  We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." 30  The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34  They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out. 35  Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 36  He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." 37  Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." 38  He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. 39  Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." 40  Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" 41  Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

Yes – it is a long passage... 40 verses in all. But what an exhilarating story! Here is a man who is regarded as a “sinner”  - evidenced by his blindness. As far as his community was concerned, the only question was whether the sin was his, or was that of his parents.  The disciples, his neighbours, and the Pharisees all were baffled by the actions of Jesus: instead of joining the voices of condemnation, Jesus touches him – thus risking ritual contamination – and speaks words of kindness. Then Jesus restored him to the community by removing the “evidence” of his sin by restoring his sight.  While the community debated whether Jesus was theologically competent to engage in such actions, the man who was healed celebrates:  “He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see’”.

Following the example of Jesus obliges us to move beyond a theoretical discussion on the definition of sin; to showing redemptive love towards those we call sinners.


For thought

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see
.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Awake, thou that sleepest

Ephesians 5:1  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2  and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.......... 
8  For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light-- 9  for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10  Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12  For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13  but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14  for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." 15  Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16  making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17  So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18  Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19  as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20  giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
On Sunday 4 April 1742 John Wesley preached to the students of Christ Church, Oxford. His text was Ephesians 5:14: "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."  He preached a three point sermon, beginning with those who are asleep, calling on them to wake up, and promising that Jesus would give them light.

Wesley, preaching to a chapel filled with Church of England members, invited them to want more than just their Church baptism: Seek more, seek the Holy Spirit within you. True religion, he says, is to have the life of Christ living within you. This will lead to holiness, and happiness, and peace. If we do not have these then we fall short of true Christianity.   

So here is an invitation for us to be driven by a life of passionate faith – a life that is awake to songs, thanksgiving, and light.



Ordinary 31 / Pentecost +24
53 God Can Change Lives
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 323.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.





Monday, October 28, 2013

A New Heart....

Ezekiel 36:22  Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23  I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. 24  I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26  A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27  I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28  Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30  I will make the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field abundant, so that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31  Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your dealings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. 32  It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.
 
Buried in the middle of this passage of Scripture is the key to everything: “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  This is the sole purpose of religion – to change hardened hearts into loving hearts. No amount of erudite philosophy, or religious knowledge, or organizational excellence can replace a loving heart and a renewed spirit. 
Make this a daily prayer:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me
 Psalm 51:10 




Ordinary 31 / Pentecost +24
53 God Can Change Lives
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 323.

This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stand with the sinners

Luke 18:9  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
Luk 18:10  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' 13  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14  I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

The self-righteous Pharisee thanks God that he is not like those who belonged to the group of ‘excluded people’ called am-haaretz  “or even like this tax collector”.[1] His is a prayer expressing gratitude that he is superior to the local sinners. Oh, and he also inserted a bit of a brag about how faithful he has been in keeping the religious rules.  He epitomises the lurking temptation within all of us – to think of ourselves as ‘better’ than others. And so we join churches, wear religious clothing, sing our own special God-songs, and talk our religious language: all to show those who are not in the religious club how well we know God, and how little they do.

Jesus-followers choose to sneak into the back of the church in order to stand alongside those who hesitate to approach God because they know that they are aliens in the household of God. Our correct place is alongside the thieves, rogues, adulterers  and anyone else who longs for a touch of God’s love.
And to love being with them.
    

Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.




[1] Tax collectors in the time of Jesus were considered sinful because they worked for the Roman Empire and handled money that bore the head of the Emperor. On both counts this disqualified a religious Jew from worship in the temple – not only because it violated the command about “no graven images”, but also because co-operation with the oppressor was guaranteed to exclude a Jew as a traitor.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Do Good

1Peter 3:8  Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9  Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called--that you might inherit a blessing. 10  For "Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; 11  let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. 12  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

A passage such as this does not need me to add to it. This is inspirational. Clearly it is also difficult – if it was easy it would not have been written down. Jesus followers are to “desire life and desire to see good days”. Our deepest longing is for a life driven by goodness. Let us live life to the very best of our ability.   


Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Obey your Rulers?

Romans 13:1  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2  Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.3  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4  for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5  Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6  For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, busy with this very thing. 7  Pay to all what is due them--taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. 8  Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9  The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

These words must have been very hard for the Jesus-followers in Rome to hear. Paul is asking them to “be subject to the governing authorities”.  He continues by pointing out that “whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed”.  The prospect of obedience to Caesar and the Roman Empire was particularly unpleasant, because the Empire was not very accommodating of the followers of Jesus.  Paul is asking the followers of Jesus be respectful of the Emperor, even though the circumstances were extremely difficult. This is not condoning the cruelty of the Emperor, but is asking the followers of Jesus to be circumspect in their dealings with the Empire. They were to live lives of personal holiness, and so fulfil the law - but not challenge it.  This is probably because the Christians in Rome were an extremely small and vulnerable group, who would do best in setting personal examples of love.  
 
These words resonate through history as amongst the most abused in the Bible. Oppressive governments – such as the Apartheid government of Dr Verwoerd and PW Botha – use these words to solicit obedience to their evil laws.  It must therefore be said that while we note these words of Paul, we do not live in Rome, and neither are we a struggling minority religion. We are therefore not obliged to follow Paul’s advice to remain out of sight. We live in countries that allow Christian belief and practice, and are often powerful and influential. We are challenged to find ways of living faithfully within political systems / states / empires that are often wicked and ethically irresponsible. Paul’s suggestion that followers of Jesus ought to live holy lives is a useful suggestion. At the same time Paul adds that rulers are “God's servant for your good.“  This then becomes the obligation of those who govern – to represent the goodness of God. It therefore follows that when rulers stop being “God’s servant” they forfeit the right to rule. And at this point, the followers of Jesus are to use every vote, all our political influence, and all the social pressure we can muster to remove rulers who cease to be the servants of God.  

Let us be good citizens – of the Kingdom of Heaven.


Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.
   



     

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Humility and Repentance

2Chronicles 7:11  Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king's house; all that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12  Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13  When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14  if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16  For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17  As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18  then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, 'You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.' 19  "But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20  then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21  And regarding this house, now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, 'Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this house?' 22  Then they will say, 'Because they abandoned the LORD the God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshipped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this calamity upon them.'"

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a very well known text, mostly used to encourage people to return to the ways of God. Various countries – including South Africa – have witnessed national calls to repentance, followed by pleas for God to fulfill his promise to heal our land. While this is understandable, we need to remember that this is history, written after the Israelites returned from exile to explain why they were conquered. As the rebuilding of the temple was undertaken by Ezra, the question loomed large: “what must the people do to avoid a repeat of the destruction of the next temple?” The Chronicler goes back to the dedication of Solomon’s temple and records the injunction to “be humble, pray, seek God’s will, and turn from wicked ways”. Hope is found in the promise that God will forgive and heal the nation.
 
We who follow Jesus can learn from the history of our faith: spiritual arrogance is not blessed by God. Our faith teaches that healing is found through humility and repentance.   





Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Lord your God is in the house....

Zepaniah 3:1  Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city!
Zep 3:2  It has listened to no voice; it has accepted no correction. It has not trusted in the LORD; it has not drawn near to its God.3  The officials within it are roaring lions; its judges are evening wolves that leave nothing until the morning. 4  Its prophets are reckless, faithless persons; its priests have profaned what is sacred, they have done violence to the law.
Zep 3:8  Therefore wait for me, says the LORD, for the day when I arise as a witness. 
Zep 3:11  On that day you shall not be put to shame because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.12  For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD--13  the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.
Zep 3:16  On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17  The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18  as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19  I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20  At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.


Zephaniah, a descendant of King Hezekiah, lived in Jerusalem at the time of King Josiah. While Josiah is recorded as a God-fearing ruler, his father Amon, and grandfather Manasseh were amongst the worst kings in Judah’s history. This left Jerusalem a “soiled, defiled, oppressing city”,   with officials, judges and priests who have “done violence to the law”.  The prophet Zephaniah notes that the nation will be scattered, but the remnant left behind in Jerusalem will discover the blessing of God “and no one shall make them afraid”. He then concludes with the promise to “save the lame and gather the outcast, and ... change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth”.

We who follow Jesus are confronted by this passion of God for the poor, the outcast and the ‘left behind’. It is easy to ignore such people in favour of the powerful and the rich.  We have a choice: either to be with God, or to be with the “roaring lions” and the “evening wolves”.
 
Choose.  







Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.








Monday, October 21, 2013

No Peace for the Wicked

Isaiah 57:14  It shall be said, "Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people's way." 15  For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16  For I will not continually accuse, nor will I always be angry; for then the spirits would grow faint before me, even the souls that I have made. 17  Because of their wicked covetousness I was angry; I struck them, I hid and was angry; but they kept turning back to their own ways. 18  I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. 19  Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the LORD; and I will heal them. 20  But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud. 21  There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.

The central thrust of this passage is that peace is to be found the closer we live to our Creator: “the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity... will heal them... will lead them... will repay them with comfort”.  This is not dependent on being spiritually pure, or religiously correct, or even being happy and well. This is the action of God in our lives and is called Grace.

God chooses to withdraw peace from the wicked and to bless the humble.  


Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Unjust Judge

Luk 18:1  Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
Luk 18:2  He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3  In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' 4  For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" 6  And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7  And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8  I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Jesus tells of a corrupt judge who had “no fear of God and no respect for anyone”. In terms of the culture in which Jesus tells this story, a widow would have little to no chance of being heard: she was among the marginalized who would not add status or political value to his efforts – and so he refused to grant her justice.

This not really an unusual story: human society is plagued by corruption and injustice. And sadly the legal profession, the police, and the judiciary are as susceptible to corruption as any other institutions of civil society. Jesus-followers are challenged not to give up in the pursuit of justice, but, like the persistent widow of Luke 18, we are to to keep bothering the powerful until justice is achieved.     

Ordinary 29 / Pentecost +22
51 Servants of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 311.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Friday, October 18, 2013

We do not proclaim ourselves...

2 Corinthians 4:1  Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2  We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5  For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. 6  For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Nobody likes people who think they are better than everyone else. At first glance to be “the conscience of everyone” can suggest people who think that they are spiritually superior and have the effrontery to lecture others on how they ought to be living! This is not what this passage is about. Instead, Paul urges the people of Jesus to turn the focus away from themselves towards Jesus: “we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus”.

Let us all resist the temptation to look down on another person. Spiritual humility should be the hallmark of Jesus’ followers.


Ordinary 29 / Pentecost +22
51 Servants of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 311.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Boasting...

2Corinthians 11:12  And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what they boast about. 13  For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14  And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15  So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.
................
2Co 12:5  On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6  But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7  even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.8  Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9  but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10  Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul writes about “boasting”. He is annoyed that there are preachers who boast about being his equal, and suggests that the only thing that they can boast about is “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ” .

Let those who want to follow Jesus remember that we are not rewarded with fame, honour and wealth; instead we are invited by Jesus ‘to take up a cross’ and follow him.[1]


Ordinary 29 / Pentecost +22
51 Servants of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 311.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.




[1] Mark 8:34-35

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Being the light

Matthew 10:24  "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25  it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26  "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28  Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30  And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32  "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33  but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34  "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36  and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38  and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 40  "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41  Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42  and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple--truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

Christ-followers are asked to live transparently and without fear. As recorded by Matthew: "nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.   What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light”   This is the uncompromising truth that we live by. We refuse to accept bribes, or to offer service in exchange for special favours, or to use our position and status for personal benefit.

This is a personal commitment that must be sustained every day. This is also a commitment to being part of community movements such as Exposed, or Unashamedly Ethical.  Christ followers choose to live “in the light” - even if this costs us friendships and family relationships.  Our commitment is to being the light in a dark world.     


Ordinary 29 / Pentecost +22
51 Servants of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 311.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wise and serpents and innocent as doves...

Matthew 10:16  "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17  Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18  and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19  When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20  for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21  Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22  and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23  When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Followers of Jesus are to anticipate struggle, persecution, betrayal, hatred and even death. We are therefore invited to “endure to the end” - when we will be saved.  This is a far cry from some modern Christians who seem to think that following Jesus will bring blessings, appreciation, love... and financial reward.

The invitation is for us to become “wise and serpents and innocent as doves”. This asks us to become tough, stubborn, and enduring in our capacity to follow Jesus - while at the same time uncompromising in our compassion to the weak and the forgotten people who have no way of rewarding us.


Ordinary 29 / Pentecost +22
51 Servants of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 311.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Whosoever will may come....

Matthew 10:1  Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2  These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4  Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. 5  These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6  but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7  As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 8  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9  Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10  no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11  Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12  As you enter the house, greet it. 13  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15  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.

Jesus collects a motley crew: Simon “quick with his knife” Peter, James and John the short-tempered “sons of thunder”, Philip of Greek extraction, the hard to convince Thomas, Matthew the government official, Simon the revolutionary freedom-fighter, and Judas the betrayer.

Here is the amazing thing about following Jesus – anyone and everyone is welcome to join the band of Jesus-followers. The good news is that this means that someone like me (or you) are welcome; the challenge is for us to welcome the strange, difficult, different and unique people that hang out with Jesus. 


Song
“Whosoever heareth,” shout, shout the sound!
Spread the bless├Ęd tidings all the world around;
Spread the joyful news wherever man is found;
“Whosoever will may come.”

Refrain
“Whosoever will, whosoever will,”
Send the proclamation over vale and hill;
’Tis a loving Father, calls the wanderer home:
“Whosoever will, may come.”
     Words & Music: Phil­ip P. Bliss, 



Ordinary 29 / Pentecost +22
51 Servants of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 311.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Psalm 66


To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.

1  Make a joyful noise to God,
all the earth;

2  sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.

3  Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

4  All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name." [Selah]

5  Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

6  He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,

7  who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves. [Selah]

8  Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,

9  who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.

10  For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.

11  You brought us into the net;
you laid burdens on our backs;

12  you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.


This Psalm, as with Psalm 100, begins with a call for all the earth to “make a joyful noise”. The people are invited to “make a noise”, to “sing” and to “say” the “awesome deeds” of God. Even enemies will admit this and submit to the power of God.
Use this Psalm as a praise song – a song of encouragement and hope. Read it aloud as a prayer – or better still read it with someone else as a responsive Psalm.  


Ordinary 28 / Pentecost +21
50 A Friend of Souls
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 304.

This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Remember your Leaders.....

Heb 13:1  Let mutual love continue.
Heb 13:2  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3  Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 4  Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5  Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." 6  So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?"
Heb 13:7  Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Heb 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
..............
Heb 13:16  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing--for that would be harmful to you. 18  Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19  I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon. 20  Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21  make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Here is a collection of ‘wise sayings’; this can be described as instructions to the people of the Church of God. It is suspected that this was written in 63/64AD and sent to the Christians of Rome – who were a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles (Hebrews and Romans).

One instruction is repeated: “Obey/remember your leaders...” What is of interest is that this instruction is not unconditional. Obedience is to be given to “those who spoke the word of God” (vs7); they are to have a faith that can be imitated; “they are keeping watch over your souls”. The lesson is clear: respect for leaders is earned by their actions. Those of us who are Christian leaders can only ask people to follow where we are willing to go ourselves.  

Ordinary 28 / Pentecost +21
50 A Friend of Souls
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 304.

This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.