Sunday, 6 July 2014

Can't Make it to church? (July 6)

Today's readings speak of the love of God, or redemption and the promise of one coming alongside to take upon Himself the burdens that we might otherwise carry alone - promises that we all seek to see fulfilled and yet, like those who mocked John the Baptist and Jesus (for opposite reasons) we live amongst people whose words often wound, condemn and divert us from the truth before us.

In the Gospel reading (Matthew 11) we find Jesus speaking about the contrary nature of some kids as their friends  play 'wedding' and happy games and they sit aside because they don't want to dance or 'play happy'; others refusing to join in is the serious or sad games (ever seen kids play funerals?)  because they don't 'like that sort of thing'.

A parent recently said to me (of one of their children), 'Oh, they've always been a contrary little wotsit - that's just who they are!' Well that's true of the whole human race and this is the root of some of the challenges 'religious' people presented to Jesus then and us today.

Then the religious people looked at a man who was, by almost all and any standard, pretty weird as he walked around dressed in camel skins and living off the land, preaching his message of repentance. Some of the people thought he was Elijah (for he was dressed like him) and his speaking with authority and without fear confirmed that he was 'someone special'. Other ridiculed him because he was dressed in camel hairs and lived like a tramp - not the dress or menu of someone important or worthwhile like their teachers.

Jesus came and ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, and ate whatever was on the table and the religious people criticised Him for not keeping Himself holy - defiling himself with what he ate and by the company He kept. Others saw and heard and realised what He was saying and where He was pointing. The 'religious' (the intelligentsia of the day) were blind to it all and yet the common people (the infants) picked up the nuances and the messages clearly.

We need to sit somewhere in the middle and to use that which God has called us to use - discernment.

We need to sit in a place where we take all that is said and then having made it our rubbing it between our hands allow that which is chaff to fall to the ground. This almost forgotten art of 'gleaning' ensures that we keep that which is good from all we hear and dispose of that which weakens, corrupts and denies what the Bible has for us.

We need to take on board the last part of the Gospel reading, for it is here that great a promise is to be found. For in it Jesus promises to life the load from our shoulders and, like the animals in pairs that pull heavy loads by means of a yoke which helps them share that load, He promises to make our journey easier - not removing the load - by pulling with us.

Jesus promises that He will give rest to those who struggle under the weight of their burdens. They might be health or money or family problems or work or . . . . .  (anything and everything) - but the promise is real and waiting for you to accept it.

Today, wherever you are and regardless of your circumstances - come to God and ask Him to give you rest. Ask Jesus to come alongside by the power of His Holy Spirit and 'do the stuff' in your life and in the needs of those around you.

Because, given half the chance, He will :-)

The Lion and the donkey (Him and us) can get the job done and the life lived - if we let him come close enough (and that's a fearsome image innit?):

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

God our saviour,
look on this wounded world in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Psalm 145.8-15
The Lord is gracious and merciful, long-suffering and of great goodness.
The Lord is loving to everyone and his mercy is over all his creatures.
All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your mighty power, to make known to all peoples your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;    your dominion endures throughout all ages.
The Lord is sure in all his words and faithful in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down.

Zechariah 9.9-12
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem; and the battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Romans 7.15-25a
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

Matthew 11.16-19,25-30
‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,  “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Post Communion Prayer
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

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