Sunday, 26 October 2014

Can't make it to church - October 26

Here we are at another Sunday and, as is often the case, the four readings hang together wonderfully - so much so that you'd think it was planned!

For me, the texts speak of remembering what is important and living differently because of this. Something that is perhaps summed up by Paul's words:

"For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts."

So what pleases God? Watching one of my few episodes of a rampantly smug and self-indulgent programme where clever (well they think they''re clever) people try to be clever and witty (Oscar Wilde they weren't) the Leviticus text was billed as 'extra commandments' - oh how they all laughed!

BUT (always a 'but' somewhere isn't there?) the six 'You shall' statements are so very necessary and yet so obviously missing from the society around us. To quote Richard Dannatt (Now Lord Dannatt) on the Values and Standards of the British Army:

"The values are about Character and spirit: The standards define our actions and behaviour."

One speaks of out ethics; the things that define right and wrong: The other speaks of what is required for right and harmonious living.

In summary, what  is it God calls us to exhibit? Holiness - openhanded and unbiased justice, no gossip or talking about people, none of any of the 'phobias' so often talked about these days (does that include Christophobia?) and no 'natural law or vigilante stuff: In a nutshell it's about loving God and from that relationship comes loving your neighbour.

How simple is this?

Jesus reiterates this 'loving God - loving your neighbour' in the Gospel, using them as a summary of the law; which is spot on because if we keep the commandments we will indeed be found loving our neighbours - and this finds its root in loving God ...

... with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

And Psalm 1 places a cherry on the cake by telling us that those who have values and standards - who keep the commandments and exhibit the things found in our Leviticus reading:

They will be like a (tended) tree planted by streams of water
bearing fruit in due season,
with leaves that do not wither,
whatever they do, it shall prosper.

That's my prayer for you (and me too) - that God's hand will be seen in our lives and that we will  prosper through living the way we are called to live: Loving God: Keeping the commandments and seeing the outworking of this in the way that we live and relate to others. Simple or what (so why do so few of us do it? - and that's me included in that!)

The Collect
Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Help us to read and, marking those things that are profitable for our personal and corporate lives, live according to that which we have learned.

May those around us see the difference and note the power of the risen Christ in our lives; may we be models of holiness, generosity, justice and Grace and, being a neighbour to all were meet, proclaim Jesus, the Christ, as LORD in all that we do. Amen.

Leviticus 19.1-2,15-18
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them:
You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.

Psalm 1
Blessed are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,  nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the assembly of the scornful. Their delight is in the law of the Lord  and they meditate on his law day and night. Like a tree planted by streams of water bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,  whatever they do, it shall prosper.

As for the wicked, it is not so with them;  they are like chaff which the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgement,  nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.

1 Thessalonians 2.1-8
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Matthew 22.34-46
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Post Communion Prayer
God of all grace,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry with the bread of his life and the word of his kingdom:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness sustain us by your true and living bread;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.

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