Monday, 22 August 2016

Can't make it to church? 21 August 2016

Our Old Testament passage is set in Jerusalem as the people struggle to start life again after having had their city destroyed and them exiled. There was a need to rebuild things physically, politically and spiritually - it was a new start on so many levels - and it looked like today's refugee camps as people clamoured for food, shelter and a hope; and like those in this situation today, the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) were suspicious and unwelcoming of those who had returned into their region.

The need to turn to God and to act rightly towards Him and those who lived around them is the focus of our passage - it's a call to get the house in order (one that a Brexit Britain needs to hear as it seeks too I reckon) - it's a call to each of us as a new day begins. We need to put our house in order and to fight for equity and justice in our nation; to pay our dues and care for the oppressed and the needy in our society and to be mindful of the needs of those in other places too.

The Hebrews passage offers us the opportunity, like the OT passage, to reflect upon God and His dealings with His people on Mount Sinai all those years before - a place where God met with man. But that was then and the people come, perhaps, to a very difficult place in a very different time. God's voice will be heard again and the world will be shaken and yet God's Kingdom cannot be shaken. They hadn't come to a place where God had done stuff but to a place of promise - to Zion the place of eternal joy and salvation - and they, like us, need to remember who it is that we put our trust in - we need to cling to our inheritance,  not squandering our birthright away - we need to remember who it is we serve and to renew our trust in Him. we need to remember the things past and dwell in the future hope.

Our Gospel (good news) readings brings a good Jewish bloke, Jesus, into sharp focus as He has draws flak from some of the religious people around Him. He'd been teaching in the synagogue when a crippled woman turns up and is healed - end of story!

Well actually it isn't, there is a healing but there's also a conflict and each have their place and need to be considered because without the miracle there wouldn't be the conflict; a truism for us to cling to today for is the Church wasn't doing 'stuff' then those around us (religious and non-religious) take notice and, more often than not, offence! It's the making of God's Grace and love into something legalistic,  our clinging to rules and regulations and laws and ritual and the like, that is all too often at the root of our conflict, within and without, the Church. And it's no different in Jesus' time!

A Synagogue leader decided that Jesus is breaking the law and becomes an accuser. He fails to see God's hand at work in a woman who had suffered for so many years because he is taken up by the rules as he sees them. This is the curse of Church today too as people decide what they think is right and draw lines, make regulations and replace love, joy and grace with restrictions and legalism.

Jesus responds out of His usual compassion but others can only see a breaking of the rules rather than an act that speaks of God's loving nature; a lesson many in the Church needs to learn for sure!

But let's not get things out of perspective here for Jesus is not contradicting the rules regarding the Sabbath (which is a focus of our OT reading too) and what it is about - He is not breaking the commandments or rewriting things to make His actions right - what we have is Jesus merely doing what God does  on a 7 * 24 * 365 basis: Being love and showing compassion.

So we have some great lessons here:

Every day brings the opportunity to draw a line and have a new beginning and that means getting our lives right with God. those around us, things within us; putting things in the right place and living with the right attitudes.

we need to live today in the hope of tomorrow and eternity with God without being religious, legalistic or stuck in the past. One of the curses of Church today is the fact that people are more keen to hark back to the 'good old days' and in doing so fail to realise that in ten years time these will be the 'good old days' too! Never lose sight of our future hope and we engage and build a present hope in us and those around us.

Finally, don't create rules and regulations, rituals and habitual acts that cause us to lose sight of a living, loving and engaged God working in and around us today! Show love; celebrate salvation in all its fulness and applaud that which God is doing in the now.

Let's get in step with God and resonate to His heartbeat in all that we find ourselves engaged with; all whom we meet on our journeying each day.

It is all so very simple - isn't it?

Isaiah 58.9b - 14
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I. ‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called repairer of broken walls, restorer of streets with dwellings.

‘If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Hebrews 12.18-29
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’

Luke 13. 10-17
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’

The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

The Collect
Almighty God, you search us and know us: may we rely on you in strength and rest on you in weakness, now and in all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer
God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna, the living bread from heaven: let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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