Monday, 13 February 2017

Can't make it to church - Sunday 12 February 2017

The people of God, the Israelites, are at the border of the Promised Land where Moses, much like Lt Col Tim Collins on the borders of Iraq in 2003, prepares the people to enter this new land – and like Tim Collin’s effort, it’s all there: life, prosperity and blessings - curses, death and destruction. Choosing God gives life, rejecting Him brings death: So take your pick!

Like any other relationship, Choosing God is an ongoing, vital, relationship lived out with the focus of our love (God) each and every day in a total commitment. Just as those troops on the borders of Iraq needed total commitment and a willingness to lay down their lives in selfless commitment, that's what Moses is calling for here. Are you ready and willing to do this?

Hopefully you've said ‘Yes’ – but let’s hope it's not the same ‘Yes’ that the Corinthian believers appear to have; a ‘yes’ that seems just a little stuck in its immaturity. The people are beset by jealousy and quarrelling: All the things that Moses listed as ‘curses, death and destruction’. These are a people who haven't embraced a full on and vibrant faith but rather they live like the world, like people who don't know Jesus, the Christ, at all.

But before we get into a mindset of criticism for the Corinthian believers, let us stop for a minute and consider how different we might be from them. Where I am, with the things I've encountered over the years, I'd have to say the answer is probably: “Not much!”

The next time we find ourselves getting more passionate about being in one camp or another; the next time we find ourselves more bound up in strategies and programmes, looking to build ‘our’ church at the expense of unity and the building of the kingdom of God. Let's remember Moses and his call to us to ‘choose life’ and to put aside the things that we should have left in the playground; to put aside following individuals and to follow that one individual who died that we might have life: Jesus.

Following on from last week’s Gospel we find ourselves again with the Sermon on the Mount and it’s all  about behaviour and attitudes.

“Those who murder will be subject to judgment.”
That’s fair enough, after all, murder is a really serious offence.

But the next bit:
“Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment,”
that's a bit harsh isn't it?

Then, to make matters worse, the passage is extended  this:
 “Anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court; anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Goodness me, not much wiggle room here is there? But this is more about attitude as I understand it rather than the use of one isolated word. The thing about ‘choosing life’ is that we have a daily relationship with God and the people around us too, and we realise that often it's not just the things we do but the things we say that brings the Church down. So when you know you've broken a relationship or acted foolishly, don't carry on regardless but go make your peace and live in relationship with those you might have offended or hurt.

And when it comes to attitudes and relationships, the greatest of these in import and duty of care is perhaps that which relates to marriage. The good news is that divorce amongst married couples is on the decrease (sadly the opposite is claimed for those who live together and this last clause applies equally to them).

But, divorce is only to be used as a last resort and for serious reasons and the things that start the slippery slope to divorce are what goes on in the head rather than what the hands do! “Everybody looks and thinks,” said a person I was counselling, “It's only wrong if I do something about it!” Jesus would say to them, “So stop looking and thinking the things you do before you weaken the relationship!”

He'd also say that divorce is a last resort; something that comes about because the serious, irreconcilable issues, have broken the marriage. But in your marriage; in all your daily relationships – choose life - work at them, repair the breaches, apologise for the wrongs and reach out your hand in acts of fellowship and love.

The Collect
Eternal God, whose Son went among the crowds and brought healing with his touch: help us to show his love, in your Church as we gather together, and by our lives as they are transformed
into the image of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord, help us to choose life and love today, and every day, looking to build our relationship with You. To work at our relationships and to be seen as a person who strives for love and works to reconcile and rebuild. May we go our our relationship and work to make our lives open, honest and holy – for we are Your Church, called to be light and salt to the world around us – make us a mature, living, and holy people we pray. Amen.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Matthew 5:21-37
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made.’But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Post Communion Prayer
Merciful Father,
who gave Jesus Christ to be for us the bread of life,
that those who come to him should never hunger:
draw us to the Lord in faith and love,
that we may eat and drink with him
at his table in the kingdom,
where he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.

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