By contrasting the two different prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus shows how we need to stop relying on ourselves and start relying on God. The attitude of a child is used. If we think of a child, their utter dependency on an adult for day to day life we start to get the picture. I don’t think this stifles us in our efforts to pursue the big questions, after all, a child’s favourite question is “Why?” I think it refers to our attitude, not our knowledge. Do we see God as someone we need to cling to in order to survive life, or do we think we know enough about everything to get by ourselves?
Last week 5 members of Burnside City Uniting Church attended the 2 day Global Leadership Summit in Adelaide. This event happens every year in many cities around the world. We heard from a variety of speakers and had lively discussions with people from other churches about their ministries. One point from a Pastor from Nairobi, Kenya stands out for me. ‘Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. Rather than madly rushing around trying to gather in the harvest alone, each leader needs to focus on having more harvesters’. I am grateful to the many people here at BCUC who are “harvesters – labouring in the fields” for Jesus and I am especially grateful for those who came with me to this leadership training this year. We are all called to share the Good News of Jesus with our neighbours.
The fact that only one of the lepers returned to give thanks to Jesus for healing is interesting. It was the “foreign” one, the one who perhaps assumed he was not “entitled” to be healed unlike the Jewish lepers. This belief of being entitled to something erodes our ability to say “thanks”; when we receive something we believe it is ours by right. I wonder if… we sometimes take God for granted? Is it our right to be blessed, to have good health, homes, cars, money and we only complain to God when we lack them? Perhaps we should be grateful for anything we receive. We deserve nothing yet get everything, that’s grace, and it’s something to be thankful for every second of the day
“If only I had more faith….” Jesus told His disciples even a little bit of faith is enough to do great things. “If only” is a common excuse for doing nothing. We have all the faith we need. Our faith comes from God who out of nothing created everything. God has the power to do wonderful things with our little bit of faith. God will work through us when we are willing to step up to the challenge.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus should make us stop and think. It is too easy to make this about simply giving to charity. We should pause and remember that the original target of the parable were the Pharisees who claimed to be concerned about the Kingdom of God yet ignored its very herald in their midst; just as the rich man ignored Lazarus. God presents us with opportunities all the time to be Christ to each other. I think we need to take care we don’t ignore what God has laid at our feet.
This week, Jesus tells two stories illustrating the lengths God will go to in order to find the lost. This week is also National Suicide Prevention Awareness week. Sometimes it is easy to find the lost, they are obvious in shelters, in prisons. Sometimes though the lost are hard to find. They might be your neighbour, your friend, your child or parent. If they are struggling with difficulties they may well hide them behind a fake smile, a glib “I’m fine”. Take the time to ask someone how they are feeling with genuine concern for their welfare. Go for lunch or a coffee or a walk together and listen to the person. If we don’t look hard enough we’ll never find the lost amongst us.
Hebrews 13:1 “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Does that mean punching, kicking & screaming? You may remember loving your brothers or sisters like that? We still love one another. However, when we have disagreements at church, the conclusion may be that we do not love that person. Love is more than a nice feeling, it is consistent action. Love is shown as we work together in mission as we did on Election Day. Our community will know us by our love & they will know our love by our actions. See John 13.
Whether it is the achievements of our children or ourselves, hearing the national anthem or Steve Waugh’s final innings at the SCG, life throws us plenty of opportunities to feel proud. Pride, we are told is the most serious sin, it accounted for Lucifer after all. So what are we to do? The problem for me lies in our use of the word, the Greeks have a better one, Hubris, meaning arrogance, a complete lack of humility. This is the sin we are to watch for. The idea that we are more important, higher than even God and as such deserve things. How much easier our lives would be if we were humble like Jesus. Imagine the King of the Universe washing feet! Let’s feel pride at good things but not at the expense of remembering we are subjects of God. We are the created and all we have is a gift of grace from a loving God. As C.S.Lewis wrote, the proud man is always looking down, he will therefore never see what is above him.
It’s week 2 of the Isaiah readings and we turn from how we worship to how we live. It really is two parts to our complete whole. God has laboured hard to prepare us for a fruitful life and I think there is an expectation that we will produce good fruit, gentleness, patience, kindness, peace, joy etc. We have to be careful we are not advocating works but rather stressing that if we truly love God we will have a desire to please God and that includes living as God wants us to. We will be fruitful not because we want a reward but because it is part of our new transformed selves.
Over the next two weeks I’m going to be looking at the Isaiah readings in the lectionary. They complement each other as this week we are looking at integrity in worship. Essentially the point Isaiah is raising this week is “How can you expect God to listen to your worship if it does not reflect how you live?” This is a hard message, difficult to hear. I know in my own life the way I live Mon-Sat doesn’t always match up to God’s standards. Thankfully Jesus bridges this gap for us. But even so, we must keep trying to worship God in our lives every day. Wesley famously said, “Preach the gospel, and use words if necessary”.