Monthly Archives: June 2010

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (27 June 2010)

For freedom Christ has set us free


Reading
Galatians 5.1, 13-25

We’re still on a journey through Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia.

Remember that people had come who were wanting the Galatian believers to obey the Jewish laws like eating only certain foods, being circumcised and keeping the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul would have absolutely none of it, because he had discovered that the law he had loved so much was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, now his Lord and Saviour.

Now the centre of Paul’s life was Jesus and not the law.

Jesus had brought one new people into being, a people in which

there is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

This new people is the Christian Church. It’s the Body of Christ, it’s the fellowship of the baptised.

Paul’s concern in the later parts of this letter is what it means to be this one new people in Christ.

And in Galatians 5.1 he gets right into it:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Why have we been set free? So we can be truly free! We have been set free from the ‘yoke of slavery’. This ‘yoke of slavery’ is not the ‘easy yoke’ that Jesus promises when he says:

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.

This ‘yoke of slavery’ is obedience to law. It is living rule-bound lives. So does that mean we Christians are law-less? Can we disregard the law? Can we do what we like? We are free, after all! Continue reading

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12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (20 June 2010)

One in Christ: when night ends and day begins


Readings
Galatians 3.23-29
Luke 8.26-39

Let’s recap as to where we are on our journey through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Two thousand years ago, Galatia was a Roman territory in the country we know as Turkey. People had come to Galatia, who were wanting the Galatian believers to obey the Jewish laws like eating only certain foods, being circumcised and keeping the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul would have absolutely none of it. Not a bar of it!

As a young man, Paul had really loved the Old Testament law. But Paul discovered that the law he loved so much was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, now his Lord and Saviour.

Now the centre of Paul’s life was Jesus and not the law.

The people who wanted to bring in obedience to the law wanted to do it as a sign of the purity of the Christian community, so they could know who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. Those who obey the law are ‘in’; those who disobey are ‘out’. You can see that under the law, Jesus himself would be ‘out’. Why? He died a criminal’s death as a law-breaker.

Law brings clear division; the gospel brings a new people into being, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, law-keepers and law-breakers.

Greek philosophy was good at making divisions too. Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato used to give thanks

that I was born a human being, not a beast;
a man and not a woman;
thirdly, a Greek and not barbarian.

Not to be outdone, in the Jewish cycle of morning prayers the men prayed:

Blessed be He that He did not make me a Gentile;
blessed be He that He did not make me a slave;
blessed be He that He did not make me a woman.

All this would have been the very air that Paul breathed as he was growing up. Saying the daily prayers, reading the philosophers, he was reminded of his privileged position as a Jew; as a man; and as a Roman citizen who breathed the fresh air of freedom.

But since his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul’s theme is unity in Jesus Christ.

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Dr Who cartoon

Funny! As seen on clayboy.

Painting the TARDIS

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iWorship?

An Irish band, the Rend Collective Experiment, presents How great is our God—on the iPhone!

What next??

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11 Sunday of Ordinary Time (13 June 2010)

I was in Melbourne at ACOL (Australian Consultation on Liturgy) on Thursday and Friday; I preached in country Victoria at Romsey and Lancefield Uniting Churches this morning, while my good friend Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones presided.

A life lived in Christ

Readings
Galatians 2.15-21
Luke 7.36 to 8.3

I was born in a town called Harrogate, in Yorkshire, England. It’s a nice town; in fact, it’s actually a rather well-to-do place with a very respectable, genteel, posh reputation.

If you’ve read the James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small books about being a vet in Yorkshire, you may remember a town called ‘Brawton’; Harrogate is Brawton’s real name. And the real-life James Herriot was a vet called Alf Wight who used to go into Harrogate on Fridays, his day off.

While he was there, he’d often go to a place called Betty’s Cafe. Don’t let the name fool you; Betty’s Cafe has a pretty posh reputation.

Whenever I’ve been back in England, I’ve always popped into Betty’s. I was walking near there one day with two teenage cousins, and asked if they’d like to go in. ‘Oh, we couldn’t go in there,’ they said. It was too posh for the likes of them. But I persuaded them that they were plenty good enough for Betty’s, and we had a very enjoyable time. It was especially memorable as one of them was wearing a T-shirt with this amazing message:

When I die, bury me head down
so you can kiss my cold dead arse

The T-shirt also had an appropriate picture along with the words…

For my young cousins, the very name ‘Betty’s Cafe’ acted as a barrier to their sharing in what it had to offer. They thought they weren’t the right kind of people to even enter Betty’s.

There may have been those sitting in the cafe that day who looked at these young people with the outlandish T-shirt and wondered if they were indeed the right people for Betty’s. I don’t know, I wasn’t looking around. At the time I only cared about my cousins.

It’s a bit like that day when Jesus went to the house of Simon the Pharisee. A woman came to him

who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.

This unnamed woman was a ‘sinner’; we don’t know exactly what that means. Through the centuries, the imaginations of male exegetes have sometimes run amuck and they have often assumed she was a prostitute. The Bible doesn’t say that. ‘Sinner’ may mean she was employed in work that made her unclean in the eyes of the Jewish law. ‘Sinner’ may just mean that she didn’t fit the way of life of Simon and his friends.

Whatever, she bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She kisses his feet and anoints them with ointment. Phew! That kind of thing never happens at Betty’s Cafe, let me tell you! I reckon Simon the Pharisee was jealous. I’d be jealous too—heck, who am I kidding, I am jealous!

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Church sign—Hope in the face of adversity?

Not sure whether to laugh or cry at this church sign:

Hope in the face of adversity?

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10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (6 June 2010)

Grace is more than enough

Reading
Galatians 1.11-24

Does God love us? Really love us? Can God really love me? This is a question that haunts some people. They just don’t feel good enough for God.

This question haunted John Wesley. For the longest time, he couldn’t feel that love of God. Until 24 May, 1738, when, he writes in his Journal,

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

Wesley called this his ‘Aldersgate experience’. The Apostle Paul also had what a sudden experience of turning around, on the road to Damascus. It was Paul’s ‘Damascus experience’. And soon, Paul was writing letters to Christian churches all through the eastern Mediterranean area. One of those letters was to the Galatians.

Galatia was part of the Roman Empire, 2000 years ago. It was in the country we know of as Turkey. Bible commentators believe that the letter to the Galatians is probably only the second of his letters that we have. It was written less than thirty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, perhaps only twenty years after.

The Lectionary is starting us on Paul’s amazing letter to the Galatians today. We’ll be looking at Galatians for a few weeks.

Paul had a bone to pick with the Galatians when he wrote to them. After the opening greeting in the first few verses, he launched into this tirade:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

These people who were proclaiming a contrary ‘gospel’ were wanting the Galatian believers to obey the Jewish law. Paul would have absolutely none of it. Not a bar of it! Let’s look at why… Continue reading

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