Monthly Archives: November 2011

The life of faith: Reign of Christ/Christ the King (Year A, 20 November, 2011)

The life of faith

Readings
Ephesians 1.15-23
Matthew 25.31-46

For the last few weeks, we’ve been hearing parables about the ‘coming’ or parousia of Jesus. We heard the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins; the bridegroom was delayed, and five bridesmaids missed his coming because they’d ran out of oil. We heard the Parable of the Talents, and of the third slave whose fear of the master kept him from the risky adventure of faith that he was being invited into.

Today, we reach the pinnacle of Matthew’s teaching: the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

Remember, parousia means ‘being alongside’; the parousia of Jesus is the ‘being alongside’ us of Jesus. This parable teaches how Jesus is alongside us right now. We don’t have to wait to meet him! Isn’t that good news!?

Let me just offer one warning when we’re reading parables: when we interpret a parable, we are meant to find its central theme—and then we are meant be surprised or even disturbed by it. We are not meant to look at every detail and make each detail have a meaning.

So this parable is about how Jesus comes to us now, and how the judgement happens here and now in the events of our lives. It’s not about ‘getting to heaven’; it not about ‘who goes to heaven and who goes to hell’.

This parable is about how we should live by faith now, since Jesus is coming to us every single day of our lives. It shows us that people of faith have a responsibility for the world. Jesus comes to us incognito, hidden, unknown: he comes hungry and thirsty, he comes a stranger, or naked, or sick or in prison. Christ the King comes to us in rags, and bids us to serve him by faith.

In some ways this is a frightening parable. Nobody knows when they have met Jesus, neither the sheep nor the goats!

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Risking the way of Jesus: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 13 November 2011)

Risking the way of Jesus

Readings
1 Thessalonians 5.1-11
Matthew 25.14-30

As a young boy growing up in England, my attention was often captivated by tales of buried treasure. You’d hear of people finding a Roman coin or a medieval brooch in an ordinary field with a metal detector; but every now and then a real hoard was found.

In 1939, for example, the ‘Sutton Hoo’ treasure was found in Suffolk. It was the site of a seventh century royal burial, with a whole ship interred under the earth. And just in 2009, someone found 5 kg of gold and 2.5 kg of silver dating from the same century. These treasures had been buried for fourteen centuries!

Today’s Gospel Reading tells of buried treasure. A rich man has three servants. Each is given an absolutely amazing amount of money. Ten talents, five talents, one talent, all huge amounts of money.

In English, we speak of our natural gifts as ‘talents’, don’t we? The first time this use of the word ‘talent’ was recorded was 1430. And this meaning of the word ‘talent’ comes from this parable. In the days of Jesus, a ‘talent’ was the largest unit of currency. It was worth about twenty years’ wages for a working man. This huge amount became the word we use for natural gift or attribute.

We often tell this parable about stewardship. So the preacher often asks, How are we using the talents that God has given us? What a great gift this passage is as we bring our stewardship season to a close! Yet to be honest, this parable isn’t really about stewardship. It’s more about taking risks in a world in which the Lord is surely coming.

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Beam me up Jesus? 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 6 November 2011)

Beam me up Jesus?

Readings
1 Thessalonians 4.13-18
Matthew 25.1-13

 

The ‘second coming’ of Jesus has been in the news this year. The American preacher Harold Camping has emphasised the second coming in his teaching. He says that Jesus will come at the ‘Rapture’, when true believers will be whisked away to heaven and those who are ‘Left Behind’ will come under the power of the Beast and face the wrath of God. He has made himself—and, by extension, the rest of us—a laughingstock by making no less than four false prophecies of the End: one in 1988, one in 1994—and two this year, on 21 May and 21 October. I feel terribly sorry for those people who sold everything they had to give to this man and his misguided message. (I hear he’s just retired. Good call Harold, but a little late.)

I mentioned a common script that people assume when they talk about the second coming. The world will get worse and worse; Jesus will come and whisk all the believers up to heaven; and then the world gets even worse still. Then Jesus comes as an enforcer and ‘kicks ass’.

Our young people have a great ministry with our church sign; they’re going with a sci-fi theme right now, so this week it’s said ‘Beam me up Jesus’. Star Trek fans will immediately recognise the phrase, ‘Beam me up Scotty’. It’s great fun and I love the sign—but it’s not great theology. A ‘beam me up Jesus’ faith is a faith that fails to hear the call of God.

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