Monthly Archives: October 2013

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Readings
Joel 2.23–32
Luke 18.9–14

 

The prophet Joel looks forward to a day when God says 

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

‘I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…’ On whom? On the upright, like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel reading? On rogues and scoundrels like the tax collector? What does all flesh mean? How selective will the Spirit be?

Let’s try to answer that as we go to the Gospel reading. Jesus tells a parable, which is a brief story with a sting in the tail. Two men go up to the Temple to pray, probably for one of the times of public prayer, mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Each one stands alone, and stays apart from any other worshippers. They stand apart because each one is concerned about religious purity. There, the similarity ends. Continue reading

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Fantasising about being unfaithful

Thoughtful post about why busy people may be part of a local church.

Fantasising about being unfaithful.

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Lend a hand—as baptised people (29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Reading

Jeremiah 31.27–34

 

Last week, we were reminded that Jerusalem was destroyed for the first time in 597 BC. That’s 2600 years ago. The city was demolished by the Babylonians, who were the superpower of the time. The Temple, God’s house, was torn down. And Jerusalem’s best and brightest were carried away into exile in Babylon, in the place we now call Iraq.

When the Jewish people were carried away, they felt they could no longer worship God. The Temple was gone. That was their only place of worship. So in Psalm 137 they sang,

By the rivers of Babylon
we sat down and wept
as we remembered Zion.
On the willow trees there
we hung up our lyres,
for there those who had carried us captive
asked us to sing them a song,
our captors called on us to be joyful:
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

How indeed? As if broken hearts and broken spirits were not enough, how could they sing God’s songs with no temple?

The Book of Jeremiah countered this by telling them to put down roots, to grow food and have children, to pray for the welfare of the city of their enemies.

And when the time came that they could go back to their ancestral home, the Book of Jeremiah has startling news for the returning exiles. God says:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel…says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

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Lend a Hand—in a time of change (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Reading
Jeremiah 29.1, 4–7

 

Sometimes, when I look at where I am in life, I wonder how I got here. I could never have predicted when I was a young boy growing up that one day I’d be a minister in a church that I’d never heard of, a church that didn’t exist yet. I couldn’t imagine that I’d be living in a place on the other side of the world, where my birthday was in winter and Christmas was in summer.

I couldn’t have dreamt that most of us would have phones even better than Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. I never imagined that the smart phones we now have would have more powerful computers than those that guided the moon landing in 1968.

I couldn’t have dreamt that my daughter Erin would come to me when she was a little girl and ask my if I played with Blu-tac as a boy. When I told her that we didn’t have Blu-tac when I was a boy, she straightaway asked me if I played with twisty-ties. I had to tell her there were no twisty-ties when I was a kid either. I felt so old.

I couldn’t have dreamt that the pace of change would be so fast that you now hear twenty year-olds saying, Back in the day…

It’s not all light-hearted, though. I couldn’t have dreamt in my wildest nightmares that I’d be living in a time when 97% of climatologists tell us that climate change is real, and that human activity bears a great deal of the responsibility.

I couldn’t have dreamt I’d see the largest displacement of people from their homes in world history. That’s what we’re seeing in Syria right now as people flee or are driven from their homes. The World Health Organisation has called this the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis on earth. According to The Atlantic magazine:

Four million Syrians are internally displaced; with homes either destroyed or unsafe, they have moved to temporary housing within Syria’s borders. Another two million have now fled the country, pouring into neighbouring countries at a rate of nearly 6,000 every day.

Those of us who went to the Holy Land in April heard something about this while travelling through Jordan.

No one knew how true it was back in 1964 when Bob Dylan sang The times they are a-changing. But then, I doubt he did either.

We don’t all ‘do’ change well, so what do we do when the times are changing? Hide from it, embrace it, go with the flow?

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Increase (?) our faith (Ordinary Sunday 27, Year C)

Reading
Luke 17.5–10

The disciples say to Jesus,

Increase our faith!

The scriptures don’t mention their state of mind, but I can’t resist speculating. I suspect they were
anxious,
bewildered,
confused,
and shamed.

You see, Jesus had just said some things that showed that it’s very difficult sometimes to be his disciple. Things like this:

Things that cause people to trip and fall into sin must happen, but how terrible it is for the person through whom they happen. It would be better for them to be thrown into a lake with a large stone hung around their necks than to cause one of these little ones to trip and fall into sin.

What’s that about? What are the ‘things that cause people to trip and fall into sin’? Jesus explains what he means: it’s all about not forgiving other people. Surprised? Listen:

Watch yourselves! If your brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. If they change their hearts and lives, forgive them. Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I am changing my ways,’ you must forgive that person.

That’s when the disciples say, ‘Increase our faith!’

The disciples are saying, You want us to forgive someone who keeps doing the wrong thing day after day after day? You’re asking the impossible! Increase our faith!

And what do they mean, ‘Increase our faith’? It is absolutely crucial to understand Jesus’ reply. He tells them the size of their faith doesn’t matter. It only needs to be the size of a mustard seed.

If size doesn’t matter, what does matter? Continue reading

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