Ruth 3.1–5; 4.13–17
…spiritual brokenness affects our lives and the lives of others. We have found, however, that God is eager to bless us even in our spiritual brokenness. (from Soul Repair)
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
That’s the opening line of a 1953 novel called The Go-Between. It’s a brilliant opening line for a novel and for a sermon. We must always remember when we read the scriptures that the past is a foreign country. They did things differently there. We’re going to see that as we look at our scripture passages today.
Firstly, widows: in an age with no social security, no pension, they could be in a precarious position.
The readings for this week and last draw our attention to the plight of widows in biblical times. We have Naomi and Ruth, husbandless and childless, forced to eke out a living gleaning grain from the fields that hadn’t been gathered by the men working there; and also forced to plot and plan to ensure that Boaz noticed Ruth. This is more than a romantic story; it is a matter of life and death for Ruth and Naomi.
And in today’s Gospel Reading, we have the widow who had fallen on hard times, whose offering is two small coins, each worth only about six minutes’ work. Her offering is practically worthless. But it was all she had.
And don’t forget that last week we heard Psalm 146, which proclaims that
The Lord keeps faith for ever,
giving food to the hungry,
justice to the poor,
freedom to captives…
comforting widows and orphans,
protecting the stranger…
The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments proclaim that God seeks justice for the widow, the orphan and all who are being failed by the society they live in. Continue reading
Ordinary Time 19C; Pentecost 12C; Proper 14C
Isaiah 1.1, 10–20
Hebrews 11.1–3, 8–16
Right there in chapter one of his book, Isaiah tells Israel that God does not ‘like’ its worship services in the great Temple of Jerusalem. God says,
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen…
So, how do you feel after a service of worship? Do you enjoy our services? Perhaps ‘enjoy’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps I should ask how you ‘respond to’, ‘experience’, ‘appreciate’ our services.
Maybe you don’t enjoy worship all that much. If not, why not? Often, when people say that they mean the music isn’t right for them. Or the sermons are too long. Or we should have Holy Communion more often, or less ‘liturgy’—whatever that is.
Maybe we feel that the Pentecostals have got it right, with their exuberance, their songs and their spontaneity. Or the Orthodox Churches, with their mystery, icons and incense. It may even be we’re ok with the way things are.
But let’s face the real question: If God didn’t like Temple worship back then, then the real question is not what we think about worship, but what God thinks about it here in Centenary Uniting. How does God respond to our worship?
1 Kings 17.8–24
Today, Jesus goes to Nain. Nain was a tiny village in Galilee, not far from Mt Tabor. I’m sure nothing much happened there, but one day Jesus was going there with his disciples and a large crowd. I imagine them to be in high spirits, walking with this new teacher who was doing such wonderful things. After all, who could help but be buoyed up in this situation? What a day they were having! The story could have been about them. But it’s not.
The crowd with Jesus isn’t the only mob there that day. There is another large crowd of people, but they were sad and despondent. They were accompanying a widow who had lost her only son, and they were taking him to his last resting place. This second crowd probably consisted of most of the village of Nain.
Two “large crowds” meet face to face. The road would have been a bit too narrow to accommodate everyone. I guess neither group could just politely pass the other by. They met that day not just face to face, but eye to eye.
Two crowds, two moods, one entering Nain, the other crowd leaving. They couldn’t avoid each other.
Maybe nothing much ever happened in Nain, but I can sense some tension in the air that day.
I wonder how the people with Jesus felt? Perhaps their day out with the teacher was spoiled by all the wailing and mourning that went along with a funeral procession in that time and place. Some of them must have been annoyed.
And how did the people of Nain feel? Here are all these outsiders, coming on a day that they just needed to be alone. A day they were sharing the grief of a poor widow. Now these strangers were coming into their village, on a day when there was no one home to guard their property. Continue reading