Worship
Rich Toward God PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pat Ireland   
Saturday, 31 July 2010 15:47

First Presbyterian Church, Cottonwood Falls, KS

Rich Toward God: Luke 12:12-21, Col 3:1-11

Rev. Pat Ireland, Pastor

August 1,2010

 

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

 

Colossians 3:1-11   [Paul is at the turning point of his teaching on baptism as a participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  For Paul, the resurrection signaled the beginning of the reign of God on earth and baptism initiates believers into that kingdom.  SO, he begins to explain that means for how we are to live under God’s reign.  Listen for God’s word for you.]

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things--anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

 

At first glance our two scriptures are very different.  Paul is preaching salvation through participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus is responding to an everyday situation: “Tell my brother to be fair!”  One is making a scholarly argument.  The other is dealing with everyday matters.   Yet, both teachers focus on greed… because it is idolatry.

Now, idolatry is a rather arcane concept of worshiping false gods.   But greed is something with which we are very familiar.  Our current financial woes can safely be laid at the altar of greed.  Maybe idolatry is not such an old fashioned notion after all.

 

Let us pray:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts honor the Lord that we might have no other Gods before him.  Amen

 

One time, at a Presbytery meeting, I met a man who told about how poor he’d been as a child during the depression.  He went on to say that he had since built and sold multiple business and was now comfortably retired.  I asked him if he still felt poor and he replied; Yes.

My mother was born in 1918 and her attitude about money, learned in the depression,  was one of her greatest gifts to me, and sometimes burden.  She was the daughter of a horse and buggy country doctor who was often paid for his services in chickens or produce.  That’s why my grandmother, a teacher, babysat to supplement their income.  I learned at a young age the old adage: “Use it up.  Wear it out.  Make it do or do without!”

At the same time she taught me that there was always enough money for what was really important.   I remember her telling me the story of Momma’s Savings.  I think it came from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  The story, as she told it, was that Momma always kept a small saving stashed in a jar or tin in the cupboard and if they really needed it, Momma could dip into the savings but somehow the family always found a way to avoid having to use Momma’s money (which is fact was but a few coins).  

One example: as I child I knew it was expensive to send me to church camp.  But, I also knew it was a priority for my mom.  I went and those summer experiences shaped me almost as she did.  Meanwhile, in Sunday School I learned to tithe and to pledge.

My father, on the other hand, was a believer in the philosophy offered up in the musical, Hello Dolly.  ‘Money is like manure; it isn’t any good until you spread it around.’  He was a loan officer so we could always borrow.  All major purchases were done with credit.

These influences combined to help me avoid anxiety about money while still learning how to pinch pennies and, for the most part, they have served me well.  Though, at times, I do regret not being a little freer with money, but Mike brings that to the family!

Attitudes about money are learned very early and are very hard to change.  Perhaps that is why Jesus talked so much about it.

Jesus had been encouraging his followers to be fearless and faithful in preaching the Kingdom of God, and along comes this man who is embroiled in a family feud over an inheritance.  He wanted a religious authority like Jesus to make a judgment against his brother.   We might think the guy’s problem sounds petty in the midst Kingdom talk.

But Jesus responds to the question indicating the two issues are related.  It is, however, typical of the Kingdom, that rather than receiving the kind of judgment provided by religious texts like the Book of Deuteronomy, Jesus gives the man – and the crowd – a warning: "Beware! Watch out! Be on guard against greed!  For one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

 

Jesus knows just how seductive material possessions are.  Jesus warns us about the way "things" can take over our lives, even become our lives, if we do not "watch out."

Haven’t you ever fantasized about receiving a windfall of money, and how it would make you feel relieved and secure at last?   That’s what happened to the rich farmer in today's parable?  There’s no indication this was an evil man, that he’d cheated or stolen his wealth.   Like all of us, he's benefited from good luck, from the rain that "falls on good and evil alike."

The trap he falls into is in his next steps: when he has a windfall, he doesn't run into the village celebrating and announcing his plan to share his good fortune with the community, let alone get their help with deciding how to deal with this excellent problem.  He turns inward and he stays there, figuring that he can be self-sufficient and secure solely because of his wealth.  Eleven times he uses the first-person ("I" and "my") and never "our" or "their."  Several commentaries point out the irony that the community, unaware of his solitary thoughts, will inherit his bounty and probably think well of him!

Jesus is not just down on wealth and material things.  It is much deeper than that.   Jesus knows the seductive power of possessions, and he wants to clear the way for us to receive much greater blessings and joy.  The man's anxiety about the inadequacy of his barns mirrors in some ways our own preoccupation with handling our possessions, protecting them with security systems, investing them safely, worrying about them.

It's not that such things are irresponsible or wrong, but they do distract us from what is really important.  Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the passage following the parable is enlightening: "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving....Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions." The Message As beloved children of God, we have a Parent who wants to give us good things, if we can just make room in our lives for them!

The world teaches us to value things according to their price.  But you are priceless!  Your life is of incalculable worth.  You are precious in God's eyes, not just some of you, but every single one of you.  Our value is not correlated with the value of our possessions, of course.  And because of that, when there's an abundance of goods, Jesus seems to be saying that sharing is the way to go.  That was the mistake of the rich fool.  He could have known an incomparable joy in the short time he had left, if he had spread out the abundance of his goods among the community.

This is the only time in the Gospels that God actually speaks in a parable.  Maybe that’s because the rich fool has shown blatant disregard for God's role in his life, that a direct word from God is most timely or maybe Jesus is saying that it takes a divine intervention for most of us fools in a foolish society to learn that security lies entirely beyond our reach.

 

Our security lies in God.  In a sense, the rich fool has used his wealth to set himself up as a kind of "god" who can ensure his own welfare.  The seduction of wealth is the illusion it gives us of control over our lives.  That is why it is idolatry!

Everything we have is a gift from the living God.  We may work hard, but what we have is a gift, not a reward.  Wealth is a means, not an end, and most of us need an attitude adjustment about it.  What’s more, deep down, we want an attitude adjustment.  We have seen in our own lifetimes incredible bouts of greed – in the 80's, and the 90's, and the terrible price we are now paying for the greed of recent years – no wonder that we have given way to disillusionment and hunger for what truly satisfies.

So, What does it mean to be "rich toward God"?

Surely it means realizing that wealth is not happiness.  It means reminding ourselves regularly that money and possessions do not bring peace of mind.

Additionally it means deciding to share rather than hoard.  There is a story about the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped the American colonists during our War of Independence from Britain.  When he returned home to France, he lived on his big estates and did very well.  He was in the same social class as the rich man in Jesus' parable- but acted very differently.

In 1783, after a poor harvest, Lafayette's workers were still able to fill his barns with wheat. "The bad harvest has raised the price of wheat," said one of his workers. "This is the time to sell." Lafayette thought about the hungry peasants in the surrounding villages. "No," he replied, "this is the time to give." Lafayette was "rich toward God."

We need to ask ourselves if we can give more to the needy.  We need to ask if our lives, in all their multi-faceted and multi-tasking glory, reflect the priorities God would like us to have.

Third, being rich toward God means a commitment to serve God instead of money. While it is important to be responsible about money, to plan for our retirement and our needs, we should also plan for what someone has called our "expirement" – for the death that came unexpectedly to the rich fool in this parable told by Jesus.  Some of us can give in death what we conserved in life.

Finally, Walter Bruggemann, scholar of the Old Testament prophets, reminds us that this teaching is urgent for our society.  Not only because of the perennial seduction of greed, but because we live in a society of bad tax law, bad credit arrangements, and bad advertising, all of which seek to make greed into a civic virtue.  We know better!  We may choose against such foolishness for a life of neighborliness.

 

What we need, then, is a different posture toward wealth and possessions.  It is offensive to speak of a human being's "net worth" measured in dollars and cents!  We can't measure our value and our security in our accumulated goods.  If the last year has taught us anything it should be that:  We can't trust our storehouses.  We must trust God.

But these are hard words to hear, as hard today as they were in first-century Palestine.  The crowd must have drifted away after hearing them from Jesus, so he addressed his disciples, telling them about the flowers and the birds which are gloriously beautiful and which worry not a moment about what they want or need.

The Kingdom of God not about our net worth but about our infinite value in God's eyes.  When we are rich toward God we always have enough to share!

 
Jesus' Prayer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pat Ireland   
Saturday, 24 July 2010 14:44


First Presbyterian Church, Cottonwood Falls, KS

Jesus’ Prayer: Luke 1:1-11

Rev. Pat Ireland, Pastor

July 25, 2010

 

Luke 11:1-11 CEB

 

Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: Father, uphold the holiness of your name.  Bring in your kingdom. 3Give us the bread we need today. 4Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation.”


5And also said to them, “Imagine one of you has a friend, and you go to that friend in the middle of the night.  Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread; 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me; the door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed; I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I assure you, even if he won’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. 9 “And I tell you: Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 Everyone who asks receives; whoever seeks, finds.  To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.  11 Which father among you would give a snake if your child asked for a fish? 12 If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? 13 If you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

 

This morning’s lesson is a shorter and probably earlier form of the Lord’s Prayer.  Luke places it in the context of Jesus’ own prayer life and the disciple’s desire to be like Jesus.  When the disciples say,  ‘Teach us to pray’ Jesus gives them a brief model and two stories.

 

I am reminded of the old saying, “be careful what you pray for, you might get it” for as I studied the lesson this week, struggling with a slumbering God, I began to realized that we are getting an intimate glimpse of Jesus’ own prayer life.  One, we are invited to join.

 

Let us Pray:  Creator God, father, guide the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts that we might see your kingdom come. Amen

 

The pray starts simply, almost abruptly, no adjectives of adoration, just a statement of relationship:  Father.  One of Jesus’ greatest gifts was to bring the great God in heaven, the creator of all that is, into an intimate and familiar relationship with mortals.  Jesus consistently called God Father, Abwoon in Aramaic.  Sometimes he even used the familiar, Abba.  It is not baby talk, but it does reflect the kind of intimacy one might expect in a family.

 

The very speaking of the word, abwoon, evokes the breath of life and source of creation.  The name itself makes the transcendent God of the heavens accessible to mortals.  It shifts the emphasis from power to compassion and support.  What we call God- how we image God- shapes our relationship with God.  Jesus consistently called God, father.

 

Father, hallowed…  Hallowing means respecting, treating as holy.  This is basic to our relationship with God and our other relationships as well.  We acknowledge the dignity, the otherness of the other.  The Aramaic also implies a hollowing out- a making room for the other in our hearts and minds.  Hallowing is not trembling in fear before the great almighty, like Dorothy before the wizard.  Hallowing is respecting the other as unique and holy.   Hallowing is the opposite of what Adam did in the garden, trying to be as God.  Hallowing is making room for the unique and divine perspective.

 

So, when we hallow God’s name, we make room for God’s own self.  Remember that in the Hebrew mind, to use someone’s name was to evoke all that person’s authority.  Consider the boldness of those few words.  The great god who made the heavens and earth, the source of lightening, earthquakes and floods, is named, Father, and hallowed into our very being!

 

Jesus does not pray as one cringing before one who is more powerful, but claims relationship and is empowered by it.  “Father, hallowed be thy name.”   “Daddy, uphold the holiness of your name.”

 

I had the privilege of studying with Dr. Cynthia Rigby last January and she stressed the sense of urgency in the first petition.  She would stand before us saying, “Your Kingdom Come” stamping her feet, demanding that God do something, demanding that God the almighty assert divine power and authority to fix the world.

 

Remember, Jesus was living in an occupied land.  A foreign ruler tried to shape his daily life.  He and his disciples were not free.  Thus the fervent prayer:  Your kingdom come! This petition is not a vague hope for a second coming, but demand to live into the first coming.  That is why later versions add:  on earth as in heaven.  We are praying for God’s kingdom, now in our midst, in ourselves as well as others.

 

And because it is such a broad request, Jesus makes three specific petitions, each a sign of the kingdom coming, of God’s presence and reign in the world.

 

First:  Give us each day our daily bread.

 

When God’s people, freed from Pharaoh were traveling through the wilderness God rained down manna – sweet bread-like stuff- fresh each day so that none went hungry.   Food is a sign of God’s reign.  That’s why we fellowship around the table, especially the communion table.   Food is basic to life and those who worship the Lord of Life trust in God to nourish, as a mother nourishes her child.

 

Similarly we work to see that all are fed and nourished.  Notice the communal nature of the prayer: our daily bread.  It is not enough that I be satisfied, Jesus seeks that all have enough, every day, one day at a time, just like those whom Moses led.

 

If food is the first sign of God’s reign then forgiveness is the second.  Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

 

I suspect we most often sin when scrambling to secure provisions for ourselves.  Like those in the wilderness, we rush to gather enough for the day, and even a little reserve.  But God’s wilderness manna spoiled over night… except on the Sabbath.  We ask only for today’s bread.   Tomorrow, God will provide for tomorrow.

 

But that’s a hard lesson, and we still gather, and we hoard.  We turn our backs on those who do not have enough.  We manipulate power to get more.  We turn to violence to protect what we have.  That is the way of the world.

 

But God’s kingdom is marked by forgiveness.  Jesus asks us to recognize our own sins as well as the other’s.  We ask God for forgiveness after we have forgiven those who are indebted to us in word or deed.

 

Food and Forgiveness are signs of Gods reign, God’s kingdom in our midst.

 

The third request bothered me for a long time:  Don’t lead us into temptation.

 

I resist the notion of God testing us to see if we’ll pass.   I think, however, that in this petition we see the heart of the Jewish faith.  And Jesus- don’t ever forget- was a faithful Jew.

 

Think of how, in Genesis, Jacob wrestled with God on the banks of the river before crossing over to seek is brother’s forgiveness. (Gen 32)  It seems to me that this is the story behind the first petitions.  Jacob wrestled all night with the angel, seeking a blessing.  ‘Tell me your name.’  He would not let the angel go.  They tossed and turned and Jacob ended up with a dislocated hip and, finally- at day-break, a blessing, a new name: Israel.  The one who contends with God.

 

When I was a little girl, I loved to wrestle with my big brother.  I’d pick a fight just for the fun of it – that is until my mother recognized the game and refused to intervene to rescue me.  But my brother, who always overpowered me, never hurt me.   Maybe that is why Jacob’s wrestling resonates with me.  Wrestling is an intimate activity!

 

But Jesus prays not to have to wrestle like Jacob.  Jesus doesn’t want to be the hero.  He is asking that the father, help him to live in faithfulness.  Jesus was tempted in the desert (with the wild beasts) and wants to put it all behind him.  He is asking God for the blessing and suggests we should too.

 

Mind you God does not create the temptations.  Lead us not into temptation is a prayer for faith and courage to resist.  It’s when our faith, our relationship with God is underdeveloped that we are tempted to choose the world’s way over the kingdom’s way.

 

Here’s a personal example.  I was raised a Christian and I think that’s why I’ve never really been tempted to rob a bank or kill someone.  I thank God for that.  I have never been so hungry as to be tempted to steal food.  But I am often tempted to take a little more; to keep a little more for later.   I want to have enough to take care of myself – even as I pray for daily bread!

 

When we pray not to be tempted, we are praying for the trust, the faith, the relationship with God to not be tempted to rob a bank, … or make a cutting remark.  For the sake of alliteration, one scholar calls it fidelity.  Food, forgiveness and fidelity are the marks of God’s kingdom on earth just as they are in heaven.  We pray that we might be faithful to the God who is ever faithful to us.

 

Then Jesus gives us a story and, I think, a glimpse at Jesus’ own prayer life.  At first glance it looks like the purpose of prayer is to wake God up, to nag until we get what we want.

 

“Imagine one of you has a friend, and you go to that friend in the middle of the night.  Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread; because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’  Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me; the door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed; I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I assure you, even if he won’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.”

 

I remember Elijah’s taunting of the prophets of Baal when they were trying to call down fire from heaven.  Elijah asked not only if Baal was asleep, but suggested he might have wandered off to relieve himself.  It was an awful insult, and yet it is not unlike Jesus story.  One scholar called him a slumbering God!

 

No, wait a minute, Jesus is being sarcastic!  He’s messing with us, just to keep us awake – to get our attention.  Jesus’ point is that if your lousy neighbor will yield to your persistence, surely God will yield.  In a sense there is no unanswered prayer, just prayer that has been answered yet!

 

That’s why, I think, we glimpse Jesus’ own prayer life.  We have the story of his temptation and how he wrestled in Gethsemane in the hours before his arrest.  It didn’t take a fortune-teller that there was treachery afoot.  Jesus prayed for God to change it, to overcome the world, to let this cup pass.

 

And yet God appeared to slumber.   Jesus was arrested, beaten, crucified and buried.   Nevertheless, the world was overcome in the resurrection as the model of God’s desire for all creation and us: life, and that abundant.  (John 10:10)

 

Keep in mind the primary petition,  Thy Kingdom Come.  The petitions for food, forgiveness and fidelity are simply an expansion of the original demand.  The story of persistence is the story of our eternal longing to see God in our midst.  We must be persistent and insistent in our asking, and disciplined in our looking. 

 

The second story adds clarity.

Which father among you would give a snake to if your child asked for a fish?  If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion?  If you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

Remember, these words were spoken to a people who had lost their identity.  The Romans had conquered and occupied them and insist that Caesar’s way is the way.  These folks were looking for a new King David, a miracle worker like Elijah, who would put Caesar in his place.  They were looking for one who would overthrow Caesar.

 

Here’s the catch, they are asking for a scorpion when they needed an egg.  They were asking for a snake and God sent a fisherman.   The answer to the prayer was in their midst, and most of them missed it!

 

Father, let us not miss the answer to our prayers.  Jesus prayed for the Holy Spirit and promised it to those who ask.   I am praying that an offering of sightings, of kingdom acts, of random acts placed end to end around our sanctuary will help us recognize the answer to our prayers.

 

I realize there aren’t a whole crowd of us here today, but then this teaching was not given to the crowd.  It was given to Jesus’ disciples.

 

Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  Everyone who asks receives, whoever seeks, finds.  To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.

 

God is just waiting for us to invite the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts, our lives, our world.

 
Balancing Ministry & Discipleship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pat Ireland   
Monday, 19 July 2010 16:36

Kevin Ireland – July 18, 2010

 

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

 

I think I'm a Martha.  I'm usually the one in the kitchen preparing meals (although I enjoy

cooking).  Too often, I find myself stressed out, worrying about how to meet all the

pressing obligations of the day.  And, I confess, that I have become upset when I feel that

others around me are not pulling their weight.

 

In his poem, The Sons of Martha, Rudyard Kipling wrote:

 

"The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited the good

part;

But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and

the troubled heart . . .

 

"And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed – they know the

Angels are on their side.

They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the

Mercies multiplied.

They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the

Promise runs.

They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and  - the Lord He lays

it on Martha's Sons."

 

The story of Mary and Martha compels us to ponder whether we are a "son of Mary" or

"a son of Martha" (or in your case, perhaps a daughter); however I believe that Jesus'

encounter with the two sisters can teach us to balance the mundane and the spiritual in

our daily lives as Christians by reminding us of what is most important.

 

Please pray with me:  As Abraham and Martha opened their homes, may we too open our

hearts and minds to the holy Word. Amen.

 

Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus in the town of Bethany. Jesus would

occasionally stay in their home when He was in Judea.

 

Bethany was located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives on the road linking

Jerusalem to Jericho. It was just over a mile and a half from Jerusalem, or about a half

hour's walk. So, it was a convenient place for Jesus and His fellow Galileans to stay when

visiting Jerusalem for a feast day or on some other occasion.  Bethany was also close to

the garden of Gethsemane.  Which we know from later in Luke (chapter 22) was a

favorite retreat for Jesus.

 

Martha was probably the owner of the house.  In Aramaic Martha means "lady of the

house."  And it is Martha who welcomes Jesus into the home.  But Jesus was not by

himself.  At the beginning of Luke Jesus sends 72 disciples ahead of him.  It is likely that

he had quite an entourage traveling with him.

 

Thus after inviting Jesus in, Martha busies herself in the kitchen while her sister Mary,

(which in Greek means "wise woman") abandons the preparations to sit at the feet of

Jesus.  This is a particularly significant phrase, because Jewish disciples sat at the feet of

their chosen rabbis or teachers.  The same word is used by Paul in Acts 22 v. 3, when he

says he was "brought up  . . . at the feet of Gamaliel".

 

Luke may be commenting on the role of women as leaders in the early Christian house

churches.  He is intimating that Mary is a disciple, and as such her behavior is to be

emulated.

 

However, in later generations, when men controlled all the chief positions of authority in

the church, they could not understand this attitude of Jesus as expressed in his words to

Martha and Mary.  The result is a great variety of interpretations and mistranslations.

 

Theologians of the early church depict Mary as and example of the contemplative life,

and Martha of the active, less spiritual life.  Therefore women (as well as men) were

called to the full discipleship through a completely contemplative life.

 

St. Augustine saw Martha as a symbol of this world and Mary as a symbol of the world to

come.

 

An anti-Jewish polemic claimed that Martha represented salvation by the law and Mary

salvation by faith, which replaced it.  A similar interpretation was widely held during the

Reformation by Protestants, who saw Mary as symbolizing justification by faith and

Martha the Catholic view of salvation by works.

 

A popular modern interpretation holds that the story tells women that they need to

balance their homemaking duties with their religious responsibilities as Christians, such

as devoting time to prayer and Bible study.  A contemporary variation says that women

should balance both careers and home responsibilities with their spiritual lives.

 

Rather than focus on the role of women in the church, I would instead like to turn your

attention to what the roles of Mary and Martha can teach us about our own discipleship as

Christians (men and women a like).

 

Martha "opens her home" and provides hospitality to Jesus.  Just as Abraham invites the

three strangers into his home.

 

Martha and Mary recognize Jesus as more than a teacher. They both use the word Lord

when addressing him.  The word they likely used is "Mari" – ('my lord' in Aramaic).  In

Jesus' time, Lord was coming into use as a title of respect to address those with authority,

such as rabbis.  The use of the title Lord recognizes Jesus as a great teacher and

charismatic prophet.

 

However, The two women respond very differently to this recognition. Martha becomes

distracted by her many tasks. The Greek word translated as "distracted" means literally

"to be pulled from all directions."  While the phrase "getting everything ready" (or "by

much serving" if you're reading from the NRSV), or ("many tasks" in the version read

today) is derived from the Greek word "diakonia" which generally means women's work,

but can also mean service or ministry.  Luke uses the same word later in chapter 22 v.27

when Jesus tells his disciples, "I am among you as one who serves."  John also uses the

word diakonia in chapter 13 when he describes Jesus washing the disciples feet.

 

So, Martha is distracted by her ministry.  The same kind ministry that Jesus has

extolled as a virtue.

 

Mary in contrasts sits at the feet of Jesus with the other disciples.  Although, interestingly

left out of most English translations is the Greek word "kai", which is used to call

attention to something unusual or unexpected.  Thus the passage can be read, "Mary

also," or, "even Mary sat at the feet of Jesus."  Mary is undaunted by social convention,

appearances or good manners.  She is not concerned that she will be considered a bad

host.  She sits at the feet of her Lord to listen.

 

When Martha comes to Jesus. The Greek word connotes not simply "to stand near or by,"

but also carries the idea of "standing over" or even to "oppose."  There is a sense that

Martha is opposing what Jesus and Mary are doing.  She asks Jesus to send Mary away

from him to help her with the chores.

 

Jesus responds sympathetically, replying, "Martha, Martha you are worried and distracted

by many things. One thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the better part.  It won't be

taken away from her."  There are two versions or this phrase in the Greek.

 

One reads, "few things are needed, or one."  The other reads: "one thing is needed."

Jesus is still talking about Martha's work of service, but scholars differ in their

interpretation.  Some think that Jesus is saying, "a big feast is not needed; a simple meal

of only a few dishes, or even only one, will be sufficient."  Others think that he was

referring to one spiritual goal.

 

Alycee McKenzi, a professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology points out that

the two versions can work together here.  A simpler meal would have left Martha time

and energy to hear Jesus' teachings.  Realizing that one dish, or only a few are necessary

could have enabled Martha to focus on the one thing that is necessary spiritually.

 

But, Martha is so anxious about her service to her Lord that she does not hear his

teaching.  Jesus is encouraging Martha to change her priorities.  While preparing a

meal is important, it should not prevent her from hearing his words.

 

The story encourages us to examine our own priorities as individuals and as a church.  As

a church we are committed to witnessing our faith through ministry.  But ministry

without taking time to be in the presence of the divine can become a distraction.  And, we

can become anxious and doubtful when we do not take the time to dwell in the presence

of our Lord.  Do we as a church become distracted and anxious about our ministry?  Do

our concerns about what others will think prevent us from being where we should be as a

church?  Do our self-imposed obligation of service drain us to the point where we are

unable to become inspired in the presence of our Lord?

 

When we gather together as our church, like Martha and Abraham we welcome the

divine into our midst.  But even now, like Martha, do the concerns of your daily lives

prevent you from sitting at His feet? Are you preoccupied with getting everything ready?

Do the mundane concerns of preparing the meal after church, or the activities planned

later in the day - intrude upon this holy time? Are you distracted by your fears, doubts,

anger, or anxiety?  Is it preventing you from experiencing the divine presence in our

midst?

 

Rachel and I were talking about this over dinner (or at least trying to between the girls

chatter, dropped forks and requests for more soy milk).  Rachel proposed an experiment:

what would happen if for one day (or even just one decision) our only concern was to be

closer to the divine.  What would that look like in your life?  What would it look like in

the church?

 

If you haven't already, close your eyes.  Take a deep breath and relax. Prepare yourself to

be present at the table of our Lord as we share holy communion.  With each breath, cast

off your anxiety. Release your worries, your doubts, your resentment, your pain - come

and sit at the feet of your Lord.  Become truly present in this moment and experience the

presence of the divine here in our midst.  – Amen

 

I asked that we have the passing of the peace after the sermon because I wanted to share

something that Kiran said to me after church a few weeks ago.  She was telling me about

how she enjoyed saying "Peace of Christ be with you" with the big kids at the end of the

service, and as we were talking I realized that she understood the words to mean " a piece

of Christ be with you."  I love this idea of taking a piece of Christ with us as we go out

into the world.  And as I was writing the sermon, I thought about how you cannot take a

piece of Christ with you unless you first welcome Christ and invite him in.  As we pass

the peace today – may we all share a piece of Christ.  And after inviting Christ into our

hearts may we sit at the feet of our Lord and experience the holy presence of the divine.

 

A piece of Christ be with you.

 
Called to Freedom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pat Ireland   
Sunday, 27 June 2010 14:19

 

First Presbyterian Church, Cottonwood Falls, KS

Called to Freedom:  Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Rev. Patricia Ireland, Pastor

June 27, 2010

 

The church in Galatia was divided and fighting.  Paul had founded the congregation on a message of Christ crucified, and raised as the first born of the Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven.    Paul taught:  Jesus is Lord of the coming kingdom of God and what you need to do to be part of that kingdom is to believe and follow him.

 

Other evangelists insisted that one had to be circumcised to become a part of God’s kingdom, one of God’s chosen people.  When Paul heard about it he was indignant, and wrote a letter in response.  This morning’s lesson is taken from the climax of that letter.  Listen for God’s word for you.

 

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

5 1For freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…

13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.  I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

 

Presbyterians are a by-the-book people.  In fact we have 3 books:  the Bible, the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions. . There is security in a book, clarity in black and white.  Our 219th General Assembly convenes in Minneapolis on Saturday to consider, amid a host of other overtures, proposed changes to the Book of Order and an addition to the Book of Confessions.

 

Like the church in Galatia, we’ll argue and debate about this “new stuff.”  And like the church in Galatia we will struggle with what it means to be free in Christ while bound to one another in his love.

 

Let us Pray:  Eternal, living Word guide the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts that we might freely love and live in you.  Amen

 

If there was ever anyone invested in rules, it was Saul.  Rabbi Saul had followed the rules all his life.  A member of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, a Pharisee, ‘righteous under the law, and blameless,’ Phil 3:5-6  Paul was zealous for the traditions of his ancestors and advanced in Judaism far beyond others of his age. Gal 1:13-14  He was so zealous, that he exposed and persecuted the blasphemers who claimed the crucified Jesus was raised by God establishing a new covenant with God’s people.  According to Luke, Rabbi Saul assisted in the killing of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr.

 

One day, on the trip to Damascus to hunt for heretics, Saul heard the voice of the Risen Jesus and was struck blind by a vision of his glory.  When he regained his sight he became as passionate about Jesus he had been about the Law and, like a reformed drunk, he set out to tell the world about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

 

Thus Saul, the fanatic for the law, became Paul the fanatic for Jesus.  No longer bound by the constant need to obey every detail of the ancient law, Paul proclaimed freedom in Christ, and exclaimed, “For Freedom Christ has set us free!”

 

He’s been arguing his point for four chapters by the time he makes this bold statement.  I confess his arguments aren’t always convincing to the Western mind, but his point is clear.  Through Christ, God offers a relationship without preconditions except that one remain in that relationship with Jesus.  For Paul, to say we believe in Jesus was not to assent to a theological proposition or moral code but to know the living presence of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit in you and in the world; or to use John’s terminology, ‘to abide in Christ as Christ abides in God.’1Jn 4:16b

 

If, as John writes, ‘God is love’ we cannot be in relationship with God and/or Jesus without love.  John declares: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God.” 1Jn 4:7-8  Similarly, Paul writes: 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

You can follow the argument from there.  Paul preaches Jesus; saying the whole law is summed up in the great commandment:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might and your neighbor a yourself.”  To be in relationship with God through Jesus is to be in relationship with your neighbor.  Paul declares, with his usual passion, “through love become slaves to one another.”

 

Christ sets us free to love and love binds us to one another, seeking the other’s welfare as our own.  Paul says it more dramatically, not through obligation but “through love become slaves to one another.”  This slavery is not a control relationship but one of mutual support.  You know, we joke a lot about being a slave to a spouse, but really that’s a pretty good model of what Paul is talking about; slaves to one another in love.  Paul’s vision presses beyond a pair to a community!  You can see why this is hard.

 

Paul has been playing with the concepts of freedom and slavery and now he turns the table calling us to be slaves to one another.   He is not suggesting a one-sided relationship where one does all the giving or receiving.  Paul is calling us to mutual service where all give and all receive.

 

Having turned around the opposition of freedom and slavery, Paul turns to another opposition to prove his point:  Flesh and Spirit.  Be careful here.  Paul is not denying the flesh!  After all the very foundation of faith is that God become flesh and blood and died and rose again.  If in-flesh-ment, incarnation is good enough for God, it has to be good for us.  So, how are we to understand this flesh/spirit dualism that Paul is setting up.

 

Jesus said you cannot serve two masters and He called them God and wealth.  Matt 6:24  Paul says you can’t have it both ways and calls them flesh and spirit.  Flesh is Paul’s shorthand for self-centered living and Spirit is short-hand for God-centered living.    Remember the quarrel is whether baptism (a sign of the Spirit) is sufficient for membership- for salvation- or whether circumcision (a sign of the flesh) is also necessary.

 

Of course, this flesh/spirit dualism clear back to the creation story.  Mortals were made from mud, Adam, the earth and then God breathed spirit into them.  We are both flesh and spirit, humans and made in God’s image.  Thus there is always a tension in our lives, the struggle between human nature and divine nature.  There are lots of ways to say it, but it all boils down to choice.  How will we choose to live, to ourselves or to God; in the kingdom of Caesar or the Kingdom of God?

 

There’s an old story that illustrates this well.

 

There was a Grandfather. His little grandson often came in the evenings to sit at his knee and ask the many questions that children ask.  One day the grandson came to Grandfather with a look of anger on his face.

Grandfather said, "Come, sit, tell me what has happened today."

The child sat and leaned his chin on Grandfather's knee.  Looking up into the wrinkled, nut brown face and the kind dark eyes, the child's anger turned to quiet tears as he began his tale by saying, "I went to the town today with Father to trade the furs he has collected over the past several months.  I was happy to go, because father said that since I had helped him with the trapping, I could get something for me.... something that I wanted.

"I was so excited to be in the trading post.  I have not been there before.  I looked at many things and finally found a metal knife!  It was small, but good size for me, so father got it for me."

Here the boy laid his head against Grandfather's knee and became silent.  Grandfather softly placed his hand on the boy's raven hair and said, "And then what happened?"

Without lifting his head, the boy said, "I went outside to wait for Father, and to admire my new knife in the sunlight.  Some town boys came by and saw me.  They got all around me and started saying bad things.  They called me dirty and stupid and said that I should not have such a fine knife.  The largest of these boys pushed me back and I fell over one of the other boys.  I dropped my knife and one of them snatched it up and they all ran away laughing."   Here, the boy's anger returned, "I hate them.  I hate them all!"

Grandfather, with eyes that have seen too much, lifted his grandson's face so his eyes looked into the boy's.  Grandfather said, "Let me tell you a story.  I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.  But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy.  It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.

"I have struggled with these feelings many times.  It is as if there are two wolves inside me, one is white and one is black.  The White Wolf is good and does no harm.  He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended.  It will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

"But the Black Wolf is full of anger.  The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper.  He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason.  He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great.  It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.  Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

Grandfather smiled and said, "The one I feed."

Which will you feed; flesh or spirit? law or love? bondage or freedom?  In order to answer that question let’s be more concrete.

 

Paul gives us list of behaviors that result when we feed the flesh: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”  It’s probably like other lists of the time.  It starts with sex.  What do we always start there?   Then it moves quickly into the really hard stuff like anger, quarrels, jealousy and envy.

 

Have you ever felt controlled by those emotions?  Paul calls it bondage to the flesh.  20th century terminology would say addicted.   The 21st century is quickly turning into an era of factions, dissension and strife.  We are losing the art of civil discourse.  We are in bondage to sound bites, labels and easy answers.   We mandate classes for anger-management and sensitivity training.

 

I’ll bet you can list other forms of bondage.  How about economic bondage:  debt or the constant struggle to be financially secure so that you don’t have to rely on anyone – even God?  Or the need to be productive, to do something that the world values.  Or how about spiritual bondage the need to be “good enough,” to justify yourself to God and neighbor? Religion can damage people, you know.  That’s why Paul is so passionate in his argument against a fundamentalist understanding of the law as opposed to the love and grace of God in Jesus.

 

On the other hand there is spirit, freedom, love.  Paul gives us a list of those fruits or indicators: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Then he quips, there is no law against such things.

 

Stop and think of how you feel when you are engaging in or expressing these qualities to another: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

 

Remember of how you felt when another was loving, patient, kind, generous, faithful, or gentle toward you.    Think of how you feel when another restrains their anger towards you.

 

We talk a lot about discernment these days.  That’s a fancy word for recognizing God with us, guiding us.  I’m confident that whenever you are aware of sharing or receiving love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control you have discerned God in our midst.

 

hat’s why we get such a good feeling and name it as a spirit sighting when we see the children embracing or helping one another.   The question is: why is it so much easier to see it in children than in our own lives?

 

(Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me .” Matt 18:3-5  But, that’s another sermon! )

 

For today it is probably sufficient to say God gave us free will.  Our lives are filled with choices and in a simple world the choice fall clearly into black or white, bondage or freedom , flesh or spirit.   We don’t really live in a simple world and it is not always easy to discern the good.  It takes intention and it takes prayer.  Our biggest challenge is to see that the big choice is always before us in a million little choices.  Which will we feed:  flesh or Spirit, bondage or freedom, apathy or love?

 

Here’s the Good News.  God loved us enough to become flesh and blood and invites us into that incarnation.  In Jesus we are free to love and to make mistakes and to try again, and again, and again.  Hallelujah.  Amen.

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 June 2010 14:28
 
Jesus and Peter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pat Ireland   
Monday, 21 June 2010 21:38

 

First Presbyterian Church, Cottonwood Falls, KS

Jesus & Peter: Off the Record Conversations1

Rev. Pat Ireland, Pastor

June 20, 2010

 

Scripture Matthew 4:18-22

18 As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

 

The Call:

Jesus :  Peter…?

Peter:  Yes, Jesus…?

J: Come with me.

P: Where are you going?

J: I’m not telling you.

P: Do you not know?

J:  Oh yes, I’ve a fair idea.

P:  Then… why won’t you tell me?

J: You might not like it.

P: Well, thanks for your consideration, Jesus.

(A pause)

J: Peter…?

P: Yes, Jesus…?

J:  Come with me.

P:  Can I bring somebody else?

J: Just bring yourself.

P: Will there only be the two of us?

J: O no, there’ll be plenty of others.

P: Will I know some of them?

What about my cousin Alec… will he be there?

And is there any chance of my sister coming if she still fancies you?

And what about my gran?

Oh, Jesus, I’d love to bring my gran to meet you.  Can I?

J: Peter… just bring yourself.

P: But…but… you said there would be others.

J: That’s right.

P: Who are they?

J: I’m not telling you.

P:  Why not?

J: You might not like them.

P: Aw , thanks a bunch Jesus!

(A pause)

J: Peter…?

P: Yes, Jesus…?

J:  Come with me.

P: Jesus, I’ve got better things to do than go on a mystery tour.

But, I’ll think about it.

Just tell me what I’ll need.

J: What do you mean?

P: Well, If I’m going somewhere I don’t’ know, with people you refuse to tell me about,

there are some things that might come in very handy.

J:  Like what?

P: Like something to read in case I get bored…

Like something to sing in case I get sad…

Like a new pair of jeans in case there’s a dance or party!

J: Peter, you’ll not need anything.  Just bring yourself.  That’s enough to contend with.

P: Jesus… do you want me to end up like you???

J: Peter…

I’m going…

Are you coming with me?

 

Let us participate and respond by joining in singing “The Summons” FWS 2131

 

Scripture Luke 4:38-40

38 After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. 39 Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.

40 As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.

 

A Question of Technique:

Peter (Judy): Eh… Jesus…!

Jesus (Pat): Yes, Peter?

P: Can I ask you a question about your technique?

J: What technique, Peter?

P: I was afraid you would say that.

J: What’s this about?

P: It’s just that the disciples and I were trying to work out what your technique was for healing people.

J: What did you come up with?

P: Well, at first we thought it was to do with your hands.

Because when you healed Jairus’s daughter and my old mother-in-law, you took them by the hand.

But, then we remembered the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  You never touched her.

So, we decided it wasn’t your hands.

J: Well done.  Was there another theory?

P: Yes.  Martha thought it was your voice.

Because when you raised Lazarus, you shouted at him and he came back to life.

An then Andrew reminded us of how you never saw the centurion’s servant, but you managed to bring him back to life without shouting at him.

J: So, you decided that it couldn’t be my voice.

P: That’s right.

Oh, Jesus, we even thought it might be something to do with your saliva.

J:  My saliva?

P: Well, you did spit on the deaf man’s tongue and it started him yapping as if it was going out of fashion.

And you spat on mud at the pool of Siloam and you rubbed the mixture on the blind boy’s eyes.

J: But I’ve healed other deaf people, and I cured Bartimaeus without spitting.

P: Oh, Thomas reminded us of that.  So the saliva theory is out the window.

J: So, what conclusion did you come to about my technique?

P: Jesus, we don’t think you have one!

J: Right fourth time!  I don’t have a technique.

P: The how do you heal?

J: Peter, when Andrew and you were little boys, did your mother always treat you the same?

P: Oh yes.  She had no favorites.

J: I’m not asking you if she had favorites.  I’m asking you if she treated you the same.

P: Well… yes and no.

J: Tell me about the ‘no’.

P: Let me think…   oh, yes, here’s an example.

If my mother wanted us to get up in the morning she would tell Andrew it was half past seven and me it was half past eight.

J: Why was that?

P: Because she knew that Andrew loved getting up and I hated it.

The only way she could ever get me out of my bed was to convince me that I was late.

J: Your mother, Peter, is like God.

P: Don’t be daft, Jesus, my mother wears dentures!

J: Peter, your mother is like God.

In order to get you changed from your pajamas to your shirt and trousers, she had to treat you as an individual.

When God, through me, changes people from being sick to being healthy, it doesn’t happen because of a slick technique.

When you love people, you treat them and heal them as individuals.

 

Response:  "O Savior in This Quiet Place"  PH 390

Scripture:  Matthew 9:14-15

14 Then the disciples of John came to Jesus, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don’t fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

 

The Big Day:  (Peter is very excited)

Peter : Eh… Jesus…?

Jesus: Yes, Peter?

P: When’s the big day, then?

J: Big day?

P: You know… when do you intend to let the cat out of the bag?

J: I never knew the cat was in the bag.  In fact, I never knew there was a bag.

P: Oh, come one.  You can tell me…

J: Tell you what?

P: Who the lucky lady is…  none of us had any idea!

J: Well I’d be glad if you would make an informed guess.  For I’ve no idea either.

P: Come on, Jesus don’t mess around.  When are you getting married?

J: Married?

P: Jesus, I heard you…  five minutes ago…

You were talking to John’s disciples and you said to them, “The bridegroom’s friends don’t fast while he’s with them.’ Didn’t you?

J: Yes, but…

P: (Interrupting) Then, if you’re the bridegroom… who’s the bride?  Where’s the wedding?  And who’s doing the catering?

J: Peter…

P:  (Interrupting again) Me do the catering?  I’m a lousy cook!

J:  Peter…

P:  Now, Jesus don’t you get all coy.  I heard you

J: Eh, Peter, I was speaking metaphorically.

(Pause)

P. What do you mean?

J: What you heard was a snippet of a conversation in which I was trying to explain your behavior.

P: My behavior?  What have I done wrong now?

J: Nothing.  You just laugh too much and eat too much for some people to take you seriously.

P: You mean the holy rollers?

J: I think that there are better descriptions for the Pharisees.

P: How about ‘whited sepulchers’ or ‘snakes.’

J: (Slightly impatiently)

Peter, the point is that the Pharisees… and John’s disciples…

live a far more moderate life than we do.

They believe that being temperate and self-controlled is very important.

So when they see you enjoying a meal on the day that they decided to fast, they get a bit upset and a bit judgmental.

P: You mean we should be fasting as well?

J: No.  I remind them that fasting was a voluntary thing.  That’s why I said that when the bridegroom is among his friends prior to the wedding, they all enjoy themselves.

P: (Puzzled) I don’t get it.

J: Well, Peter, the way I see it is that the Kingdom of God is like a great feast.

P: I know… I remember the story.

J: So, when the sick are cured or the poor hear the good news or whatever, that’s a sign of the Kingdom coming.  And it’s a cause for celebration.

And as I am the one who makes the Kingdom come, it’s only fair that my friends should celebrate with me.

Now do you understand?

P: I think so.

(Pause)

Jesus, if I ask you another question, will you give me a non-metaphorical answer?

J: What is it?

P: When are you going to get married?  I mean you are over thirty and your not short of admirers.

J: Peter, there is no answer to that question.

I am here to bring in the Kingdom.  That is what my life is all about.  I couldn’t be loyal to my vocation and to a wife and children.

P: But if bringing in the Kingdom is for single people, why did you choose disciples who are married?

J: Peter, I never said the work of the Kingdom was for single people.

In my case, it is.  In your case, it’s not.

Now, can we go on?

 

At this table we meet once again the bridegroom.  Whenever we gather at the Lord’s table we are nourished, prepared for and participate in the kingdom of God as we enact and anticipate the joy of the kingdom in our midst as in heaven.   Single and married, young and old, prepare your hearts to celebrate as we join in singing verse 3 of “I Come with Joy”

 

1 From:  Off-the record conversations Jesus and Peter, by John L. Bell & Graham Maule, GIA, Chicago, 1999.

 


 

Last Updated on Monday, 21 June 2010 21:42
 
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