Tag Archives: consequences

Spreading Light (Epiphany 2a)

It is a dark time of year, and I enjoy light – winter sun, illuminations, shop window displays. Little wonder that, from the time of candles and oil lamps, people have spoken of the darkness of evil, and the light of Jesus. In the second Sunday of Epiphany, we are continuing to look at the way the gospel spread, and continues to spread.  Early in his gospel John tells us about the spread of the light, as Jesus lights up people. Today’s gospel takes the process further (John 1:29-42). Its an interesting and important process, that we need to understand and repeat.

First, John the Baptist has recognised Jesus – he had known there would be someone, but didn’t know who until he saw the person on whom the Spirit came and stayed. He tells the people round him, and two (including Andrew) go and see.

The initial contact is tentative – Jesus speaks first. His question “what are you looking for?” is significant. Open ended, it offers conversation without buttonholing, but encourages them to think about what, in fact, they want.

Their answer is odd “Where do you live, Rabbi?” They are not yet ready to trust Jesus, though there is respect, but want a little time. If that is the right understanding, Jesus understands, and instead of saying “29 High Street” says, “Come and see”. Of course, as they go, they talk.  “ So they went with him and saw where he lived, and spent the rest of that day with him.” (v39)  Jesus is ready to engage, answer questions.

That time – time to see, ask questions, to check and see for yourself what others may have said – is important. But you can’t stay there for ever! Andrew has decided. It’s no longer what John or anyone else said, he now has his own position. Andrew “found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” (This word means “Christ.”)” Jesus has gained a disciple. First attracted by what other people said about Jesus, he has made contact, taken time, and made a decision. Now he is part of the next stage of the process – he is the one talking about Jesus and spreading the light. Simon, of course, is Peter, who will lead the apostles. Andrew will not be as famous, but will be a point of contact for others on their journey to faith (and so associated with Mission).

In just a few verses, John has taken us through the life cycle of the Church:

  • those who know encourage others to look
  • seekers make contact, and see for themselves what Jesus is and offers. It may not be their first desires, there is a need to allow time as they see what it really means for them, but many understand his importance and mission, and become disciples themselves.
  • They become, however imperfectly, those who know and, as they continue to grow, encourage others to look.

How does the light spread? By a process involving all who follow Jesus. We call it evangelism, which someone once defined as  “One beggar telling another beggar where to find food.”

Ready? (Advent 1a)

Some years ago I had a car accident. I was driving home in busy traffic when, without warning, there was a thump – a boy had run out and been hit by my car. I stopped, jumped out, was relieved to see him getting up, but made him wait to be checked by ambulance paramedics. Thankfully, he was OK – shocked (a nasty colour 5 minutes later, and very shaky), bruised. Police came, breathylised me and took a statement, then talked to the boy, and his friends. When they had done all that, they said it would probably be OK – the boys had been chasing one another, and it was an accident. Relief!

I had to go and take my licence and insurance to be examined at a police station. I found my licence, looked for the insurance. It wasn’t in the file, so I rang up the company. It was my wife’s car, and the insurance rolled over year by year automatically – but her bank card had been renewed, and the old one had not paid. No insurance! That’s a criminal offence. I went and reported, feeling terrible. I anticipated being called to court – and reported in the press “Vicar sentenced . .”

It took me an uncomfortable week to realise that while I was driving my wife’s uninsured car, my car was insured. And that insurance covered me to drive another car! Straight back to the police station. Relief! Life began again.

With Advent Sunday, we begin a new Church year, – you’ll see the gospel readings coming mainly from Matthew (it was Luke until last Sunday). We focus on the coming of Jesus – but today, the Second Coming. Not the baby of Bethlehem, but the return in power of the Son of God at the end of the world.  Our readings are full of it – Matthew 24. 36-44, Romans 13. 11-14

We are told it will be unexpected, -that many will be caught unprepared. There is a strong implication that it will then be too late to put things right. Judgement will follow, and as Christians we are warned to be ready  – ready to give an account of ourselves, our lives, our stewardship of all that God has given us, materially and spiritually.

Judgement does not mean God is hostile and wanting to punish. Think if you like of being seen as you really are. Think of how I felt, facing prosecution for driving without insurance! Yes, that was unintended, and accidental – but if the accident had been more serious, my insurance might have been needed to provide continuing treatment and care for a casualty. I would have been mortified to be exposed as failing to provide what the law required. I was so relieved to be – accidentally – not guilty.

Judgement is real. Everything we are, everything we do, everything we want, will be known – with all the reasons, and none of the excuses!

Do check your car insurance!
Do check your life is ready for examination in detail, without notice. The Son of God will return – it could be thousands of years after we die, or Tuesday afternoon. We don’t know, we are just told to be ready.

Thank you (Pentecost 21c, Proper 23c)

Why does saying “thank you” matter?  Is it anything more than manners (of the sort children have to do, and adults think they have grown out of)?  Perhaps so.  The story of 10 healed lepers, of whom only one returns to Jesus to offer thanks, is interesting.  (Luke 17:11-19).

It seems all 10 are healed, and stay healed – we have to assume the cure was “certified” by the priest, allowing them to return from isolation to normal life.  Perhaps it was the urgency of getting that official all clear that led them to hurry off.  But the tenth stops to give thanks, and we see how thanksgiving recognises a gift.  Recognising a gift means also recognising the giver.  Knowing that the most important things we have (life, health, intelligence, opportunity . .) are a gift from God is an understanding that changes our view of the universe.

Of course thanksgiving is a large part of worship – and making that a public statement is important in our witness to what God has done for us, that is our faith.  We don’t do a lot of thanksgiving or praise in our western culture.  Politicians, celebrities and others known to many are more likely to be gossiped about or criticised, to the extent that public thanks or praise sound strange, if not strained.

So, what benefit does this leper get from his return to thank Jesus?  He is reminded of, and acknowledges, the gift of healing.  He opens a relationship with the one who gave him his cure.  More than this, Jesus says “your faith has made you well” – not fit, or un-leprous, but well.  Being well covers far more.  We might imagine that some of the 9 healed lepers remain angry at their treatment, fearful of further illness, keen to settle old scores . .  To be well is to be freed of so much more than physical illness.

 

Good Friday with Luke 23

Reading Luke’s account of Jesus death suggests several points of contact with life today.

Luke 23:1-5
Jesus is brought to Pilate, Roman governor, and we notice that truth is the first casualty in the campaign to get rid of him. ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ 23:2 Yet Jesus had answered differently on taxes – “ give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” 20:25 and he had been careful not to claim Kingship, knowing that it would be misunderstood – Messiah was a different kind of king.
We might think about truth. How the truth about ourselves and those around us is important in an age of PR, spin, and confrontational presentations. Pilate was cynical “What is truth?” John 18:38, but Jesus had earlier suggested ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ John 8:31,32

Are we ready to see the world, and ourselves, as God sees?

“Father, help us to care about the truth, the reality you see. Show us the world from your perspective, and help us to understand Jesus, ourselves, and your priorities.”

Luke 23:6-12

Herod had his own agenda, and Jesus didn’t fit. He is not going to make the effort to listen or understand – it is much easier to mock. The soldiers join in. Like so many people, they realise that Jesus is dangerous – taken seriously he might challenge their assumptions and prejudices, might make them want something different and better. Don’t listen, poke fun, victimise.
We wouldn’t do that – would we? In theory all Christians are followers of Jesus, bound to obey and serve him above all. Yet service has not always been our main reputation, and obedience is difficult.
Put it another way, many of us, just like Herod, have our own agendas. I don’t mind being church as long as . . but I must keep time for . . I’ll do that, but don’t ask me to . . The mockery of Jesus comes because he doesn’t fit in their list of priorities.

Are we ready to change our priorities to fit in with Jesus?

“Lord, forgive all those things which mock your direction of my life. My own agenda of what I want, my laziness, my pride. Remembering a Lord who gave all for me, help me to learn his way in everything.”

Luke 23:13-25

Pilate as governor has the responsibility of administering justice. The Roman occupation was not always popular, but if it was fair, it would win acceptance, and if not, opposition would grow.
He knows what is happening – he says Jesus is not guilty, but is too weak to find a way not to listen to the crowd (no doubt carefully manipulated). Is he stupid, not up to the job? He must know that his credibility, as well as Jesus life, is at stake. But he is driven by the mob voice.
We would think someone who claimed “the voices made me do it” was a case for psychiatric help. But how often do we say, “It’s not right, but it’s how you have to do it at work”; “None of my friends would think twice about that”; “it’s how things are”. And how often do we deliberately support someone trying to do right when it is criticised or unpopular?

“Father, help us to practise justice. Not rules and judgements, but standing out for right, supporting those who take the way of caring, not cheating, not causing pain and wrong. Let our voices be those that speak what is good, true, right, pure, lovely and honourable. (cp Phil 4:8)”

Luke 23:26-46

So they take Jesus and crucify him with a batch of criminals, and that’s – not the end of it at all. There are all sorts of consequences, and that’s why we read and ponder.
Some of them are quite minor – a visitor is conscripted to carry the cross, the soldiers share some clothing. Some are strange and unexpected – darkness, a curtain torn and opened.
But the most important go two ways. Jesus warns the weeping women of greater loss of life to come. Jerusalem will suffer siege and defeat – it happened in AD70, after the rebellion. Is this the inevitable consequence of rejecting the opportunity Jesus offered? Will taking the way he does not lead always carry great danger?
Jesus is not looking for revenge. He asks forgiveness for those who crucify him. He makes a promise of hope to the penitent thief. One consequence of his death is the way of forgiveness, reconciliation, service and peace.
But the choice is not forced. We have to make it, and go on making it. Words are easy, but faith has to show in daily life, truth telling, agendas, justice. The consequences of Jesus death were not at all what his enemies expected. They bring hope, and perhaps also danger. What do they bring you?

“Lord, as we have spent a little time reading again the story of Jesus’ death, let us go to take full advantage of its consequences. Teach us to accept forgiveness, and to offer it. Give us the hope he won, and the readiness to explain it to any who ask, as we live as his disciples.”  (cp 1 Pet 3:15)