Tag Archives: Trinity 13

Debt

Debt cancellation is a popular theme among those concerned with world development. How can struggling nations repay money which has long since been mis-spent or disappeared into corrupt hands, when they need to help their people to a better life? It is not a simple issue, but one example of how debt can throw a long shadow over life.

Paul tells Christians (we are reading Romans 13:8-14)

 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another

Romans 13:8a

and we might wonder how that works out in practice.

Jesus (Mark 12:31) summarised the law as loving the one God, and your neighbour as yourself. It brought together two vital strands. The love of God is a response to the love God first shows us, accepting his gift and putting it into use, our motivation for new life. But our love of those around us is a reality check. If we really love God, then it will show in our behaviour, even to the difficult or demanding. After all, God loved us when we were just like that!

But how are we to set about cancelling debts? Doesn’t society depend on favours owed and favours returned? Isn’t our social life founded on remembering who you owe? Perhaps some people do give the impression of a frantic counting and reckoning of who is owed what. But there is an alternative. The Lord’s Prayer taught us “Forgive us . . as we forgive”; – not a careful accounting, but a generosity which reflects the generosity of God’s treatment of us. I think what Paul is recommending is that generosity in our relations with our neighbours.

It may be in terms of money, including making sure that we repay anything borrowed promptly and willingly, but it is really about a wider generosity of spirit. Sometimes money is not the issue. Generosity may offer time and a listening ear (rather than advice!). It may find sympathy rather than blame. It will control irritation, contempt, and cynicism.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone is wise or does the right thing. But if there are words of guidance or correction, they will be spoken gently, and by the right person. And those words will only be heard after any personal anger or hurt have been dealt with, so that they are spoken with a positive slant, and with love.

Easy? Like so many Christian things, it is not complicated, just hard to do. But this is a response to a God who deals lovingly with me, so there is a reminder of what is possible!

So now – Choose!

It’s the end of a long chapter – today we read John 6:59-69, completing several weeks working through John 6.  There have been arguments about what God wants, who Jesus is, and how to find life.  When it comes down to it, there is – what?

Some will leave to assess the campaign, polish their arguments, and work out the next step, sure they are right and must win.  Others will go back to the everyday, refusing to take any decision, or wanting to believe that it doesn’t really matter.  John wants us to understand that we make a choice.  Even deciding to think about it another time is a choice – to avoid the issue.

Jesus never hustled people.  He never used his position to threaten.  But he did make clear that the way to life was to follow him through life, questions, difficulties and everything.  Not “when I get around to it”, not “when I have sorted myself out”, but starting her and now.  The disciples understand.  They may not be having a good day, hearing the conflict, fearing the outcome, but Peter has the line, ” “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Surely John knew that it was not only on that occasion that people had argued and prevaricated.  His Christian community knew only too well those who were “interested, but . .”.  And, no matter how committed we like to think we are, we also know how easily we put off – well, what’s your current “when I get around to it”?

Win – Lose? (Proper 16, Pentecost 14)

Who would complain at someone doing right? Those threatened by it.

Jesus heals a woman bent for 18 years (Luke 13:10-17).  Wonderful, everybody is pleased – aren’t they?  Well, no.  The synagogue official complains that it isn’t right, the Sabbath law is being broken.

Jesus response is first to say that if Sabbath law allows an animal to be freed to be taken to water, it certainly allows a woman to be freed from a worse constraint.  His second point is more severe.  This healing is not “work” so much as setting free from the power of evil.  No one argues with him, at least not immediately, but opposition is growing and this is the last time Luke tells us of Jesus in a synagogue.

So, given this was so long ago, does it matter?  We might look at Christian attitudes to rest, and think how the Devil would bend them:

  • one way to avoid a useful time of refreshment, worship and gaining perspective would be to over-emphasise the rule.  Let it be absolute, but also purposeless, negative, empty, hollow.  That should keep people away from God, and God’s intention in a day of rest.
  • another (more common in my experience) would be to rubbish Sunday observance.  They could tell stories of not being allowed to play on Sundays as children, and forget how others needed rest.  Let people do as they want,  Let people overwork, make sure families have no time together, and make the Church family unable to meet all together at one time.  Make it hardest for the poor, who will not be able to refuse unsocial work hours.

Jesus will do neither.  His first concern is for God, his second for people.  He keeps the Law, but not always as others have been in the habit of doing.  We could learn from that.  Living by rules is never enough (it is what can give religion a bad name!), but refusing all discipline is no answer either. We have to learn Jesus priorities: love and serve God, love and serve other people, don’t reject rules, but never let them be an excuse for avoiding the first two priorities.

” And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” ” (Luke 13:16)  Certainly, yes, she should be released, and we should be finding our own freedom and bringing release to others by the power and grace of God.