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Living the Lectionary

A starting point from week to week in my Journey from A-C

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February 2014

Picture This…Toronto 2011: A reflection on Matthew 17:1-9

TOSHIBA CAMCORDER
Me and Gramps

I remember it like it was yesterday; it was my ordination weekend,  those of us being ordained that weekend were on our way to a church service for all of the clergy gathered for the weekend.  We are on a bus, not too far from our destination when a call comes in for me on someone else’s phone.

It was my sister. She had made a promise to me that when I would be away from home she would make sure that there were no secrets and I would be kept in the loop with all the family news; and the news she had for me on this day was not good news at all.

She told me that my Gramps had taken a turn for the worse and he was not expected to make it through the night let alone the weekend.  She assured me that there was nothing that could be done, and the family would still be joining me in Toronto for my ordination because that is what Gramps would want.

I could feel the grief rising into my throat, and as it did my mentor who was sitting in the seat in front of me noticed that the conversation was not the best and came and sat with me.  When I told her what was wrong, she didn’t offer any magic words or solution, but just calmed my heart through the ministry of presence.  In that moment, well and many others to be honest, my mentor was the presence of Jesus in my life giving me strength for the road the lay ahead.

Then as we went into the service and sat with my friends, I admit that I was understandably not as focused on anything that was going on, and I wept through some of the songs we were singing.  I can’t remember a thing about the sermon that day, but what I do remember is the presence of another friend.  She came to me after and told me that she thought the message was specifically for me and that my Gramps was not going to die that weekend; and he didn’t.  But her conviction and words of assurance were the presence of Jesus I needed to get me through the weekend.

I flew back “home” on the Monday, wrapped up some loose ends and went up to say goodbye to my Gramps before I left on the journey to my new town and my new life.  My Dad joined me for the 6 day drive, we made it to the first town before we received a text from my Mum some time in the middle of the night that told us to call when we could.  I knew as soon as I read the text that he was gone, but called my Mum to confirm that Gramps had indeed died very early that morning.

“We know that you need to keep going, you can’t come back” that was what my Mum said to let me know that she was ok if I kept going on my journey.  Yet I sat in my hotel room, I did not feel quite right about not turning back, but I was afraid to make the decision for fear of what the new people in my new town must be going to think.  Well could you believe, that my mentor happened to pop on-line and I told her what had happened.  She told me to go home, that my new charge and the people there would be waiting for me when I was finished grieving the loss of my Gramps and she was right, and at that time I needed the presence of God he was there.

The beginning of my ministry as an officer was filled with difficult days and God knew that I needed him to carry my through, as I doubted my ability to serve him through the difficult times that would come so he led me to those places where I could see his presence.

I believe that God is always with us, but I also believe we spend a lot of time looking for his presence in big and majestic ways.  We look for our own transfiguration experience, but the reality is that he reveals it to us every day.  Through a mentor, or a friend, or an accepting community who even though they don’t know you yet grieves with you.  That very presence of God, gives us the strength that we need for the difficult journey of faith.  Thank you Jesus!

I’m not actually sure I want to be perfect: A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48

I have no idea, none on how I am going to preach this text this coming week.  I mean the text is not actually all that hard to understand it’s pretty plain, but it seems a bit extreme to me.  I’m not sure I want to stand in the pulpit next week and tell those who gather that they need to let people who would hurt them, hurt them more and I am pretty sure I am not going to, but the passage almost suggests that very thing.

Jesus in this week’s reading calls those listening to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect.  It seems like a reasonable invitation and most people want to try to be better than they already are, although we recognize realistically we are not perfect it is a good thing to strive for no?

But to be honest I am not sure I want to be perfect if it involves what Jesus seems to suggest it involves in the text.  Well at least I am not sure I have it in me.  It’s one thing to turn the other cheek on something minor….but there are serious things that happen in people’s lives and can I really tell them that they should just offer the rest of themselves as well….like say in the case of abuse?

Some preachers have used this text to that end, but it is good for us to remember the context.  This text is part of a greater text where Jesus is calling his followers back to the original intent of the law.

The law put a cap on the amount of revenge a person could seek to enforce on another, if they took your eye you were entitled to take theirs…but Jesus is really saying don’t retaliate, don’t seek out revenge.  When a crime was committed in Jesus day, retaliation was expected but Jesus really is saying let it go.  Can I really do that when my natural instinct is to hurt those who hurt me

Can I really love my enemies in the same way I love those around me whom I find easy to love?  Because that is what Jesus is calling me to do, he is calling me to widen my circle of people I accept.

Yet that is what Jesus is calling us to, that’s the perfection he seeks from us, one that looks out to the interests of others and learning to love like Jesus.  Paul tells us in Romans 12, that if we repay evil with good, it will be like heaping coals on the heads of our enemies.

Maybe the message is that we ought to let God’s justice, be accomplished by God himself and not on our own.

I’m just not sure, but sure am thankful that I have a week to work it out.

What do you think of when you think of this passage?

The Heart of the Matter: A Reflection on Matthew 5:21-37

Last week’s passage ended with these words:  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

This weeks passage begins with the words  “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times…but I say to you…

Jesus seems to be pretty serious about his statement that his followers righteousness has to be better than the scribes and Pharisees.  That’s a tall order because that group of people followed the law down to the last stroke, and they were pretty good at it, so how can I do better?

In this week’s passage we have three examples; anger, lust and promises.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

I can remember a time not so long ago when I was pretty angry.  There were various factors in my church family that made me never want to actually hang around Christians.  While I continued to attend church on a regular basis I was not worshipping God.  I would sit outside the sanctuary, not because it was the cool place to sit, but because often I could not bring myself to go into the sanctuary with all “those” people.  My anger prevented me from entering into worship and through worship, experiencing the transforming power of God in my life.

Thankfully that feeling did not last forever because eventually I just had to forgive and be forgiven.

So when Jesus talks about the seriousness of anger and how it is worse than murder, he is not setting up another form of legalistic law but instead he is just pointing out the plain truth that anger prevents true worship.  Forgiveness is not about letting the guilty party away with their crime, but it is about freeing ourselves up to stand before God in worship and allow his work to take place in our hearts.

The same can be said about lust and broken promises, they both get in the way of our relationship with God as they impact our relationships with each other.

Jesus came to complete the law and he redefines it, bringing it back to what it was really meant to be about in the first place.  I heard it best this week in a quote that I cannot attribute which goes like this:

“If you want to be close to God, take care of his people”  That’s the heart of the matter.

Those are just some starting thoughts, for this week’s passage…what do you think?

The Difference Between Salt and Mrs. Dash: A Reflection on Matthew 5:13-20

I love salt, love it.  I put salt on everything.  I am the one who is disappointed at McDonald’s when they clean the fry warming area and put fresh fries down and there is not enough salt.  I am the one who wants to add salt to salt beef dinner.  I salt my eggs, KD, beef…ok that’s enough, you get the picture; I love salt.

However, in an effort to be more health conscious I took the advice of the latest diet book I have read and decided to limit my salt intake and so I bought some Mrs Dash.  Mrs Dash calls itself the salt free flavour statement.  Now Mrs Dash is good, very flavourful I have to admit.  The problem for me is this; it’s not salt.  When I am craving and feel like I need salt, something that is not salt just doesn’t cut it, I want the real thing.

Salt has a variety of purposes, it is used to add flavour, it is used to preserve food just to name a couple.  It was important even more so in Jesus day I would say as a preservative and was pretty valuable, but it was also used in sacrifice.  So when Jesus tells his followers that they are the salt of the earth he is telling them that they have an important role to play in the kingdom of God…they have a mission and if they deny their mission they are like salt that loses its saltiness.

So how does salt lose it’s saltiness?  Well the truth is that it doesn’t; salt does not become less salty.  However according the New Interpreters Bible commentary, it can become so mixed with impurity, so mixed with other elements that it loses it’s purpose.

Jesus goes on to give another analogy of light saying that the purpose of lighting a candle is to give light so really it would be stupid to light one and then try to hide the light.

So for me, the focus of this passage is less on becoming the salt of the earth, or the light…we already are salt and light simply by the fact that we follow Jesus.  In reading this text I think we can remember that Jesus has invited those who follow him into his purpose and that he has given us purpose and we don’t have to try for that purpose, instead the invitation is for us to live out his purpose in our world.

Perhaps this is a good reminder for me this week as I go about my daily tasks…remember that as his child I am called according to his purpose and it is divine.  Mrs Dash might be good, but in this instance, salt is better 🙂

 

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