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Living the Lectionary

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

Month

September 2014

Don’t Kill the Messenger?

I read a fantastic article this week that spoke of the fact that we tend to eat each other up, on issues where we have different opinions.  You can read the article at this link.

By Phillip Medhurst (Photo by Harry Kossuth) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
It struck me as I read it, and then read again the passage for this coming Sunday Proper 22 year A, that nothing has changed.

Jesus tells a parable of the wicked tenants who keep killing those who come to collect his rightful share, but every time the landowner sends his slaves to collect the tenants beat, and kill and stone the slaves.  So the landowner decides to send his own son thinking surely these tenants will respect him, and instead they kill the son thinking then they will receive his inheritance. Jesus uses this parable to highlight that every time God has sent his messengers into his kingdom, that those trusted with its care have been beaten or even killed.

Jesus ends off by telling the religious leaders that the kingdom of God is going to be taken from them and given to those who will produce fruit.  Of course this is not a welcome message and will be part of what leads to Jesus death.

Not only did this parable strike me after reading the above mentioned article, but it struck me that this is the gospel lesson for World Communion Sunday.

Admittedly, I don’t fully understand what World Communion Sunday is all about, since I belong to a tribe that does not to participate in the ritual aspect of the sacraments; I do however understand that the purpose of World Communion Sunday is to encourage Christian unity.

We’re supposed to be united, we’re supposed to be producing the kingdom fruit; but instead at times we are beating each other down.  While we might not be literally killing each other we kill each other in spirit.  Looking for examples?  How about the way liberal Christians attack people like Mark Driscoll or Phil Robertson for their views on issues like homosexuality and the place of women in the church etc.  Or on the flip side, there is the way conservatives will attack those who see those issues differently, like Rachel Held Evans, or Vicky Beeching.  Those are just some familiar names who have been beaten down, but don’t be mislead, just because we might not be famous, we’re doing it to each other on a smaller less public scale too.

I’m all for everyone having the right to their own opinions, and I believe that we should indeed question views that don’t seem to line up with what we believe Christ to be about, but in some ways we have gone far beyond that and we tend to drag people through the mud, calling for boycotts, loss of jobs and whatever it is.  A quote from the article I mentioned says: “The real enemy has been unchallenged because Christ’s army is too wounded from friendly fire to crawl out on the battlefield for the real fight.”

We can tend to be like the wicked servants, and rather than concentrate on producing fruit we are so interested in being in charge that want to kill the messenger.

I feel a bit more negative toward the gospel passage for this week, and if you’re still reading you might have noticed, but I am working it through, trying to produce fruit and praying to God that I recognize his Son in it all, I hope you’ll join me.

May the Lord help us in our task, and may Jesus Christ be praised!

Let’s Hear it For the Riff-Raff

It’s a well-known fact that many in the service industry hate working the Sunday shift, especially those who work in restaurants, but I’ve even heard Wal-Mart greeters say they hate the Sunday shift.  Why? Because it’s when all the Christians show up after church and treat them like dirt.  In the restaurant business it is an accepted “fact” that it’s the Christians who are poor tippers.   I can’t verify the truth of a statement like that, but I would imagine there is some truth to the statement.

We’ve seen examples posted all over the internet people leaving notes on food bills that say, “I give God 10% so why do you get 18%?” or well-intentioned Christians who leave tracts that look like money instead of a tip, or notes that condemn assumed behaviour.  Granted some of these have been proven to be hoaxes but many of them are true.  It begs me to ask the question, what is it in fact that we DO with our Christian witness?

I hope my friend if he ever reads this, doesn’t mind I used a recent discussion on his Facebook page as an example.  He had posted the latest article highlighting Phil Robertson’s controversial comments on his page.  He basically said that Phil Robertson, doesn’t speak for him or for a lot of Christians; and of course there was some mild push back on the opinion that he shared.  In his responding comments he drew a contrast between someone like Phil Robertson and Ellen DeGeneres.  Phil who seems to be using his fame to cut down or bring shame to certain segments of society or even spread hate with comments like “convert them or kill them”.  Ellen DeGeneres, seems to use her fame to help, and to build up the community.

I remembered that discussion this week as I read the passage for this week from Matthew 21:23-32.  I wonder if sometimes a lot of Christians aren’t like the son, who tells the father that he will go and work in the vineyard but never winds up going to do the work.  Maybe sometimes it’s the case that like the religious elite of Jesus day, if we’re not careful we can tend to show up to our church buildings from week to week and involve ourselves in ritual…but then never really become involved in the work of the kingdom.

At the same time there may be those who appear to have said no, but go about the work anyway.

We might be surprised at just who inherits the kingdom of God.

So my thoughts start there this week, I have no idea how I will share my thoughts with the congregation this week.

Book Review: Making Sense of a Suffering World By Ken Dignan

Using his own personal struggle with lifelong suffering through disability resulting from childhood illness; Ken Dignan offers the story of how he has managed to live in faith despite his overwhelming physical challenges.  Ken is honest in the experiences of doubt and faith that he has experienced through his life.  He offers a number of scripture passages that talk about suffering, although often somewhat out of context.

Through his story and understanding of the scriptures he encourages his reader to face their suffering by searching for faith and meaning through their own suffering and struggles.

I found the book to be easy to read and clearly aimed at those who already posses faith in God and want to understand how God can work through suffering, but it is not a book for someone who is looking to make sense for the reasons suffering occurs. I’m not sure this book would be first on my list for someone who is not already a believer.  Some of the scriptures to address suffering in the book are taken out of context because they deal with suffering as a result of faith and persecution, and not natural illness.

Even with some of the flaws of the book as I see it; it is easy to appreciate Dignan’s personal journey as he tells it, and his desire to point to Jesus.  It is a good starter book for those who want to think more critically of the suffering experienced in the world.  Dignan has done well offering his own story, and encouraging people to live not merely by feeling but also with understanding.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Jesus is a Radical and That Makes Me Squirm.

This past Sunday night at our gathering we sang the hymn, How Great Thou Art.  It has is a hymn that is truly timeless because it just keeps getting sung, without much change to it like all the other good hymns.  It is sung in so many different settings by all walks of life.

My favourite verse is the one that reads.

And when I think that God his Son not sparing,
sent him to die, I scarce can take it in.
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing;
he bled and died, to take away my sin.

There are days when I can take that in, there are days when I live in the freedom of his forgiveness.  Most days though “I scarce can take it in”.

Part of the reason I can barely take it in is because it’s not my MO.  I operate with in a system that counts the wrongs that have been done to me and assigns a cost based on severity.  I operate within a system that needs to ensure that the debt against me is paid.  I can admit that I am this way, because I suspect that you are as well.  Our human nature actually demands justice for the things done to us, big or small.

Jesus doesn’t seem to be that way though.  He is radical he hands out healing on request, feeds those who are hungry without question, offers forgiveness where forgiveness is not deserved.  He does it again and again and calls those who follow him to do the same.

That’s why I squirm when I read a section of scripture like Matthew 18:21-35.  Because while I want to accept the extraordinary grace of God in my own life, I’m not always ready to hand that out to those around me.

Oh there is some cost when you follow Jesus, but in order to truly be free by his forgiveness we’ve got to live a life full of forgiveness which means freeing our neighbour as well.  That’s why I squirm this week.

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