Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seeing the back of God

Gate Pa – October 19th, 2014
(Pentecost 19, 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time)
Psalm                                    99                                                                                
First Reading:                    Exodus 33:12-23                                 
Second Reading:              1 Thess 1:1-10                                    
Gospel:                                Matthew 22: 15-22                              

What I want to say:
I want to use the Exodus reading to ask, what does the back of God look like? Moses was most concerned about how to be a distinctive people. How does our seeing the back of God help us be distinctive? And using the gospel reading, how to we as people who are shaped by the back of God live in such a way that all creation and all that is in it is honoured and treated as God’s?

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on how our seeing the back of God helps us be distinctive? And how we as people shaped by the back of God live in such a way that all creation and all that is in it is honoured and treated as God’s?

The Sermon

1.       Introduction:

Old Testament and gospel readings are both well known
kind of stories don’t really need listen to or think about
we know what they are about
Story of Moses
                one level beautiful story
                touches some our deepest insecurities, longings
                well, some peoples insecurities/longings
ones I hear as spiritual director
not enough to be known by God
                even in our deepest levels
                that’s what knowing name is all about
                (that can be a little freaky)
want, need to know God
essence of God as encapsulated in name God
want to be certain of God
see, hear God for ourselves
that’s all Moses wanted
                to know God
                the essence of God
                to be certain of God
In this way he thought – Hebrew people could become a distinct people
different from every other people
as their God was different from all other gods.
wonder how many here want that?
                to know God
                the essence of God
                to be certain of God
                we might be a distinctive people
Moses was told that he could not
                know name God more than he did
                I am who I am
                I am who I was
                I am who I will be
tense of verb hard nail
kind of like God really
not see glory God
                -too much
                - God is inherently mystery and uncertainty
                that is what makes God different from all other gods
instead covered in rock as God passed by
he sees back of God
so much debate about what that means
                actual back
                sense presence?
                qualities of God abounding where God has been
what is back of God for us?
We are offered Jesus,
                who was one of us
                yet God Incarnate
reminding us who we are as people made in image of God
reminding us what it means to live as people made in the image of God
abounding with the qualities Jesus lived by.
Jesus is back of God
and as people who live with those qualities
in a way we become the back of God for people of this time?
where do we see the back of God around us?
how are we the back of God?
how does that helps us be distinctive as Moses hoped it would help the Hebrew people be distinctive?

2.       Jesus, the Pharisee and the Herodian.

Jesus was in the temple
He had re-entered Jerusalem the day before and immediately threw out the money changers
He was back,
offering his easy yoke
Temple leadership – chief priests and elders asked by what authority he did these things
                overturning tables and causing chaos and hardship for money changers
                teaching his yoke?
                whose Rabbi’s yoke was it anyway?
Jesus asks them question they refuse to answer
and tells stories of two sons, bad tenants and the absent landowner
and wedding feast where those should know better didn’t attend – to their cost
and those not expect to be invited suddenly were on guest list
all too much
something needed to be done
so some Jerusalem leadership –
normally have nothing to do with each other
these were extraordinary times
Pharisees and Herodians
cooked up really good question
"Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don't pander to your students. 17 So tell us honestly: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
full of false flattery
unanswerable question
kind question never ask –
Some might wonder by whose law are they talking
Roman law is very clear – don’t even think about not paying
But Torah – law of Moses??
is this bound or loosed by the Law
what does your yoke say about this Jesus?
if say no – well Romans will be all over you –
                their Herodian lackeys make sure of that
if say yes
landless populace driven off land because debts accrued paying tax will lose faith in you – Roman puppet
win win for askers
loose loose for Jesus

3.       The Answer

Jesus asks calmly for a coin
who is wealthy enough to be carrying around Roman coins?
wealthy Pharisees and Herodians
people complicit in the oppressive Roman economy
that’s who
and whose image is on it?
Caesar Tiberius
Jesus then says
   "Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is Gods."
sounds so straight forward
over centuries used by Christians and wealthy and leaders say
church stays out state affairs
not place economics
just concerned with spiritual stuff.
Heard those comments by a current minister crown in regard to Anglican churches statements about Treaty Waitangi
on face it – seems fair enough
so what is Caesars and what is Gods?

4.       O Wait

just two tiny problems
and can anyone tell me the first two commandments?
no other God but me?
not make any idols?
if I had a roman coin
                quite dodgy
                what does it say under the image?
"Tiberius, Emperor, son of God."
Where are we? - Temple?

5.       What is Gods?

one other little problem
what happens if I turn Jesus answer around
                give to God what is God’s
                give to Caesar what is Caesars?
what is God’s
and what is Caesars?
as an aside every Jew who heard Jesus answer understood this
no roman would have
so how does that change you answers from before?
how does that change help us be back of God?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Big themes

There are some big theological themes at play into today’s readings. They should give us cause to pause and wonder at their implications for us in this week of prayer for world peace.
The reading from Exodus displays Moses angst and insecurity. It is not enough that he is known by God. For him to continue he needs to know God. Interestingly these stories about knowing God are set in the midst of laws describing the tabernacle, the priesthood and their paraphernalia, and laws describing the accompanying ritual life – all of which symbolise the presence of God among the people. For Moses, this was not enough. He needed something more direct; he needed to see God’s glory. In God’s response we are invited into the mystery and uncertainty of God. We are invited in this story to take note of our own longings for God. Are we like Moses? Do we long for something else from God? Or are we content? When have we been certain of God’s presence in your life?  When have we been caught in the mystery of God? Where do we see the glory of God in our world?
The gospel reading is a well-known story, one that has led Christians over the centuries to declare that religion and politics do not mix, nor should economics and faith. But we would do well to remember Matthew 6:24 and Jesus warning against divided loyalties before we take this line. As we read this story we should keep in mind that the Pharisees and Herodians despised each other. For them to have a common approach to Jesus is startling. These are members of the Jerusalem elite working together to remove a problem. Their question is a good question, veiled in flattery. Jesus will be in serious trouble however he answers, either with the crowd who hate the Romans and their taxes, or with the Romans themselves – the Herodians are hoping they can dob him in – they are the collaborators. Jesus response seems simple and clever, and yet is filled with layers that we too often miss, layers of idolatry, of whose image we bear, and most importantly, what exactly is God’s, and what might rightly be called Caesars?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Indigenous Jesus: Steve Taylor's Pukehinahina Cross Call to Worship

I have been vicar of St. Georges for 2 1/2 years now. When I arrived there were three images being used as the parish logo including one designed for the centenary of the church in 2000. I began just using that one, which has now become our offical logo. Not everyone is happy with that, but that is life I guess. So now Steve Taylor, and writer and thinker about emerging and missional church has found it, blogged about it, and have developed a call to worship using it. And that has been reblogged here. All good stuff. I look forward to using it at a service next year.... if I remember

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Living the righteous life!

This weeks readings from Exodus and Matthew are held together by feasts, abundant generosity, spurned invitations, and the inviters (God’s?) deep disappointment and anger.
Exodus is the story of the Hebrew people’s growing sense of identity being forged in the wilderness. As we read this story we read of their ongoing struggle to understand what it means to be the people of God. The rest of the Old Testament can be understood as their continuing struggle plus their deepening and developing understanding of whose they are, who they are, and what is theirs to do.
Today’s story betrays how different faith in the One God was. It began as faith in one god among many who would be their God. Different enough in a polytheistic world. It ends with this god being the only God, the One God of all people and all creation. Unlike the other gods who were represented in statues and images which their followers worshipped, this God wanted no images or statues. How can you worship a God you cannot see? The lure of the known was very strong. It continues to be very strong. The debate about what is a false image has dogged Christianity for the last 2000 years.
Those questions of identity and how to live that out lie behind the Gospel reading. This is the third story Jesus tells in answer to the question asked by the Jerusalem leadership, “By whose authority do you do these things?” He told them the story about the son who said no and then did what was asked, and the one who said yes and did nothing. He told the story about the wicked tenants, with the nice wee twist about the consequences of those listening not bearing fruit. Today we hear about a wedding feast, where all is ready, but against every social protocol the invited guests dishonour the host and do not come. In response the king destroys these guests, and in their place invites all that can be found. All those who the Jerusalem leadership has forced off their land and had turned into tenants. All the poor, the orphans, the widows. The people of the margins who the Jerusalem leadership treated with such contempt. Jesus suggests these are the ones who will replace them at the banquet, in the kingdom.
So what is all this about? Living the righteous life! This for the chief priests and elders meant being from the right family, being with people of the right honour and status, and outwardly obeying the Law of Moses, particularly around the temple sacrifice. But for Jesus the righteous life was living out God’s generosity, mercy, and life, God’s enthusiastic delight in all people and the pain at their refusal to share the life freely offered.
So what is the righteous life for us? How does our answer to whose are we, who are we, and what is ours to do shape our answer?