Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who is at the gate?

Gate Pa – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time,    29th  September 2013  
Hebrew Scripture:      Jeremiah 32:1-3,6-15
Psalm:             Psalm: 91:1-6, 14-16      (But Psalm 42 cos we need a good lament)
Epistle:            1 Timothy 6:6-19          
Gospel:            Luke 16:19-31  

What I want to say:
I want to use the story of Elizabeth of Hungary to shed light on the story of Lazarus – how can we live out what this story is suggesting
What I want to happen:
people to talk about who is at their/our gate, and how do we and how might we respond

 The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

wonder where saw yourself as you heard this story – rich man or Lazarus
for myself interesting very poor man is named and rich man unnamed
certainly not see self as rich
term leave people Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Graeme Hart, Owen Glenn, Todd Family or John Key,
            in comparison to them I am poor
            know not poor either -> a lot better off than many people in this country and internationally
time in Solomons – uncomfortably aware that compared most those lived among 2 ½ weeks was unbelievably wealthy
            access to wealth, food, resources and health care – they could not dream of
I am rich man in this story
left wondering who I am not seeing at my gate
            what might I do if I do see them?

      2.     Francis

Thursday night around world Franciscan will be celebrating Transitus – service celebrates Francis of Assisi’s passing from this world to God
Friday we have his feast day
            remember Francis as someone who did see people at Gates
            gesture of God’s love he joined them
                        argue about how helpful that is
his case his joining them made them more visible to wealthy of his time.
he did two things that rich man in this story did not do
            saw poor who was at this gate
            felt their claim on him  and he responded           

       3.     Elizabeth of Hungary, Princess (November 19)

Another saints remember is Elizabeth, the daughter of Andrew II of Hungary, was born at Presburg, Hungary, in 1207. When she was four she was sent to the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia to be betrothed to his eldest son, Louis IV, who was then ten years of age. Although many others treated her harshly, Louis was very good to her. When Elizabeth was fifteen, they finally married, and it proved to be a love match. They had three children.
Elizabeth was influenced by the Franciscans, who had recently reached Germany. She enjoyed helping the poor- spent large sums on charitable work, funding hospitals and providing for orphans.
After seven years of very happy life, tragedy
            Louis died suddenly of the plague while journeying to the crusades.
            her brother-in-law, upset by her extravagant generosity, took possession of her son, the heir, and turned Elizabeth and her two daughters out of the castle with, tradition says, a baby at her breast. They survived with great difficulty, often having to beg for food, until some friends of Louis caused her brother-in-law to make some small provision for her life.
            eventually - made arrangements for the care of her children and became a Franciscan tertiary.
            She came under the authority of a harsh priest, Conrad of Marburg, who had been a member of the Inquisition. He treated her with great severity, and under a discipline of fasting, penances and vigils her health suffered. The last four years of her life were spent in caring for the poor and sick in Marburg. She continued to do this with charm and good humour despite the cruel directives of her confessor, and she refused an invitation to return to Hungary. She was only twenty-four when she died in 1231.
Elizabeth was buried at Marburg, and the poor people whom she had helped came to mourn. Her contemporaries were so moved by the story, that she was canonised only four years after she died. A year later her body was taken from the humble grave and placed in a rich tomb in a church which was built in her memory.

Often focus on what happens after evicted from Castle and harsh life under Conrad of Marburg
all noble etc…
beyond most of us
miss importance of her time as princess
much more helpful for us as we respond to today’s world and todays reading
Franciscan writer read while away, went hear last year in Wellington
-         Susan Pitchford, in book Following Francis
describes how Elizabeth influenced by Franciscans
lost faith in complacent notion that earthly inequalities were ordained by God
experienced needs of poor as a shameful judgement on her own luxurious lifestyle
stunned to discover that what she was living on had been taken away from others, particularly the poor
response was one authenticity and grace – live simply
            to not add to the poverty of others
            and if she could – address the both consequences and causes of that poverty
            dressed simply
            gave extravagantly
            personally cared for poorest lepers and beggars
            refused wear crown church – annoyed mother in law
            scandalised maids by joining them in household chores and asking them call her by first name
when learnt food served came two sources – food grown on property and food extorted from poor surrounding area – confined eating what she knew came from own property
in way rich man in our story today did not
felt claim of poor of the world on her
            sought to live in way – did not add to their poverty
-         alleviated consequences of that poverty
-         addressed some of cause of their poverty
-         central to all this recognising risen Christ in face poor.

      4.     Questions

Her story and story told by Jesus raises some questions for me
            who do we see at our gates?
            how do we or might we live in way does not add to their poverty?
            how do we or might we work to address the consequences and causes of that poverty?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A bigger vision

One of the things that struck me on my recent journeys is how easily Christianity has been co-opted to support and give credence to economic and political systems that benefited the very few. The Bible was used to declare slavery as God’s way; Aboriginals in Australia and the San in Capetown as non-human and pests to be exterminated; and whites to be superior to blacks and therefore created to rule over them. Terrible things all justified by the use of scripture. It has always been so with the people of God. We find the way of God hard. We look to make it more manageable, and allow it to give credence to ways that allow us to focus on ourselves and to be blinded to all others. Today’s readings invite us to hold to God’s bigger vision, for ourselves, our societies, for all humanity.
The prophets, including Jeremiah constantly speak against this co-opting of God to justify the way of self-preoccupation. We have heard Jeremiahs profound lament over this. He is clear that this will only lead to destruction. Today hear his call for a bigger vision.
The readings from 1 Timothy and from Luke continue this call to a bigger vision. William Loader suggests that the writer to Timothy “invites us to a lifestyle which makes do with enough. There is no need to busy oneself with more. Accumulation of wealth is the task of a lifetime and leaves little room for others and in a paradoxical sense for oneself (and frequently those around us usually when they need us most). So our passage is addressing the practicalities of living and identifying the deception which we forge when we spend our lives accumulating more and more - far more than we need. The author appears concerned primarily with self destructive forces which bring ruin (6:9). Greed for money also plunges others into poverty and ruin.
The godliness which the godly person is to pursue might be a harmless kind of morality marked by good behaviour and avoidance of what is sinful in a rather private way. Later New Testament writings, like this one, sometimes appear heading in that direction. Such godliness was a popular value of the time and made Christianity marketable. But concepts like righteousness (goodness), faith, and love, can carry much more with them. Ultimately they pose for us an alternative. We are invited to choose the dominant values of our day (even more than theirs) of self-indulgence (including religious self-indulgence) or to choose the way of Christ.”
A danger is to read these passages as being about us as individuals.  Jeremiah spoke to the King who represented the whole nation of Judah. That nation had become self-obsessed, confident in a simplistic understanding of God, who would allow nothing to happen to them. In that confidence it had become blind to the poor within, and the poor who lived around them. For that the nation was held to account.
Luke too wrote for his whole community. In this conversation with the Pharisees “who love money”[1], Jesus offers both a warning, and another vision to the whole community. Today, the West is the rich man, accumulating more, wasting food to satisfy our need for good looking produce, spending more and more protecting “what is ours and our way of life” while that way of life holds millions if not billions (the Lazarus of our story) in poverty and hunger. And the way of Jesus continues to be colonised to keep our focus on moral individual behaviour, and to justify our Western way as God’s way. We need that bigger vision more than ever. What is that vision for us here in Tauranga? What is that vision for us in Aotearoa-New Zealand?

[1] Luke 16:15

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just Money

 Gate Pa – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Hebrew Scripture:      Jeremiah 8:19 – 9:1
Psalm:                         Psalm 79:1-9
Epistle:                        1 Timothy 2:1-10        
Gospel:                        Luke 16:1-13

What I want to say:
Explore gospel reading
link it to:
            living wage concept
            upcoming local body elections

What I want to happen:
People to think carefully about who to vote for and why

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction:

I wonder what thinking listened to this mornings reading?
problematic reading
            people struggling with this one for long time.
Jesus seems advocating for dishonesty and cunning – bending rules
struggle make anything of it.
struggle to fit this into what think Jesus should be on about
problem is that world Jesus lived in and our world are so very different
            think said that before, more than once
our world – money is important for its own sake
            having lots money is desirable -> buy more

      2.      The story

servant here – dishonest (KJV unjust) – seen as bad thing
                        when caught – not entirely sure what accused of
            several versions say “wasting his master’s property”
                        so not necessarily dishonest
engineers his masters debtors to be forgiven debt – costing master money
                        us – outrageous behaviour
                        struggle that Jesus seems to be stand up for him

      3.      Jesus world

world Jesus lived in
honour was important
used money gain more honour
having money mattered little if did not accrue you more honour
use your money wisely
            people become your clients and in your debt
            money owed less important
            than feeling goodwill and sense obligation to you
seems to be this is real issue here
servant acting unjustly
            master might have more money
            losing out on goodwill front
            losing out on the honour front
fires manager
            needs account first
then servant – manager gets cunning
visits all masters debtors and reduces their debt
he ensures people obliged to him
รจ what will the master think of this and do?
o   discuss
remember – point money is gain honour
manager’s actions gain master honour –>
            shown to be merciful and generous and just
            people hold him high esteem
            people obliged to him
as aside – loose him honour to confess lost control of manager and reinstate original debt.
big thing is – this is how the money should have been used in the first place
that makes no sense to us at all

      4.      Jesus goes on_

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”
This is about heaven – leads into next week’s reading
couple things about Luke
            1. get sense that Luke thinks people get wealthy through unjust means
constant theme is wealthy justly returning wealth to poor
            2. God has a preference for the poor
put it another way
poor get first go into heaven
(doesn’t seem to be any need confess Jesus as Lord or Saviour – just get there cos poor)
rich, - do get to heaven (not assured)
            poor welcome you – or not
leads on to final two parts todays reading
            be trustworthy – use money for proper purpose – communal purpose
                        ensure all have enough
can’t be slave of two masters – either focussed on God or on money.

      5.      Living wage campaign

            Synod – last week we endorse the living wage concept
            due time pressure felt unable to deal with this properly
            set it aside for a year – dissapointing
            +Justin – said take cut stipend pay living wage lowest paid
            ACC – in principle yes – but has to come out current wage budget
            means top end need paid less
imagine if that happened
highest paid land – including politicians took pay cuts those lowest paid organisations receive living wage
-          seems to me in line with today’s reading
-          point money is how used build community
-          Brian McLaren – “Everything must Change” - economists suggesting pay chief executives and top management pegged to certain percentage above lowest paid in organisation
-                            only way receive pay increase – if lowest paid get increase first.

      6.      elections

            said pew sheet – time local body elections
            wonder how this reading will help us sift through candidates
            as you read their material - what look for based on this reading?
            how will help us vote?