Friday, February 28, 2014

Living Perfectly - again

This looks alot like the sermon I put up last week. It is. I decided it really was two sermons in one. So I preached the second half and left people with the question "What is perfection"? This week I explore that question



Gate Pa – Epiphany 8 – March 2 2014
Readings:
Hebrew Scripture:           Isa 49:8-16                          
Psalm:                                   131                                                        
Epistle:                                 1 Cor 4:1-5                          
Gospel:                                Matt 6:24-34     

What I want to say:
I want to explore what “God’s perfection” might mean, suggesting it is more about God’s compassion for all creation, mercy, justice and love. I then want to apply that to today’s readings and suggest that Jesus offers his followers a way of living perfectly (i.e. with Compassion, mercy, love justice and love) in a way that challenges the excepted norms.

What I want to happen:
I want people to rethink their assumptions around righteousness, holiness and perfection, and to begin to think about living perfectly in terms of how we treat other people and creation

The Sermon

     1.       Introduction:

over last few weeks listening to Sermon On Mount
Last week finished Jesus inviting/commanding us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”
invited you think about what God’s perfection might look life
                how would you describe that
so – how would you describe God’s perfection (Discuss)

     2.       Righteousness

as I said last week and in pew sheet,
                righteousness is one key themes in Matthews Gospel
and in sermon on mount –if not the key theme
                seems to be used interchangeably with
                                God’s perfection (in last week’s reading)
                                holiness
                and righteousness
these are important words
because how we understand these terms reveals and shapes
                 how understand God
                how we really understand what Jesus was about
                what Christianity is really about

3.       A Moral Gospel

e.g. Understand God’s perfection to be without guilt or sin
and Righteousness is the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven.
Morally upright;
J  morally good : following religious or moral laws 
then point Jesus is provide way for us – sinner – to have access to perfect and righteous God who cannot abide us to be near without us paying the price.
Is this good definition of perfect
                how words used were defined
                more importantly – How perfection, righteousness, holiness is defined by Jesus life, ministry and teaching?
suggest that is it an imperfect understanding.

      4.       Perfect Bible Stories

Perfect tense – means completed
teleos – Greek word translate as perfect also better understood as complete
fits with whole story of Bible
story of our creation and our completion
ð  what would that look like?
J  (NT Wright) The central biblical discussions of righteousness thus principally concern membership in the covenant and the behaviour appropriate to that membership.  … these passages depend on a theology in which God is creator and judge of all the earth, and in which God’s people are to reflect God’s own character.
*      perfection is found in God’s character
*      righteousness is when we reflect God’s character
takes us back to plot of bible
some call - moral arch story of bible
moral arch of story of humanity
                bringing humanity and all creation to point where we reflect God’s own character
when we become perfect like God
God is beginning and end, last and first
God as perfection then is God as endpoint
                point of completion
we will be perfect when we reflect God’s character
This is very different way understanding Gospel
not about our moral failure
not about our sinfulness
not about someone having to pay the price so that we can enter heaven and be with sinless God after we die
this is about God ongoing work leading us, journeying with us, waiting for us
to be all that God created us to be
Point Jesus life, ministry and teaching
                show us both what character of God is
                offer example what human society might look like if we lived out those characteristics
                if we were perfect as our father in heaven is perfect
Jesus also shows us that end point of life as we currently live it is death
end point of understanding perfection, righteousness, holiness as morally upright and without sin is also death
                Paul and Jesus make that clear again and again
Jesus offers us a new way

      5.       An alternative

two weeks ago I used  Rob Bell and Don Golden talking about
                describe key characteristics of God as compassion, mercy, justice and love
                suggest God wants people who will enflesh compassion, mercy justice and love
we might add – these people will be righteous, holy, perfect
encounter this understanding   
                mosaic law
                prophets
                life, teaching and ministry of Jesus
what Jesus meant said that our righteousness needed to exceed that of Pharisees and scribes
                their God was moral judge who determined who was acceptable and who was not
                                righteousness was about obedience to moral code
                                who said who was in and who was not
                but if we read woes at end Matthew 23 that book end with Beatitudes Jesus says
(23) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
be righteous means to live compassion
be holy is to live mercy
to be perfect is to live justice
This understanding is at heart of understanding Sermon on Mount

      6.       Conclusion

about enter Lent
wonder if one things we need to give up is seeing God as perfect moral judge
        sends Jesus offer way into life with God after death
instead see God’s perfection in God’s mercy, compassion, justice. love and peace
wonder
what habits might you need to develop to grow in this understanding of God
what habits might you need nurture join God developing society  built on God’s justice, peace, compassion and love.

Jesus said – “In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
                Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect            


God's Righteousness



This is our last week in the Sermon on the Mount. Next week are in Lent, and from Lent 2 until the end of Easter we explore John’s Gospel.
The trouble with the way we read these little bits of readings each week is that we forget that they are part of bigger sections which are set within a book with a particular plot line. In this instance we forget that what we are reading is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and should be read at least in the context of the whole sermon and not on its own. And the trouble with finishing where we are going to this week is that we not only miss out the rest of the Sermon, and especially the end. I invite you to read the whole of the Sermon on the Mount and to ask what Matthew was trying to say about Jesus’ teaching?
Matthew has Jesus finish with a comparison of the wise and foolish person. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts of them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock….”  The crucial difference between the one who is wise and the one who is foolish is that the wise both hear what Jesus is saying and act on it, while the foolish only hear. It is not enough to hear and understand, we must act, practicing what Jesus says, living out his teaching in our everyday lives. David Ewart suggests that the key question we should ask ourselves as we read both the sermon, and the rest of the gospel is “what must I do to make this the bedrock of how I live?”[1]

A dominant theme throughout the Sermon on the Mount is righteousness, (or holiness or perfection). In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is offering some radically different understandings of righteousness. Unlike many of his day (and ours) who define righteousness as morally upright- without guilt or sin or as the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven, he seems to be suggesting that God’s righteousness is defined by God’s character. And that character is seen in the life, teaching, and actions of Jesus. From what we read in the gospels, and our own experience of the risen Christ, how would we describe the character of God, and therefore the righteousness of God?
Today’s gospel reading needs to be read in light of the whole of the sermon on the mount, keeping in mind the requirement to act, and holding the theme of righteousness. It can easily be read as an invitation to not worry, (be happy – like the song says). But if it is read in light of all that Jesus says around it, it can be read as a warning against our selfish acquisition that seeks to secure our own wealth and security while diminishing the wealth and security of others, particularly the poor. This kind of activity is driven by worry and fear, and ignores God’s generosity and compassion. It is born out of a lack of trust, and places our priorities ahead of God, and this lack of trust deprives others of enough, and therefore of justice. And justice is at the heart of God’s righteousness.
William Loader offers us these thoughts.
“Out of neediness we not only diminish ourselves - we rob others of justice and a fair share. The gospel deals with this gross injustice not primarily by telling us off, but by offering a new centre to our lives, a new centre of seeking, as 6:33 suggests. There is a sense in which seeking first God's reign and God's righteousness/goodness/justice will give you the satisfaction in life which we all need and which the gospel encourages us to value. It does so because it teaches us to merge together in love respect and care about God, others, and ourselves. Outside of contexts like those of Jesus and Matthew its impact in terms of the basic necessities of life will vary: It would be false comfort for those starving whose only hope is their destiny with God beyond death, but before that pain and grief. It would be false pretence for those of us whose basic needs are more than met and in gross adversity have welfare schemes to support us. We all need to take thought for the morrow if not for our own sake, certainly for the sake of others. But then we can do so, not driven by the lonely greed which wants all tomorrows to serve its ends, but in the trust that ultimately when we open tomorrow's door God will not have gone away.”[2]
And Rob Bell in a similar vein says, ““The peace we are offered is not a peace that is free from tragedy, illness, bankruptcy, divorce, depression, or heartache. It is peace rooted in the trust that the life Jesus gives us is deeper, wider, stronger, and more enduring than whatever our current circumstances are, because all we see is not all there is and the last word about us and our struggle has not yet been spoken.”[3]
What then might we take into Lent? As we think about giving things up, and developing new habits, what does Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount invite us to?


[1] http://www.holytextures.com/2011/02/matthew-6-24-34-year-a-epiphany-8-february-25-march-3-2-sermon.html
[2] http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/MtEpiphany8.htm
[3] Rob Bell, What We Talk about When We Talk about God

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Actor Natalie Portman visits Kids 4 Peace in Jerusalem

Actor Natalie Portman visits Kids 4 Peace in Jerusalem
I have a lot of time for Kids 4 Peace - and initiative to find solutions through building relationships and understanding, rather than military posturing and rhetoric of hate. It is a pity there are not more initiatives like this. Young people can change everything.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Living Perfectly



Gate Pa – Epiphany 7 - 21 February 2014
Readings:
Hebrew Scripture:       Lev 19:1-2, 9-18                     
Psalm:                         119: 33-40                                          
Epistle:                                    1 Cor 3:10-11, 16-23  
Gospel:                        Matt 5:38-48              

What I want to say:
I want to explore what “God’s perfection” might mean, suggesting it is more about God’s compassion for all creation, mercy, justice and love. I then want to apply that to today’s readings and suggest that Jesus offers his followers a way of living perfectly (i.e. with Compassion, mercy, love justice and love) in a way that challenges the excepted norms.

What I want to happen:
I want people to rethink their assumptions around righteousness, holiness and perfection, and to begin to think about living perfectly in terms of how we treat other people and creation

The Sermon

       1.      Introduction:

over last few weeks listening to Sermon On Mount
seems to me that some key themes in this are –
            God’s perfection (in today’s reading)
            holiness
            and righteousness
how we understand these terms will shape how we understand what Jesus is saying here
so what do you understand by these terms?
(DISCUSS)


*      what is really important in all this is how we understand God as righteous, perfect and holy
shapes what righteousness, holiness, perfection means for us
as Jesus just said
looked up on internet and number definitions
J  Righteousness is the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven.
J  Morally upright; without guilt or sin
J  morally good : following religious or moral laws 
§  explore
*      last week’s readings were warning about that line of thought

       2.      An alternative

J  (Wikipedia) It is an attribute that implies that a person's actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been "judged" or "reckoned" as leading a life that is pleasing to the god/s portrayed in these belief systems.
J  (NT Wright) The central biblical discussions of righteousness thus principally concern membership in the covenant and the behaviour appropriate to that membership.  … these passages depend on a theology in which God is creator and judge of all the earth, and in which God’s people are to reflect God’s own character.
J  Rob Bell and Don Golden talking about
            describe key characteristics of God as compassion, mercy, justice and love
            suggest God wants righteous people who will enflesh compassion, mercy justice and love
righteousness, holiness, perfection are about God’s compassion, mercy, justice and love – not obedience moral laws
Jesus points out - encounter this understanding       
            mosaic law
            prophets call justice
            teaching and actions Jesus
what Jesus meant said that our righteousness needed to exceed that of Pharisees and scribes
            their righteousness was about obedience to moral code –
            but if we read woes at end Matthew that book end with Beatitudes Jesus says
(23) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
righteousness is living out covenant in response to compassion, mercy, love and justice received.
be righteous means to live compassion
be holy is to live mercy
to be perfect is to live justice

       3.      Radical Scriptures

practical implications
Sermon On Mount inspired some leaders of great movements liberation over last 100 years
            inspired Mahatma Ghandi – helped shape understanding Just society he longed for
                        showed him how he might work towards it
            also basis on which Martin Luther King Jr built his understanding of what America might look like it truly honoured constitution
            again offered him model on which develop civil rights movement.
Several suthros reas suggest should be for us basis on which we dream of what life now might look like.

 4.      Not doormats

often read today’s gospel as requirement to be doormats
            used justify intolerable abuse of women, men, poor, slaves
read it in light of world Jesus lived in
             we find completely different reading
remember people being addressed here are poor, alien, slave
poorly treated
abused
seen and treated as less than human
Jesus is not saying – get hard
            tough it out
suggesting that stand up to abuse
            not in way invite more violence and abuse
            way seems to be co-operating while bringing shame on abusers.
a. slave and master – honourable expected way publicly discipline is though striking right cheek with back right hand
            slave is to stand still and accept punishment
            what happens if turn your left cheek?
            master either has to hit with left hand
                        open right hand
                        not hit you at all
-          act of nonviolent opposition

b. if want coat give your cloak
            coat is outer garment kept you warm in cold winter
            cloak – undergarments
            so when someone sues you for your coat – give them all your clothes and stand naked before them
                        make it clear that this act of theirs will leave you effectively naked
-          So why not publicly expose the shame which allows someone with wealth and privilege to take away the only thing a poor person owns by going naked! Give him your underwear. Let him explain why you are naked.
                        shame them with your nakedness

c. forced to go the mile
            soldiers conscript civilians, especially peasants
            rule was only one mile
            effectively meant loose a day’s work
            therefore day’s food family
            offering the second mile exposes the unjust hardship this custom poses to peasants
            while seeming to co-operate.
            act of nonviolent opposition

d. give to all who beg – only care for your family- all about kinship ties (they are your neighbours)
            this suggests that should treat all as your kin, as family
Jesus goes on to suggest that we should treat even our enemies as our kin
            “NOT mean to try and feel affection for them.
It means to be attached to them;
            to be devoted to them;
            to be loyal to them;
            to be bonded with them;
            to join one's fate with theirs;
            to seek for their welfare, their fair and just treatment.
And to behave outwardly in ways that correspond with our inner attachment.”[1]
put all this another way
so not be ruled by anger, hate, lust, self-importance
            that allows you to see others as less than you.
be ruled by God’s compassion, mercy, love and justice.

 5.      Conclusion

Jesus said – “In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
            Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect    



[1] http://www.holytextures.com/2011/02/matthew-5-38-48-year-a-epiphany-7-february-18-february-24-sermon.html