Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Needs and desires

A common phrase used by Christians is that Jesus will meet our needs. And it is understood in all kinds of ways. Sometimes this is couched as spiritual needs. Sometimes just needs. Some people differentiate between wants and needs. Which leads to us not being very clear about what needs will be met.
In our reading from 2 Samuel 11: 26- 12:13 we hear the ongoing story of David’s need for Bathsheba. Or maybe that was a want. But that “want” distracted David from what was important, and before he knew it, the one who had been rescued from Saul’s murder plot was involved in his own murder plot. That giving in led to all sorts of broken relationships, deaths and betrayals. Nathan tells a story that invokes David’s outrage, and then his utter despair. The trappings of being king had blinded David to his need for God, his need to live in the presence of God.
It is easy for us to look down on David, but I suspect we too often forget about what is important, what our real needs are, and follow our wants instead. In the Franciscan way that is one of the things poverty is about – letting go of everything that might distract us from our need to live in the presence of God.
One of the reasons we get distracted is that sometimes we are not very sure about what our needs really are. We struggle because as individuals and as communities we are unclear about what it is that we should long for. The writer to the Ephesians, which may or may not be Paul, clearly thinks that unity in the church is important, something to be longed for. He longs for that even though powerful people within the early church opposed him. But unity at what price?
In our gospel reading, John 6: 24-35, the people following Jesus are clear about what they long for: and end to Roman rule, an end to Herod, an end to the corruption of the High Priests; and a return of their land, their honour and sustainable incomes. In short, they longed for the Kingdom of God as they understood it. Last week Jesus avoided being made the means by which these deep needs might be met. And so the crowd catch up, on the other side, and they are a little unhappy and inpatient. Who does this Jesus think he is and what exactly is he offering. Healings are all very good, and the bread and fish thing was impressive. But bigger change was needed. What Jesus was talking about was not what they were looking for. They wanted the world as it was with them nearer the top. Jesus offered a new way of seeing the world, and new way of being community, based on God’s ongoing unbounded generosity and unlimited love. They struggled to get it.
We struggle to get it. We are in the end no different from David, from those people following around Jesus from one side to the other, from the disciples. We too often long for more of the same. We give our souls to a vision that is too small.
So what is it we long for? What is our hearts desire? What is it we give our soul to? And what is it God longs for us, for this place, for this world?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Being Generous

The final version can be listened to here.

 Gate Pa – 26 July 2015:      OT 17, Social Service Sunday


Hebrew Scripture:     2 Samuel 11: 1-15

Psalm:                         14

Epistle:                        Ephesians 3: 14-21     

Gospel:                        John 6: 1-21    

What I want to say:

Explore Social Service Sunday

Love is to be the basis our understanding who we are

We are invited to open our eyes wide to the reality God’s generous love in our lives

     1.      where do we see God’s abundant, generous love?

     2.      where do we need to have our eyes opened?

     3.      what does it mean to be planted in God’s love?

What I want to happen:

people to open eyes wide to the reality of God’s generous love in their inner most being, that they might built their sense of who they are on that on not on other things, like moral correctness, good enough, personal sense of authority etc….

The Sermon

1.      Introduction:

It is very easy to feel despondent and powerless about our world

            political price to do anything about global warming is too high

            nothing real happens

            in our part of world trapped in to thinking that rich should get richer

                        that is how it should be

            price pay so that those who work full time might have enough to thrive seems to high

                        believe propaganda that higher pay costs jobs

                        despite all evidence that opposite is true

            willing to see social services turned over profit making corporations

            around world violence grows

                        religious extremism Christian, Hindu, Muslim grows

huge things are happening – feel powerless to respond

wonder, where is God in all this?

            seems to be no way forward.

2.      Psalm and David

we are not alone in feeling this.

how psalmist felt

one great things about psalms

      one reasons church prayed psalms from beginning

            we find all our responses to life in them

      we find a way to pray how we feel

                  about God

                  about the world

                  about those we live with

                  about ourselves

      in these psalms

      they give legitimacy to those feeling

                  they help us acknowledge those feelings and feel them

      not something many of us are good at in my experience

            including myself

In Psalm recited this morning heard psalmist’s lament

            at powerful people his time behaving badly with little care poor or others

just as they were during Jesus time

      unfortunately power does corrupt

corrupts the best of people as we hear in sordid story David and Bathsheba

people, including David

                  behaved and behave as if God did not and does not notice or care

so psalmist lays out the consequences

      their behaviour led people believe that God of Israel did not care

o   God of Israel was absent

vision of God was simply too small

Nathan and Psalmist call bigger vision and realisation that God does care.

3.      The Big Vision

Letter to the Ephesians all about bigger vision of God

passage heard this morning begins by stating that

      any exercise of power and authority (described as fatherhood)

      must be based on way God is

      if it is to have any legitimacy

all of this relies on our answer to that question that I keep suggesting is central to everything

“Who is God?”

What is our image of God?

what words to we use to describe God

how does that influence how see ourselves and how we live our lives?

4.      Johns stories

Gospels are primary means offered to us to help us answer “Who is God?” told to help us understand who Christ really is

in doing so begin understand the way God is inviting us to see ourselves and to live

Key  element in John – use of  signs

      too often we get stuck on the signs themselves

                  did they happen exactly as John said

            is there some other explanation?

loose importance of these signs

      signs themselves are not important

      what they point to that is important

      doors though which we understand who Christ really is

      in doing so begin understand the way God is

they point to a reality beyond story

      point to reality of God

The 2 stories heard this morning

      feeding of 5000

      Jesus walking of water

also told together in Mark

      last week skipped right over them

-          John pushes them

-          fills them echoes Exodus story

§  set Passover

§  bread and mana

§  water echoes safe crossing both Red Sea and Jordan

-          echoes too Elijah – whose return will bring the messianic age

§  5 barley loaves

-          tempting try explaining away mystery of the story

explore generosity drawn out by those gathered

while can be understood as a story about people’s generosity

this is really a story about God

this is a story about God’s abundant generosity

            unasked for

            freely given

-at times we might get hung up about miracle walking water

§  did he really do it

§  is that possible?

this is a story about God

            revealed in Jesus

story about Jesus who masters perils deep

all that fills them with fear

simply says “I am”

again echoes beginning Exodus story – God revealed to Moses as “I am who I am,

story that echoes creation story

spirit hovered over deep

bringing order

            and all into being

These are stories designed to open our eyes to reality God present in this Jesus

who is present in lives of readers as risen Christ

God abundant generosity

            unasked for

            freely given generosity

            meets us in deepest fears

            brings to solid group of hope and life.

5.      Conclusion

We live in a world that is so not filled with generosity

with so many protecting and claiming what is theirs

            or at least what they think is theirs

so many aspiring for more

we live in a world so beset with problems

it would be easy to give in to hopelessness and despair

to give in to violence and retribution.

            as so many people have

That was the danger for the disciples

It was the danger for Jesus

In Mark we miss the 2 dinners set side by side

Herods decadent debauched affair

            thrown to impress the powerful

            filled with wild and exaggerated promises

            and John’s head

and Jesus

            with all eyes on him to see what he will do in response to his cousins death

will be call for retribution as honour dictates?


            surrounded by those who had come to see and hear

            those who had lost land

            lost honour and hope

            struggled to live day to day

            who longed to rid themselves of Rome,

                        of Herod

                        of the High Priests

            and hungry

Jesus meets them with generosity and love

            feeds them

            becomes good shepherd of the good shepherd tradition

offers another way.

And so on this Social service Sunday

we are reminded of this compassion

that we are people shaped by God’s compassion and love

We are invited to open our eyes wide to the reality God’s generous love in our lives
  1.      where do we see God’s abundant, generous love?
      2.      where do we need to have our eyes opened?

      3.      what does it mean to be planted in God’s love?