Longing for Righteousness

Can be listened to here.

Gate Pa – Year A  5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Candlemas 2017

Psalm:                                     Psalm: 24: 7-10                                              
First Reading:                         Malachi 3:1-5             
Second Reading:         Luke 2:22-40              
Gospel:                                    Matthew 5:13-20

What I want to say:
Explore the Candlemas and the next part of the Sermon of the Mount using work done by NT Wright looking at righteousness as being image bearers
What I want to happen:
People to embrace an understanding of righteousness as image bearers and to apply to our world, namely, to ask - what is it we long for this Waitangi day, and what is it we thing the God revealed in light of Christ longs for?

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

As I said in the children’s talk today is Candlemas
not something I grew up with
first time really encountered it was at and international meeting in Jerusalem with others involved in youth ministry
all went to St. Georges Cathedral for Candlemas service
fair only one of group who not know much about it
this Sunday nearest Feb 2nd
40 days after Christmas
when Luke says Mary and Joseph went to temple
offered poor person’s sacrifice for first born son
purification rites done – Mary – become unclean in birthing process
from 11th century become major feast day of blessing
            this time of candles to be used rest of the year
hence name
this practice comes from words Simeon
heard this morning
those us familiar evensong
            would said or sung
this is Message’s version
“God, you can now release your servant;
    release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
    it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
    and of glory for your people Israel.”
As we light our candles were are reminded that Jesus is the God revealing light
            for us gathered here
            for all people
that we are part of that ongoing work
which on one hand is nice
on other had
live in world really stirred up by the actions of President Trump
            over last week or so – Executive Order about immigration and refugees
and tomorrow is Waitangi day
both those things evoke a lot raruraru – heated debate
– wonder what Jesus the God revealing light celebrated at Candlemas have to say to both those things

     2.     Matthew

for number reasons kept reading most churches that follow International Revised Common Lectionary are using this Sunday
            in part keep walking through sermon on the mount
            part because it might help us with that question.
last week had beatitudes
            basically turned honour system on its head
said in God’s eyes
these are people of great honour, blessing.
may have seen on screen as you entered this morning.
carries on
·        you are salt
understand to be about tasted
couple people read suggested that more likely to be salt cakes used to get the dung fires used in cooking going really hot
for us to be salt is to be catalyst for God’s work to really get cooking.
·        you are light
poor person have one oil lamp in their one room
which when put out put under bushel basket to stop room filling with smoke and fumes
ð so Jesus is God revealing light for all
ð we are light as well
goes on to say these troubling lines
   17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

     3.     Righteousness

think key word in all this is righteousness
often thought of as
acting in accord with divine or moral law:  free from guilt or sin
the quality of being morally right or justifiable.
arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality <righteous indignation>
currently reading book by NT Wright – bishop and new testament scholar and author on a theology of the cross
purpose of cross is not to get us into heaven
but to be definitive moment in restoration of heaven and earth to all God longed for and intended in original creation
in light of that
states that above understanding of righteousness is not biblical understanding
biblical understanding comes from Genesis
we are made in image of God to be part of God’s ongoing creative work and to reflect God’s ongoing love, generosity and compassion to all creation;
and to reflect back to God creation’s praise and worship of the creator
that this is all based on our ongoing praise of worship of Creator God ourselves
law acted as guide and reminder for people God to be such a people
But Genesis 2 tells us that instead we chose to worship idols
what are out idols?
            money, wealth, possessions
            our safety
            our way of life
            our country
like all idols they lead to death.

so to put all this another way
we are righteous not when we are morally good and obedient
but when live lives centre in God
live as images of God
living as the light to reveal God’s ongoing creation
when we are image bearers of God’s ongoing love, generosity and compassion to all creation and all people;

     4.     Our Issues

I wondered what Candlemas might say to both Trump and his executive orders and to Waitangi Day
I think – you may disagree
I think Trumps orders come out of a wrong understanding of righteousness.
            he and his supporters think it is enough to be morally good
but as I look on I see people replaced worship God revealed in life Jesus
God compassion, generosity, mercy, love for all people (Simeon said)
with idols of
            money, wealth, possessions
            their way of life
            their country
they will only lead to death
not life
That is easy
that is over there
I can sit in judgement and make comments because mostly it will make no difference to my life
But Waitangi Day is a very different thing
that is us right here in Aotearoa
If we are to be image bearers
if we are to be light that reveals God’s compassion, generosity, love, aroha in this land
what is it we long for this Waitangi day?
what is it we thing the God revealed in light of Christ longs for?