Friday, February 17, 2017

Being Perfect

Gate Pa – Year A  7th Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Psalm                          Psalm: 119: 33-40
First Reading:             Lev 19:1-2, 9-18                     
Second Reading:        1 Cor 3:10-11, 16-23  
Gospel:                        Matt 5:38-48  

What I want to say:
I want to explore vs 48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – what does it mean to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? This is not about being flawless but about living the Sermon on the Mount
What I want to happen:
This provides our agenda for Lent

The Sermon

      1.     Introduction:

Hands up if you would describe yourself as perfect?
Hands up if you aspire to be perfect?
If you don’t – what do you do with the last verse we just heard in gospel
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Talk neighbour for moment
            How is God perfect?
How are you perfect?
What questions do you have about this reading?
*    What questions do you have about this reading?

      2.     Being perfect

Ask - When you hear word perfect what comes to mind?
I think often see it meaning
conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type:
entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings: ”
That is one meaning
-         But not only one
In English it can also mean “to bring to completion; finish.”
Origins in latin mean - Latin perfectus, past participle of perficere to finish, bring to completion
Eg – perfect tense in English grammar – not mean there are no mistakes
            Past completed – I have washed the car
                        I have finished preaching the sermon
In Greek – word we translate into “perfect” - telos
Not mean entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings 
More commonly means
Complete, mature, grown up, ripe.
So Jesus is not saying be flawless
But be complete, mature, ripe.

       3.     So what does God’s perfection look like?

Ask for answers from discussion
Suggest that God’s perfection, completeness, is found in what Jesus has been saying up to this point and for the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.
That this is the point of what Jesus is talking about
We began radical Beatitudes
Radical because they redefine which people have greatest honour in their society
Which ones being blessed by God
“Honoured, revered, blessed are the poor in spirit
those who mourn,
the meek,    
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,      
the pure in heart,
the peacemakers,
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
you when people revile you and persecute you
why are they honoured, revered, blessed?
They are perfect
 mature, complete, grown up, ripe
we become salt that fires up fires of God’s justice
and God revealing light

       4.     Last week and this week

Jesus gone on talk about attitude to Law of Moses and traditions built up around that
Saying - When we see law set commands to be obeyed
è When we do we are perfect (without flaw)
è then we are in trouble
but if willing to get behind commands to intent and attitudes
then on road to perfection
for example – not enough to not murder
            have to not angry, contemptuous, hateful
            today goes further – not enough not to hate your enemies
                        you are to love them
                        as your father in heaven loves all people
takes us back to be Beatitudes   

       5.     Conclusion

Rob Bell and Don Golden talking about
            describe key characteristics of God (God’s perfection)
as compassion, mercy, justice and love
            suggest God wants people who will enflesh compassion, mercy, justice and love
when we do this
we are perfect
Near Lent
Invite you to spend this Lent reflecting on how you are perfect
What might need to embrace your perfection
            With all your faults.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”         
Message offers this paraphrase
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.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Be Perfect

One of the problems with reading something in a translation from its original language, like the bible, is that sometimes we read a word in our language and think it carried the same meaning in the original language as it does in its common usage for us.  A couple of weeks ago we looked at ‘righteousness’ and looked at what that might mean in both Hebrew and Greek, and what it meant when used by Matthew. This week we have another word – “perfect.” We are told to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. I think we often read this and hear that we need to be without fault, flawless, super, heavenly, divine. And we think “I can’t be that” and we read on thinking this is all out of reach.
But in the Greek the word used more often means “mature, complete, grown up, ripe”.  Being perfect is not being flawless, but mature, ripe. What does that look like? That is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. When we live the kind of generosity, mercy, compassion, love for all Jesus is talking about in the teaching up to this point we are perfect. We will never be flawless, and we are not being asked to be. Just an image of God’s compassion (righteousness)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Choose Lfe - Some thoughts sparked by this Sunday's readings

I am not preaching this Sunday. So I have not written a them and will not be offering a sermon here. But I forgot this, and did the normal reading I might do if I was preaching. So here are some thoughts that come out of this weeks readings - Deut 30:15-20, 1 Cor 3:1-9, Matt 5:21-37.

This week one of our readings is Deuteronomy 30 where we are told to choose life. It sounds like a “pro-life” slogan. Chose life – oppose abortion.
For a long time I would have described myself as “prolife”. I long to live in a world where adoption is a well-resourced and viable option for those who are pregnant and for a whole raft of reasons do not want to or cannot look after that child. But for too many that is not offered as an option. It is either have the child or abort. I do believe that abortion is offered too easily, without the resources offered for the grief and other long term affects that come with it. My personal preference would be that people would not choose to abort. But I also know that people will choose to abort whether we want them to or not, and ironically, I think a prolife stance offers safe abortions for those who do choose it after the other options have been examined. I can’t stop people having abortions. They always have and always will. The difference is that when they are illegal backstreet operators kick in and the abortions still happen, but with much higher risks to the women, both in terms of surviving the procedure or being physically damaged so that they cannot have children later on.
So clearly not a hard line pro-birth/anti-abortion standpoint. But pro-life. But something really interesting happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I stopped describing myself as “pro-life”. I can’t do it anymore.
A couple fo things pushed me over this edge. The first was seeing all those men gathered around President Trump (how are those two words even together?) decreeing once again, as all Republican presidents do, that federal funding cannot be used for providing abortions. It can’t anyway. But I digress. There they were, all those men, telling women what they can and can’t do. And I came to realise that too often that this is all this pro-life stuff is. Men telling women what they can and can’t do.
Sadly we live in a world where men can tell women what they can and can’t do way too often. Abortions happen because men dictate when women will have sex and who with. Where too many women have no control over their bodies, over their reproductive systems. Where women become objects by which men can satisfy their need for sex and their need for offspring. We men have objectified women, made them objects of our desires. We have functionalised women, making them serve functions we give them.  WE have failed to see them as our fellow human beings. We have failed to see them as God sees them, and bearers of God’s love, compassion, justice and generosity. And those men gathered around that table made me realise that too often the antiabortion campaign, which is falsely called prolife, is too often one more example of men dictating to women what they can and can’t do. And I will not be part of that. Anyone who seeks to live the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be part of that.
The second was a post on Facebook. It was a meme of Pope Francis’ statement on what prolife really means. Yes it includes pro-birth, but it also involves being pro-life for the rest of live, caring for what happens to immigrants, refuges, health care provisions for all people, ensuring all have adequate housing, food, access to affordable (free) health care) for all their lives, not living in fear because they do not have or could lose access to all these things.
The comments on that post were really interesting. There were a lot in support. But so many people were abusive. They said it watered down the prolife stance. Some thought some of those things might be included but asked why they should pay for any of that for their taxes. I came to realise that too many people who call themselves pro-life are in fact just pro-birth/anti-abortion. They don’t care one jot for the women involved. They really don’t care for the life of the child once born. They just don’t want abortion to be an option. Those same people are happy for refugees to be denied access to a better life, demonise those who are different from them, would like social welfare/security slashed. They are happy for children to die of treatable diseases, malnutrition, and violence. They just want to make sure that they are born. And that is not pro-life. But somehow they seem to have cornered the term, and I find I have no place at that table anymore. My first statement still stands, so I am not pro-abortion. So what am I? Do I need to be anything?
Last week at our church I used NT Wrights understanding of righteousness as living as the bearers of the image of God in this world, reflecting the character of God to creation, and the praise and worship of all creation back to the creator God. Our sin is that we forget that this is what the righteous life is all about, and instead either live lives solely trying to live the letter of a legal code, or hedonistic lives which are all about my needs and prosperity. There is a lot of this going on in the Christian church. The writer of Deuteronomy would call this choosing death. Choosing to live as an image bearer is to choose life.
This week we will hear Jesus continue on in the Sermon on the Mount where he pushes people beyond living the letter of the law and instead states they need to live the intention of the law. And the intention is about living well in community honouring each other, including our wives and husbands, and the wives and husbands of others. His statements about divorce acted to safeguard women who were so easily discarded from their marriages and whose resulting life expectancy (and that of their children if also discarded) plummeted. They were not be objectified, not treated simply as objects of desire and producers of children to be let go off when they no longer performed this task.
Jesus treated all people with generosity and compassion. He treated them as people made in the image of God. So as I grapple with what I am, I too am invited to treat all people, including the pro-birth extremist, including the women who choose to have abortions, including those who offer safe places for that to happen, and all those who will disagree with me; with the same generosity and compassion. To be an image bearer is to see God’s image in all others. When I do that I choose life and live righteously.

Friday, February 03, 2017

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?