A Grave Responsibility

Gate Pa - Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Pentecost 16)
Psalm                          78:1-4, 12-16                                      
First Reading:                         Exodus 17:1-7                        
Second Reading:        Phil 2:1-13                             
Gospel:                        Matthew 21:23-32    

What I want to say:
I want to explore the question posed to Jesus bny the Jersulaem leadership about his authority using material from Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis”. In doing so I want to suggest that not only was Jesus acting as a revisionist Rabbi (You have heard it said, but I say to you….) but in giving the early church the power to bind and loose, gave the early church and its successors the authority and the responsibility to continue to provide commentary on what it means to follow the way of Christ in our ever changing world.

What I want to happen:
I want people to be a little more careful when they state that such and such is biblical, or not biblical. I also want people to see that this responsibility is communal – this ongoing work or interpretation does not belong to any individual, but we are to play our part in binding and loosing as part of the community of god, the church.

The Sermon

       1.      Introduction:

Synod last week – some time spent hearing about process that General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui went through to decide on Motion 30
-          uphold this traditional doctrine of marriage.
-          acknowledge that all too often our Church has been complicit in homophobic thinking and actions of society, and has failed to speak out against hatred and violence against those with same-gender attraction.
-          established process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law may perform a yet to be developed liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships
-          set up process so that  proposal for a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships;
-          asks the group to report for our future on:
(a) The theology of ordination to Anglican orders and requirements for that; and
(b) The theology of marriage

Part long process church undergoing last 10 or so years
            4 hermeneutical huis – all about how read and use scripture
            Ma Whea Commission – spent two years listening presentations across church – presented report to GS/THW
            bulk time at GS is tikanga and house caucus groups trying find way through issues – which was incredibly gruelling for those involved.
honest – result was lot less many hoping for
                        a lot more many comfortable with
                                    heard people say – this is all not biblical
bible forbids it
so should we
number  problems with that position
            treats bible as static – once and all meaning
            many those use scripture in this way struggle tell you
what writer that particular book said in that paragraph set and how that piece quote fits into
how fits with overall theme of the book
let alone what might meant for those originally heard it.
Other problem is raised in todays gospel reading
want spend time looking at this reading
do so using material out book called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.

        2.      World of Jesus the Rabbi

Rob Bell treats Jesus of bible as Rabbi
these people who from age 6 been through 2 levels school
            learning firstly read Hebrew and whole Torah off by heart
            then learning rest Hebrew Scripture off by heart
                        as well as various commentaries provided by different Rabbis as to what that might mean for life
number of schools of thoughts
            based teaching paritucalr rabbis
                        sought get as close to what law Moses meant in new circumstance as possible
number different understandings of what torah allowed and what torah forbade
what thought was allowed by Torah – said to be loosed
what thought be forbidden – bound
familiar language
heard Jesus use that language very recently
what was bound and what was loosed – collectively named “yoke”
each rabbi taught particular yoke – understanding of torah
some yokes described as easy
others hard
again – familiar language
rabbis teach what learnt from their master – been disciple for
who in turn learnt that from their master
number yokes being taught
each rabbi belong schools or groups rabbis taught particular yoke
they would begin their teaching by saying which rabbi’s yoke they were basing their teaching on.

         3.      Problem with Jesus

which brings us to today’s gospel reading
and problem with Jesus
he did not cite another rabbi in his teaching
which leads to question keeps being asked
asked again today
“By what aurhtoirty are you doing these things?”
in the grand scheme of yokes – where do you belong?
Jesus didn’t belong to any of them.
what he is doing is completely new
although clearly based on teaching and practice of John Baptist.
Every now and again rabbi would arise who offer a new teaching of torah
a new yoke
a new understanding of what was bound and what was loosed
they would begin their new teaching with….
“you have heard it said, but I say to you……”
yet again familiar words
in these words we see a rabbi offering new teaching
Jesus is offering a new understanding of the torah
a new yoke
an easy yoke.

        4.      Jesus radical instruction

Jesus goes beyond just offering new teaching
3 weeks ago heard this
Matthew 18:18 – which Mark Davis translates as “Truly I say to you, whatever [pl] you bind on the earth will be [what] has been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on the earth will be [what] has been loosed in heaven.”[1]
Not only was Jesus creating new teaching around meaning of Torah and how it applied
instructing his followers that they have same authority and responsibility
they are decide what is loosed and bound
they are to create new yokes.
un heard of
glide over these lines
some way make many us uncomfortable
feels like we are to sit in moral judgement on others
often read that way and used that way
this way different
Jesus giving his disciples responsibility determining yoke in ongoing basis
authority and responsibility see early church use as early as Acts 15
Paul’s work in Gentile world forces Jerusalem church to work out how Torah applies to these Gentiles
decide mostly – not
again glide through this
the people making this ruling
            James elder – brother Jesus
devout temple going Jews
strive live Torah with every breath
way Jesus their rabbi taught
compassion and generosity especially for poor, outcast, sinner.
they say – mostly it does not apply
what does apply is compassion and generosity.
If we read Paul we see that same process going on
Paul with churches deciding what is bound and what is loosed
deciding the yoke is for his church
we have the same responsibility

       5.      So what

few things need take out all this
is not one meaning fixed for all time
wasn’t in Jesus time
still isn’t
Jeus gives us the responsibility to decide what Torah means in today’s world
            huge responsibility
            one need take very seriously
responsibility sits with community and not with individuals
Only last 550 years individuals read on own
up till that time all done in community

      6.      GSTHW Motion 30

what I like about how Anglican Church taken on issues before it
personally – not gone far enough
huge respect for process and decisions taken
taken task seriously
taken 10 years to get to this point
we have at least four more years to go, maybe longer
decide what is bound and what it loosed is huge responsibility
undertaken as church community
involving many people
robust and healthy conversations
centre of those conversations has been scripture and what scripter says to this situation
            both the verses often quoted
            also rest scripture
            importantly – what writers those verses say rest of books verses found
            teaching Jesus found in Gospels

        7.      what does all this mean for us?

work of commentary is not done
continue on into future
involves us
all us need take scripture seriously
engaged in understanding big picture
engaged understanding what means for today
determining yoke of Jesus
when we are sacked by what authority we do this
do it under authority of Jesus
our rabbi.

[1] http://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/the-power-of-reconciliation.html


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