the Promised Land

This sermon can be listened to here

 Gate Pa – Year A 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time - 2020

Readings:
Psalm                          Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
First Reading:               Deuteronomy 34:1-12                    
Second Reading:        1 Thess 2:1-8                                 
Gospel:                         Matthew 22: 34-46     
                         
What I want to say:
I want to use the Deuteronomy reading and MLK’s use of it in his last sermon as a springboard to explore our vision of the “Promised Land” Where are we heading to and hoping for? What shapes that vision and hope?
What I want to happen:
Invite people to prayerfully reflect on their vision of the promised land, and how we are invited to do to live that out

The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

He was assassinated the next day
He, like Moses in our first reading today
-         Had been to the mountain top and seen the promised land
He, like Moses, was not to get there.
So what was the promised land?

       2.     Retreat with Justin

10 1/2 years ago, and again 9 years ago
Attended retreat with Justin Duckworth (now bishop)
Life change
When went deeply despondent about church
30 years parish, regional, diocesan, provincial, and international youth ministry involvement
-         Watched our church fail give young people space
-         Failed help young people feel belong
-         Failed give young people voice in life church
-         Failed offer any resources we have as church life faith
ð Result we left aging and growing increasingly tired
Went feeling tired and despondent
Justin offered hope
Used story listening to last few weeks from Exodus to Deuteronomy
Story exodus out Egypt, through wilderness, into promised land
Help us explore what is happening for us as church at moment

       3.     Journey to promised land

We had been in Egypt
-         Felt good place
-         Also dangerous place
o   Become too comfortable
o   Too complacent
o   Too reliant on own services and programmes
o   Thought all about getting people to come to church
Like freed slaves who became Hebrew people
-         Israel
-         People of God
We have been freed from Egypt
-         Although mostly we don’t see it as freed
-         Like Hebrew people in Exodus story
-         Too often long to go back
-         Now we are in wilderness
-         Uncomfortable place
-         Hard place
Also a gift
Like Hebrew people who spent a generation being shaped in wilderness
-         Learning character God who had rescued them
o   Who is faithful and steadfast
o   Who leads and accompanies them
o   Feeds them with manna and quail
o   Who teaches them through Law, Torah
o   How to live in response to God’s generosity and compassion
o   To God’s steadfastness
o   with God’s ongoing presence in their midst.
Same for us
This time is for us to be reminded again
-         That God is steadfast and faithful
-         That God leads and accompanies us
-         That God continues to feed and sustain us.
-         Reminded again as people of God
o   How to live in response to God’s generosity and compassion
o   To God’s steadfastness
o   To God’s ongoing presence in ours midst.
-         Whose are we?
-         Who are we?
-         What is ours to do?
Retreat finished with us standing on the mountain top
With Moses
With Martin Luther King
Looking over into the promised land
So what does the promised land look like for us?
What do we look for?
-         Be careful not to look back to Egypt
-         Look forward
-         To promised land
Talk neighbours
Plenary

       4.     Jesus and the Promised Land

Justin also got us to think about resources we bring on this journey
One resources is scripture
Especially story of Jesus
For Jesus promised land is kingdom of Heaven – reign of God
He describes in Beatitudes and Sermon on Mount
-         Lives out in his life and ministry
-         a world where the most important people are:
o   the poor in spirit,
o   those who mourn,
o   the meek,
o   those who hunger and thirst for God’s justice,
o   the pure in heart,
o   the merciful,
o   the peacemakers,
o   those who are persecuted for the sake of God’s justice,
-         a world where all flourish
-         Where the common good is held as paramount
-         A world where the needs of the poor are placed first
-         Where ALL are treated with honour and respect
-         And given what they need to thrive

5.     Today’s gospel reading

We can see this in todays story of Jesus doing verbal battle with some Pharisees
Last of verbal battles
Began after came into Jerusalem on donkey
Overturned money changers tables
Then returned next day teach
Chief priests and Jerusalem elite come trip him up
Discredit him
Strip him of honour and influence
For chief priests -  Love God meant to observe temple cult
Both groups – love God meant ensure survival Jewish nation in threat from Rome
-         Meant keeping Rome happy
Then some Pharisees and Herodians come
Very unlikely
Polar opposites
Herodian
-         Were not so much interested in Loving God
o   More into love of all things Greek
o   People attended Herod Antipas’s party – where John Baptist beheaded
Pharisees longed end of Rome and Greek culture
-         Love God through adherence and obedience to their interpretation of Torah
Sadducees come – loving God was through adherence to temple cult
Lastly some Pharisees
è All seeking to belittle Jesus in front of crowd
è End his influence over crowd
è Restore their own position
Jesus had bested them each time
Showing up their own lack of authority
Even if some of them held all power

        6.     The Last Question

Last questions is which is greatest commandment
Jesus gives bog standard answer
With a twist
Twist we often miss
Love Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind
Part of the Shema is taken from the Torah : Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) –
Most important prayer in Judaism
Follows it with Leviticus 19:18
Love your neighbour as your self
Often see as separate
All groups who came to Jesus to discredit him saw as secondary
But Jesus in beatitudes and Sermon on Mount
Love God by loving our neighbours
All your neighbours
Especially
o   the poor in spirit,
o   those who mourn,
o   the meek,
o   those who hunger and thirst for God’s justice,
o   the pure in heart,
o   the merciful,
o   the peacemakers,
o   those who are persecuted for the sake of God’s justice,
Promised land for Jesus
Is Kingdom of Heaven
When all live to love God by loving all our neighbours

       7.     Conclusion

Invite you to reflect on
-         whose we are – who is this God who journeys with us in our wilderness
-         Who we are – as people of God in our wilderness as we journey to promised land
Also reflect on
-         your understanding or vision of the promised land,
-         in light of that – how we are invited to do to live that out
o   what is ours to do
 

Video - MLK I have a dream

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