Christmas is Coming….

Greetings All!

Some of you know that I write a monthly piece for our local community newsletter.  Since most of you never see it, I’ve decided to send my Christmas wishes to you this way too.

Diagonal Christmas Cracker

If you’re making your own Christmas Crackers this year I’ve got some jokes for you.  Here goes. 1. What lies at the bottom of the sea and shivers? A nervous wreck.

2. What is black and white and noisy? A zebra with a drum kit.  And then there’s my personal favourite; 3. What lies in a pram and wobbles? A jelly baby!

I realise that some of you may now be wearing a ‘we are not amused’ expression, because humour is a very subjective thing.  Something that has one person in stitches can entirely escape another – we are a very diverse and varied bunch we humans. Perhaps it is because we are so different that we appreciate special occasions, like Christmas, so much.  Even people who fail to acknowledge the religious aspect of Christmas, (and a recent poll tells us that this is now 51% of the population), still send cards, buy presents and attend gatherings of family and friends to eat Turkey and Christmas pud.  There’s something about ‘celebrating’ that manages to transcend our differences and pull us together, and hooray for that! 

 

For me, the best part of Christmas is all the church services.  Yes, I genuinely love them!  I love the carols, the stories of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the whole emphasis being on God loving us so much that he chose to come and live with us as one of us; it’s mysterious and wonderful.  I am also a connoisseur of the ‘Nativity Play’ having been in and attended a great many.  I can cite highlights which include various disasters such as sheep stranded on hillsides when they should be in the manger; angels picking fights with the shepherds and throwing straw about; wise men losing their way and tripping over their costumes and inn-keepers who completely forget their lines – brilliant!  There’s something about watching small children bring Jesus’ birth story to life that resonates and can melt even the hardest heart.

I hope that Christmas brings you great joy this year and, of course, I offer you the invitation to come to one of the many services on offer. We can offer you plenty of choice; there’s St George’s – particularly the Town Carol Service at 6pm on 15th December; All the services at Christ Church; The Priory Church at Woodchester and The Friend’s Meeting House on Chestnut Hill.  Hope to see you sometime – in the meantime – Happy Christmas from Siân and all at Christ Church.

Posted in Christmas | Leave a comment

Prayer…

Hello Folks!

Yesterday our worship was centred around prayer. The Gospel reading was Luke 18:9-14 The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

Luke18v9to14_2004As this parable follows on from last week’s parable on persistence in prayer, I felt that we were being led to put some of this into practice.  Rather than depending on the use of words alone we spent time in prayer.

I introduced the theme by using, “Fizzy forgiveness,” a brief video appears below.  In our version we talked about how, despite praying the prayers of confession and accepting the absolution, many of us have the tendency to snatch back our worries and concerns and hold on tightly to them, all the way through worship and beyond. In this instance though, I invited everyone to project their anxieties, worries, forgiveness issues etc on to the small, pink disc I was holding.  I then dropped the disc into  a vase of clear, pure water.  The disc threw up a column of fizzy bubbles that popped away furiously, until gradually it dissolved completely and the water cleared and became still once more.

Later on we heard the reading from Luke and considered, albeit briefly, some of the themes.  We noted that pharisees and tax collectors continue a recognisable theme in the Gospel.  Pharisees stand for the established, Jewish leadership, (who should know better), whilst Tax Collectors stand for sinners, outcasts etc.  Reprising again, the brilliant Magnificat of chapter 2, we see the kingdom view lifting up the lowly and casting down the mighty.

The Pharisee stands before God and sends up a thankful prayer that he is not like the ‘sinner.’  Now, we have to be careful of our condemnation of the pharisee here, because how many of us, I wonder, have said, “there but for the grace of God….” when we have escaped a difficulty that someone else has had to face?  Isn’t that the same sort of thing?  I would say so.  It is a human response, and in that sense is authentic.  Whilst I’m on the subject, I have to give the pharisee some credit here too, because as arrogant and insensitive as his prayer seems – at least he’s not pretending!  He is presenting to God his true self – not pretending to be humble or meek.  Authenticity is central to prayer.  What is the point of pretending anyway?  The God who made us and loves us knows us inside and out.  Prayer is authentic communication and that’s why the Tax Collector scores so highly.  He stands before God and lays himself bare.  He is the one who returns from the encounter transformed.  His, is the prayer that has most meaning and is not just a ‘heap of empty phrases.’

We considered, briefly, the different ways of prayer, from silent to wordless to the many and varied actions.

In conclusion we took an ‘active’ response to our prayers of intercession and hung our prayers on lines of string, making a string curtain in the sanctuary.  I’ll put a photo up when it arrives in my inbox.

Much of my thinking for this week’s worship came from my attendance at a day conference last week, led by Prayer Spaces in Schools.  It’s a great initiative.  If you want to know more, go here.

Posted in Faith, Forgiveness, Luke's Gospel, Prayer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traveling Sunday… 20th October 2013

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Hello Everyone!

Just checking in to let you know why there’s no sermon, (as such), this week.  I shall be visiting another church tomorrow, whilst the good folk at Christ Church are celebrating an anniversary service with a visiting preacher.

I have been invited to preside at Communion at the Mission Sunday service, but the preaching will be done by Dr. Callum Henderson, based on his work with Comfort Rwanda.

We will be using the lectionary texts; Genesis 32: 22-31, (Jacob wrestles with an angel) and Luke 18:1-8, (the unjust judge and the persistent widow).  Both texts are rich with meaning and are deserving of wonderful, lengthy sermons in their own right – but, given that I’m only going to have a short time on them, I shall be concentrating on Luke.   The theme of the service is mission and this passage moves from its beginning as a parable about prayer; to encouragement to persevere and never give up; to issues around justice, until it comes to rest on a question about faith.  It speaks to me of a pattern that fits well with mission.

Mission is not something we are called to ‘do.’  There.  Nice bald statement we can all agree on, right?  WRONG!  The reason I say that we’re not called to do it is because we called to join it – mission is not our work, but God‘s.  God is already at work, long before we wake up and realise what’s required of us.  Our task is to be awake; aware; ready to discern where God is already leading.  One of the most effective tools for that task is prayer.  Keep the lines of communication open – prayer is essential.  In fact, experience has taught me that mission, (and ministry), needs to be grounded in worship or prayer in order for it to be mission – otherwise it’s not mission.  How ever well-intentioned we may be, if God’s not  at the centre of it, we may as well pack up and head home.

Mission is not easy.  It needs persistence and perseverance.  We, who seek to follow God, may never see the fruits of our labours.  It’s easy to get disheartened and doubt; so we need to encourage those who are involved in mission, not just financially;  but in communicating with them; joining in if we can – and definitely, definitely by praying.

One of the reasons that mission can be so challenging is that it is very often, (if not always), bound up in issues around justice.  Think of any mission project you like and I bet you can find some. Callum will be telling us about his own experiences in Rwanda – of people there who are being helped to live a more abundant life, because that’s what Jesus wants!  I can’t imagine it’s easy.  Things on the continent of Africa work differently from here.  Even the infrastructure – roads and transportation – brings its own trials!  Justice, the kind that the prophets of old cried out for, is yet to be attained for the vast majority of the human race.  And you can bet, if you go out into the wilderness crying for it – the world will come screaming right back at you and you’re liable to get swept away; but if you do, just get right back and start crying out again – that’s what Jesus says in this parable.

Being a Christian requires tenacity and determination, and to many people who do not know our faith, this would seem strange.  Too often, Christians are described as weak folk, who need some some of crutch to lean on to get through life – or, as the media in the U.K likes to show us, crazy fanatics with out-dated ideas!  Authentic Christianity is tough.  it is not for the faint-hearted.  Of course, we do talk about love all time, and perhaps that’s where people get their distorted ideas.  But the love we speak of isn’t a hippy-dippy, (no offence to hippies, I have been referred to as one on many occasions), soft, gooey, type of thing.  Love, real love is tough as old boots.  It means keeping on when you’d rather give up.  It means working in the mission field when it’s dark and dangerous and you’d rather be safe and warm.

As the writer Susan Kay says, “Some people think Jesus a softy because he kept speaking of love — they obviously haven’t tried it.”

Amen.

Grace and Peace!

Posted in Abundant Life, Disciples, Faith, God, Jesus, Love, Luke's Gospel, Mission, Parable | Leave a comment

Saw this and thought of ……. US!

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Ahh, the wonders of Facebook.  One of my social media pals came across an interesting piece from a minister in the USA who lists 12 reasons why her church may not be the church for you.  I can’t help but agree with her on nearly all 12 reasons.  If you want to see the original, pop over here.

I, too am completely overwhelmed with all the literature, programs, statistics and products aimed at fitting the church for the world, when really my heart is telling me that the church, although in the world is not be of the world.

We are called to be a people who are set free from the patterns of this world; patterns that oppress and enslave.  We’re about abundant life; love; grace; mercy – and I’ve yet to see a business empire embody those values.

I don’t have a hard-headed, business attitude to life – and so I don’t want to belong to an organisation that tells me I should – if I want to grow and develop.  Does that mean then that the church is destined to remain small and dwindling until it disappears altogether?  Hmmn, somehow I doubt it.  After all, in some of the poorest lands on earth, Christianity, (and therefore the church), is growing at break-neck speed.  Amongst the poor and disenfranchised the message is striking home. People are offering worship to God and praising Jesus; yet we, in the affluent, dare-I-say-it?-yes-I-will, spoilt, West are too bound up with worshiping ourselves.  It’s all about, what I want; what’s best for me? Well, a church built on those principals is a church I, for one can do without.

So maybe the time has come to start celebrating the smallness of our churches.  Celebrating the fact that, within our walls each Sunday, are small groups of wonderful, subversive, counter-cultural people who follow the One who came to change our world because it desperately needs changing.

We need to turn the tables; to scatter the proud and haughty; cast down the mighty; lift up the lowly; fill the hungry and send away the rich.  Of course church isn’t for everyone.  Who’d be brave enough to join us?  Would you?

Posted in Abundant Life, Disciples, Evangelism, Faith, Kingdom of God | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sermon for Sunday 13th October

ODC August 2000

Reading: Luke 17:11-19

Sermon:  God’s people are a thankful people.

Let us pray:  May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

Many years ago I had the very great privilege of spending some time working  with the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia, US.  The Open Door is a large house, just a few miles from the centre of the city and is modeled on the houses of the Catholic Worker Movement.  Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it for now – what you need to know is that the people there are modern day disciples of Jesus who are seeking to live out the Gospel, right there, right now.  Most of their work involves feeding and clothing Atlanta’s homeless people.  Every night, they open their yard, (we would call it the back garden), and give out blankets to the folks that come seeking the relative safety and comfort of a place where they will not be moved on or face violence and scorn from others.  They also have use of a bathroom – no small thing in a city with no – and I mean no, public toilets.

In the morning, from about 5.30 am; fresh coffee is brewed and given to the assembly to mark the start of another day of life on the streets.  3 mornings a week, the house opens for breakfast – a high protein, nourishing and balanced fare – a sample of which would be grits, (maize porridge), sausage, eggs, which most folk mix up all in the small bowl and smother with hot-sauce – yuk! Followed by lots of fruit and bread and tea.

Being part of the Open Door’s team is no small task.  There is a lot to do and prepare and lots of people to look after. You have to be up at 5.30am – earlier if you’re the one on coffee duty – and then you’re up and running all day long.  It’s hard work – but it’s not thankless.  The people who come in, inevitably greet you with smile and a kind word.  Their presence is a real blessing to those who serve.

One of the long time volunteers, (I’ll call him), Willie, used to come to cook.  Willie was a veteran campaigner – he’d walked alongside the Rev’d Dr, Martin Luther King, back in the 60s;  and every time he came to cook, he’d preach the Gospel to those of us in the kitchen.  “You gotta have an attitude of gratitude.”  He’d say. “Every day, in every way, an attitude of gratitude!”  “It don’t matter if you feel like it or no – the good Lord loves you!  Praise the Lord!”

Words of wisdom – words to live by. 

For all of us who would live the abundant life that Jesus speaks of, an attitude of gratitude is essential.

In our reading from Luke today, we meet up with Jesus who is, once more in the margins – the borderlands – crossing boundaries and moving into places where he probably shouldn’t go.  This time, he encounters not just one, but ten people suffering from leprosy; ten unclean, outcasts.  They call out to him – they call because they cannot come close.  Their experience has taught them to keep their distance – by now, doubtless they expect little from others, knowing that they belong in the margins; cast out from the people to whom they long to belong. So they call; plea; and hope.

And Jesus responds – he tells them to “Go.”  To go and show themselves to the priest – in effect to act as if they have been healed, as if a miracle has already taken place. Imagine then, their surprise, their amazement when, as they travel they discover that they have, indeed, been healed!

One of them notices.  The Samaritan; and he turns back, falls at Jesus’ feet and offers his thanks.  A perfect illustration of that attitude of gratitude.

A word here about Samaritans: Samaritans were descended from the Jewish people who had not been deported or killed when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, about 700 hundred years before Jesus was born.  The Assyrians forced them into marriage with colonists from Babylonia and so they were regarded as blood traitors by other Jews.  As such, they were recipients of more scorn and hatred than any other group.

So, here Luke tells us about this man who is both a leper and a Samaritan – how much more of a hate-figure could he be?  Here he is doubly cursed – until he meets Jesus and becomes fully blessed; for not only has he been healed – he has been fully restored.  He is now free to return to his friends and family – no wonder he thanks Jesus!

But what of the other 9?  Well, they didn’t do anything wrong did they?  They did exactly what Jesus told them to do.  As unlikely as it may have seemed to them, they did as he told them, and they found healing too.

So, what’s really going on here? Well, this little story is a part of a much bigger whole.  Over the past few weeks, if you’ve been following the Lectionary, you will know that Jesus has been teaching his disciples some very hard lessons about faith and what it means to be a disciple.  Since Chapter 9, when Jesus set his face to Jerusalem, it seems he’s been trying to prepare them for a tough road ahead.  We’ve had stories about the Good Samaritan; persistence in prayer; strong criticisms of the religious leaders and cryptic parables about money and possessions along with dire warnings about ignoring the teachings of the prophets.  But here, in these few verses, we get just a glimpse of the sun peaking through the clouds and right before their eyes, the disciples witness a real-life parable in the form of a healed man who comes back to say, “thank you!”  Whilst the disciples have been following Jesus; listening to him; learning from him; they have been struggling to understand what this man; this man with an attitude of gratitude grasps straight away.  The old life; the crippled body; the scorned man – all gone!  For here stands a man, as any other.  A man free to return from the margins to the mainstream; to live as any man might; a man restored, made whole – and as he feels healing and wholeness move through his body, he can also feel his heart, rising in gratitude to the One who has restored him – he knows who the true priest is; and so he returns to offer his thanksgiving to Jesus.

Time and time again, Luke shows Jesus confounding expectations.  Right from the beginning of his Gospel, when we hear Mary sing her song of God bringing down the mighty and lifting up the lowly, we get the message that Jesus will be turner of tables.  The world as we know it rewards the mighty and pushes the lowly to the margins.  The poor are despised whilst the rich are celebrated. But in God’s world, things are different. No one is to be outcast – all are invited to take their place in the Kingdom of God.

All?  really?

Yes, really.  That’s why it’s called Good News.

Sometimes though, we have trouble accepting that.  We might think, well, surely not so and so, because he/she is this or that or says this and that… and when that criticism sometimes turns inwards to ourselves we cast bits of ourselves to the borderlands because we’re afraid to have them seen or touched.

We think that we couldn’t possibly be good enough for Jesus because….

Well there is no because.  Jesus already knows you – inside and out – and Still loves you!  Jesus is no stranger to the borderlands; he can cross into them – to heal; forgive; transform any situation.  We just need the courage to call out.

Back in Atlanta, the Open Door is still hard at work.  There are many homeless people on the streets and to be homeless in the Land of the Free is to be something of a modern day leper.  Those who have lives which are well resourced tend to ignore the homeless; casting them to the margins. Yet, that’s where Jesus is today.

In the margins of the hungry; the outlands of the poor and in the hearts of the thankful, Jesus makes his home.

Let us pray:  Loving God, may you stir us up to work for you and bless us with an attitude of gratitude. Amen.

with grateful thanks to Meda Stamper and David Lose over on Working Preacher – you guys rock!

Posted in Abundant Life, Disciples, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Gratitude, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Love, Luke's Gospel, Martin Luther King Jr, Open Door Community, Restoration, St.Luke, The People of God | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sermon for Sunday 6th October 2013

English: Mustard seeds by David Turner Februar...

English: Mustard seeds by David Turner February 23, 2005 Edited by Consequencefree to replace the coin with an SI measurement reference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Faith as small as a mustard seed.”

Readings:  Habakkuk 1:1-4 and 2:1-4                   Luke 17:5-10

Emily was worried.
Mummy was ill and in the hospital.
Daddy said everything was going to be o.k – they just needed to have
faith.  Emily knew that Daddy was trying
to comfort her and make it alright, but Emily was even more worried now because
she didn’t really know what Daddy meant.
Of course, Emily had heard people talk about faith before, but what was
it? Where did you get it from?  Did it
cost much? How could you get some? And, how much would you need?  When it came to getting Mummy better, vague
answers were just not good enough.  This was
serious.

You’ll be delighted to know that Mummy did get well and was
soon back home with the family, but not before Daddy had had faced a whole
barrage of difficult theological questions from a little girl who needed to
know about this thing called faith.
Children have that direct honesty that cuts through all the umming and
ahhing of adult bluster and show us what we
should be asking, if it weren’t for the growing up process replacing our
sense of wonder with the fear of looking stupid.

Emily’s questions are important; today’s reading from Luke
can only have meaning for us if we take a little time to consider them now.

So, let’s go with, what is faith?  A dictionary definition is: Complete trust or
confidence in someone or something.  That’s
a good one for this passage.

The disciples ask Jesus to, ‘increase our faith’ – and it’s
not hard to see why.  Since Jesus has
turned his face to Jerusalem in Chapter 9, and is making his way towards the
people who will reject and then kill him, Jesus has been quite tough with his
followers.  The previous parables we’ve
heard over the last few weeks have hard lessons for those who would follow him.
He saves his harshest words for the Jewish elite, the Scribes and the Pharisees
would should know better, but instead support the systems of oppression and
inequality that God deplores; nevertheless, the Kingdom of God is not for the
faint-hearted.  How is Jesus to prepare
his closest followers for what is to come?
He has no option but to challenge them to put their worldly views aside
and live as no one has lived before. 

So, things will get hard – so make sure you don’t slip
up.  It is any wonder the disciples don’t
feel equipped to deal with all this?  No
wonder they ask for more faith – wouldn’t we?

What the disciples don’t realise though, is that they
already have what they need; they just don’t understand how powerful it is.  Faith; complete trust and confidence in Jesus –
even a tiny amount of that is more than enough, because Jesus is more than
enough.

Now this doesn’t mean that those of us with the tiniest bit
of faith can relax and take things easy.
Faith is meant to be used; to be harnessed for the work of the
Kingdom.  Jesus uses an example from his
own time that’s hard for us to accept today because it speaks of a slave or
servant, (in other translations), which clearly implies hierarchy between
people that’s distasteful to 21st century listeners.  But what he’s getting at is, you shouldn’t
expect thanks for doing the work you are supposed to be doing.  The thing is, though, we do.  Don’t we?
We don’t want to be taken for granted – we want our efforts to be
recognised; careful – this is how the Pharisees get such a bad press in Luke.

Story: When the wind blows.
A farmer was interviewing a young man for a job on his large dairy
farm.  When he got as far as asking for
relevant qualifications, the young man told him, “I can sleep when the wind
blows.”  This answer surprised and
puzzled the farmer, but he liked the young man and gave him the job.  A few days later, the Farmer and his wife
were  awoken in the middle of the night
by a violent storm.  They quickly began
to look around to make sure all was secure.
They found that the animals were safely shut in the barn; the tractor in
the garage; the farm tools were put away in their proper places and in the
Farmhouse the shutters were securely fastened.
A good supply of logs was by the fire.
The young man slept soundly.  All
was well.  It was then that the Farmer
understood the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”  The young man had done his work loyally and
faithfully when the skies were clear; so when the storm broke, all was safe and
ready – the wind blew and he could sleep, knowing all was well.

Being a disciple isn’t easy.
Jesus isn’t easy. Jesus is in the business of turning the world upside
down. The Kingdom is a place where the poor are fed and the rich are sent empty
away.  Luke tells us this right at the
beginning of Jesus’ story, even before he is born, his mother sets out his
manifesto in the song Luke gives her, the Magnificat.  The Kingdom is promised – yet we still live
in a world where the rich get richer and the poor go hungry. We’re still
wrestling with our tiny amounts of faith, not daring to realise that Jesus has
everything we need.  But how do we make
that leap of faith?  We can only start
where we are.  God calls us into
communities like this one to grow together, encourage one another and work for
the coming of the kingdom.  It takes
courage, time and most of all, faith. Complete trust and confidence in Jesus
Christ.

May we, too, be blessed with faith as small as a mustard
seed.  Amen.

Posted in Disciples, Faith, Friends, God, Kingdom of God, Luke's Gospel, Mustard Seed, Parable | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

September 29th 2013 – Letter to Ezree

Today we have a baptism; hurrah!  It has become our tradition, (borrowed from Elizabeth over on Telling Secrets) that, when we have a baptism, the sermon appears in the form of a letter to the baptised, who, we hope will keep it and read it at a later date – perhaps when they are considering making their own declaration of faith at membership or confirmation services.  Today, our young friend is about 20 months old so probably won’t remember much about the service.  Hopefully, this will be a good reminder.

File:TaullLlatzer.jpg

Lazarus waiting at the door of Dives, roman fresco at Saint Climent de Taüll church, now at Barcelona Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Readings: Amos 6: 1a and 4-7          Luke16:19-31                                                                         

29th September 2013

Dear Ezree,

Today we are celebrating your baptism and we are all very glad that you and your family and friends have come to join us for this happy occasion.  I am writing this letter so that, when you are older and possibly making your own choices about your faith journey, you will be able to read about what happened today.

Baptism is a sacrament of the church; a sacred thing.  It’s an outward sign of an invisible reality – which is a posh way of saying that we use water and say words to show that God’s love is made real through the relationships we share with family and friends in this congregation.

Baptism is a very special thing in the church, not just for the person being baptised, but for all of us in the church community because we are all part of the one big family, which today, you are joining.  Your service today is a reminder to all of us that we are all special and beloved children of God, who made us and calls us here to be God’s people in this place.  Each time we celebrate a baptism we are reminded of our own promises, whether they were made for us by our parents and Godparents, or whether we made them ourselves when we were older.

As part of the worship service today we heard readings from the Bible.  The first one was from the book of the prophet Amos.  We know quite a bit about the prophet himself, because he tells us about himself in the opening chapters and we find out later on that he was an important man because he was able to speak to Kings.  He lived in the Kingdom of Judah about seven hundred and fifty years before Jesus was born.  The world he lived in was in most ways, very different from the one you will grow up in; having said that though, people were facing similar difficulties to those we face today.  Amos tells God’s people that they need to change their ways.  The way they live means that life is very unfair for many.  There is too much violence; no justice; people are ignoring God.  If they don’t change their ways, warns the prophet, bad things will happen to them.

In the second reading we heard from the Gospel of Luke, and this was one of the parables that Jesus told.  A parable is a story with more than one meaning.  Sometimes they seem to be easy to understand and sometimes it is very difficult to find any meaning in the story at all.  Jesus often told stories in parables because that was the way he liked to teach people.  Jesus wanted people to find the truth for themselves in order that they would understand and remember it.  Today’s parable is  known as the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.  Lazarus is the only character who is  ever named in any of Jesus’ parables.  The name Lazarus comes from the Hebrew El-azar, which means God has helped.  Jesus did have a real-life friend with the same name, but that is not who he’s talking about here.

This Lazarus is a poor man who lies at the gate of a rich man, waiting; hoping for scraps from the rich man who lives in the grand house and feasts daily on the best food.  Poor Lazarus waits in vain though and eventually dies and is taken to be with Abraham – the most honoured place; to spend eternity as an honoured guest in God’s house.  Meanwhile, the rich man’s time on earth also comes to an end.  He dies and finds himself in Hades, a place of torment.  All the wealth and honour he had on earth counts for nothing.  He must spend all eternity in this wretched place.  The rich man appeals to Father Abraham, “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue…”  But Abraham tells him that the gulf between them is too great.  On earth, the Rich Man never crossed that gulf by opening his gate to Lazarus and allowing him to share the luxury in which he lived.  He is the one who was happy to separate himself from the poor man.  Now that separation is eternal, forever.  So, the Rich Man appeals again to Abraham, this time to warn his five brothers so that they will not share his fate, but turn from their selfish ways and find their own places alongside Abraham.

Abraham refuses this too.  It’s too late.  They, as well as the Rich Man have already heard this message many times.  Prophets like Amos have already told them again and again, yet they paid them no mind.  They have had lots of chances to change their ways, but the comfortable lives they were living led them to ignore the needs of others.

This is a hard teaching for many of us to hear today.  Two thousand and more years have passed since it was told, but the theme is a relevant today as it was then.  Many of us have much whilst many more have too little.  We live in the 6th richest country in the world, yet some of our brothers and sisters will go hungry today and some will not even have a roof over their head tonight.  Lazarus waits at our gates and we do well to pay attention.

Last week we heard the parable just before this one where Jesus says that, ‘you cannot love God and money.’  This parable continues the same theme.  If you make money your God and ignore other people, other beloved children of God; you will be creating a gulf between yourself and your brothers and sisters as well as creating a gulf between yourself and God. Jesus isn’t saying that money itself is bad, but if you spend all your time worshipping it and using all your time thinking about it, you end up cutting yourself off from what’s really important; just and loving relationships with people and with God.  In his parable, Jesus is warning all of us not to cut ourselves off from God by being selfish and uncaring.

We meet here each week to worship God because we are a people who are committed to following the teachings of Jesus.  We strive to put God first and to love others.  It’s no easy task!  We don’t always get it right, but we do our best.  We try to make sure that we put our money to good use and we support charities like Christian Aid who are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.

Today, Ezree, you have found a home amongst us here in Christ Church.  No matter where you go or what you do, we’ll always have a place for you here.

We hope and pray, that when the time is right, you will make your own decision to follow Jesus and that when you do, you’ll remember that the church is here to help you on your journey.

Welcome to the church, Ezree!

With love and blessings,

Siân and the Congregation of Christ Church.

 

Posted in Amos, Baptism, Children and Young People, Christian Aid, Disciples, Friends, God, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Love, Luke's Gospel, Parable, Prophesy, Prophet | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment