Sunday, 24 July 2011

John 6.1-21 [24/07/2011]

John 6.1-21

Feeding the Five Thousand

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.


Jesus Walks on the Water
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.




          Scripture is always fascinating, it is always multi-layered, it is always abundant in meaning and it is always without failing powerful.  The passage we just heard from the Gospel of St. John is no different – John’s Gospel is often regarded as containing and being a book of miracles, or as John calls them ‘Signs’ that reveal the Glory and purpose of God Almighty in His Son Jesus Christ.  Just a moment ago we heard the stories of the fourth and fifth signs in the Gospel – the feeding of the five thousand and the walking upon the water.  But of course all of these Signs serve the fundamental purpose of revealing and preparing for the ultimate Sign, the ultimate miracle, that of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ who is God Himself.


          In the modern world it is all too easy to become disillusioned by sceptical rationalism and scientific obsession and allow these to speak in places they have no right or place to speak in.  It is remarkable how many these days simply dismiss the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men – and thus more likely nearer twenty thousand people including women and children.   People presume the Gospel writers to have simply exaggerated and lied, or Jesus to have deceived the people.  But I would put it to you that as Christians we believe in Jesus the Christ, we believe in the mightiest act of God – that He came to this world and was born of a virgin, became fully man yet remained fully God, and not only this but that He died and then truly rose again from the dead.  The Christian faith is at its core one of Resurrection – and if we hold that the core of the faith is a miracle so great and overwhelming as the raising of the dead, then why would we doubt that this same man who rose again could feed five thousand, indeed twenty thousand, with only five loaves and two fish!?  And so we must ask whether or not in our own lives we actually sell out to the doubts of society and doubt the mighty of acts of God which He has done for us both in times past and indeed today?  Are we willing to not only declare the essence of the Christian faith: ‘I believe in Jesus Christ…. Who on the third day rose again’ inside Church - but also openly to those who we know outside this building?

Of course Jesus is doing much more here than just feeding the crowd, He is revealing a Sign of who He is.   It is no accident that this occurs at the time of the Jewish Passover – a celebration of when in Exodus the Israelites sacrificed an unblemished and pure lamb and spilt its blood upon the door post of their houses that death might ‘Pass-over’ them.  And in doing so they were freed from slavery and lead out into the wilderness by Moses and were there given manna, miraculous bread from heaven, to eat.  Here, again in the wilderness, at Passover, Jesus provides the people with miraculous bread – but whereas the manna of Exodus could not be collected and kept because it decayed, here the bread of Jesus remains and is collected.  Indeed here the people eat their full and still twelve baskets of bread are left over!    And as we read on through the chapter we find that Jesus is Himself the Bread of Heaven, He declares “I AM the Bread of Life,” that He must be broken for them.  All of this pointing towards the climax of the Gospel at the Cross, which occurs on the Passover itself when the lambs are sacrificed, except Jesus is the true Passover, He is the one who dies once and for all for all our sins that we might be freed from slavery to sin, and in slavery to sin thus in bondage to death.
 


And that there are twelve baskets of food remaining is in itself no small thing – whereas the manna of Exodus decayed the gifts of Jesus, the Grace of God Almighty, never decay, they are for us and given freely to us in complete abundance, as in Jeremiah 31.14 God Himself declared “My people will be filled with my bounty!"  The free Grace of God given to us in the death of His Son upon the Cross is always there for us; His love and mercy never end and are always there for us to take hold of.  Even when we sink into the depths of the dark oceans of  despair and truly hit rock bottom, it is there that we find, by the Grace of God, that we hit non-other than the Rock of Ages Himself.   Have you ever in your life hit rock bottom, are you at rock bottom right now, are you at the point where you can recognise that you are broken and only at the Cross can you be healed, have you hit and found the Rock of Ages who is Jesus Christ our God?


          And so we have a miracle, and just as we should be, so are the crowds awed by this mighty miracle of God, they are fed from little till they are filled.  In a time when they are themselves in the bondage of slavery to the Roman Empire, when deep and heartfelt resentment that their Promised Land is occupied by a foreign and unclean nation is rife, the seeds of rebellion have been spouting.  Here in Jesus surely is the Prophet of which God spoke in Deuteronomy, where God proclaims another like Moses will come - and Moses was the prophet par excellence, and also understood as the King par excellence - they see Jesus as the messianic Prophet King come to free the people once more.


Of course Jesus is a Prophet, indeed The Prophet, and He is a King, indeed The King, but not as the people understood it and such titles prove inadequate for Him who is God.  They sought a fleshy king and prophet, a military leader, a political captain.  But Jesus was no emperor to be followed by a cult of worshippers like Caesar, but the eternal Lord of Hosts who reigns over all the earth and created all that exists from nothing.  The Crowds saw Jesus as the Prophet King, the New Moses, But Jesus is not only the New Moses He is the true and greater Moses, He fulfils and completes all that Moses failed to do, all that Moses couldn’t ever even possibly do - He reconciles man to God upon the Cross, reconciles man to God in the Passover Sacrifice of his own Body and Blood.    "Jesus would go to Jerusalem not to wield the spear and bring judgement upon the sins of the world, but to receive the spear and bear the judgement of our sins."  That is the God we believe in, the one true God who in Jesus alone offers salvation and freedom, victory and peace.    Do you know this God?  Do you wish to know more of this great Mercy?  Do you desire with all your heart to live the life of Victory?

          And so it is seen that this passage is not an ethical lesson on how to share your lunch, it is a revelation of who God is, what He is about, what He was to do, what He has done, and what He will do for us who He loves with all His heart.   All too often our problem is that we – and I most certainly include myself in this - like Phillip, think too small – we think at the level of the market place, of currency exchange, we think that we can pay our way to heaven in our good deeds, that the ‘good life’ we have led will be enough.  But that thinking is far too small, far too small for a God who is so great that He would come to earth to save us from such very thinking!  Jesus Christ, Jesus our Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus our Saviour completed the Old Covenant made to Moses, He fulfilled the Law and spoke the final word, not of judgement, but upon judgement.   He offers us the bread of Heaven which is Himself broken for us upon the Cross of Calvary.  And He tells us, time and time and time again that He is the only way to the Father, that He is our salvation, He died for our sins, that He died that we might have eternal life, that we might know eternal peace, that we might have eternal riches, that we might know God Himself.     Do we acknowledge that this is what Jesus says and then actually go and live it?  Do we accept that He truly died and rose again for our Salvation and then act upon it?

Just what Grace!  What wonder!  What majesty! What perfect joy.  To know a God who loves us, so much, that He is willing to be our Passover, to Passover all we do wrong, to Passover and remove all our guilt, our insecurities, our fears, our doubts, our worries, our pains.  What Grace, what a Gospel, what a message to proclaim to a world that quite frankly is broken, that has tried to reach perfection by its own might, by its own knowledge, by its own wisdom, by its own exquisite ignorance.   When all along, Jesus, risen from the dead, having secured our salvation if we believe in Him and what He did for us, has been waiting, waiting for people to turn to Him who made them, to Him who is the Way, is the Truth, and is the Life of all that is.  That is the Christian God, that is the God, the only God, and He is a God who loves us, personally, intimately – what Grace, what a Gospel, what a joy to take home tonight! 

And it is my prayer that all of us may come before this God who gave everything for us, and offer our lives to Him, acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves, that we can never ever be good enough, but that that doesn’t matter because Jesus died to save us anyway, because when we were still far off God came in His Son Christ Jesus to save us from our sins, that when we give our lives to Jesus and confess faith in His life, death and resurrection then in Him and Him alone we ARE good enough, in Him we are given the perfect record we all so desperately need.  And so I pray that we, myself most definitely included in this, may once again hand our whole lives, without reservation, over to the God who Saves, King Jesus.  That we would leave this service of worship to the One True God tonight knowing that in Jesus He came down to earth, died to save us and truly rose again from the dead that with Him, we His children, might share the fruits of His eternal Kingdom.  What a God, What a Gospel!

And so, knowing His love and mighty deeds for us, let us just take a moment of silence to pray to our Risen Lord and once again give our lives to Him.




Thursday, 21 July 2011

Matthew 21.1-11 [Palm Sunday 28/03/2010]

                                                                Palm Sunday 2010 – St. Alban’s
[Given on the opening and dedication of a new social area and disabled toilet facilities at the back of the church - the church itself, like many rural churches, has dwindling numbers and a small but faithful (elderly) congregation]

                                                  Matthew 21.1-11

                Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

21When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ 4This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 ‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
   humble, and mounted on a donkey,
     and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ 11The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’



This next week, Holy Week, is the most important week of the Christian year, and in terms of chocolaty goodness, possibly the most important for us all.  Lent seems to have dragged on and on, and I know that I have eaten far more chocolate than I intended to.  And yet in all the humiliation of the crucifixion, and all the glorification of the resurrection, it is easy to over look this first day, a day that passes us by every year, often with only a token palm cross to remind us it ever happened.

Yet the message that Palm Sunday teaches us, how it challenges us, and how it enlightens us, is just as powerful as those of the week to come.  In the reading we just had, we were retold that story we all know, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey. But that iconic image is not where the story begins, it begins on the dusty road as Jesus and his disciples head to Jerusalem.

Jesus has been heading towards Jerusalem for some time now, and has on three occasions told his disciples fairly directly that he will die there.  Jesus knows what he must do, he knows that this final journey is God’s plan, God’s plan prophesied through many prophets and cast in stone hundreds of years before he was born in Bethlehem.  Everything in the entire Old Testament had been looking forward to this moment.

And so, to fulfil the prophesy of Zechariah, Jesus, the true King; will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, on the colt of a donkey.  Indeed, King Solomon himself had ridden into Gihon on a donkey to be crowned by Zadok the Priest!  But first he must find said donkey, and to this end he sends two of his disciples to the nearby village and gives them precise instructions.  The disciples go to the village, and just as Jesus said, they find the donkey tied up and the colt. So the disciples begin to untie the donkey, when suddenly the owner comes upon the commotion and confronts them.  We may not think much of a donkey, but back then a Donkey and it’s colt could be a person’s livelihood, and here the disciples are simply taking them without asking, stealing as it were these valuable animals.  But then the disciples say that the Lord - meaning God - has need of them.  And the owner allows them to go on their way with his animals. 

 I wonder how we today would react if someone casually strode into our driveway, broke into our car and was about to drive away when they simply told us that ‘the Lord’ needed it.  Would we simply let them go, or would we shout at them and call the police?  I also wonder how we would react if we were told by the Lord to take a car!  Thankfully, I doubt that either of these things shall ever come upon us.

Moving on we find Jesus about to enter Jerusalem surrounded by cheering crowds shouting ‘Hosanna’ which literally means ‘Save us!’ or ‘Help us we pray!’ The crowd are waving palm branches, and this is not insignificant.  In the ancient world the waving of palm branches was a symbol of victory, and was found during Triumphs – the great parades that conquering generals and emperors held through the streets following victories.  Yet within a week all seems to be turned on its head – the cries of ‘Hosanna’ become cries of ‘crucify him,’ the donkey becomes a cross, and the palm branches become sharp nails. 

     But the crowds also laid their cloaks upon the road, so the feet of Jesus and his noble beast of burden would not touch the dirty ground.  Stripping branches from trees costs nothing, and when there were no throat sweets, cries of praise cost nothing but a sore throat.  But throwing your cloak upon the dirty floor to be trampled upon by a donkey and it’s colt and then tarnished by the feet of Jesus’ many followers – one would well expect to lose their cloak, and that does cost something.  I wonder if we would have thrown our coats upon the floor if we were there.  I wonder if having just gone shopping and buying a nice new expensive coat, we would throw it on the floor for a person we hardly knew. 

And so, having found a donkey that was given on pure faith, and ridden like a king to the cheers of the crowds waving palms of victory and crying for Him to save them even as he trod their cloaks into the mud, Jesus finally enters Jerusalem, Zion, the City of God.  Prophecy was fulfilled, and for Jesus the worst week imaginable was about to begin.

But what are we here to take from this?  What does all of this, a quaint story, mean for us today?  How does all of this challenge us each and every day?

First we must look to the man who owned the donkey.  On faith, because he was told, by strangers, that God had asked for his livelihood, he simply gave them away.  This challenges us to search ourselves, to ask ourselves if we, as children of God, give to God what He asks.  He may ask something small, a spare minute of your time for you to just stop and tell Him all about your day.  He may ask you to serve others, to care for them in sickness, to teach them, to love them.  He may ask you, as he has myself and many others, to become a minister in His church, or to serve His community in another way.  We all must take up our cross and follow Him, and I pray that we all, myself included, have faith and do not give in to the whispers of selfishness, but give ourselves with all our unique talents and gifts, to the service of God.

Secondly we must look to the people who threw their cloaks on the ground before the Saviour.  In this we are challenged to reassess our core values.  What is most important to us, is it our own image, our own warmth and happiness, or is it the glory of God?  Do we spend our lives and all we have on glorifying ourselves, or on glorifying God?  Have we laid down our many layers of protection and placed them as a carpet that God might come to us?  It is difficult to put the glory of God and the work of God before our own desires and ways of life, and we all, myself included, are challenged by this most difficult see-saw.

But the story tells us much more.  It makes perfectly clear who God is, it shows His character and His love – God is good, humble, loving, and God is King.  Christ came as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  But He did not ride in with an army of angels, sat upon a white stallion.  He did not build Himself a mighty palace or a Temple of such immense size and splendour that we could not imagine it.  Rather we see that He is King and Lord because He did not build a palace and ride in as a conqueror.  Christ did not build a temple of stone, Ivory and Gold.  Instead He built a community; He built our salvation, and our communion. Christ Himself is the Temple, and we are His body.  Though we are sinners, though we ignore, offend, and reject God – daily - still He is always King, He is always Lord, He is always the one who gave His own life on a cross that we might be made one with Him, He is the King who died to create a people, the Lord who rose to destroy death, and the God who loved so much that he opened the way to Him for us!

And it is here that we must reflect on today’s dedication.  As a community we have given freely to God our time and love and resources to build this area.  As a community we have laid down our cloaks and put God first, put his Church first, put each other and the community first.   And we have sung His praise and glorified Him in this achievement.  All of this we have done and I know that it is good.  We have a space to celebrate our community and friendship, a space for recreation and recuperation.  What a gift this is, and I am very glad that I could be here today.  I was baptised here and have time and time again found God, often in unexpected places here.  Here is a community we can be proud of, for to the glory of God and in His love we have accomplished what has often seemed impossible – we are still here! 

God is indeed good, and as with all things, we must bear in mind, that Christ died, and Christ rose again. Likewise His Church can never, ever, die, but will always rise again to new life.

Amen.


Luke 7.36-50 [29/02/2010]


Luke 7.36-50

A Sinful Woman Forgiven


36 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. He entered into the Pharisee’s house, and sat at the table. 37 And behold, a woman who was a sinner in the city, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 Standing behind at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head. She also kissed his feet and anointed them with the perfumed oil. 39 Now, when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have perceived who is touching him and what kind of woman this is, that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

He replied, “Speak, teacher.”

41 “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Then, which of them will love him the most?”

43 Simon answered, “The one to whom he forgave the most I suppose.”

Jesus said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered into your house, and you gave me no water for my feet; but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but since the time I came in, she has not ceased kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven because she has loved much. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” 48 Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 Those who sat at the table with him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”


[EOB]





     This passage reveals much about who Jesus was, what he did, and who we should be.  But it cannot be stressed enough that this passage must not be read and understood as a theological treatise, as an abstract teaching that has little real relevance to us today.  Far from it, this passage is a real-life story.  It relates something real, something that is played out everyday across this world.  The meaning and importance, the truth, that is portrayed in this passage is not abstract, no it is something that is only truly grasped in realisation and application.  Unless we see, unless we live this passage as we go about our day, it is but a hollow story.  The passage reveals to us the truth that our sins are forgiven, and asks us this question: in light of our redemption, how should we live?  It is the answer to this question that I wish to seek, to understand, and to live.

     The passage is short, simple, and powerful.  It relates the story often titled ‘A sinful woman is forgiven.’  Though it would be better to title it ‘A forgiven daughter of God gives thanks.’  We read that after preaching and teaching to a crowd, Jesus is invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee.  Jesus is the guest of honour at an occasion that would have attracted the crowds, crowds who would have sat at the edges of the room as the meal was eaten; hoping for leftover food and to listen to the debates and words of those present.

But Simon offers Jesus none of even the most basic hospitalities.  Simon gives him no kiss, no water for his feet, no oil for his head.  In middle-eastern society it is difficult to ignore the utter dishonour, the sheer rebuttal and contempt shown to Jesus by failing to offer Him such services.  Instead a woman, regarded as wholly unclean, whose very presence was considered by the Pharisees to be corrupting and tainting, out of love and thanksgiving, being overpowered by her emotions, began kissing the feet of Jesus, wetting them with her tears, drying them with her hair, and anointing them with the most expensive oils.

The horror and judgement of the Pharisees at these actions, and especially at the lack of reaction by Jesus, brings Jesus to make clear that the woman is redeemed, and that it is the Pharisees who have failed to love, who have failed to understand, and are just as sinful, rotten, and corrupted, as the woman.  But as Jesus makes clear, unlike the woman, the Pharisees are so blind that they fail to ask for forgiveness, fail to realise the forgiveness that is offered them, and instead of living a life in the presence of God, they live one dominated by discriminating, demeaning and unholy preconceptions.

   “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Then, which of them will love him the most?”

     The parable spoken by Jesus is deceptively simple; it cuts to the very heart of the matter, shows the purpose of the life of Jesus, and reveals the nature of God.  There are two debtors.  And by debtors the passage refers to sinners, just as in Matthew the Lord’s Prayer speaks of debt, in Luke it speaks of sin.  Two sinners, one who sinned much, who offended God, rejected God, time and time again.  And one who sinned little, though still considerably.  But God out of love, mercy and righteousness, forgives them their debts, their sins. 

     If the bank were to call you and say that you no longer had to pay your mortgage debt, you would think it must be a prank.  If the bank told you it was forgetting your loans and borrowings, you would think there was some small print, some trap.  But God does not deceive, he does not pull pranks, God loves.  He forgives freely out of his ineffable compassion and his transcendent mercy.

     What we must realise, what we must live and breathe, is the knowledge that Christ, God, came to earth, to this tiny, seemingly insignificant, space-rock, and died for you, for me, for all, that our debt may be redeemed.  It seems illogical, it seems absurd that God would do such a thing, but love is illogical, love is absurd, love is beautiful.  In this passage the Pharisees despise and judge the woman, they see only her ‘sin’ and taint.  But Jesus defends her, he refutes the Pharisees.  By the time the meal is over, it is Jesus who is the focus, Jesus who is reviled and despised by the Pharisees.  The sinless Son of God takes upon himself the mantle of derision, and praises the woman who once wore it. 

What love, what grace!  That Jesus takes upon himself all of our disgrace and takes it with Him to perish on the cross, to drown in his wounds.  This is fact.  Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose again, to save us, to pay our ransom, to redeem us.  Fact.  But this is not an abstract fact, it is a way of life.  To know and believe in theory that Jesus died for you and you are forgiven, but not realise it, is to only know a shadow.  Do we truly, honestly, realise the passion in our lives, do we live in and dwell in the indescribable love of God?  Has the acceptance that God loves us, and forgives us, gone beyond good theology, beyond biblical exegesis and interpretation and actually transfigured us?

The forgiven woman had realised this, and because of this she acted out of love.  She cared not for the social conventions, she did not care that she would be scorned and despised, perhaps even thrown out, she only cared about loving God.  Are we willing to live a life where we take up our cross, where we are ridiculed and despised, oppressed and ignored?  Are we willing to say ‘No’ to injustice, to show our love for God to all at all times, to live by the example of Christ and ignore what society says is how we should live.  To live by the values of the Gospel, and not by the values of a broken society?

We have been forgiven; we have been ransomed and redeemed.  But what does this mean in practise?  Haiti has had its national debt wiped clean, it has been given a clean slate that it might use the money that was put aside for the payment of debts, to rebuild and heal itself.  How are we going to use our life now it has been redeemed and our debt has been cancelled?  The woman was forgiven, and she reacted to this with love, joy, worship, and thanks to the God who forgave her.  And we must do the same.  If we truly realise the forgiveness we are given, are transfigured by grace – we will act like the woman, spontaneously praising and thanking God.  A truly realised thanks moves beyond words, it is manifested in actions – actions speak a thousand words, and no human words can describe the ineffable inexplicable grace and mercy of God.

But Christ is risen, Christ has ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.  He is not here for us to weep over and anoint with expensive oil.  So how are we to show our thanks and joy?  How are we to live a life that’s very existence is defined by praise of God?  The answer may be found in the teaching of Jesus related to us in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew where it is written:

“Then, the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of my Father! Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world!  For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.  I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you a drink?  When did we see you as a stranger and take you in; or naked, and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’  The King will answer them, ‘Amen, I tell you: as much as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’”

     To live a life of praise and thanksgiving is to live a life that emulates that of Jesus.  But it is more than this, to live a life that has been transfigured by the full realisation of the incarnation and passion, is to live a life where when we act it is, as Saint Paul writes: “not I but Christ in me.”  Where the Pharisees saw a problem, Jesus saw a person.  Are we like the Pharisees?  Do we ever think and see people, people who are made in the image of God, in terms of how worthy they are, how important they are, how much of our time they will consume, how much of our attention they might take?

     Are we willing, like Jesus, to live real love and compassion?  Are we willing to see people and not problems?  To be beside people in their distress and troubles?  To accept the cost of loving, be it social, cultural, emotional, or physical – are we willing to live as St. Paul teaches, to live “in humility [and] count others more significant than yourself.”?  Are we willing to love people out of compassion and grace, and ignore merit, for all are loved by God?
    
     “Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.  Go in Peace.”

  Our faith, through God’s good grace, has saved us.  That is a fact.  But what we do with this fact is up to us.  My prayer is that we all, myself included, may fully realise and be transfigured by this fact, that we become, as Saint Peter writes “partakers of the divine nature” – that we might live to the Father, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.  I pray that our prayer may not be a chore, our worship not simply an act, our mission not blind, and our joy not a misunderstood fa├žade. I pray we may live a life that is in the image of Jesus.  I pray that having been saved, we may dwell in the peace of God, and spread this peace like seeds across this world. 

Amen.

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