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Proper 9C Pentecost 7, Luke 10:1-20 The harvest is plentiful..

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Luke 10:1-20

10After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. 13“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. 16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

 

This is one of my favourite readings but not for the reason you might think.. For me the thing I carry with me from this reading is if they do not welcome you, shake the dust from your feet and move on.. God will deal with it.. There are others who need to hear.

For Luke this was one of the first big send outs, 70 people sent out in pairs called to an exercise in trust.  There is a real duality here, both the joys of being accepted but the reality of being lambs amongst the wolves.. Jesus never said it would be easy, but he did say it was necessary.. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

I was thinking about how often when we are on our journey we miss those grains of wheat as we are on our way because we can get so focused on where it is we need to go.

One of the things I noticed in this reading as I was drawing  was the how do you know that you are accepted? Or that people want to hear what you have to say?  The thing that came out was the act of hospitality.. The act of offering food and somewhere to stay. Sometimes I think we have forgotten about hospitality as one of the gifts of God. We assume it means getting the house all cleaned up and having everyone dressed in their finest clothes, preparing a lavish 3 coarse meal.. Hospitality here, the sign of the openness to God’s presence is about opening our house and self up to God and who God sends as we are, with what we have. It is not about the perfect gift for the guest, it is the gift of vulnerability. I am amazed at how often God moves in amazing ways when I have the courage to do this.

But there is a second side to this as well.. It’s not just about offering the food but accepting the gift that is offered.. Not just heading off to the next house to see if the food is better.. A great exercise in eating humble pie! It is about remembering the privilege it is to be welcomed into another’s home and the gift that is offered, the best of that person at that time and remembering the cost to them. Who is it that offers hospitality to you? Who would you like to offer hospitality but not sure you will be “good enough”  for? Be brave and courageous, step out in faith!! Journey well my friends!

 

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Pentecost 6, Luke 9:51 – 62 He turned his face.

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Luke 9:51-62

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Have you ever been with someone who had something on their mind? Someone they were worrying about? I have, they check thier phone all the time, they don’t really pay attention to the conversation, it’s like they are planets away.. I know that sometimes it’s me, I can’t hear what is going on, I’m distracted and I’m sure not very good company! I imagine that this was a bit like what Jesus was like.. He came into a place of the Samaritans, normally he got on ok with them. They worshiped the same God they just believed that you didn’t have to go to Jerusalem to worship. That usually didn’t go down well with the Jews, the temple was the house of God, so there would often be issues.  I think with Jesus focused on Jerusalem they took it the wrong  way, the disciples responded. “If they don’t like us we don’t like you!” and were threatening to show them how great their God is! Jesus in the midst of him being distracted  saw what was going on and called the disciples off and moved everyone on..

The time had come and Jesus had decided it was time to face the big guns.. It was a big decision, I imagine he wasn’t 100 % sure how it would go down but knew they wouldn’t be real happy about what he had to say.. This is a lonely place to be, that moment when you know you have to do something hard, no body around you can really understand..

The people around him loved what he did because it was amazing and he made them feel valued and important, and they wanted to be part of it. But they wanted it all. They wanted to finish what they were doing, say goodbye to those who were important, make sure their business was ok.. Jesus challenges them, to be part of the kingdom of God requires your full attention now.. It requires you to be single-minded in what you are to do, don’t let the everyday get in the way of that. Jesus shows us here what that looks like. The call to love God and love everyone remains in how he responds to  the Samaritans, despite how focused on changing the world he was. The challenge he was going to go against in Jerusalem was against those who had started to put the law and religion before the call of God.

So the challenge for me today is what do we put before doing what God asks of us? Here we see family, grief, work, religion, rules, what about illness or politics or economics? To stand up against these things can feel lonely at times because people won’t always understand why.. They will try to judge our actions according to what they value. At the end of the day, Love trumps the lot.

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Uniting Church Anniversary – John 15:1-8

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John 15:1-8(NRSV)

Jesus the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples.

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Pentecost +5, Luke 8:26 – 39 Screaming pigs!

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Luke 8:26-39

26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

So I want to start by reminding you that to Jewish people of the time, pigs were unclean, as was this man, thus they were out with the dead (who are also unclean) away from everyone else.. There are so many questions here, where to begin? Questions about mental illness, about healing, about demons and about why the demons wanted to go into the pigs only to have them die? Did this mean they were then free to wonder the world and attack the next unsuspecting victim? What about the swine herders what now for them? I am sure at the time people made a lot more sense of this story than what we can now..

As I was drawing this I (obviously was thinking about the pigs.. I was imaging a herd of pigs heading straight towards you.. Pigs are alot bigger than you would think and a huge herd of them running for a cliff would be pretty unstoppable.. I was thinking how often our problems can often feel like a herd of pigs running towards us.. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do, we want to sit in the corner and hide, but often that is not an option we need to get up and get on with the life in front of us.. We can’t hide in the tombs forever..

Often when people are going through a hard time, we would like them to be like the man and leave, hide out somewhere away from us so that thier sadness, grief and struggle won’t effect us. I like how Jesus gave the demons permission to leave the way they needed to and wondered about helping people deal with the issues they are working through..

None of us are immune from struggle and what I have learnt about struggle is the most powerful thing against it is companionship, people who give us space to sort things out the way they need to. Sometimes there is nothing to say.. Just being there and seeing them, loving them as God loves them..

We can’t do this in our own strength if we do it is like standing in front of the racing swine in the hope to stop them, it will knock you down.. It is only with God’s help, the Spirit’s protection and guidance can we be present.. Jesus shows us how to love all, he does it not in his own strength but through God’s, in doing so he is no longer afraid of what is unclean or how it can impact on him.. He places things where they need to be and eventually they sink down to the bottom of the lake and life in a new way starts to grow.. That of hope..

 

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Pentecost +4, Luke 7.36 – 8. 3 Weeping woman

Luke 7.36  - 8.2 weeping women washing Jesus feet

Luke 7:36 – 8:3

36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” 41“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

8Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Today I give thanks for the work of Roy Lichtenstein and the genre of pop art..  My first attempt at this piece was wrong on so many levels. It was difficult to draw, without it becoming majorly sexual.. But that was the point, she was a temple prostitute (implied by the text) to uncover someones feet in the bible was to show your intentions, check out Ruth..

But Jesus takes it way back.. I feel like he is saying get your mind out of the gutter boys.. Don’t you get it ? This woman is just grateful and this is the only way she knows how to show it.. I love how often, no matter what raw form humans come to Jesus and show themselves in their brokeness, Jesus sees through it to the beautiful creation of God they are..

The Pharisee was pretty sure he was sorted with God, but Jesus catches him out. He’s not really even showing basic hospitality.. Why did he invite Jesus to his house? Was he part of the gang trying to catch Jesus out or were they such good friends, it was just like hanging out and he had began to take the specialness of a friendship with Jesus for granted? The one thing we can be sure of he was worried all about appearances which is the exact opposite of Jesus!

I have put the woman in the middle because I want you to notice the women in this reading.. We have the weeping woman but also at the end of todays reading hear about 4 women by name and many others who provided for the disciples out of their own resources.. I had been a Christian for a long time before I stumbled across this reading, I was shocked to find it.. There are women following Jesus around with the disciples and they are named as the people providing for them.. It’s a short 3 verses, but the writer found it important enough to include. It wasn’t just the disciples with Jesus there were many more and some of the significant ones were also women..

The community Jesus was creating was richly diverse and broke so many stereotypes. Probably the most profound and significant was the way he chose to see people, not for the image they portrayed but the love and generosity of their hearts. I wonder how you see you fit in the story this week? Who do you recognise and what challenges you in how Jesus deals with the situation?