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Give us more faith! Luke 17:5-10 Pentecost + 20, 4th October 2016

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Luke 17:5-10

I struggle with this reading, because some  people use it to tell people if only you had enough faith you would be healed. I don’t think this is what it is all about.. It is found just after Jesus told the disciples that they had to forgive people 70 X 7 and if anyone asks for you forgiveness you have to grant it.. My response to being told that would be ” wow, give me more faith to be able to do this!”. Because when I have been hurt by another to forgive them is not an easy task, let alone to keep forgiving them.  Of course the other side of this is people use it to say you should stay in abusive relationship particularly  if they keep asking for forgiveness, I would suggest you move to the next verse about the widow and the judge before locking that idea in as well..

I do think the disciples were onto something, to love as Jesus loved is no easy task and sometimes we need to call on the strength of God to help us through.. We would like that faith to take away the struggle, to make it simple and easy but a tree is not removed  from the ground easily (well if my experience of trying to get the weeds out of my garden is anything to go by!)  The slave in the second part of the reading has already worked hard all day and is expected to come in and make a meal.. But this is the life we are called to.. it isn’t just about being loved and healed and hopeful, it is about changing the world and this goes against what comes easily. I too, like the disciples, beg God for more faith, the strength to do what I am called to do. I wonder if the faith of the mustard seed is not about making it easier but the promise of you only have to ask and God is there amongst you and with God’s presence with you, things that you think are impossible, or ridiculous or crazy can happen. Like being able to forgive people or to be patient for justice, or to journey through difficult and dark places.

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Feeling consumed! Luke 16:19 – 31 The rich ruler and Lazarus. Pentecost +19, Ordinary 26

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Luke 16:19-31

Jeepers talk about a couple of tricky readings!!  So Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus.. Lazarus had spent his life outside of the rich mans gates, suffering with ill health and exclusion from his community and the rich man couldn’t take the time of day to help him. It’s stories like this that remind us of God’s justice.. That God may take a lot longer and maybe not do it the way you expect but ultimately justice will come.. It is Abraham he calls out for mercy to and Abraham reminds him of who he had been. As I tried drawing this conversation I was thinking about Lazarus and the sort of person he was.. After a lifetime of suffering and neglect, was he happy feeling justified that the rich man had got what he deserved after a lifetime of ignoring his sufferring or was he compassionate?

With this reading I always really quickly go to the brothers.. The rich man says if you only would send someone back from the dead then they would believe.. Abraham reminds him that they have the prophets and Moses to offer guidance and wisdom and if they can’t listen to them, even if someone does come back from the dead they would still not listen and change their ways.. It makes me think of how often people who have decided about something will not change their mind no matter how good a point you make.. Some people regardless of what is put before them just will not listen. I always enjoy the irony that Jesus is saying this, as one who will and people still didn’t believe him!

I wonder too whether had the rich man been given the chance whether he would have changed, living in the lap of luxury, having a great life.. I’m thinking about when things are good or when we have what we need or even what we like and we get a bit caught up in that, how sometimes maybe we too might struggle a bit to notice the other or see things from the other side or notice the ones who are suffering around us. For me I know that there are times where I just can’t care.. I think this can be different for different people. For some it is because they have it all and love it all and are not giving it up for anyone.. But then there is the other side, when people can’t care anymore because there is nothing left to give, they are so broken, so fragile. It is interesting looking at this reading now in light of the people I know and why they care or don’t care.. In the first half of the story we see the rich ruler who was too busy loving and enjoying it all and Lazarus didn’t even make it into his vision because he was so consumed with himself, but then we have Abraham speaking for Lazarus saying you had it good, he had it hard, now it is time for him to be comforted. In essence the chasm was actually created by the rich man, Lazarus had been invisible to him and now he was invisible to Lazarus..At any point this could have been a different picture for either of them if the one who had took the time to remember the one who didn’t have.

I thought today I would leave some gaps for you to draw in the sorts of things you might feel consumed by that stop you from noticing the suffering of others.

I think for me too it is a good reminder that  God calls us to love others but there is times too where we need to be comforted ourselves..

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What do we do when we get caught out? Pentecost +18, Ordinary 25 , Luke 16:1-13

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Luke 16:1-13

This is one very tricky reading.. It would seem to carry a lot of contradictions in it.. Here is this manager which we can imply from what the owner is saying has done the wrong thing or at least not done a very good job.. He gets caught out and so then intentionally goes out to rip off the owner even more, to win the favour of his neighbours, to benefit him after he loses his job.. Instead of getting mad the owner actually to some degree respects the man.. Jesus is impressed by the actions and comments   “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth[b] so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

What is he on about?? As if this wasn’t enough Jesus says if you can’t be honest in the small ways how can you be trusted with big ones, if you can’t be trusted with dishonest wealth how can you be trusted with true treasures??

Honestly reading this passage is like playing a game of monopoly for me. After years of playing it I still have absolutely no idea how to really play the game, winning  seems to be left to pure chance!!

But it is interesting  reflecting on this reading what comes to mind.. As you can see the monopoly man took a chance, some say he chose to use his power, the little he had left for relationship and that is what Jesus was commending him for..

I  wonder if this story is actually a continuation of the theme of grace that is being explored the chapter before in the prodigal son and the lost coin and sheep.

What if this story is actually about what we do when we have been caught out doing the wrong thing? Do we try to make the most of it or do we sit back and let fate decide what will happen to us. Do we go out denying or fighting it, wasting energy on anger. From this perspective it makes sense to me about why he was commended, he didn’t rest on his laurels or sit back a victim or rage, he did what he could with what he had..

I wonder if part of the criticism for Jesus of people of the light is that they expect God to save them or make it better, not taking any responsibility for themselves. To transform your life, when greed is what has taken over to the point of disrespect, if you are to the point of only caring about the money you will be left with nothing.. The manager had to lose everything to be ok in the long run.. What if he just took the money and ran? Eventually it would run out.. But in the end I think he was investing in a second chance.. By people owing him a favour, it gave himself the opportunity to prove himself again and maybe gain employment.. He was in fact investing in a different future. It was a gamble.

I must confess I kind of hope it pays off for him.

Of course it brings me to the place in my own life.. Where do I rage, or sit back and play the victim? What am I hoping God will save me from? Where would I like a second chance? Where do I need to make the most with what I have got? Am I using what I know to the best of my ability to work for God?  Are there only certain gifts and skills that are God’s and the rest have no relation because they are what I use in the “real” world? Is there a line? Should there be one?

If you are taking a risk either sorting something out or for God this week, I pray it may pay off..

 

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Who I was, who I am , who I could be; Sept 11,2016, Pentecost +17, Ordinary 24

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1 Timothy 12-17

This is the New Testament reading for this week. If you are interested in seeing the Gospel reading you can find it at the bottom of this post.

I don’t normally like drawing Paul’s work because of how wordy it is and hard to translate into image. I had already drawn the gospel reading this week so thought I would give it a go..I feel like the theme for this reading is about who I am or who I was and who I could be.. Paul is sharing how grateful he is to Jesus for giving him the responsibility to be the leader he is, despite the fact that he wasn’t exactly in the best position to reflect that before he met Jesus.. He acknowledges that  he had been violent and a blasphemer and one who persecuted others.. but he did it out of ignorance.. Jesus met him in this place and literally opened his eyes to who he was and what he was doing. Then he transformed him for a different purpose.

You may have noticed that when God’s spirit moves over a person I often use the Japanese wave pattern. I love the power that it exhibits. The waves, and the movement of God is not a slight lapping at the ankles but a powerful and transformative overcoming of what was. I think of who Paul was, a leader in the Jewish community who task was to persecute and kill Christians being transformed into one himself, I never realised before the danger that put his life into.. Those who he most trusted he now became the enemy of. I think how powerful must have that encounter with the living God been that it would bring him to risk this much!

It is from the tears of grief, sorrow and shame, that humility comes and brings refreshment and space for the growth of something new. Paul says that Jesus offers him mercy and that the grace of the Lord overflowed with mercy and love..

I was thinking about the things we carry in our lives, the things we do and judgements we make based on ignorance. The barbed wire fences and stone walls that keep others and God out and stop us from being open to the possibility of new things God is saying to us.. Jesus comes into those places that are overflowing with grace, mercy and love.. This in turn brings hope..

If God was able to break through to Paul, one so caught up in his ways and religion that he could no longer have compassion but only saw the enemy. How much more is God willing to break into our world, offering grace and mercy .. Transforming us for a new way and giving us the strength to overcome what we were, to be what we could be.. If you look beside the old Paul with the whip, there is the heartbeat sign. It was used a lot to demonstrate hope, I liked it because it reminded me that whilst ever there is a heartbeat there is hope.

Luke 15:1-32

EPSON MFP image
EPSON MFP image

This drawing was one of my early attempts at lectionary doodles.. The thing I noticed with this reading was that before the joyous finding there was deep loss and grief first..  I also noticed that the people who had lost things went to embarrassing lengths, giving up all sense of pride to retrieve it.. In all of it was the overwhelming sense of the lost things being treasured and even the brother who remained and could not see his value to the father was equally treasured..  I loved when I thought about it, how God deeply treasures us and goes to embarrassing lengths to find us when we are lost..