Monthly Archives: July 2022

I Will Endure

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said,I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him,You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Lk 12:13-21)

                     ____________________________

Do you remember that song, “Money is the root of all evil ?”

Today’s Gospel might have you thinking that. And it might have you asking: Should we still invest in our RRSP’s? Should we still save for the future?

Is it a sin to have done well in life?

Should we give all our money away?

Well, nowhere in the Bible are we told to do that. To my knowledge.

Although there are plenty of people in history who did so, St Francis among them.

But Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, and finding himself in Egypt, running the country’s finances, was told by God to save.
You will remember how he translated Pharaoh’s dream about the seven fat cattle, and the seven lean cattle?

The book of Proverbs has plenty of positive stuff about providing for the future.

First Timothy and Second Corinthians also have advice about saving for the future.

Searching Scripture, if you have nothing better to do, you will find that there are five hundred verses on prayer, less than that on faith, but over two thousand verses on money.
And you will remember the parable of the talents where the servant who made the most money for his master was rewarded.

So contrary to what you might think after hearing today’s Gospel, be assured that enterprise – hard work – is rewarded.

It is greed that is evil.

As Jesus explained in the parable, the rich man laid away all his riches and settled down to enjoy the fruits of his good luck for the rest of his life, but was taken before he could do so. And someone else would enjoy his money.

He hadn’t given a thought to anyone else, nor to His God, nor even, we might surmise, to his family, if he had one.

The way we handle our money tells us something about our relationship with God.

We are to think about ourselves as just here on earth for a short time, and being given gifts, talents if you like, to work with, to be stewards of, and to enjoy, and to use for God’s purposes.

And that includes being prudent. Being smart. Making money.

But in the past few years there have been cases reported in the news about people making obscene sums of money – hundreds of millions in a year – and where people who were already massively rich, cheated on their taxes, or stole from their companies to accumulate even more.

Then there are other instances where someone with fabulous wealth has given most, if not all away, to further good in the world.

Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet, have given most of their wealth over to foundations that will spend their money making life easier for those who are wore off.

I read some time ago, about a Chinese billionaire giving all his money away, and urging other billionaires to do the same.

There is a difference between the former- the rich thieves, and the latter – the philanthropists – that will tell us why they are like they are.

Those who lied and cheated to make more and more money, see themselves as defined by what they have.

They might say: I am a rich person. That’s who I am. The more I have the more people respect me. And so on.

But take the money way from them and what would they have? What would they be?

Nothing!

Because they are defined by their money.

Those others, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others like them are not defined by their wealth. The man who gave away every penny he had, the Chinese billionaire, was happy and content with who he was. He was glad to fund schools, and scholarships, and other noble things.

He is defined by the good he has done.

So the lesson today, isn’t all about money, funnily enough.

It is about how we define ourselves.

There is a thing that is peculiarly American, I think, and that is – being defined by your job.

I remember talking to some Americans who were visiting us and noticing that when they talked about their family, sons or daughters, they always mentioned they had good jobs

I also used to be surprised, that when I first met someone in the US, I was asked real early in the conversation, ” What do you do for a living?”

It’s easy to let yourself be defined by your job.

After all that’s what you spent years being educated, or trained for, and you take pride in how well you do it.

I am an engineer. I am a doctor. I am a mechanic and a darn good one. I am a nurse. I am a mother of four and in my spare time I do pottery and paint.

Defined by your job?

That is who you are.

Then there is reputation.

Some people work hard to make sure they have a good reputation. They push themselves forward every opportunity they have. They are proud of receiving honours, certificates, having good credit, having worked somewhere for umpteen years.

And that’s Ok up to a point. Be proud of what you have done.

I knew a man who longed to be seen as more than he was. He was an accounting person. He didn’t have any certificates or degrees to put on the wall, so he hung up his First Aid certificate.

So when you were in his office, you could be assured that if he made a mess of your taxes, he would know what to do when you passed out.

Defined by your reputation?

That is who you are.

Then there is family.

You might hear something like this: I have four kids and we are very close, and they are all doing well in school. I think my daughter is going to be a dancer. My son wants to be an anthropologist, my younger son is aiming to be a teacher, and my younger daughter is focusing on being a pop singer. I am so proud of them

That’s a person talking who is defined by their family.

I am sure you can think of other ways people define themselves.

And what is wrong with that?

What’s wrong with being defined by your money or your job, reputation, or your family?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it.

When a man is defined by his wealth, and he loses it, he discovers that he is nothing,

The man who founded what is today a major chain, was featured in an article a few years ago. Somehow he had lost control of the business, and was now living in his girl friend’s basement, working hard, frantically trying to again be successful, and rich, so he could be someone again.

Because without that business, he is nothing.

Job?

I have a friend – I think he is still a friend, but I haven’t heard from him for a long time.

I knew him when he was Vice President Finance, for a fairly large corporation, and later when he had reached the top of a large company and was the CEO.

We used to meet every few months for lunch, and he would always insist on paying, which was good, because we ate at very expensive places. He would do most of the talking. He told me about the deals he was putting together. About how he was trying to take over the company.

He was all about business.

Then I didn’t hear from him for a while, so I called him.

Turned out he had been fired.

He said,” I am lying low until I get another job. I won’t be meeting you for lunch.”
I liked him for who he was, not because he had a great job.

But without that job, he was nobody in his mind.

Reputation?

Have you ever known someone who has gone bankrupt? Had their home seized? Been refused credit? Couldn’t get a loan at the bank?

It happens, and more often than you know. But you don’t get to hear about it too much because they don’t want people to know.

They don’t feel as important, or as good a citizen, or they feel like a failure.

If you are defined by your reputation, then when you lose it, you are nobody.

Family?

Many of us are defined by our family status. By our spouse, or our kids, and what they do. But what happens when the kids leave home? Who are you then? If you have defined yourself as a parent, then now you are nothing.

If you have defined yourself as someone’s spouse, and lived with that, then what happens when that spouse passes away, or moves out?

Not surprisingly, you feel lost.

Henri Nouwen wrote about this phenomenon at length – being defined by someone or something outside of yourself. . In fact the people who knew him said it was his only theme.

He says the only thing that should define us is our relationship with God.

How we are with God, should be who we are. What we are.

Jesus in that parable told about a man who didn’t see himself in any relationship with God.

He didn’t see himself as a child of God. As dependent on God. As someone gifted by God. As having a responsibility toward the God who had blessed him so richly.

But:

If I am a child of God then take away my money, and I am still who I am. A child of God

If I am a child of God then take away my job, and I am still who I am.
A child of God

If I am a child of God then take away my reputation and I am still who I am

Take away my family and I am still who I am – a child of God.

Being defined by my relationship with God, means I have faith in Him. I live my life for Him.

Whatever happens in my life will not change what I am. It is the only thing that stands the test of time and the vicissitudes of life.

I will endure.

Go ahead and make money. Get a job that is both satisfying and rewarding. Build yourself a good reputation. Enjoy your family and love them and guide them in life.

We all deserve to be blessed in all our endeavours; success and wealth aplenty; health and happiness, a reputation unsullied by life’s ups and down, and a family that fulfills all your hopes for them.

But don’t forget who brought you all this.
As the saying goes, “Make sure that when your time comes, you’ll be going home with the one who brung ya!

 

                         ____________________________

Do you remember that song, “Money is the root of all evil ?”

Today’s Gospel might have you thinking that. And it might have you asking:  Should we still invest in our RRSP’s?   Should we still save for the future?

Is it a sin to have done well in life?

Should we give all our money away?

Well, nowhere in the Bible are we told to do that. To my knowledge. 

Although there are plenty of people in history who did so, St Francis among them.

But Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, and finding himself in Egypt, running the country’s finances, was told by God to save.

You will remember how he translated Pharaoh’s dream about the seven fat cattle, and the seven lean cattle?

The book of Proverbs has plenty of positive stuff about providing for the future.

First Timothy and Second Corinthians also have advice about saving for the future.

Searching Scripture, if you have nothing better to do, you will find that there are five hundred verses on prayer, less than that on faith, but over two thousand verses on money.

And you will remember the parable of the talents where the servant who made the most  money for his master was rewarded.

So contrary to what you might think after hearing today’s Gospel, be assured that enterprise – hard work – is rewarded.

It is greed that is evil.

As  Jesus explained in the parable, the rich man laid away all his riches and settled down to enjoy the fruits of his good luck for the rest of his life, but was taken before he could do so. And someone else would enjoy his money.

He hadn’t given a thought to anyone else, nor to His God, nor even, we might surmise, to his family, if he had one.

The way we handle our money tells us something about our relationship with God.

We are to think about ourselves as just here on earth for a short time, and being given gifts, talents if you like, to work with, to be stewards of, and to enjoy, and to use for God’s purposes.

And that includes being prudent. Being smart. Making money.

But in the past few years there have been cases reported in the news about people making obscene sums of money – hundreds of millions in a year – and where people who were already massively rich, cheated on their taxes, or stole from their companies to accumulate even more.

Then there are other instances where someone with fabulous wealth has given most, if not all away, to further good in the world.

Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet, have given most of their wealth over to foundations that will spend their money making life easier for those who are wore off.

I read some time ago, about a Chinese billionaire giving all his money away, and urging other billionaires to do the same.

There is a difference between the former- the rich thieves, and the latter – the philanthropists – that will tell us why they are like they are.

Those who lied and cheated to make more and more money, see themselves as  defined by what they have.

They might say: I am a rich person. That’s who I am. The more I have the more people respect me. And so on.

But take the money way from them and what would they have? What would they be? 

Nothing!

Because they are defined by their money.

Those others, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others like them are not defined by their wealth. The man who gave away every penny he had, the Chinese billionaire, was happy and content with who he was. He was glad to fund schools, and scholarships, and other noble things.

He is defined by the good he has done.

So the lesson today, isn’t all about money, funnily enough.

It is about how we define ourselves. 

There is a thing that is peculiarly American, I think, and that is – being defined by your job.

I remember talking to some Americans who were visiting us and noticing that when they talked about their family, sons or daughters, they always mentioned they had good jobs

I also used to be surprised, that when I first met someone in the US, I was asked real early in the conversation, ” What do you do for a living?”

It’s easy to let yourself be defined by your job. 

After all that’s what you spent years being educated, or trained for, and you take pride in how well you do it.

I am an engineer. I am a doctor. I am a mechanic and a darn good one. I am a nurse. I am a mother of four and in my spare time I do pottery and paint.

Defined by your job?

That is who you are.

Then there is reputation.

Some people work hard to make sure they have a good reputation. They push themselves forward every opportunity they have.   They are proud of receiving honours, certificates, having good credit, having worked somewhere for umpteen years.

And that’s Ok up to a point. Be proud of what you have done.

I knew a man who longed to be seen as more than he was. He was an accounting person. He didn’t have any certificates or degrees to put on the wall, so he hung up his First Aid certificate.

So when you were in his office, you could be assured  that if he made a mess of your taxes, he would know what to do when you passed out.

Defined by your reputation?

That is who you are.

Then there is family.

You might hear something like this: I have four kids and we are very close, and they are all doing well in school. I think my daughter is going to be a dancer. My son wants to be an anthropologist, my younger son is aiming to be a teacher, and my younger daughter is focusing on being a pop singer. I am so proud of them

That’s a person talking who is defined by their family.

I am sure you can think of other ways people define themselves.

And what is wrong with that?

What’s wrong with being defined by your money or your job, reputation, or your family?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it.

When a man is defined by his wealth, and he loses it, he discovers that he is nothing,

The man who founded what is today a major chain, was featured  in an article a few years ago. Somehow he had lost control of the business, and was now living in his girl friend’s basement, working hard, frantically trying to again be successful, and rich, so he could be someone  again.

Because without that business, he is nothing.

Job?

I have a friend – I think he is still a friend, but I haven’t heard from him for a long time.

I knew him when he was Vice President Finance, for a fairly large corporation, and later when he had reached the top of a large company and was the CEO.

We used to meet every few months for lunch, and he would always insist on paying, which was good, because we ate at very expensive places.  He would do most of the talking. He told me about the deals he was putting together. About how he was trying to take over the company.

He was all about business.

Then I didn’t hear from him for a while, so I called him.

Turned out he had been fired.  

He said,” I am lying low until I get  another job. I won’t be meeting you for lunch.”

I liked him for who he was, not because he had a great job.

But without that job, he was nobody in  his mind.

Reputation? 

Have you ever known someone who has gone bankrupt?  Had their home seized? Been refused credit? Couldn’t get a loan at the bank? 

It happens, and more often than you know. But you don’t get to hear about it too much because they don’t want people to know.

They don’t feel as important, or as good a citizen, or they feel  like a failure.

If you are defined by your reputation, then when you lose it, you are nobody.

Family?

Many of us are defined by our family status. By our spouse, or our kids, and what they do. But what happens when the kids leave home? Who are you then? If you have defined yourself as a parent, then now you are nothing.

If you have defined yourself as someone’s spouse, and lived with that, then what happens when that spouse passes away, or moves out?

Not surprisingly, you feel lost.

Henri Nouwen wrote about this phenomenon at length  – being defined by someone or something outside of yourself. . In fact the people who knew him said it was his only theme.

He says the only thing that should define us is our relationship with God.

How we are with God, should be who we are. What we are.

Jesus in that parable told about a man who didn’t see himself in any  relationship with God.

He didn’t see himself as a child of God. As dependent on God. As someone gifted by God. As having a responsibility toward the God who had blessed him so richly.

But:

If I am a child of God then take away my money, and I am still who I am. A child of God

If I am a child of God then take away my job, and I am still who I am.

A child of God

If I am a child of God then take away my reputation and I am still who I am

Take away my family and I am still who  I am  – a child of God.

Being defined by my relationship with God, means I have faith in Him. I live my life for Him.

Whatever happens in my life will not change what I am.  It is the only thing that stands the test of time and the vicissitudes of life.

I will endure.

Go ahead and make money. Get a job that is both satisfying and rewarding.   Build yourself a good reputation.  Enjoy your family and love them and guide them in life.

We all deserve to be blessed in all our endeavours; success and wealth aplenty; health and happiness, a reputation unsullied by life’s ups and down, and a family that fulfills all your hopes for them.

But don’t forget who brought you all this.

As the saying goes, “Make sure that when your time comes, you’ll be going home with the one who brung ya!

—————————————————————

Please note: there will be no submission next week. I will be away from my desk. Enjoy your summer.

Give Love a Chance

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke.

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

“For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13)

                                    ———————————————

I was curious about prayer wheels, Tibetan prayer wheels, that is, so I did a little research – looked on the web – and found out much more than I really needed to know.

There are prayer wheels made out of wood or metal – a  drum really – inside of which is a roll of paper containing a mantra, or prayer. The drum has a weight attached on a cord, which swings in response to the user’s hand movement and acts as a governor, reducing the effort required to spin the drum.

There are metal prayer wheels massive in size, some in monasteries,  set in rows, where the monks or the faithful can rotate them.

There are prayer wheels which are made to rotate in the wind, or by the movement of water, or suspended over a candle where the rising heat will turn them. And there are prayer wheels which are powered by electricity, although some think the credit for such prayers goes to the electricity company, rather than to the person who rotates by hand.

I must admit I found all this very enlightening, and puzzling. How does rotating a wheel  embossed with a prayer, or carrying a prayer with it, make a connection between a supplicant and the supreme being to which the prayer is submitted?

And I must admit I was skeptical at first.

Then on second thoughts, prayer wheels may have come about so that illiterate people could pray. They didn’t have to remember a prayer.  And they didn’t have a prayer book like the Book of Common Prayer which has prayer for all sorts of exigencies.

A real handbook for Anglican clergy.

I remember a story about the BCP . It concerned  a young curate called out to a farm where a man had been severely injured. Unfortunately the poor man died without a prayer because the young curate couldn’t find a prayer for a man who had been gored by a bull.

So, do written prayers, prayers on prayer wheels, prayers recited repetitively, prayers done in rote fashion, read out of a book, and so on have meaning?

in Buddhist thought, as I understand it there is merit in using a prayer wheel. Also traditional belief is that the spinning of a prayer wheel results in more merit than an oral prayer.

There are instructions on the use of prayer wheels, on when and how to use one, and the state of mind one should be in when using a prayer wheel. Using one is said to focus the mind, and lift the spirit.

What about our own Lord’s Prayer?  If a person is told by his or her confessor, after confessing one’s sins, to recite the Lord’s Prayer ,(commonly called the Our Father) ten times, is there merit in that?   Does God still hear and heed the repeated prayer?

Did Jesus give the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples to repeat verbatim, or as a template for them to use in their prayers, or as an example of how we should pray?

And if we just rush it off, saying it without thinking about the words, does it still reach  God, and please him, or help him find ways to bless us?

And what if we alter the words, as has been done?  Is  the meaning  the same? Does the change affect the effectiveness of the prayer?

I suppose the answer has to be in the intention, don’t you think?

Rabbis would give their disciples a simple prayer to use daily.  John the Baptist likewise gave his disciples a prayer, presumably for daily use.

Now Jesus, asked by his disciples for a prayer, on how to pray gives them a prayer.

The prayer has two sections. First of all it looks at the Father’s purpose, that His name be set apart – be holy – and it asks that He will rule the earth, as He does Heaven.

Then, our needs, and the needs of others . We pray for food, that our sins be forgiven, and that we can forgive others, as he forgives us.

And we ask for the strength to resist temptation.

The prayer is so simple, isn’t it?

Even a child can pray using that prayer.

I can remember the day my father taught me to say it.  I was probably six years old.

So it is powerful. It has meaning. It acknowledges His Lordship, and our need for His being in our life, daily. 

If those two thoughts are on our mind as we pray the prayer, then I feel sure the Lord will hear and respond.

Sincerity and the belief in prayer, and our need to talk to Our Lord, give power to what we say, and to what we acknowledge, and to what we ask.

After giving his disciples the prayer, Jesus goes on to assure them, and us, that God does indeed answer prayer, and he gives the example of the un-neighborly neighbour who, not out of love, but out of frustration at being pestered so much, that he eventually gives in and gets out of bed to provide a loan of bread to his neighbour.

In those days in Palestine, a man would go to bed  – he and his family, on one raised area of the one room house, with the children around them, and in some cases, the family goat and hens and so on, in the house, overnight.

Getting up from the middle of all that wouldn’t be easy.

And although the door would be open, and  welcoming everyone during the day, once it was locked at night, it would hardly ever be opened.  As you might expect.

The point that Jesus is making is to be persistent in prayer, and the example he uses, tells us that if someone as pesky and stingy as the householder in that story, can be persuaded to come to his neighbour’s aid, then God who loves us will be much more willing to heed our prayers.

And when we pray we are going to One who knows our needs better than we know them ourselves. And whose heart is full of generous love.

Here is an example of prayer answered: 

While crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain’s request he spoke on “Answered Prayer.” An agnostic who was present at the service was asked by his friends, “What did you think of Dr. Meyer’s sermon?” He answered, “I didn’t believe a word of it.”

That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the steerage passengers. Many of the listeners at his morning address also went along, including the agnostic, who claimed he just wanted to hear “what the babbler had to say.” 

Before starting for the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms.

After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he remarked with a smile. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.”

“Your father? Surely your father can’t be still alive!” “Praise God,” she replied, “He is very much alive.” “What do you mean?” asked  the agnostic. She explained, “I’ll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!” The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ.

Yes, praying in God’s name, will bring an answer.

(Our Daily Bread.)

God can use the most unlikely person to bring about an answer to prayer. And in such an ordinary way, and using unsuspecting helpers.

But what about prayer that is unanswered?

In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.

When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn’t taste good, but it made him feel very grown up. . . until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual.

Desperate to divert his father’s attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.

“Can I go, Dad? Please, let’s go when it comes to town.”

  His father’s reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. “Son, he answered quietly but firmly, “never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.” 

Think about it!

How many times have we asked God for something, out of his love, when we ourselves have been harboring hateful thoughts?

How many times have we asked for signs of God’s generosity when we have at the same time been ungenerous ourselves?

How many times have we petitioned God for something and turned our back on someone petitioning us?

To go back to the prayer wheel, if a Tibetan supplicant spins the wheel, and has love in his or her heart for someone, then the prayer may be heard, and acted upon, don’t you agree?

God does his work in ways, and using means ,that we can never understand. 

If it seems that God doesn’t answer our prayer, it isn’t that he doesn’t answer, but that he has something better for us.

A  prayer answered may not give us the thing we desire, but what we need.

And don’t forget, the answer to a prayer might be a refusal to do what we ask  but  that refusal, is still an answer, given out of God’s love and wisdom .

Give prayer a chance.

Give love a chance.

Surely both together cannot fail.

Amen

Don’t Stop!

           The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” ( Luke 10:38-42) 

                        ————————————————————-

A clergy friend told me about a dynamite worker in his church and who had been there a long, long, long time.

She was indispensable. She organized most of the fund-raising. Got people working or contributing.  And to a small group of three or four of her supporters, she was considered wonderful

There was one really large problem, though. She was an angry, person.

People she had persuaded into helping at a particular function wouldn’t help again because of the way she treated them when they helped.

People left the church, some in tears, because of the remarks and the angry way that this lady had.

This lady, had precisely the same problem that Martha has in the account today of the visit of Jesus to the home of Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Mary.

You will remember that Martha was in the kitchen preparing food to feed – we don’t know how many. Jesus rarely traveled alone. He could have had three or four disciples with him, the Twelve, or even the seventy.

The food had to be obtained, prepared, cooked and served, and Martha was going to do that, whatever happened. But where was her sister Mary?

She was sitting at the feet of the Lord, paying rapt attention to His words.

While she was doing all the work!

So Martha, quite naturally, gets angry at this, and she says, “ Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone. Tell her then to help me.”

As John Deffinbaugh phrased it in an article  called, “When Martha was Mad at the Master,”  – She was working like the devil, to serve the Lord.

Jesus says, “ Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Why is Martha angry with Jesus?

Why was the church lady I mentioned earlier so angry with everyone? 

That church lady would get so stressed with what she was organizing, that she let her temper flow so easily. I guess she thought her anger was justified because she was serving the Lord.

It may have been the same with Martha – stressed out at having to feed so many.

Where was the food to come from?

How was it to be cooked and served and so on? 

She is stressed out, and yet Jesus was right there, giving words of life.

Wasn’t that important?

Not to be missed?

What happened to Martha  can happen to anyone, you know. Pastors can be that way. They can get so absorbed in organizing meetings – Corporation, Parish Council, Fund Raising, Sunday services – and other issues –  that their attention can slip off the One they are supposed to be serving, listening to, reading their bible about,  preaching about. 

Jesus the Christ.

Mary had her whole focus on Jesus.

She was sitting at his feet.  .

In one Gospel account it is the same Mary seated at Jesus’ feet  who washed them –  his feet – with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, anointing him with that valuable perfume.

We need that sort of concentration on what we are doing, on what we are.

On whom we serve.

It is important to help those less well-off.  But some churches are so involved in social issues that they may lose their focus on Jesus.

Some churches are so focused on ritual, on doing things according to the book  that they may lose their focus on Jesus.

There is a poem – a story within a story as it were,  in Doesteyevsky’s book, “The Brothers Karamazov”,  called The Grand Inquisitor. It is recited by brother, Ivan Karamazov who was questioning the notion of a benevolent God.  Of a God who loves us all.

I am sure you have heard about the Inquisition. It was when the church in Spain, was so intent on weeding out unbelievers and torturing them that it forgot what it was really supposed to be about.

For nearly six hundred years The Spanish Inquisition worked to sort out, torture, and kill people who were seen as not Christian enough.

It is thought that in the period that stretched from the 1200’s until the early 1800’s  30,000 to 300,000 people were killed.

To  help them believe in Jesus!   For Pete’s sake!

In  Doesteyevsky’s  story,  a man claiming to be Jesus is brought in to The Grand Inquisitor.

Obviously the man was a heretic, maybe a blasphemer, or crazy. He would have to be burned at the stake.

But first The Inquisitor questions the man at length.

The man answers so well, and so convincingly, however that the Inquisitor is finally convinced that this man really is who he claims to be.

He really is, Jesus!

If this man, The Inquisitor  is really serving God,  looking for the truth, then surely he  will fall down on his knees and worship his Lord.

But no!

He says, “ I believe you. You are Jesus.

“But you  still have to die.”

You see,  having Jesus  around would interfere with the orderly working of the church. Lots of things would have to change, and people didn’t  like change.

Didn’t want change.

Especially the people in charge.

The church as they knew it would fade away. There would be no need for it to exist. 

And what about those with important positions in the church? 

With Jesus right there, there would be no need for them.  

Couldn’t have that!

They couldn’t have him around shaking things up.

Things were fine as they were.

No, he would just have to go. 

Do you see the point here?

People can see what they do as so important that they lose sight of the reason they were doing it in the first place.

Martha is going to have Jesus in her house.  She will be able to speak with and listen to this remarkable man.

She wants to show hospitality to Jesus and his friends, and that is fine, except that somehow – the hospitality thing –  becomes more important than actually meeting him  and learning from him.

It results in her being angry at the one she professes to love. Jesus himself.

She has her priorities all wrong.

I often wondered why Jesus didn’t go around Judea and heal every single person there.  Or give his disciples the power to heal and have them spend every minute of every day healing people.

But in John’s Gospel we are told that on an occasion when the disciples found Jesus in prayer, they urged Him to return to the place where He had been, as many people were waiting for Him to heal them.

Did he go?

No!

Jesus’ reply was  “I must preach the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

I must preach the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.

Physical healing was secondary. Spiritual healing was his priority.

The work we do in the church is important. Don’t think that it isn’t. I don’t want anyone resigning from any committees because of today’s lesson.

We need organizers, hospitality providers, readers, preachers, servers, givers, musicians. – all sorts of workers, but we need to remember why we do what we do.

It’s a fact that most of us would rather organize a dinner at the church for twenty people than mention the name Jesus to a neighbour.

Think about that.

We would clean  the church, tune the piano, wash the windows, build furniture –  I knew a man would make any furniture I wanted for the church – lectern, prayer desk, coffee table, but you couldn’t get him into the church   – we would rather do anything –  than invite a family member, or a friend, or a neighbour to come to church with us.

Those other things are easier to do than what Jesus wants us to do.

Eh?   

It’s like we are members of a secret society.

We come here on Sunday.  Enter by the big door. Which is then  closed. The stained glass prevents anyone from looking in and seeing what we do. And we don’t tell anyone what we do.

Do we?

It’s a big secret.  

I was at my grand-daughter’s birthday party a few years ago,  and there were members of the family there of course, and friends of family.

One family member asked when I could baptize their new baby. 

A family friend, also at the birthday party  asked if I could baptize her two girls at the same time. Then she told me she hadn’t been baptised, so I said I would baptize her at the same time too.

She said, “I will have to know about it. I have no idea about church or what it means. Could you tell me?”

I could have cried.

Here’s a young woman knows nothing about Jesus and His saving power, yearning to know what it’s all about.    And for all the wonderful ways we can communicate these days, through the internet, email, Facebook, Twitter, she hadn’t seen anything out there to answer her questions about Jesus.

Well, the following September we had a baptism Sunday, with three children, or was it four, and two adults, because a lady who was there that day also wanted to be baptised.

But first I had to let them in on the secret.   

Maybe we could make it our  task to make sure it isn’t a secret!

Because it shouldn’t be. Should it?

God loves us and sent Jesus to show his love for us, and to endure a terrible sacrifice to show us how much he loves us, and that we may be free from sin once and for all.

You can elaborate on that all you want, but there it is in a nutshell. 

When I was a child, there was a wonderful thing that happened each Whitsuntide Monday. On a personal level it was when I could begin wearing my Sunday clothes to school and get new Sunday clothes to go to church.

On that day, all the churches in town got together in a huge procession and wended their way through town to the town centre, and there we would have a service, with the Salvation Army Band supplying the music. Afterward we would repair to our various church halls for a party.

Every church had a banner which was carried ahead of the marching church members.

Some of those banners were impressive, especially the Roman Catholic ones. There were beautiful pictures of Jesus at various times in his ministry, and angels, and Mary, all in glorious colors. Like fabric stained glass windows.

My church had a plain blue banner, no picture,  just the words  “Jesus Saves.”.

That’s all. Jesus Saves!

I always wished that we had a fancier banner, but you know, those two words said it all.

That was what we were about. Telling people about the saving power of Jesus Christ.

So let me reiterate:  The work around the church we attend still needs to be done, and when you look at all that does get done in this church, it is absolutely amazing.

Don’t stop doing it. Please!

But it is not the highest priority.  We need to learn more about the One we serve. Read about him in your Bible. Check the Sunday readings and look them up; so  you can raise questions about the sermon, talk to each other. Discuss what you hear in the Gospel. 

And so on.

Keep in focus what we are about – witnessing to the world our love of Jesus the Christ.

I am sure that when Jesus finished speaking, Mary hurried to help her sister.

By then Martha had her priorities straight.  

I pray we can all remember to do the same. 

Amen.

How Many?

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke.

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee.  When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.  

When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”  For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.  And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.  When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw this they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.

When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.  Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured.  Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying,  “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. ( Luke 8. 26-39)

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So here was a man who was raging mad, basically. Not someone you would want to meet. Certainly not in a graveyard!!

The people of the time thought that demons were very real. There was no real scientific medical knowledge, so it was thought that sickness was either punishment from God for sinning or by demons entering the body.

So, with this man. And in his rages this man was strong. He had been bound in shackles, by the people of that area, but in his rages, had  broken the shackles.

He couldn’t be held.

He lived among the tombs, to be alone. and none ventured near him.

Fearlessly, Jesus approached the man and asked his name, the man said, “Legion.”

Perhaps he had seen a Roman Legion marching by,  and saw his problems as being so numerous, or perhaps he witnessed atrocities committed by the Romans as a child and his mind had not been able to cope with that, or perhaps, he had been mistreated, assaulted, tortured by the Romans and it had sent him mad.

In any case, Jesus spoke with the poor man, and cast out his  demons –  healed him of his mental condition. 

We are told that the demons entered pigs grazing nearby and that they rushed into the lake and were drowned.

No matter, the point here is that a man was healed of what had been a long standing and horrible mental illness.

Naturally, he himself was overjoyed.

But how did the townspeople react? The owner of the pigs would be more than annoyed, for one, wouldn’t he?

So they asked Jesus to leave.

They were afraid of what else he might do.

They didn’t want upheaval, and this man Jesus looked like someone who might turn their world upside down. They wanted to be left alone.

So Jesus turned to leave them, but before he could go, the man who had been healed asked if he could become a follower.

Jesus said, ” Go home, to your folks, tell people what God has done for you.”

And this he did, on the way proclaiming through the city what Jesus had done for him.

This raises questions, for me, and I hope for you: The first might be, “Have you ever given any thought for what God has done for you? “

If you have a spare minute or two, waiting for your car to be repaired, or in line at the Post Office or behind that lady with a mountain of goods  in the supermarket, –  the three places to wait, that must be the most boring in the world – cast your mind back and think about what God has done for you.

You will be amazed.

I think we often in our prayers look at what we want God to do for us, such as, “Help me with this problem in my family, or at work: help me figure out how to  manage  financially: help me get better from this illness I am struggling with or this stress that I am under.”

Nothing   wrong with that. He is your Heavenly Father and He wants the best for you, so ask away.

But like I say, when you have a moment, just think what he has already done for you.

One night I lay awake in bed. I had something on my mind at the time, and I just couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. I tried to turn my mind off. I tried to  count sheep, but whatever the problem was that was keeping me awake, persisted, running around in my head in a maddening fashion.

Then I remembered an old hymn, “Count Your Blessings.” “

Count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God has done.

And I thought, ” I might as well try that, nothing else has worked.”

So I began: One: I had a great family, Two: my mother was an angel, a good Christian. Three: I had a great brother and sister. Four: I had a job that I enjoyed doing. Five: I was in good health,  Six:  I had met a nice girl I was interested in, and so on. The number of blessings I had counted  I drifted off sleep, was seventeen!

Jesus told that man, and by extension, us, to do that and then to tell people about it.

However, If you take what you have for granted, then you aren’t likely to tell anyone about it.

Like if you have a million dollars in the bank, you don’t mention it, because someone might want a piece of it.

But you know, telling someone what God has done for you, the chances are that people may  want a piece of that.

That would be a good thing.

Many years ago some men were panning for gold in Montana, and one of them found an unusual stone. Breaking it open, he was excited to see that it contained gold.

Working eagerly, the men soon discovered an abundance of the precious metal. Happily, they began shouting with delight, “We’ve found it! We’ve found gold! We’re rich!”

They had to interrupt their celebrating, though, to go into a nearby town and stock up on supplies. Before they left camp, the men agreed not to tell a soul about their find. Indeed, no one breathed a word about it to anyone while they were in town.

Much to their dismay, however, when they were about to return, hundreds of men showed up to follow them.

When they asked the crowd to tell who “squealed,” the reply came, “No one had to. Your faces showed it!”

Their faces showed it!

And people wanted some of what they had.

So we should be thinking about telling or showing in how we look, what God has done for  us.,

I know isn’t easy.

In a piece entitled Getting Into God, S. Briscoe wrote:

Years ago I was praying with one of my children at bedtime, and I asked him if he had any problems we should pray about. He couldn’t think of any, even though I could think of a number!

Rather unwisely, I pressed the point and asked, “Don’t you have any problems at school?” “No,” he replied quite firmly. “Don’t the kids give you a hard time because you’re a Christian?” Again the answer was “No.” Thinking back to my own traumatic school days, I said, “But kids always give you a hard time if you let them know you’re a Christian.”

His reply was frank beyond belief: “All the more reason you don’t let them know!”

And quite happily he turned over to sleep.

With the refreshing candor of the very young, he had put into words the practical reasons why many Christians don’t witness. They don’t want to take the consequences.

I understand that, and consequently I haven’t asked you to be upfront and pushy about being a Christian. 

However, one Sunday I provided a Holy Spirit  pin for everyone in the church and asked them to wear one but not to talk about it. 

Then I said, “ But  if the Spirit leads someone to ask you about it, you have something to ease you into telling what God has done for you.

Some day I said, probably on my last Sunday here, I will, tell you what God has done for me.

But I want him to do more.

And I know that as I a father, love my kids and want the best for them, my Father or Mother in Heaven wants the best for me, so I am not afraid to ask.

I have on my shelf at home a plaque given to me by my youngest daughter, which shows  a boat under sail, and the following words, from Jeremiah 29:11. 

For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So, I said, to my friends in church, “I have given you Holy Spirit pins to wear, to help you find a way to tell someone about what God has done, or is doing

for you .”.

“It isn’t easy.

“But He has plans for you, if you will allow him to guide you in His ways.

“Then it will show on your face, and in your actions, and in your heart, and you will be unafraid, to tell what how many blessings God provided you.

More than  seventeen I would venture.