Sunday, 22 September 2013

Poles Apart Luke 16:19 - 31 Part II

The continuation of the story begs for a warning to be sent. Of course Jesus is actually warning his hearers by telling this story. The deal is already spelled out in the Law and Prophets - which we spent the whole earlier part of the year getting to grips with. So if we haven't twigged it yet, will we ever?

But note the interesting twist: the request to send someone back from the dead - to allow God's bigger picture to somehow break into the present.

That's exactly what happens in the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

God's right way up becomes visible through Jesus, with the ultimate and powerful good news story. God's purpose for us is to live in that same resurrection power.

Now we are finite and limited, so we will struggle. Yet having glimpsed the good news we will be restless with the gospel, longing to see the power manifested and situations put right. That is what we work for, even amongst setbacks and frustrations.

Yet sadly even with the resurrection, some peope just can't seem to see it. I wonder if a symptom of not breathing is blindness: not able to see the plight of the poor, not able to see that a change of heart is called for.

Hence the key question this week:

[OUT] Restless with the gospel … or blind?

Poles Apart Luke 16:19 - 31 Part I

The Good News of Jesus has a way of turning things on their head. Just in the introduction to this story this is wonderfully demonstrated: normally we all know who the rich and famous are, whilst the poor remain as a faceless statistic. Yet for Jesus it is the rich man who is anonymous, and the poor man is named - Lazarus.

The Good News turns things upside-down, or should that be the right way up.

The fact is there are two serious indictments against  the rich man:
  1. He obviously saw the plight of the poor, yet did nothing
  2. Even after death he still assumed Lazarus was there to be his servant - his heart was still just as hard as ever.
The first is also an indictment on us in the West: we know our unfair trade and other practices hold others in poverty, we know our relentless carbon consumption converts to climate change which hurts the poorest the most, and we know there is more slavery than ever - with many snared into a hideous sex trade.

Yet generally the society and political will is not there to change it.

As Christians we must wrestle with this, striving to live differently to turn things the right way up, e.g. through Fair Trade, living more eco-responsibly, and campaigning wherever we can against people trafficking.

Six months ago this series got going with the following key question:

[IN] How might your sensitivity/awareness of the poor be related to God speaking into your own life?

It is kind of echoed in our more recent question 'Are you able to breathe God's goodness in and out?'

It's worth thinking to yourself how much has your attitude changed this year, or is it that you can't or won't let God speak into your life on these issues?

[OUT] Restless with the gospel … or blind?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Foolish Riches - Luke 12:13-21

We can all hold our breath, but of course we can't hold onto it for very long or we will die. To breathe properly we have to let the air out before we can take the next breath. People who live by faith for finances/possessions discover this principle: God often seems to let them get to rock bottom before the next phase of finance appears.

Jesus uses an interruption to lift the imagination of the crowd to Kingdom life. But note the problem with the rich farmer in the story is not that he was rich, or that he had a bumper harvest. In fact it wasn't even really that he upgraded his barns to properly store the bounty.

The problem was that the farmer wasn't breathing!

Verse 20 is interesting: 'your life will be demanded from you'. We know our lives are a gift from God, but are they also in some sense 'on loan' from God? Given for a purpose, they can receive God's goodness but also are to give it on to others. One day Jesus will call each of us to account for how we have used our lives.

To swim under water we have to hold our breath of course. Yet many of us seem to spend our whole lives 'holding our breath' when it comes to wealth and possessions, as if we were in some kind of toxic atmosphere, desperately trying to hold onto what we have got. We need to learn to breath! Surely as Christians we exist in the atmosphere of God's grace, able to receive God's abundant blessing, and so also able to pass it on freely to others.

Hence the key question this week:

[IN] Are you able to put God's abundance in you at His disposal?

Or to put it another way: Are you able to breathe God's goodness in and out?

This doesn't mean we can't be prudent with money or wealth, or we can't have savings or pension provision. But it does mean not allowing these to control our lives, instead having faith in God as our baseline principle and sitting light with all the rest.

Jesus didn't say it would be easy, but your life is a gift from God with a purpose. In His purposes you can discover the abundant riches of His Kingdom, and share them with those around you ... IF you learn to breathe!

[IN] Are you able to put God's abundance in you at His disposal?

Or to put it another way:

Are you able to breathe God's goodness in & out?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Prophecy for Real - Luke 4:18 - 30

Quoting from Isaiah 61 Jesus opens his 'campaign speech' with the declaration that 'Today this scripture is fulfilled!'. In an instant he brings together hundreds of years of prophecy and waiting, converging it all on himself. The Isaiah verses sets his purpose squarely in God's bias to the poor. His life and his being was about being good news to the poor.

Yet the listeners didn't receive it as good news. In fact as Jesus spoke more they wanted to throw him off a cliff. The problem was that although they were awaiting the messiah, the messiah they expected was a warrior to kick out the Romans and bring blessing exclusively to God's people. Yet Jesus omitted the 'day of vengeance' bit from Is 61:2, and implied blessing can go out to the gentiles - offensive words to those who figured they were in the holy club.

Today some think that Jesus is just about saving people for eternity, seeing the Isaiah quote as metaphorical or to be read in spiritual terms. Yet Jesus didn't do that - faced with sick people he physically healed them! His intervention was practical in the here and now, not simply spiritual.

Do we have a pre-conceived idea of what Jesus should be like? Hence our key question:

[UP] Which messiah is your messiah?

Probably not a warrior king, but for some the 'spiritual only' version above, and others the 'bless those in church' version. Yet for us our biggest threat is the bombardment of consumer thinking, leading us to adopt Jesus as a consumer commodity messiah: one that gives us religious 'feel good' factor, or a warm fuzzy feeling ... yet should something better in the future crop up we will happily ditch and switch.

With a consumer mentality we don't expect Jesus to make any demands of us, or require us to change in any way. Faced with the real messiah might actually annoy us ... to the point of wanting to throw him off a cliff.

Yet as in the passage Jesus will walk straight through and continues on his purpose: Jesus is the messiah regardless of what we think.

[UP] Which messiah is your messiah?