PhilemonDeuteronomy 30:15-20Luke 14:25-33Onesimus stood in the shadows cast by the building corner, just in view as he peeped from his place of safety was home - well the house he used to live in - in servitude, bondage, misery, despair, as one who was useless and made to feel useless in every moment of existence - the house from which he had run - never to return - and now he stood across the way, building up the courage to return.Would a return bring life or bring death? In his pocket was a letter from Paul to his master encouraging Philemon to welcome Onesimus home, no longer useless, now useful and a brother in Christ - yet still a runaway slave and to knock on that door is to invite death. But then is this life as a runaway really life? - always the fear, watching your back, peering around corners, running scared - it is certainly not life in all its fullness, it's not life as Paul had expressed it and Onesimus had imagined it as he learned about the freedom to follow Christ - but surely it is better than no life at all - Yet to be accepted back, to be welcomed in as brother in Christ, to have a useful role, a real purpose in life would be real freedom, that would be life as he imagined, desired, and so he stood across the way - watching, fretting, quaking with fear and with excitement.Imagine yourself in Onesimus' shoes, imagine yourself in that doorway - what scares you?, from who or from what do you run? How are you denied life in all its fullness? what are the things you must confront in your own life if you are to choose life?or to put it into Jesus' terms. what is the cross that you need to pick up to follow the way of Jesus? and what do you need to put down or give up or be released from? - what is the cost? To choose life has a cost and to be a disciple is to choose life.and that is good news! For it is Christ who comes to the lost and the fearful, read on in Luke's gospel and you will see that we are in the preamble for stories about a lost sheep and a lost coin and two lost sons and their Father who is full of grace and love however lost they may be - and it is the God of grace and love and mercy who is looking out from the other side of the street, waiting to welcome lost ones home.Onesimus moved out from his hiding place, and moved across the street. There was a guard at the gate who he did not know - "I have a letter for the Master, for Philemon and I am to wait on his response" - the guard indicated that he should wait, a boy emerged to take the letter, a slave boy - his useless, pathetic servitude ousing out of every resentful movement, Onesimus prepared to run, but could not - he wanted life and this was the cost and so he waited, when the boy returned it was to take him inside the house, into the private entrance, into the Masters presence - Onesimus hardly dared look, but when he did it was to see a smile that could only mean welcome, he was home and now life could begin.
Luke 11:1-13Hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come.hallowed = 1. To make or set apart as holy. 2. To respect or honour greatly; revere.Colossians 2:6-19As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.Jesus Christ and the Life-giving HallowsHarry Potter fever has been upon us - the must read book - battle good and evil at the centre The Deathly Hallows - 3 objects made sacred by story and use, 7 objects or people who hold one persons soul but bring death to others - they could be used to bring life - but they have been used as Deathly HallowsHallow God’s name - hallow Jesus Christ - and live lifeto keep God’s name holy, sacred is to make God the centre of our lives - to continue your lives in Christ Jesus - rooted and built up - gives life - the the whole community - the purpose is to live out the prayer “Your kingdom come”
All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Let every tribe and every tongue before Him prostrate fall
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.
Is this the Jesus we see in the gospel?
Majesty, worship his majesty;
Unto Jesus be all glory, honour, and praise.Is this the Jesus we see in John 6? - Jesus walks away when the people want to make him King- when Jesus talks about the kingdom it is with mustard seeds and children, and the poor and the persecuted - the powerless, the unmajestic, the unexalted - his only throne is a cross, his palace is the grave.Kate commented:-
About kingdom - the way we sometimes speak of it at St. Marks URC is 'the kind of community God is working out' or 'the kind of ways God is involved in which are about good news'. This is not always easy since we have learnt to sing songs of power & majesty with more empire-like gusto than war songs.... Our experience in the last 18 months is that when we step away from our comfortable church spaces then 'kingdom' things happen - risk-taking and relationships are different because the context of church is different. The kingdom of God exists without the church but the church cannot exist without the kingdom; although it is not the fullness of it.
Look further on in the gospel passage this kingdom is inclusive - hospitable- life-giving - and that is going to involve risk-taking, vulnerability, openness, - which is where the church gets uncomfortable - we like the idea of power and authority - control and certainty yet it has been our downfallReflect again on the statement:-Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world. (Howard Snyder Liberating the Church)When we pray hallowed be your name - we place ourselves before God ready for God’s holiness to flow into our lives.When we pray Your kingdom come - we open ourselves to being part of the community that God is working out - a community of the vulnerable, the uncertain, the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the mournful, the childlike, the unwanted, the unclean,we open ourselves to be part of community that knows God’s life-giving, all-inclusive good news - and celebratesSing for God's glorythat colours the dawn of creation,Sing for God's powerthat shatters the chains that would bind us,Sing for God's justicedisturbing each easy illusion,Sing for God's saints who havetravelled faith's journey before us,(Kathy Galloway)
What is the Nature of Religion? - to control? condemn? create conflict, barriers, intolerance? - that is the mantra of those who oppose religion - it’s written in newspapers, books, added to radio chat shows and often the religious do little to dispel the myth. Perhaps it is to lead people towards a holy life? - but how? by upholding and enforcing the rules apparently set out by God? Rules about what you can eat, what you must do with your wealth, how you are to behave, what you can wear, with whom and when you can engage in sexual behaviour?
It was within such a religious culture that Jesus lived and from which Paul emerged. But Jesus broke the rules as they were understood by that culture - he broke the sabbath rules, he broke rules about who you can eat with, who you can talk to and about raising the dead - Jesus broke the rules and tore down the barriers that such rules create. Paul saw that the law was not helping people to lead a holy life - but distancing people from God because they just could not keep all the laws that had been constructed - and that you could not expect people alien to that culture to take on Christ and all the baggage - for the baggage is not necessary when Grace Rules.
But Paul is accusing of watering down faith - making it too easy - and religion should not be easy! - and despite Paul - the church has continued to create rules about the nature of a holy life - often quoting Paul to do so and usually those rules revolve around sexual and moral behaviour - such a long list of “thou shalt not’s” that your left wondering whether God wants us to have any fun at all. Dispute was tearing the early church apart - and it continues to do so - do we accept the secular view of sexuality - or do we impose standards of sexual behaviour which would condemn the relationships some of you are living in - unmarried, divorced, same-sex, relationships which in the past would have had you removed from church life and is still unacceptable in some traditions. Outside of sexual behaviour there will be some who have been convicted of criminal offences, who drink, who smoke, lie, cheat, abuse power, spoil creation, make war &c - sinful behaviour that break the rules of a holy life. - yet Grace rules mean that you can still have a relationship with God and still belong to the church
Easy religion? - no - grown up, responsible religion that expects us to have a relationship with God, to follow Jesus and make sense of what that means in our own lives, our own contexts - those who accuse us of easy religion think that what I’m saying is that anything goes - it’s OK do what you want you will be forgiven anyway - not the case - expectation that lives will be different, will be changed, will follow the way of Jesus but as a response to God’s grace - not as a condition of it. No rule book that must be adhered to or else - but the gift of God’s love and the encouragement to respond in love to God and to your neighbour. and if aspects of our relationships or lifestyles are not right - dishonest - shameful - then we seek healing and restored holy life.
At ordination Ministers promise to live holy lives. Some seem to think that involves some sort of morally pure sinless existence - and was used as an argument when discussing sexuality. I recently had cause to reflect upon my ordination promises and on this one suggested that perhaps my idea of a holy life is one which lives with contradiction between theory and praxis, that makes room for vulnerability, that holds firm to certain ideas yet makes room for insecurity, that lives with eyes open trying to catch a glimpse of God and spends time with people whose lives are also full of holes. We are called to live by Grace, to live by the Spirit - Paul knew that people needed something to replace the law and as we work through Galations we will find that he points us towards the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control