Monday, 28 July 2008

Romans - Paul's 'Jewish credentials'

Well, my reading has thrown us the suggestion that Paul was writing in response o being criticised for rejecting his Jewish roots in favour of this new-fangled Christianity. So what Paul is trying to say is that he still feels very Jewish and still values his Jewish background, but that of all the gifts God has given the Jewish people the latest and greatest is Jesus Christ,

Something is forming in my mind about the wrestling process - God will not let go of Jacob anymore than he will let go of God (or the 'angel/man'): in the same way God will not let go of the people of Israel and Jesus is sent to touch and heal & wrestle...

Bit hot for thinking further - but I'll try to keep at it.

Sunday August 3rd

So, the readings are:
Genesis 32: 22-31 - Jacob wrestling at Jabbok
Romans 9: 1-5 - a rather odd bit of Paul asserting his Jewish identity but also talking of being cut off!
Matthew 14: 13-21 - Feeding of 5000 - Jesus has compassion & heals & then feeds the people.

First thoughts - I love the story of Jacob's wrestling - it's such a great story of how the slippery little Jacob with all his tricks & wiles (remember the mess of pottage?) finally meets his match & is left blessed but with a limp & emerges as the 'patriarch', Israel.

Maybe the link with the gospel reading is of how God blesses us - not cheaply but at a cost. Jesus' miracles were not to impress, but out of compassion for people.

I need to understand the Romans passage better - will do some reading around...
watch this space.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sunday 27th June

What a week! Lots of trying to get ahead before a holiday & two weddings plus another to attend (all lovely, don't get me wrong - and atypical British Sunshine!) - left me very last minute this week, The resulting sermon seems very short as I ad-libbed around it quite a bit - but here it is!

The parable of the pearl/ the wisdom of Solomon

Once there was a young girl, walking through a field of long, green grass. The grass tickled her legs, the sun was warm on her back, she could hear birds singing in the bushes nearby, on which there hung ripe luscious blackberries. As she got nearer to the blackberry bushes, she saw a little old man, trying to reach the blackest and most delicious-looking blackberries, which were just out of his grasp. The girl was young, but she was tall, and so she was able to reach up and pull the branch down so that the old man could reach the ripe, luscious blackberries. He picked all he wanted and dropped them into his small basket. Then he turned to the young girl; ‘Thank you for your help and your kindness. What you didn’t realise is that I am a wizard and I can make the wishes of others come true. I will grant you any wish you have, to thank you properly for your kind help’.

What should the girl wish for?
Let us assume that it is not possible to ask for another 100 wishes!
Just for a moment, place yourself in her shoes: what would you ask for?
Great wealth? A healthy life to the age of 100 and a peaceful end? Happiness?

On Friday I looked at a teen website on the internet. Asked the question – ‘do you want a serious relationship or do you just want to have fun?’ our fun-loving, 21st century teens all replied ‘I want a serious relationship’.

We all want to be loved and to be happy. Everything else is just a distraction.


So Solomon, faced with a choice of ‘free gift’ by God, chooses wisdom, discernment, knowledge. He is a king and so he knows that the key to happiness for him is the ability to rule wisely.
This is a great choice – because God is so pleased with Solomon’s choice that he gives him the wisdom he has asked for and also great wealth and long life!

The right choice for Solomon, to be able to do his duties well and so to be happy and to be loved.

Of all the parables Jesus tells, I find the one of the merchant and the pearl the most baffling, initially.
The merchant presumably makes his living by buying and selling pearls. One day he finds a pearl so amazing, so perfect that he sells everything he has to possess this one, great, pearl. This can’t be good business – surely he’s going to lose on this deal – even if he later sells this pearl for a great deal of money, it’s going to cost him a lot to buy back all his other goods. But it seems there’s something going on here that goes beyond good business sense. This pearl is so amazing the merchant loses his head over it. He is captivated by the beauty of this pearl and his only happiness lies in possessing it, even if it costs him everything.

This says Jesus, is what the kingdom of God is like.
It is the one real choice for us; it is the greatest treasure we can know, it is the chance for true happiness, as we allow the love of God to possess us utterly.
Nothing else matters – only knowing God – everything else is a distraction.
In this lies happiness, love, everything we can desire.

All we have to do is accept the invitation and all the joy of heaven can be ours. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Thinking...

I am now back from General Assembly - and slightly dismayed that we didn't spend more time reflecting. The BIble 'directions' from Jane Leach of Wesley House were brilliant and really got me thinking. BUt the reports were mostly (not all) of the 'everything's great and there is much to celebrate' model. I don't think I'm just turning into an Eeyore - the Christian journey is one through pain and suffering as well as through joy & celebration and we travel furthest in our pilgrimage towards God and God's kingdom when we reflect on our journey in the light of God's love and the incarnation of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I am not preaching AGAIN this week (short retreat to Lindisfarne) but the readings are
Genesis 28: 10-19a - Jacob's ladder
or Isaiah 44: 6-8 - The Lord says I am the first & the last - do not be afraid
Romans 8: 12-25 - led by the spirit of God to be children of God
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 Parable of the wheat and tares

And looking at these readings I see something about the need to discern what is fruitful and what is 'weed' in our lives - as churches and as individuals.
On my retreat I shall try to reflect on this need for discernment and ask myself where the sources of it lie and how I can access them more easily. I don't want to turn into a 'grumpy old woman' - but neither do I want to settle for what is shallow and facile.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Time!

I have, however, found the bit that thought I was in the States & told it I'm in the UK - so the time stamp is now correct!
One small step for a blogger.. one giant leap for accuracy.

General Assembly

Sorry friends - not preaching this week as I'll be off to URC General Assembly. I had thought I might post something anyway - but I'm trying to clear my desk instead - which is proving a more difficult job than I had hoped!
Back soon!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

July 6th

Zechariah 9: 9-12
Romans 7: 15-25a
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Last week's readings focussed on what we do in Jesus' name as his disciples 'whoever gives a cup of cold water...'; next week the gospel reading is the parable of the sower, when we will be thinking about what sort of 'ground' we provide for the gospel & how we can be fruitful: this week the focus is on our relationship with Jesus - 'Come to me'.

This feels to me like the core or central point of being a disciples of Jesus. It is our relationship with him which enabled us to serve others and to be fruitful bearers of the gospel.

Zechariah's call to rejoice is based on God's saving grace.
Paul is anxious to point out that we keep making mistakes - but that God can save us from ourselves.

We have a funeral at the first church (Pampisford) where I will be preaching this sermon, and I think I want to reassure people that when everything else is lost to us - our health & strength and even life itself - our relationship with Jesus gives us an assurance of God's grace which will save us.

Well, that's the thinking so far...