Monday 15 September 2014

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Preach at Winmalee by Br. Luke on 14th September 2014

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Homily 14th September 2014

Ok I want to just touch briefly on the Psalm, because there is wonderful imagery in that Psalm. “When Israel went out of Egypt the mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. The seas parted” and the psalmist says, and notice that he speaks directly to the creation, “why you behaving like this”. And then he says “tremble you earth in the presence of the Lord”. At the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, and the flint into a spring of water. The psalmist is reminding us that God can do anything and his creation is so tightly tied to him that when he is excited, the creation follow suit.

Can you just imagine if we saw the mountains skipping like rams?  We’d, either be incarcerated in the mental ward of a hospital, or convinced that there was a huge natural disaster like some earthquake or other, or we’d all be convinced the end of the world had come and we would all be out getting drunk or something. But the imagery is there and just remember that it’s about the presence of the Lord.

And if you look at all of this, and look again at the reading from Exodus which really is the parting of the red sea. Biblical scholars will tell us that this is a mistranslation that it is not the parting of the Red Sea but the parting of the Reed Sea. There is a particular part of the sea in Egypt which is like a lake of Reeds. So what happened was that the reeds were parted and the people went through. Rather than the actual red sea itself.

I like the red Sea story better because I like that imagery in the animated film the Prince of Egypt, when you see the walls of water with the whales and fish on the other side. I like that imagery of the Israelites walking on the dry land. Remember what this is about: creation responding to God. God wanted to save his people, so like in the Psalm, so is said to Moses stretch out your hand, and the creation responded by the sea being parted. And then you get the imagery of the seas crashing back and in Egyptians dead on the sand.  They drowned because there were not free. Pharaoh was pursuing the Israelites to bring them back to Egypt and make them slaves again. That’s the imagery from Exodus and is carried through into the reading from the Psalm.

This brings us to the parable in the gospel about the servant who does not give. Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be any sense in the way we humans have treated debtors in the past. A man owes you 10,000 talents which is a lot of money, or even just a few denarii which is not as much as a talent and you put them in prison.  How are they possibly going to pay you if they are locked up?  Remember though it says earlier in the gospel, that they were sold. There was slavery in those days. And if you owe me 10,000 denarii, I’ll go and sell you, your family and all your possessions. And I’ll get my money and you will have repaid what you owe. And that’s what they talking about. They’re talking about, the selling of the people to recoup the debt. And in Rome you could even sell yourself into slavery to get rid of your debt. Why you would want to do that is beyond me.

In the story of the servant who is forgiven by his maser, the Lord, but doesn’t forgive his fellow servant, Jesus is illustrating clearly for us one of the problems you can have when you don’t give and you have received. If you’ve been forgiven but you in turn don’t forgive, then you haven’t really understood the purpose or the meaning of forgiveness. You really have not made much of the message at all.

Now in this case Peter it is not putting his foot in it. He is asking for clarification. Peter is actually saying to Jesus well how often do we forgive? Then Jesus tells the parable of the talents.  What Jesus is doing, is that he is saying: this is how it works, in a practical sense. And this parable is not a mystery.  There really is no mystery in here. Sometimes the parables have to be explained, like the parable of the sower. One can interpret the parable of the sower in whole variety of ways. But this one, you don’t have to interpret, it is very clear. If you don’t forgive then God is not going to forgive you! And why should he? If you are not prepared to extend the same mercy that has been shown to you, then why would you expect to receive it at all?

If we look quickly at Paul. In the last couple of verses, he is reinforcing that idea of forgiveness. Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but judge this rather that no man put a stumbling block in his brothers or sisters way for an occasion of falling. So in other words let’s make sure that we don’t put something in their way that will make them sin. So rather than condemning them, let’s make sure that they don’t get into the situation where they are condemned.  He’s also talking about mercy. Not forgiveness in the pure sense that Jesus was talking about in the gospel, it’s about making sure that we don’t do anything that will cause another to sin.

He then goes on to talk about things that are clean and unclean. When you talking about things that are clean and unclean, you’re talking about the Mosaic Law. The Jewish law about what you can and can’t eat. Which is why in the beginning he is talking about food. Now remember the other thing about Paul is that he is a very scholarly man.  He was a Pharisee, he was well trained in the Jewish Scriptures. He could probably quote from them with his eyes shut. So he knows and he understands the law, and is teasing out the Scriptures and then applying it to life. He links them together all the time. He’s saying: this is the law, this is how Christ filled the law, and this is how you live as a Christian. In this sense his very practical although on occasions he can be convoluted and to our ears, difficult to comprehend.

So forgiveness, mercy and the presence of the Lord are all linked in ways that we sometimes lose sight of. But tied together they are, and we would do well to recall this, as we go about living our lives and in our interactions with others.  Amen.