Friday 28 November 2014

Sermon Extra 12- 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Last Sunday after Pentecost: The 'Reign' of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace!

Last Sunday after Pentecost: The 'Reign' of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace!

“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10

Well the meeting of the world leaders in Brisbane has ended. The pressing international issues seem to be somewhat unaddressed. We want these issues addressed, but it doesn't look like much is going to change it seems a case of “Same ole, same ole.” Some people claim the most efficient government is a benign dictatorship. Such a ruler, with people’s best interests at heart, can cut through indifference, selfishness and powerful interests to get things done. A benevolent dictator can act quickly to the benefit of needy people. We know such dictatorships do not exist. Even if such a leader did exit with the best of intentions, eventually power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Self-interest soon takes over and the people’s best interests are pushed aside. In this light we can say that only God is the “benign ruler” who really has our best interests at heart and will DO something about them.
This is the last Sunday of the church's liturgical year and it sounds a triumphant but not a triumphalist note. So we celebrate and remember that there is no power that can match the loving power of God. Our reading from Ezekiel (34: 11-17) is about God not as King, but as Shepherd. For Israel, God was envisioned as a Shepherd who would protect, lead and defend the people with gentle strength and compassion. Ezekiel was sent by God to condemn the kings of Israel who were the opposite of 'good shepherds'. They were more like 'selfish dictators' who would do anything to stay in power. As a result of their evil thirst for power the flock of Israel had been scattered and taken into Babylonian exile. God had Israel’s best interests at heart and promises to rescue the people from their exile. Not only will God bring them back, but will continue to help them. God rebukes Israel’s leaders and promises to take charge and tend to Israel’s future, promising to bring the flock back from exile. God’s help will not end there, but will continue to care for them by raising up a 'just shepherd'. God is guaranteeing to DO something to help them.
Matthew’s Gospel (25: 31-46) gives us the last of Jesus' parables, which describes the 'last judgement'. God has fulfilled the promise God made to Israel in Jesus - the long-anticipated Shepherd King. He (the Son of Man) takes his place on the throne of judgment surrounded by his court - a lot like the ancient Near Eastern courts. He now shares his glory with his loyal followers. This is not the typical distribution of treasures and bounty to people of rank. The loyal servants of this King are those whose deeds matched the deeds of the King; who acted with compassion towards the poor, sick, homeless, prisoners, and strangers - all those whom Jesus calls 'the least'. This scene should not come as a surprise to Jesus’ hearers who knew the prophetic tradition. The Shepherd of Israel, as described by Ezekiel, will be concerned about “the lost... the strayed… the injured… the sick.” It is striking that Jesus in the parable does not note how many times one has celebrated the liturgy. His primary concern are the deprived of the kingdom. If our liturgical celebration is authentic it should help us to see with compassion the needy and be strengthen to DO something for them. All the baptised, are called to this mission. If we fail to be these signs we cannot claim any special privilege or membership in the kingdom. It is clear from the parable that there are many who will have never heard of Christ who discover they have been part of God’s kingdom, because they acted mercifully towards God’s favourites - the poor.
Matthew has provided a vision of what Christ’s true Church looks like. This parable is stark and should rouse our attention. Are we living a gospel of convenience? Have we just defined our religious observance by what we do each Sunday in church? The parable makes it clear that worshiping Jesus in church and saying prayers at home must be accompanied by devotion to him in the world. This parables shows us the priorities of Jesus. We can tell how we are doing as individual Christians and as a Church by whom we love. God loves all people and we, who were created in God’s image, must be willing to share that love with all, especially those who are not able to return that love. In the parable, those who are welcomed into the kingdom did not recognise they were DOING anything for Christ or acting in his name. They shared what they had with those who had nothing. We all know people like that. They may not be in the pews with us on Sunday, but they are with us making sandwiches for street people on Monday. Still, it helps to be

What soever you do to the least of these my little ones

Monday 17 November 2014

23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached at Winmalee by Br Simeon on  Sunday 16th November 2014:


23rd Sunday after Pentecost year A.

In today’s gospel we heard the parable of the talents.  Which on the surface seems a little harsh.  We all know, if not worked for, people like the master.  I must admit I have some sympathy for the slave who simply hid the money and returned it.  Of course that slave is the one who did not use the talent he was given and so his reward is appropriate, albeit harsh.

What is Jesus trying to tell us here?  That we should go out and invest what money we have and make more?  That sounds like it might be wavering into the prosperity preaching.  No I don’t think Jesus is talking about money.  True the word talent in the biblical sense means a measure of weight.

Roughly the weight of the amount of liquid it took to fill an amphora.  And yes I suppose we could look at the parable in that sense.  But we can also move beyond such a literal use of the word into one where we understand the word in the sense of gift.  And if we use this sense, then the parable has a whole different purpose.

The master has given his slaves gifts that they are to use in the growing the masters domain.  We are not told what the gifts are, just that different slaves have different ones.  The master has an expectation that they will use those gifts to the best of their ability and create growth.  Two of the three do this, the third does not.

The master doesn’t expect anymore, than what he believes each slave is capable of, but he does expect some sort of return.  Which is why the slave who simply hid his gift, and did not use it, is treated with such disdain.  Now so far I’ve been careful not to draw us into the parable, but that’s about to change! And I strongly suspect you all knew it was coming.

We have all been given gifts.  We all have different abilities and strengths. Some of us are very good at things that others couldn’t even start to do.  The best example perhaps is an artist, some people have the gift of drawing, while others no matter how hard they might like to have the gift, simply don’t.

But having the gift is only the first part of the equation.  The gift has to be used in order to be developed and to be of benefit to the person and others.  If the artist doesn’t draw, then the art that they could create remains hidden, buried, and underutilised. Sound familiar?

So what is the gift you have?  Are you using it or is it hidden away were no one can see it.  of course some people have great difficulty in understanding what their gifts are.  They are so blinded by those of the others, or in their own fears that they lose sight of the precious thing they have been given.  Remember what the third slave said “I was afraid so I went had hid your talent in the ground”.  I suspect that slave had a severe lack of self-confidence.

Yes it is easy to give into the fear of: “No I can’t do that”, but this will not see the gift grow.  We need to be like the other 2 slaves.  Take our gifts, gird up our loins and use the gifts to the enrichment of the gospel and for ourselves.  And when we do this, who knows what we could and would achieve.

When God says to you, so tell me my child, what use did you make of the gifts I gave you?  I know what I’d like my reply to be.  Do you what yours would be?

Br. Luke

Monday 3 November 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost - Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br. Simeon on Sunday 2nd November 2014:


“Do and observe whatever the scribes and Pharisees tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are performed to be seen . . .
“The greatest among you must be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

A teacher asked the children in her Sunday School class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and give all the money to the church, would I get into heaven?” “No!” The children all answered.
“If I cleaned the church everyday, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I then get into heaven?” Again, the answer was “NO!”
“Well,” she continued, “then how can I get into heaven? In the back of the room, a five year-old boy shouted, “You gotta be dead!”

In  today's Gospel Reading, [Mt. 23:1-12] we heard how Jesus denounced the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus began by stating that the scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses' seat, this meaning that they had the authority to teach the Law. As such, the people were required to obey the Law. Jesus was not attacking the Law but the scribes and the Pharisees who's teachings were not in harmony with their practice. They did not practice what they were preaching to the others.
Jesus had two complaints, the harshness in which the scribes explained the Law to the people and the conceit and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. When they explained the Law, the scribes would ignore the humane interpretation of it. While they commanded others to obey the Law without any deviation from it, they themselves were not doing it. Everything they did, it was to be seen.
Jesus continued to condemn the scribes and Pharisees for seeking the places of honour at feasts and in the synagogues. They loved to be greeted in the marketplaces. In those days, politeness demanded that the length of one's greeting correspond to the dignity of the person. By dressing as one who maintained a great devotion, the individual would draw longer greetings.
Having said this, Jesus condemned them for using the titles of rabbi, father and instructor. They should not be called rabbi because they have one teacher, they being student.

No one should be called father for they have one Father in Heaven. And they are not to be called instructor for the one instructor is the Messiah.
Based on this passage, some have taken it out of context and said that no one is allowed to be called father, not even the priests. First of all, in context with Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, while they sought to be called father, their actions fell short of coming close to what is expected of a spiritual father to the people. They did not deserve such a title.
Jesus did not condemn others from calling some people fathers. In fact, in the First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul referred to himself as the spiritual father of the Corinthians. "For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." [1 Cor. 4:15] Had the word father been condemned for everybody, surely, Paul would never have used it.
Jesus finished His message by saying that the greatest is the one who is the servant. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who are humble will be exalted. In other words, one should wait until such time as God grants him a place of honour. He should not be creating his own place of honour.
As you can see, the scribes and the Pharisees were not committed to sharing the love of God. They applied self-love! What did self-love get them? It received criticism from Jesus who is the Word of God. For us Christians to be committed to sharing the love of God, we must do the opposite of what the scribes and the Pharisees were doing. We must be humble! We must serve others! We must not draw attention to our prayer lives in order to receive worldly praise.

Having said this, I ask you all to prayerfully reflect this week on how you have committed your lives to sharing the love of God. Is there room for improvement? Is there a lack of sharing the love of God? Is the sharing of God's love too public, too self-seeking? Ask yourself how Jesus would judge your commitment to share God's love if He was present before you. And while doing so, I ask you  to pray for all of us so that we may all grow in the grace of God to become as shining lights in the world.