October 26, 2020
This week is one of those biblical stories that may be very familiar to you. To us, Jesus is simply echoing what we know in our heart of hearts – love God, love your neighbour. It seems so obvious! But it would not have been so to Jesus’ original hearers.
For the scribes and Pharisees (and thus for the people who were taught by them) the Law given by Moses from God was sacred. There were 61 laws in the Jewish Law but as scholars and rabbis interpreted these according to different times and circumstances, a huge body of oral tradition and oral law began to emerge. In Jesus’ days these unwritten community laws and traditions were beginning to be recorded. And the scribes and rabbis debated at some length about which of these were the most important. The Pharisees concluding that they all were; not one had precedence over another, as all came from God.
So what Jesus does is takes his hearers back to the first principles. To “love God” with heart, soul and mind, the fundamental creed of Judaism. Then directs them to the second command to “love our neighbour.”
What rigid laws or principles, what structures or attitudes need changing in society that people can better love God and love their neighbour?
And how might such changes in our society impact on our own lives?
October 21, 2020
In the reading this week from the gospel of Matthew, we are confronted with the Pharisees who are attempting to trap Jesus in his own words. Jesus, however, constantly turns the tables on his attackers often leaving them speechless and the bystanders amazed.
In this week’s reading Jesus’ opponents finally raise the subject of taxes. Of course, taxes have never been very popular in human history, and life in the Holy Land under Roman military rule was no exception. The Romans heavily taxed their occupied territories, and typically the local ruling aristocracy used any method possible to extort money from the lower classes. This is why tax collectors are especially hated characters.
In our passage, it is the dynamics of Roman occupation that create the opportunity for this line of questioning: if Jesus responds that it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, he will be deemed to be sympathetic to the ruling class. So how will Jesus respond?
October 12, 2020
This week in our gospel reading from Luke we find Jesus in a village between Galilee and Samaria. He has met a group of ten people with leprosy who cry out to him for mercy. In their sickness, in their loneliness, in their poverty, they reached out for help. Jesus responded in a way that far exceeded anything they could ever have expected. Instead of tossing them a few coins or bit of food (things which might Microsoft Word - Oct 11 202 Newsletter v1 seem to help but were really only answering the symptoms of their sickness) Jesus went to the problem itself, and healed them. For nine of the ten, this was where their encounter with Jesus ended. We hear nothing more about them. We hear nothing about what paths their lives took, not even how (or if) they took advantage of their new status as cleansed individuals. They were no longer outcasts but full and welcome members of society. Did they use their renewed contact with people in a positive way? They were cleansed, and the last picture we have is of them scurrying down the road (off to the priests who would certify their new condition). That is except for the one who found it in himself to return to Jesus in gratitude.
October 10, 2020
This week in Matthew’s gospel we find a story within a story. A parable of Jesus that leaves us asking all sorts of questions. Here Jesus tells of a vineyard owner who cared for and planted some grapes and waited to see what wonderful things would happen. There is a twist this time though which we know many good stories have. In the climax of the story Microsoft Word - Newsletter Oct 4 2020 v1
the vineyard isn’t simply left to wither away, but those who have been given the opportunity to tend the vineyard are found to be thieves and killers.
Then Jesus leaves the chief priests and elders to whom he is speaking with a question. What do they think the owner will do? Repay them? Get rid of them for good, and find someone who will do what they should have been doing in the first place?
It is a story with lots of twists and turns. With characters that we don’t like and morals that make us squirm. But it is also a story of the gifts that God gives to us to help us in this life. Safety nets for us to use so that our lives are the very best they can be. God provides grace upon grace upon grace.