September 21, 2013

Jesus Is Teaching Us to Balance Law and Love in Our Lives (Proper 25c)

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is much deeper than a simple call to put our love of God above our love of money. It is a call to be wise in balancing the claims of law and love in our judgements and actions. At one extreme upholding the law without love is tyranny and destructive. At the other extreme, love without the law is chaos - and equally destructive. Balancing the apparently opposing claims of law and love in our daily lives is critical to our spiritual life.

1. Law without love is tyranny
How did you respond to the Parable of the shrewd manager? You might have been surprised to hear Jesus apparently suggesting dishonesty is good. Were you upset at the dishonesty of the manager? If you were, as I was, then you are probably reacting out of the “law” side of the “law - love” balance.
  • Law is good when it brings order to life. If there was no sense of trust in the law, modern commerce would cease to exist.
  • Law brings security into our lives – we know what to do / not do
  • God is a God of order. To see this you can just look at any part of creation - a tree, your hand or a flower. What you see is order - order based on rules or laws of nature. The best proof of the existence of God is the argument from creation. If creation follows laws, then there must be a creator who makes the laws.
  • Law is good but can become destructive if it is interpreted out of context and used to control or manipulate others
  • Narrow interpretations of law can lead to destructive actions. For example in the Parable, the manager would be fired and possibly without friends to help him get employment. This would be legally correct - but destructive to him as a person.
 2. Love without law is chaos
Imagine what would happen if every manager was full of love and just forgave all debts. This would be very loving - but there would be chaos. The system of commerce would collapse. Nobody would be willing to risk giving credit or lending money.

September 12, 2013

Sinners Test Our Love (Proper 24)

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a stinging criticism of a particular type of religious person. It is aimed at people who think they are better than others and have a right to judge others. This is a very natural human thing. I know I have done this and am probably not alone. Jesus is teaching us that judging others may be evidence of a failure to love. There is a distinction between judging in the sense of being aware of sin and condemning the sinner; and being aware of the sin and reaching out to the sinner with an offer of forgiveness. Many people in our time say they try to avoid judging altogether. This is actually more unloving than making a judgment and then reaching out to the lost person.

1. Notice the audience
We have to read the Bible very carefully. It is easy to skim over key words that can change the meaning of the text. We always have to read the text "in context".
  • What is going on?
  • Who is speaking? For example in the Gospel Reading it says Jesus told "them" a parable.
  • Who is this "them". If we look at the preceding verse (Luke 15.2) we are told the Pharisees were muttering about Jesus eating with sinners. My take on this is that Jesus is not talking to the "crowd" or the "sinners". Jesus is talking to the Pharisees.
  • To understand the Parable we need to ask how do the Pharisees relate to going after lost sheep?
  • The role of the Pharisees was to model strict religious behaviour in keeping the Law of Moses; and to teach this to the people by example. The goal was to prevent people from breaking the religious Law and become sinners. Being human they tended to think they were more holy or more religious than others. This attitude of judgment was scaring people and separating them from the people.
  • There was no love in their judgment. It was preventing them from helping those who had broken the Law to repent and change their behaviour. They were not going out after the lost sheep. They were being their own little holy huddle or elite flock of sheep. Jesus is condemning this as a failure to love.
2. Deep down were are all a little like the Pharisees

September 6, 2013

How to Discern Your Cross, Gifts and Ministry

Jesus is building a Ministry Team – just as we are at St. Magloire’s. He is warning his followers to count the cost before they commit to discipleship. Jesus is warning them that unless they love Him more than their families, their ministry as disciples may end in failure. My task at St. Magloire’s is to build a similar Ministry Team that can carry on the work of a full-time priest – without having a full-time priest, or even a part-time resident priest. I know you can do this work because you have done this already. The real challenge is to do this better. We can help more people discover their spiritual gifts, in consultation with others. I can work with Parish Council to assign responsibility for leadership in each ministry as we begin implementing the Strategic Plan. But first we have to heed the warning of Jesus to examine our lives for ‘crosses’ that could limit our success in a particular ministry.

 1. What are the crosses that limit our ministry?
A physical cross kills by limiting movement. Jesus teaches us that we must be ready to take up our cross and move. We must overcome our cross or we will not succeed in a ministry. Holy Spirit led ministry is limited by:
·         Feelings of Guilt and shame that poison our Spirit – can’t hear HS
·         Physical and emotional trauma - doorways to spiritual oppression
·         Personal losses, unresolved grief – sucks energy out
·         Un-forgiveness – a spiritual block to effectiveness
·         Anger, jealousy or bitterness can immobilize us spiritually
·         Pride, narcissism and self-centeredness blind us spiritually
·         Fear hardens our heart, narrows our view and limits effectiveness
These crosses may limit which ministries we will succeed in. They may indicate we should be a ‘helper’ in a ministry instead of the leader.
2. What are my spiritual gifts?