Trinity 7 – Romans 8 26-29, Matthew 13:31-33,44-52
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen
`When you look at our extract from Romans set for today, it is very easy to be in awe of St Paul’s confidence, hope and assurance in God. He ends our reading with a wonderful and very well known statement about how he is convinced that despite a whole list of forces ranked up against us – there really is nothing that is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. What a list of forces it is. Death, life, angels, rulers, powers, height, depth, and any other creatures…
In the battleground of the average Christian life that list sounds like everything the world has to throw at us and more. We are going to think through why Paul included these in his list and what we can learn and apply to ourselves, particularly in reference to our confidence in our faith in God, and our hope in all Jesus did for us.
So Paul starts his list of forces, over which we are more than conquerors – that is forces that God is greater than – with death. Probably he starts with death as this finishes off the thrust of the theme embedded in most of the last three chapters of Romans. In a nutshell, this is that those in Christ, who share in Christ’s death, also share in his resurrection and for them dying should hold no fears. The reason that death should hold no fears is through the hope we have in the promise of eternal life with God. There is no harm in repeating again the teaching that this hope and promise is just as relevant and there for us today as it was in the time of Paul. It should be a source of great strength and hope to us as it was to Paul. For a Christian – all life has worth and purpose. As Christians we have something really substantial in this and something that it is helpful, hope-filled and meaningful to share with others
Having dealt squarely with death, Paul goes on to life. This is one of two references in the list of forces to our experiences of life. These experiences no matter how tough it gets cannot separate us from the love of God. I think this first reference may be more about the trials and temptations of life and the choices we have. In a Paul like fashion I think he is particularly pointing to our weaknesses and temptations. I think that this reference helps us to remember that even when we have made wrong choices, given into temptation and come back to God with heavy hearts, asking for his forgiveness – that forgiveness is always there. I will come back to the other aspect of life – enduring what life has to thrown at us when we talk about things present shortly.
Next on Paul’s conquered forces list somewhat surprisingly is angels. What Paul actually believed here is interesting. Times were very different. Today we tend to view Angels as a very positive force, but then the devil is just a fallen angel… One commentator I read said – Paul believed in ‘Nameless forces which threaten the creator’s work and purpose, and that these were in the end impotent before the God over all’. Paul is reassuring us that spiritual forces opposed to God cannot get in the way of God’s love for us. That sounds good to me
Paul then goes on to in his forces list to something we can better understand – that is rulers. Clearly from time to time Paul fell foul of the authorities, but Paul is clear that God is greater and bigger and more important than any rule, reign or government.. It is an interestingly subversive way of looking at things. Where worldly rulers get in the way we need to concentrate on God’s love for us first and foremost.
Then Paul moves on to things present. This is the second reference to life. I think it would be fair to say that there were times in Paul’s ministry when the going, the present, got pretty tough. He was beaten, imprisoned, and eventually put to death for his faith. From what we read about him, he seems to have had a very optimistic and encouraging heart, despite all that happened to him. He seemed to rise above his personal circumstances. Maybe because of his confidence in God – that God was with him in things present and there was bright hope for tomorrow. I think this helps us to remember in our things present, no matter how bleak and black it looks to us currently, God is still with us in it. God’s love surrounds and supports us on every step (not just when the going is good) and this helps us remember that God is there in the every day. This again should be a source of inspiration based on God’s love for us, irrespective of how tough it is… If that’s you currently, struggling with each and every day and all seems bleak and black – Think on…. and be assured – God loves each of us and loves us more and more.
Having talked about the here and now – Paul then focuses on things to come. Paul is very conscious of the dimension of time and how God is beyond time and our limited understanding. For Paul and for us, God was there at beginning, is there now and will be there for evermore – our Creator and Sustainer. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our fears about what tomorrow, next week, next year will bring with all the uncertainty of our current times. I think this is particularly true at the moment. It is worth remembering that these things no matter how alarming, frightening, or devastating it has been or it gets they cannot separate us from God’s love for us.
And then Paul turns his attention to powers not interfering with God’s love for us. Here powers are separated from rulers. Again we are guessing at Paul’s motivation here…. Perhaps he was showing that power can be vested in many people and things without them being ‘in power’ so to speak. Use and abuse of power in our society and our lives is a very thorny issue. I think we need to be very conscious of our use of any power we have and be diligent and compassionate in our use of it…
So from powers to the last three forces Paul uses. The first two of these are really dimensions – It starts with height and depth. Paul is using the spatial and astronomical terms of his day to describe the full sweep of things visible and invisible to the human eye. He goes on ‘nor anything else in all creation’ – a final catch all statement to cover anything not included in the list we have been working through. Meaning frankly and anything else you can think of. This tunes with his underlying message that God is more than and greater than anything we can imagine.
That concludes our tour through the forces that cannot separate us from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ our Lord. I remain in awe of Paul for his confidence, hope and audacity to make this statement in the first place. But I hope we will all reflect on how much God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord, and how our confidence, and hope can be lifted and our resolve strengthened by remembering this verse. Paul said – For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Maybe as some homework we might want to take Paul’s list which is death, life, angels, rulers, powers, the present, the future, height, depth, and any other creatures… and think through how each of his forces applies in our life and the weak points. As we undertake this exercise note any additional things that come to mind, or that the Holy Spirit moves us to consider. The resulting list would be different for each of us, help us to act more wisely and own up to our own limitations better, and identify situations where more prayer is regularly needed to help us on our journeys. But the truth is the same – Nothing, but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, AMEN.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
We can’t seem to be able to get enough of TV shows where panels of experts judge others. It all started with singing and dancing, but now reaches into the world of diving, ice-skating, pottery, baking, sewing, gardening, interior design and decorating and so forth. Sometimes the idea is that the people who act as judges also act as coaches for groups of contestants – which immediately adds bias (most visible on the X-factor in my opinion!). Sometimes just the judges have a say. Sometimes they are real experts in their field (but not always!). We have the spectacle of sewing or pottery or baking where it becomes about what can be achieved against the clock! I have yet to meet anyone who does these things for pleasure were speed of production is the most important characteristic, but in these shows the successful contestant needs to be talented as well as fast! Sometimes the public at large is also required to sit in judgement with phone or app voting as Big Brother – daddy of all reality shows had it – You decide. This can add another dimension into these judgements. At times I am mystified by what the voters like in relation to what I saw! We all add our own ideas, conceptions and biases to this process. This is probably the time to confess – I would probably count as a bit of a strictly super fan! (Oh dear), and sometimes it is more about the demographic that watches and votes than anything else!
That rather tricky parable we heard as our gospel today is also about judgement. Like many of Matthew’s parables its complicated. This time again like last week’s we get the story straight and then a few verses on the explanation of what it is about. I never think a parable is going to be an easy one when it contains the phrase ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. So let’s start at the beginning.
Good seed is sown by the farmer in his field and weeds by an enemy of the farmer. Where does this start and what does this say to us – Having an enemy in the first place has a part to play. As Christians trying to build for peace and harmony with our neighbours and not building up distrust and emenity in our relationships is important. Getting to the point where we would describe someone as our ‘enemy’ is quite far gone and is pretty strong language. Let’s find a way of peace of reconciliation long before that….
But if we have got to the place where the farmer had it is too late for that. The seed is sown so to speak. The first the farmer would have known is when the crop began to grow and both things sprouted. I find it it interesting that both good and evil grew up together. When we know something is not good – we often try and nip it in the bud so to speak. This is not advised here. A commentary I read said the weed in question was probably something called Darnel, which had an intricate root system. This would have surrounded the simpler root system of the wheat, which would have made it impossible to pull up just the weeds at an early stage… In life yet we often observe a mix like this – great good alongside great evil. The individual stories of heroism in times of great conflict – speak into this. Good fruit has come despite the conflict. There is some truth that the very great difficulties of our current circumstances have also brought some good fruit. If only the realisation about the importance of love, care and our relationships, and what really matters in life has been reset!
This story speaks to the reality – that we live in a world where the good can be readily alongside the bad. Eventually there is a time of judgement that will come where in the story the weeds and the wheat were separated. Ultimately there will be a time of judgement but it is between us and God. I am confident that this judgement will be in the heart of our loving God and will start and end with love and God’s complete love of us as we are – knowing God’s love for us is merciful and compassionate. In a way this parable also calls us to account on our judging of others. Having the wheat and the weeds growing together as they were should also make us realise we need to be very careful when in the judging business – sticking with how we want to be treated and being in the loving others business. As a national church we probably need to spend less time sitting in judgement and more time loving people into the kingdom and demonstrating God’s love in all its fullness, and what a life lived in the hope of God’s love for us is all about.
Where I go next in this talk is really about using our judgement discerningly in our lives than specifically the story of the wheat and the weeds. To help us in this area – Jesus recommends earlier in Matthew’s gospel that we treat others as we would want to be treated – Not judging or evaluating unfairly
Just the word judging has a negative in society today and though we may not be saying it negatively, it often feels closer to condemning. It does not have the same connotations as the word Jesus used which also meant evaluate, discern, separate and decide. None of those have the I’m ok you’re not realm of judging. The knack here is to use our ability to evaluate and discern properly and fairly. We have the capacity to make judgements and we need to make those we need to wisely, being careful to keep away from condemning others (and the I’m ok you’re not territory). We need to stay in the territory of the merciful as we would want people to be merciful with us.
If it helps – We will probably remember another story Jesus told of a servant who was forgiven a big debt, who then condemned his fellow servant for a much smaller one. Needless to say this episode as did our story today ended with wailing and gnashing of teeth!
A couple of years ago Fraser Dyer, who is a priest I met in London wrote a book called Who are we to judge – with the sub title – empathy and discernment in a critical age. I met Fraser a few times and found him a very interesting and intriguing person. So I bought the book. It turned out to be a very challenging read, so much so that I remember I read it and then I read it all the way through again, and it asks us to go back to first principles. To move away from judgementalism and to move towards being discerning with love.
One bit of it I particularly liked was when he was addressing the teaching of Jesus about judgement. Fraser reminds us of our tendency to use the phrase – ‘I’ll let God be the judge of that’. (Regrettably we usually say that when we are making a value judgement of the very sort we shouldn’t!). We should be letting God be the judge of it! And letting go of it of course
Fraser felt that our judgement of others can be unreliable as it is often an expression of our own fears, anxieties and insecurities and that it doesn’t come close to the pure judgement demonstrated by Jesus or that we will recognise from God one day when our time comes. If we recognise our judgement comes through the distorted lens of our own needs or experiences it helps us to be suspicious of it. Likewise it can come from a place of self-centredness where we put ourselves and our perception of our needs first and not God’s heart for us and God’s way. Christian living is all about setting self to one side and putting God at the heart of our daily lives. So that does mean at the very least we need to be cautious, careful and loving in approaching judgements we have to make.
Fraser also eloquently puts it – Jesus is offering us fullness of life. Life in which we flourish and grow as we become more like him, but religious judgementalism today so easily works against such abundant living, crushing the spirit and inhibiting the sometimes fragile work of inching towards wholeness. At its worst human judgementalism is self-centred, obsessed with how well or badly others match up to our expectations. Christ calls us out of ourselves and invites us to place God at the heart of our consciousness.
All of this is easy to say and not easy to do – but Jesus sets us a challenge and shows us what is best for us. Thinking about our judgements in relation to God’s judgement is about seeing ourselves clearly and being self aware – not just of what we are good at and where we have much to offer, but also on where our faults and failings are. Again, this is about the heart of our actions and our motivations matching what we believe and realistically knowing who we are as a beloved child of God.
So the next time we may be heard saying – I’ll let God be the judge of that – Let’s make sure we do just that. Amen
I am going to end with some prayers I found related to our gospel story. Pause and pray in the silence before the sentence – Lord in your mercy and the response – Hear our prayer
Lord Jesus, give us the courage to try and change only those things that you would have us change. Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer
Lord Jesus, give us the grace to accept other people who are different from us.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer
Lord Jesus, give us the vision to share in your vision that all the world may be one. Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer
Lord Jesus, give us the wisdom to be patient with those around us – kind compassionate and loving. Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer
Lord Jesus, give us the strength to work for the healing in our own communities. Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer
Loving Lord, hear our prayers and let your Spirit prepare us with joy for that great day when you will harvest the seed that you have sown among us.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
Fraser Dyer – Who are we judge – SPCK – 2015
Trinity 5 – Rev Alison Way
Romans 8:1-11 and Matthew 13:1-9. 18-23
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen
I want to begin by telling you a story about some plants. I am almost certainly the least green fingered person you will ever meet. Many people love gardening – it is not my bag at all. However, for the first time ever in my life my current house has a green house!
My gardening help (thanks to Colin for helping me to find them) was very keen I grow some things in the afore mentioned green house and back at the end of April– some plants arrived…
I was instructed to water them. I was a bit over keen to start with and overdid it abit, but I soon found a healthy level – and I have watered the tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, geraniums (and here is the result)
But the star so far has definitely been the courgette plant.
From what you saw earlier to now the growth has been huge….. And I have now had half a dozen courgettes to eat – and clearly there are more. Though I had eaten plenty of courgettes I had no idea how they grew before this. Huge leaves, tasty vegetables and so much from one plant. And just because I was given it and have taken the time to nurture and water it!
This has really surprised me (I know many of you will have grown things for years – but for me it has been quite a revelation!). All it needed was a little Tender Loving Care TLC and water every day…. A simple but true story
Jesus told stories – as a way to share his message and often stories about the natural world and growth. We get this kind of content for the gospel for the next few weeks. Sometimes we just get the story and are left to puzzle out what it means for ourselves. This is not always easy for us, because we are not Jesus original audience. We live in different times with different customs and cultures. Jesus used the every day – and what was every day in his day is very different from ours!
On other occasions as with this one, we get the story from Jesus and then an explanation. In this instance – Jesus says it is all about how people respond to what Jesus calls the word of the kingdom – (The news of God’s love Jesus had come to share to change everything).
Let’s take a closer look at the explanation and what Jesus is driving at for us today in our very strange times. This is going to be applied to these times – to help us understand how we approach the word of the kingdom for us and how day by day it changes things
If we start with Jesus being the sower, as Penny was telling as a couple of weeks ago – He was scattering his message, his purpose, his meaning far and wide! In every sense of a broad cast with his seed being his message. This is interesting as the breadth of this is a big contrast to a narrower view often espoused in Matthew’s gospel and that Jesus message was first and foremost for the Jews of his day!
Another way of understanding the seed is for it to be a reference to the people hearing his message and how we respond is governed by where it lands.. There were 4 options in the story
On the path
On the rocky ground
In among the weeds and thorns
On the good soil we bear much fruit
Let’s dig abit deeper into these in turn: –
Starting with seed landing on the path – which Jesus equates with hearing but not understanding and then being easily snatched by the evil one!!! Uncomfortable language – here. The inference here according to one of my commentaries is caused by the hardness of heart of the listener or holding an unreceptive attitude.
We all know what it is like to try to persuade someone of a different point of view when their mind is firmly already made up. We will have been in our lifetimes both the person who is trying to persuade and the person not giving an inch!!! In my in-tray at the moment is all the paperwork, guidance and requirements for opening for public worship. In there are some things we are going to find extremely difficult! which cut across some things I have some very set views about. And yet being stuck and rigid about stuff really doesn’t help us. Being hard hearted and unreceptive – not attributes that sit comfortably with living with a Christian heart of love. This will be a balancing act of doing the things that keep us the safest whilst maintaining our focus on worshipping our loving God together
As we travel together on the journey to public worship I am and we are going to have to accept some things that aren’t as we would want them to be. In some cases some very cherished things whilst staying open-hearted and receptive to God’s Spirit about them!
I am not particularly fond of the language of the Evil one – but there is evil out there and it’s in the slippery slope territory. Particularly if we succumb to being closed, unreceptive and hard hearted. This story reminds us that sort of behaviour leaves that particular door wide open – enough said I think!
Let’s move on to thinking about the seed landing on the rocky ground. From the story and explanation this shows the message was heard – with an initial joyful response (so the ears were open and we are not unreceptive) but it doesn’t take root. Then with the first difficulties that come along we fall away… We would describe this as falling at the first hurdle! As a whole you could characterise our society as having a common malaise, which has the rather impressive name of “cognitive dissonance”. What this means is that at times we consciously avoid the ‘difficult’
People walk away from things, people, relationships, family rather than staying and doing the hard yards to make it work. We want to believe the myth that life can be all ups (and no downs or difficulties) – all roses round the door and apple pie. That just isn’t real life. (Life has ups and downs! It is the way it is!)
Clearly we have been living in times where this will have been very difficult to maintain. Yet it is quite pervasive too. Putting things in the ‘too hard’ category or the Easier not to box – generally does not do us a lot of good. Knowing where are roots are not strong is helpful, and praying for the strength we need is important if we are having rocky times. Relying on God’s love for us for what we need today is important (remembering that is need and not want!)
The next option was seed that fell among the weeds and thorns. Again the message is heard, so we are not unreceptive or hard hearted or blown in the breeze with insufficient roots, but (and there is always a but coming isn’t there) other things get in the way. Particularly in this instance the cares of the world and the lure of wealth. These areas in our life can get in the way of our hearing Jesus message and living the way he wants us too.
Both are addressed in the Sermon on the mount earlier in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus said – Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
We are living in a time of heightened and pretty much global anxiety. When we get anxious we are literally wired to fight and flight – not reason carefully. Things can overwhelm us, which on a day when we are feeling less anxious we wonder why they did… In the first letter of Peter – is written a verse that will help us with setting this right
Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.
Acknowledge it, pray with it, tell God how we feel, but don’t let anxiety consume us and disable us from what God wants of us.
The other side of the proverbial coin here as seed landing in the thorns and weeds is the lure of wealth. Earlier in the sermon on the mount – Jesus said
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
My life experience says that what we hold close to our hearts shows on the outside to others in how we approach our lives. When that is love, generosity, kindness and compassion – we shine with God’s love. When that is about acquisition or getting rich quick, all sorts of things show on the surface which are not so good!
The final place the seed can fall is on the good soil. Where we hear, and we understand, and we live the life God has for us. We live open heartedly and applying what God asks of us! In these circumstances we bear fruit. Fruit often way beyond what we expect. Numerous times I have been blown away and heartened by fruit that has come along. And all the more so when it has been surprising and overflowing. Staying with being open-hearted, generous and intentional about living the way God says is best for us.
This is abit like my courgette plant where we started these thoughts today – it has yielded growth and fruit with a little TLC from me
The parable of the sower cautions against not listening, being unyielding, giving up at the first hurdle, being distracted by the cares of the world, or the acquisition of wealth.
In the challenges in the days and weeks ahead in the way our worshipping life together will look and feel different or if we have to make the difficult choice not to attend public worship – let’s stay in the open-hearted, generous and intentional place of God’s love for us . God can and will encourage growth in us that will dwarf even the growth of my courgette plant – and be all the more impressive
God has given us the greatness and wonder of his love and all the TLC we need through Jesus love for us and the Holy Spirit’s work to stay on the journey – seeking the good soil with open praying hearts, engaging in following his path and not distracted by anxiety or the acquisition of wealth.
God in his faithfulness will give us the strength we need this day and every day (as well as the hymn says bright hope for everlasting tomorrows). Amen
Great is thy Faithfulness – Thomas Obadiah Chisholm and William Marion Runyan – played by John Beaven on the video.
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
CCLI – Song reproduced and streaming license under CCLI 217043 for St Peter and St Paul Church, Wincanton
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995
Romans 7:15-25a and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Alison Video: – https://youtu.be/6foXS7L8bvg
Bishop Peter Video: – https://youtu.be/8kzoXeP52Zo
In the name of God, Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen
Both of our readings today in different ways tune in to making judgements about our behaviour. The gospel started with Jesus describing the judgements people made of him and his behaviours – describing him as a drunkard, glutton and associating with the sinners and tax-collectors. Then St Paul’s letter to the Romans describe Paul’s judgements of himself and his own behaviour choices.
The Romans reading reminded me of a sign I saw in a Church Primary School a few years ago, which said – Your behaviour is your responsibility. We all know around children the ease with which they can say to one another “So and so made me do it” – especially when we have been found out. But frankly I have also seen us adults behaving like this too!!! This is all a question of self-control
What is self control? – Self-control at its simplest is exercising control over your feelings or actions, or restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires. In more spiritual language, we probably most think of it as the active effort we put forth to resisting temptations that are not God’s way for us. A more positive take – Behaviour honouring of our love for God and God’s control on our lives.
The good news is that self-control is a fruit of the spirit identified by Paul in Galatians. Making it something that the Holy Spirit can help us with. Having said that: I also don’t want us to be left with the impression that I have got this completely sussed and am a shining squeaky clean example of this in my life! Thankfully the words of Paul today resonate in my life and our lives as much as they did in his – Paul says this in Verse 15 – I do not understand what I do – For what I want to do I do not do but what I hate I do.
The next piece of what he says goes something like this – He longs to do the right thing but ends up doing completely the other – the wrong thing. It’s not a one off he does this over and over again. He is still vulnerable to temptation, just as we are. Weakness and wrong doing where we should have greater self-control are his struggle just as much as these things are our struggle too
Struggling with self-control is not a new problem – classical philosophers had issues here too! Conceptually it was introduced by Socrates 2400 years ago. Plato set it in opposition to overindulgence in both food and sex. Even Aristotle discussed the difference between a person who has powerful passions but keeps them under control and the person who does not deliberately choose the wrong but has no strength to resist temptation.
I can’t speak for you but I often find Paul’s take on things difficult. In this instance however we can grasp it as in Romans Paul understands himself and his lapses in self-control very well. What a wretched man I am he says in verse 24 of Romans 7 – Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
Paul’s answer to this question is Jesus saving love for us on the cross, and this is the bridge to our gospel reading too. God’s mercy and forgiveness and our deliverance and our need for thankfulness are Paul’s answer, and to live lives in response to that is Paul’s answer. Here is a deep truth we celebrate as Christians, that if we acknowledge our weaknesses and mistakes and are sorry we can put them behind us as God forgives us and we can start again. For in God’s eyes that is already done and done in and through Jesus Christ
Working on self-control is not the path to punishing times of hard labour to make up for our past mistakes or present weaknesses, or agonising over our faults, living with crippling guilt, and struggles of trying to do enough to earn a pardon. What needs doing is done already in Jesus. To use the language of many of our hymns and songs. The debt is cleared. The price is paid. The slate is wiped clean. God loves us and bids us welcome, forgiveness is ours for the asking. We need only to reach out and receive – but there is more here even than this amazing merciful forgiveness.
The second half of the words of Jesus we heard today in our gospel are a call to simplicity in our faith (and not making it difficult or just for the elite and learned). This was a tide very much against the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. The religious practice of the day was very complicated – One commentary I read said daily life as a pharisee was governed by 613 rules!! Imagine living constrained like that. The sheer effort to remember all those rules would limit virtually any action
Our Bible’s translate the end of verse 25 as infants, but many other translations make it the childlike or as children. The inference here is that the wise and intelligent do not receive the good news of Jesus Christ so readily, because they can become proud and puffed up in their wisdom and can be unreceptive regarding the new and the unexpected. Being childlike enables us to be unself-conscious, dependent and receptive, and be more open to the unexpected and swings and roundabouts of life. It can also help us to stay deeply rooted to God’s merciful and everlasting love for us.
Moving on to verse 27 and the heart of our gospel reading
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
We are heading into much more difficult territory to understand here. Jesus is explaining his unique place in the world – Fully God and fully human. In this instance he is explaining His relationship to God the Father. He alone is the one through whom God reveals himself to us. He is the only mediator of knowledge of the Father and of God’s saving purposes for us. It is important for us to really digest this and take this to heart.
Our part in this is our ability to recognise Jesus’ unique role – The significance of Jesus and his opening out of his kingdom on earth to us. Our realisation of this changes our lives as we invite Jesus into our hearts and he moulds us through his spirit’s work in us and through us. Are we joining with Paul’s sentiments with giving room in our hearts for Jesus love for us to be first and foremost? Are we being thankful enough for that saving, amazing, eternal love – the ground of our beings?
The final part of our gospel reading today includes some deeply reassuring words of Jesus – so typical of his love for us – Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Jesus is contrasting his way of living on earth – Lightly, lovingly, with integrity and open-heartedness to the guidance of God’s spirit with the minutiae of rules and regulations (back at the 613 rules I was alluding to earlier) that governed religious observance of his day. Though it may sound like it a little – I don’t think this is Jesus saying follow me and have an easy life. He is saying follow me and have a fulfilled life in him
Being a Christian is challenging and far from an easy option, but depending on Jesus will give both us life and the rest we need to follow his unique plan for us. The version of these words from the message makes this clearer I think:-
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. (I think he means meaning and purpose and hope etc) I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I particularly like in that – learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Grace is a RHYTHM that is governed by God and does not change. We can do nothing to earn it, and is not about our worthiness of it. From Jesus’ fullness of life, his coming to earth, dying and rising again – Fully God and fully human – we have all received grace upon grace.
There is a constant movement or waves of this grace in our hearts and lives. I like the analogy of the waves on the shore for grace. One wave comes in as another is going out. The ebbing and flowing of the waves of grace leads to deep transformational change that shifts our observations of reality. Those shifts change our perceptions, our interpretations, our thoughts, feelings, judgements, and actions, helping us to live, grow and depend on God’s love for us more and more.
End with a prayer – let us pause and then pray
God of many names, gracious in your loving, merciful in your judgements, steadfast in your faithfulness to us, compassionate to all: may we always be thankful for all you have done, from creation to the end of time, and into the eternity of your rest; may we always sing your praises, speak of your greatness, and bring glory to you by our actions. Gracious, merciful, steadfast, compassionate, loving God.
Come to God, all who are weary and tired. Come to God, all who are burdened by life. Come to God, all who feel trapped and underappreciated. For you will find: the rest you need, the peace you seek, and the love you long for. Come to God, in Jesus Christ. Amen
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
The Message: The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
Prayer adapted from rootsontheweb.com ©