Telling the story.

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Luke 19:28 NRSV,_Cologne,_c._1520,_limewood_and_softwood,_polychrome_-_Museum_Schn%C3%BCtgen_-_Cologne,_Germany_-_DSC00072.jpg

And the story continues with the mysterious and improbable fetching of a donkey, the extoling of Jesus by the disciples, the laying down of cloaks and the waving of palms, and ends with the possibility of the rocks crying out praise.

The significance of each part of the story can be explained and obviously draws on the cultural knowledge of the community it was written for. What are we to do with this account today?

Maybe it speaks to you of the lifting up and honouring of Jesus, maybe the fickleness of the crowd of disciples who were later to desert Jesus or maybe the oneness of creation where the very rocks cry out and groan.

The story demands a response and we need to just sit and listen to the reactions.

It is good to know the significance of each part of the story but then we need to be prepared for a conclusion we might not expect. The intracacy of the story, when it is explained, how it weaves prophecy into the facts, could make you think, it probably didn’t happen. Could the story be conveying a truth about Jesus not a truth of history? It’s too clever. Has the literal event been embelished to convey a deeper truth?

The fact is, we are not the community this story was written down for. We Christians in the West, inherit the tradition that speaks a meaning to us from our past that is different to the original hearers’. We are not though in a culture where this is true anymore.

Today we need to realise that this tradition has lost its grip and need to listen to how God is speaking to people today, and where this story finds traction today. I suspect the drama still speaks and we need to let the drama speak, not explained it away. There is a time and place for this, but today I suspect it is likely to turn Jo Normal off. Let the drama speak.

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More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:8‭-‬11 NRSV

Paul’s drive is towards perfection based in a trust in the faithfulness of Jesus, not his own efforts. NT Wright renders verse 9 as, …a status that comes through the Messiah’s faithfulness. Which rings true to me as else Paul is setting up a new law based on our own faithfulness, our own efforts. And then he renders the end of verse 11, …so that somehow I may arrive at the final resurrection of the dead. The Jerusalem Bible renders it, …That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead.

We need to take on board all these readings. I don’t know the Greek but I do know that translators try to iron out problems with the text and present a uniform voice where one does not exist. I really see Paul wrestling here with the extremes of his experience of life, and I hear someone who has been tested to the limit grasping at the reality of being in Christ as his only hope. Somehow…

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Who are you?

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
2 Corinthians 5:18‭-‬19 NRSV

This is where my mind landed today in the readings. How inclusive are we prepared to be… where does reconciliation end?

We love Jesus and the simple message is; the righteousness we carry is: you are forgiven, and we get the privilege of speaking this out and living it out.

Our closest relationships, our deepest loves, can be the most difficult to be reconciled to. Yet God shows us the way. The people we are closest to sometimes bear the brunt of our unforgiveness and are our nearest and dearest enemies. Be reconciled, is not out there, but here and now.

Forain, Jean Louis, 1852-1931. Prodigal Son, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved March 27, 2022]. Original source:

The other readings were Psalm 32 and Luke 15, the story of the father and two sons. To imagine which of the two sons we identify with can be a spiritual exercise, but I am finding myself wondering which of the characters could be Jesus. If you imagine Jesus to be the father, the younger son or the older son the story starts to pulse. Now I need to add, just incase, I am seeing the failings of each, but imagining what it would be like if you saw Jesus as each… were the Pharisees seeing Jesus as the younger son… We see Jesus bound up in the heart of the father but do we relate to Jesus as if he were the older son? Blowing my own mind here.

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It’s not too late

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6‭-‬7 NRSV

We rejoice that today the sun is shining and after the meeting we can go for a walk and look forward to a light lunch and a relaxing afternoon. Tomorrow? This afternoon? In the coming hour? All could change but we have gathered to deepen our walk with God as best we can.

We have laid a foundation that knows the abundant grace of God if not ever so slightly and our hope is this will carry us through the uncertainties and fragility of the coming times.

…and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:2‭-‬4 NRSV

And we can hope for others that God knows them, is for them and walks with them.

We so easily want to limit God but it is God who is the source of abundance. He is not bound by the niceties of our understanding and the certainties of our convictions.

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV

The way he deals with each of us and stands with each one is as an individual. For all our right thinking God is sovereign, not our judgement. We need to be true to Christ and walk gently and wisely only loving. We should be liberating one another to drink from that rock who is Christ and shines in everyone. We bring a curse on ourselves when we strike to hard; we diminish our experience of God. Just love people and allow God to work.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9 NRSV

This is what the prophet hears God saying to him. And Jesus, knowing the hardship his message would bring and the times that were coming, warns his disciples not to be complaicant again and again.

There are terrible things happening in the world. They may befall us, we may be in the midst of them. God may seem far off, but we can draw on the depths of God and now, if it is the time of favour, we can go deeper in preparation.

Vincent van Gogh, In the Orchard, or, Gardener near a Gnarled Apple Tree.

The Gospel for today,

Luke 13:1‭-‬9 NRSV

has Jesus giving a stern warning to his followers to wake up and take stock of the times. Wherever we may feel we are God is offering us a fresh start.

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Our humiliation.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Philippians 3:20‭-‬21 NRSV

Is it alright to say at this time that light shines through the cracks? Humanity is evidently beautiful and capable of great love but also of inflicting great suffering. Is it an encouragement that in this crisis, the promise is, Christ will make all things subject to himself? We have to believe this to trust, He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.

Let us not limit God, but allow his light to shine through these times of brokenness by our actions…

…the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
1 John 2:17 NRSV

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