‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome. Reconciliation is always hard—often the journey is divisive, painful and lengthy. Think Russians and Ukrainians, Israelis and Palestinians. Think Australia. Where do we see the face of God showing us the way? Today we work through three case studies. Isaac and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Family life was an ongoing struggle—Esau a hairy chested outdoor hunter was dad’s boy. Jacob doted on by his mother. When Esau discovered Jacob had cheated him of what was rightfully his he was furious, ‘After our father dies I will kill Jacob’ he muttered. John Schwerdt shares a family story of reconciliation. And the third case study?
“I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.” Is that how you feel? You might have a mortgage, a car loan, or a credit card debt. None of us like the feeling of being beholden to a bank. We long to be free of debt. Today Paul talks about a debt that we owe one another. It’s the debt of loving one another. This debt comes about because of the gratitude we owe our Father in heaven for cancelling the debt of our sin at the cost of his Son Jesus’ life. Filled with God’s Spirit and his grace, we are full of love, which is to be shared with others, starting with the Christian community. Jesus gives us practical advice about how to show love in the face of conflict. It’s not easy, but God’s love has the power to cover a multitude of sins, and we have the privilege of being agents of this love.
Have you ever received a letter from a loved one? They can be a great way to keep in touch with what's happening as well as reading about the love others have for you. St Paul wrote many letters to people around the Mediterranean region. He writes about love in action - with family, among other Christians and through hospitality towards others, especially strangers. Today, on Father's Day, we recognise the changing role of fathers in society and celebrate the love that fathers can share with their children across different family situations.
This is the question we are presented with in the gospel reading this week, and it is a question that is still vital for us to consider today. Peter's response, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," seems obvious - but what does this really mean? How do we find new life in the Son of God who came and dwelt with us; and how might confessing Him as Messiah change how we live our lives?
When we come up against problems that make us anxious, society says - “Believe in yourself”. We are told to be like the Little Engine That Could - “I think I can, I think I can - I did!!!” And on most days, Little Engine thinking works. But what happens when our despair is greater than our resources? A woman comes to Jesus. She’s at the end of her tether and she is desperate. Instead of looking inward to deal with this massive problem, she looks outside of herself. She looks to Jesus. “Son of David - have mercy on me,” she cries. Jesus’ disciples point out all the reasons why she shouldn’t be helped by him, but she just keeps on pleading and arguing her case. In the end, Jesus says, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs”. She doesn’t deny that she doesn’t deserve to be treated like a child at the family dinner table. But, she says, “Even the dogs get the scraps.” Her hope and faith is not wrapped up in her ability to cope, or her being a deserving recipient. Her hope is in Jesus. It’s ironic that this non-Jewish woman who shouldn’t have trusted in God was the one who Jesus points to as an amazing example of faith and hope. Where is your hope? Is it in your own ability to be the Little Engine That Could? Or is it in Jesus?
Sometimes life may get stormy and threatening and dangerous. All your attention and energy is used for coping, lasting the distance, surviving. And wondering where God is, and what he is doing. Finally, the calmness of his presence takes you over.
An esteemed theologian was once asked to sum up the greatest theological discovery that he had made. He carefully responded with these words: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” These words are simple yet profound, and they capture the heart of the good news, the treasure of God’s kingdom. It has been my greatest privilege to share this good news with you over the last six and a half years, and to see this faith active in love in and through you. As we launch our art exhibition “The Maker’s Image” today, remember that as we are made in the image of the creator, we are also creators, not just of art, but works of love and service, through the Holy Spirit. We live confidently in the promise that God is for us, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Weeding is one of those things that we must do if we want a neat and healthy garden. It’s an annoyance, but also strangely therapeutic as we bring order out of mess. However, today Jesus cautions against doing the weeding. He isn’t giving gardening advice but teaching about how to live in a world where good and evil co-exist. We all know the world is complicated and messy, and this drags us down. We want to fix it. We need to remember that God has it in hand. Jesus’ death and resurrection ensures that evil will come to an end. In the meantime, though, Jesus cautions us to wait patiently and to live as lights shining in the darkness, loving our enemies, and being signs of the grace and mercy of God’s kingdom.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a saying we learn as children, but we also quickly learn that it’s not true. We all know what it’s like to be condemned by the words and actions of others. We also feel condemned by the things we’ve done. Today the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They want to shame her and trap Jesus by seeing how he deals with her. Jesus shocks them by addressing them first, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They know they stand condemned, and so do we. We have all failed to live as God calls us to. What will Jesus do with us? Exactly what he did for the woman. “Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus backed up his words by taking on himself the condemnation that we deserve for our sin. That’s the heart of the good news. We’ve been set free from guilt and fear; now we know life and peace with God.