(a ‘targum’ of John 8:3-11)
3 The representatives of a group of churches brought in one of their churches which was caught in the act of blessing a same sex marriage. They made it stand before Jesus 4 and said to him, “Teacher, this church was caught in the act of blessing a same sex marriage. 5 In our understanding of our denominational processes, we have authority to discipline this church. We have spent two years drafting propositions to this effect, and some dare to want to edit our propositions. What then, do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to ensure that the gathered assembly kept their original wording exactly intact, not a jot and tittle amended or softened, lest anyone suspect them of being soft on sin.
But Jesus walked past the microphone and sat down next to the pastor and gay delegate from the accused church. 7 When they kept on asking him to speak, he walked to the microphone and said to them, “Let any church which has never blessed any other kinds of sin be the first to kick this church out of your union.” 8 Then again he sat down next to the pastor and gay delegate from the accused church.
9 At this, those who heard began to lay down their voting papers one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the pastor and gay delegate from the accused church sitting next to him. 10 Jesus motioned to the empty room and asked them, “Church, where are they? Has no one kicked you out of their group of churches?”
11 “No one, sir,” they said.
“Then neither do I shame you, condemn you, or kick you out of my family,” Jesus declared. “But now, go and no longer bless what is sinful.”
I’m currently doing a research essay on how the parable of the Good Samaritan has been preached in different times and contexts. Interpretation and preaching have traditionally centred on how the story presents three characters, one of who is the exemplary Samaritan.
But in the research, I’ve found that some rightly point out that the Innkeeper is a fourth. Apparently innkeepers were known to at times over-charge, and so the greed of the innkeeper provides another contrast to the generosity of the Samaritan who offers to repay any expense the innkeeper incurs in caring for the man (whose nationality or race are – deliberately? – never revealed).
Now, I’m probably not the first to see yet another person in the story, and I’ll have to check the commentaries, but the following lines suggest it to me:
On the next day [most MSS include ‘when he departed’], he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
It is the phrase “when I come again” that tipped me off. Was that a glimpse of the parousia just there tucked away? I wonder it we glimpse Jesus himself in the person of the Samaritan; and by implication the church in the Innkeeper. The ministry of the church is indeed (among other things) to welcome the lonely, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the imprisoned. Do we glimpse Jesus here, equipping the Church (giving of the Spirit?) to do their work, and promise a ‘repayment’ (reward according to deeds?) for how much extra they do?
It’s a simple distinction.
When a panel of judges selects one competitor to be the champion, the others don’t benefit from the selection. They go home losers. (Cue Queen music…)
But when a nation elects a new leader, the entire nation benefits. He or she passes legislation that they elected him to pass, etc.
The biblical doctrine of election is no different. Israel in general, and Christ in particular, are God’s Beloved, not in the sense of being (randomly or otherwise) ‘selected’ out to win a prize that benefits nobody else, but so that the nations of the earth would be blessed through them (Genesis 12:1-3). Never in the Bible is it said that Israel was chosen so that she could have exclusive rights to God and salvation. On the contrary, she was chosen to pass on blessing and salvation – in all its forms – to all.
It is like a fire or police squad, or a hospital staff. They are not self-serving teams, simply to make sexy firemen calendars, etc. They have a mission and a calling to serve their community. A doctor tells her smoking patient to change his ways not because “I’m a doctor and you can’t be”, not because “I am perfect in all ways”, but because she is a good and caring doctor. That’s enough metaphor for one post. :)
Kim Fabricus recently offered twelve ripostes for ‘militant atheists’, one of which was about prayer.
—Prayer plainly doesn’t work.
—Thank God! ((Garth Brooks had a similar insight: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”))
On a spectrum of immature to mature, understandings of Christian prayer will range from the anthropocentric and mechanistic ((not to mention idolatrous and pagan – I even hear pantheist types talk about putting thoughts ‘out there’ to the universe)) notion that prayer is about us invoking God to do something we want for our world, to the more theocentric and relational conviction that prayer is about God involving us in what God wants to do for God’s world.
On this note, I wanted to post an example of this I heard last night in the last Romans lecture at Carey Baptist.
There are three agents ‘groaning’ in Romans 8:18-27; a) creation groaning as with birth pangs, b) the church groaning awaiting redemption, and c) the Spirit groaning in intercession for us and the world.
The world is not as it should be (creation groaning). God grieves that this is so (the Spirit groaning), and moves us to grief (church groaning) and action.
This parallels a scene from the Gospels.
Jesus’ groaning prayer in the Garden, overcome with grief. The triune God involved in groaning prayer – the Son praying to the Father in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ words ‘not my will but Thy will’ reflects that his prayer is about the divine will for the world and Jesus’ human obedience to it.
And Jesus also had invited his disciples to ‘watch and pray’ with him. As George Wieland said last night, “To pray is to keep Jesus company as he agonises in the garden.”
I really enjoyed the research on this one. My continual struggle is starting early enough on an assignment so that I have time to drown myself in research and actually write the essay. There are 34 items in the bibliography (dictionaries, commentaries, journal articles and some topical monographs), and I really only dipped into things. Pretty late in the piece I was wow-ed by Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans 5:12, and really want to look into that more.
Anyway, hope it’s interesting reading (warning, it’s 4,000+ words)!
By the way, this is NOT me… :) And they’re (hopefully) kidding…
Issues of culture, religion, politics and the like are of much interest to me.
This Friday, quite an interesting complex of issues will be focused in one event in which I’ll be taking part.
As a pastor of one of the churches in the Northcote area, I’ve been asked to take part in the ANZAC Day Commemorative Service, where we will (as the brochure will read) commemorate “those who have fallen in service of their Country.” My part in this event –which I will do gladly– will be (and I quote – again from the already printed order of service) to offer a “Call to Worship”, a “Prayer of Remembrance” and a “Benediction”.
Continue reading “public service: worship and prayer included”
If only people in general –and Christians in particular– could grasp just a few key things that makes Jesus who He is… then I’m convinced not only that Christianity would have a better reputation, but –even further– those who aren’t Christians might be far less against the growth of Christianity…
People are scared about the growth of Christianity because they (often) think (and not without reason to) that this could eventually lead to a Christian state. All those voting Christians, voting in all those ‘religious’ laws, taking away our freedom, taking away our shopping on Sunday, etc. Many Christians are not at all hesitant to affirm that this is, in fact, precisely what they are working toward…
Now, this post is not directly about how Christians should relate to politics, but it does relate. I am convinced that the Christian faith is to be lived out in the public world, and not simply in private. However, the question is: “What does this look like?”
Continue reading “good news for all the people”