Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Emtpy Religion and Futile Prayers. Walk Humbly with the Lord and be Exalted

“Parable: Pharisee and Tax Collector”
Luke 18: 9-14

            How do you see yourself in the mirror? Is this reflection the same as what God sees in you? On when God is truly seen for who He is can we see ourselves for who we are. We must move in our perspectives- from self to God or in bigger words- egocentric to theocentric if we truly desire to follow God’s way. This is a truth presented in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
            We read that in order to teach those listening who were confident in their righteousness and looked down on others Jesus told this story. Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men- robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all I get.’
The tax collector stood at a distance. He did not look up but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
            Jesus then said, “I tell you that this man rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’
            We have heard of the ‘me’ generation where one inflates oneself over others in the way of self- serving pride. They have a superiority complex and a sense of entitlement which includes pride, selfishness and an attitude of superiority to others. We only think of this happening in recent years. Yet when Jesus spoke he knew there were people listening who were people who were confident of their own righteousness which extended to their relationship with God. This was because of their religious deeds and they were righteous before Him. And so he told the story of two men who were praying in the synagogue. The two men who approached God, the synagogue and even other pray-ers differently.
            The Pharisee wanted to be seen in all his fine clothes, knowledgeable presence and in voice. He comes across rich and powerful and a religious performer. The tax collector however is quiet before God, humbles himself and confesses his sin. He has no interest in comparing himself with anyone or anything apart from God. And it is he who went home justified. He was forgiven of sin and placed in a right relationship with God.
            The Pharisee’s religion was empty, his prayers futile and his boasting foolish. He needed to humble himself before God and see repentance. 
            Have you ever thought of looking at yourself and reflecting upon how others see you? What might God think of your actions words in the last few days? God cares about you and loves you. He wants the best for you and a part of this is knowing him through forgiveness of sins and feeling his presence.
            The tax collector’s reputation was scarred because of what he did. Yet his heart was made whole through his confession and forgiveness by God.
            Who are you like as you reflect upon yourself and our actions and words?

Loving God forgive me for I am a sinner. Take away any doubt, deceit and bring me into your truth and love. Hear my prayer….  Amen.

Jesus parable of the Pharisee and tax collector invites us to humble ourselves in prayer to God. What does this act of being humble mean to you?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Midnight Caller

“Parable: The Midnight Caller”
Luke 11:5-8
            In our world of instant messaging, texting and always being available by phone this story of the midnight caller seems somewhat irrelevant to us because no matter what time it is, messages are given shared and received via communication phone lines, internet , television and radio. It used to be abnormal to receive any kind of communication after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m. but today, since one may communicate with another without actually speaking messages can be given and received without second thought. But is this a good practice or should this only be reserved for certain individuals those family members and closest of friends? Such is the case in Jesus’ story.
“Suppose one of you has a friend and he goes to him at midnight and says, “Friend lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.”
            The person inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
            In the time of Jesus’ story, the friend who is in bed has the doors locked and he and his children are bedded down for the night in their one room house. If he were to answer the door he would wake the whole family and yet when the friend seeking food comes to the door there is a sense of urgency present. In order to meet his guest’s needs of hunger, he counts on his friend to supply what he does not have. And the friend helps because he is a friend and knows that he would not ask if it weren’t important.
            This parable reminds us that God never tells us I’m busy, or sleeping or not available to hear our prayers. God is always ready to listen when we are in need of Him. But we should also be praying to God not only in times of crisis but every day so that our crises may be better controlled and understood. How well do you know your Father in heaven? Do you feel that you could speak to God any time? Do you? God asks us to open our hearts and minds to pray and when we do this we will God will respond in our silent minds and hearts. But we must be willing- to open the door of our heart and listen to God’s voice.

Loving God we ask you to listen to our prayer for others and for ourselves. Enable us to show our love for you through what we share and do with and for others. Call us to prayer and speak to our hearts. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus’ parable of the midnight caller reminds us that God is always willing to hear us and answer our prayer no matter what time. He loves us and knows that what we pray is important to us and so he will answer. But we must be willing to share and show our love of God. This may be done in how we show compassion for others. Hear us we pray. O God and enable us to grow in you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Power of Money

“Parable: The Shrewd Manager”
Luke 16:1-8

            When is being dishonest good? In answering this question we might want to say it depends on the situation. For if a wife asks her husband, “Does this dress make me look overweight”? The husband has to be very diplomatic in how he answers this, but does so in a caring way.
            But if we say someone is shrewd just what are we stating? When one reflects on Jesus’ disciples, we often say that they are meek, gentle, nice, mild,. Yet were they also realistic, astute, tough and shrewd.
            A rich man’s manager was accused of wasting his possessions. He called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management.” So the manager knowing that he would be fired still wanted to make amends to the debtors, after all he would be needing a job and they might hire him. The debtors came to the manager and he made deals with these people. One owed 800 gallons of olive oil—he changed the bill to read 400 gallons; A second debtor owed 1000 bushels of wheat—and the manager make it 800 instead. Upon reading the account books, the master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.
            What is Jesus purpose in telling this parable? People need to make a choice- serve God or money but not both. The manager is an employee who is in control of his master’s business. He is responsible for cashflow, credit and debts. He is entrusted with the every day working of the business and in this story the manager also needs to show what he has done for the master. The manager knows that he will be fired but he has to act. He calls in two of the debtors and changes what they owe knowing that the master will get some of the debt repaid but maybe, just maybe he overcharged them in the first place and had planned to pocket the difference?
            Yet the master commends the shrewdness of the manager because of what he did in acting with foresight and anticipating what would happen in the future. He looks beyond the present moment and into the future and so acts with cleverness and judgment.
            We are also to look beyond the moment- preparing ourselves to be with God forevermore. Living according to Christ and following God and not living for money.
We are to follow Christ’s teaching and be shrewd with money and as we assist in meeting the needs of fellow believers and spreading the gospel. We are to be faithful with money and live within our means. How are you living faithfully with your money? Are you in need of God’s guidance with this? Pray to God….

God of love you are first in our lives even though we think money is most important to get what we want. Change our attitude and enable us to put you first for you promise to care and provide all we need. Hear us as we pray to you as we strive to be your faithful followers. Amen.

Jesus parable of the shrewd manager is one of several in which he points out the choice each follower must make. God or money we cannot serve both. Have you chosen wisely? Or it is time again to look at what the stewardship of money is about for you?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Rich Fool

“Parable: The Rich Fool”
Luke 12:13-21

Name calling begins when someone has a perceived power over another. “Jerk, nerd, and stupid,” all have many meanings and if you are the one being called these things how do you respond? But what if someone called you a fool? Would it be a good thing or not? In the parable of the rich fool Jesus forces all of his listeners including us to face some searching questions about themselves.
Someone in the crowd asks Jesus, “Tell my brother to divide his inheritance with me. “ Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter/ mediator between you?” Watch out. Guard against all kinds of greed because a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Jesus then tells this parable. A rich man has ground that produced a good crop. His problem arises when he realizes that he has no place to store the crops. So he decided to tear down his smaller barns, build bigger ones and then store all the grain and goods that he has. Content with himself he would then be able to state, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
But God says to the man, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? “
Jesus then states, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Jesus was asked to mediate a property inheritance but refused to be drawn into such a role. His task was to bring people to God not property to people. And so he warns his listeners to be careful and learn that life does not consist of possessions. He is warning them against greed. He then tells the story of a man defined by selfishness, materialism, hedonism (looking after self). Then describes this man as a fool for making choices as if God does not exist and who lives as if God has not spoken. He is also a servant for God alone controls life. And he is really a pauper having worked hard for little. He invested in the passing not in the permanent.
Are you a fool and searching for fulfillment in possessions? Or are you seeking God’s direction for your life knowing that you will have enough?
God of grace show us how foolish we are in wanting things; acquiring things needing things when what we really and only need is you. Help us O God to realize this so that we may not be rich fools but disciples in faith living for you. Amen.

A part of being a disciple of Christ is to live not in poverty or in riches, but to live knowing that you are loving others and helping others to grow and be whom God calls you to be. Which is better? To be a rich fool or a faithful disciple- how do you respond?

[For further reading:  Gary Inrig, “The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant” Discovery House Publishers. 1991.]