08 November 2015

What does faith look like? How does faith connect to power and wealth? What part do we play as we seek to trust in God? These are some of the questions that are evoked by the Lectionary readings for this week. They challenge our alliances, our use of our resources, our care for the most vulnerable in our world, and the extent to which we are willing to “gamble” all on God’s Reign.

May we discover  a deep, practical, generous, and compassionate trust in God as we worship this week.

READINGS:
Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17: Naomi instructs Ruth to approach Boaz, which she does. Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife, and she bears a son called Obed – David’s grandfather.
OR 1 Kings 17:8-16: God instructs Elijah to go and stay with a widow from Zarepath and her son. When he asks her for food, she says she only has a little oil and flour, which she and her son will eat before they die. Elijah assures her that, if she makes him a small loaf first, the oil and flour will not run out. She does what he asks, and their food does not run out.

Psalm 127: A psalm celebrating God’s protection and provision, and the gift of children.
Or Psalm 146: A psalm encouraging praise and trust in God’s care, justice, and rule, and warning against trust in human leadership.

Hebrews 9:24-28: Christ entered into heaven, offering himself once as the sacrifice for human sin. Then, he will appear a second time to save those who wait for him.

Mark 12:38-44: Jesus warns against the legal experts who seek honour, and who cheat poor widows and show off with long prayers. Then he comments on a poor widow who places a small offering in the collection box, saying that she has put in more than anyone else, because she has given out of her poverty.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The Scriptures for this week all examine the dynamics between those who are powerful from a human perspective and those who are poor and weak, but who trust in God. Ruth, who is poor and vulnerable finds protection and acceptance from the wealthy but good Boaz. While, in contrast, Elijah the powerful prophet, finds security and provision at the hands of a poor widow. Both Psalms celebrate God’s protection and provision, while Psalm 146 warns against placing too much trust in human leadership. In Hebrews, Christ is shown as both priest and sacrifice, who offers himself in order to save his people, while, in Mark, the religious leaders, who should be sacrificing for the sake of others, are rather using their position for self-aggrandisement and corruption. The message is clear – human power is limited, often corrupt and ultimately fails those who trust in it. God’s care, protection and justice is sure and eternal, and through the self-offering of Christ, all people can find security within the grace of God. The challenge is to ensure we place our trust in the right place, while also endeavouring to be faithful and righteous in whatever power or leadership we may exercise.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
Security and provision for material needs are a constant human concern. From a purely human perspective, these needs are addressed by accumulation of wealth, and by aligning oneself with powerful people. In the global economy, the powerful and wealthy control the means of both security and provision, using their resources to favour themselves & their allies, and ignoring or neglecting the weak and poor. Ultimately this strategy undermines the very security and comfort that is hoped for. Only when God’s priorities of faith, sacrificial giving and solidarity with the least are implemented can we find the peace we so long for. What this means is that, as Church, we need to be very careful of aligning ourselves with any political party, government structure or position of power and wealth. To do so is to betray our trust in God, and to fail in our mission to proclaim and embody God’s Reign. Rather, as we work for justice, we are called to place our trust in God and God’s ways, and remain independent of such authorities, in order to be able to work with them, while still speaking in challenge or confrontation of them when necessary. It also means that, whatever authority or wealth we may have must be used for the sake of bringing justice to the least, and not for any kind of self-aggrandisement.

Local Application:
There are two specific applications of today’s readings on a local level. The first is the challenge to be engaged in the work of justice and compassion in our own communities and churches, where rich and poor often live and worship side by side. We must be careful how we measure the “success” of our churches – not by wealth and power, but by commitment to God’s Reign – and we must ensure that we embody in our neighbourhoods, the compassion and generosity of Christ. The second application has to do with where we place our faith, and how this impacts how we live. The Scriptures contrast our trust in human leadership and resources with trusting in God. Whatever we may do to ensure that we have life’s necessities, we always need to remember that it is ultimately God in whom we must trust – as both Ruth and the poor widow did. However, as Ruth demonstrated, this trust does not mean that we do nothing, but we actively do what is necessary to provide and protect our lives, while trusting God’s guidance and empowerment to sustain and enable us. In both cases, the trust that God seeks is very different from that of the religious leaders, who claim faith, but live by corruption and exploitation.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Weak And Poor God
Another Way
Choosing Differently
Help Me, Jesus

Hymn Suggestions:
A Charge To Keep I Have
Rise Up, O Men Of God (Could be sung as “Rise Up, O People of God”)
O Master Let Me Walk With Thee
Nothing Between
The Servant King
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)
You Have Shown Us (Link to YouTube video)
How Long?

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Eucharist

Video Suggestions:
Two Copper Coins
Becoming The Poor
Truth In Powerlessness

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