18 June 2017
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7): God appears to Abraham in the form of three visitors whom Abraham welcomes and serves. And they promise that in a year’s time, Sarah will have a son. But, when Sarah laughs in disbelief, the strangers reaffirm the promise. And then their promise is fulfilled and Sarah gives birth to a son.
OR Exodus 19:2-8a: Two months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites camp at Mount Sinai, and God tells Moses that if the people obey God and keep God’s covenant, then they will belong to God as a treasured people. So Moses passes the message on the people.
OR Psalm 100: A song of praise calling all the earth to worship God, to come before God with singing, and rejoice in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.
Romans 5:1-8: God has made us right with God through Christ, given us undeserved privilege, and made it possible for us to grow in strength and endurance through times of trial. In addition, God has given God’s Spirit to fill our hearts.
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8, (9-23): Jesus notes that the harvest is great but the workers are few, and then he sends his disciples out to share the message of the Gospel with the people of Israel. He instructs them not to take anything with them, but to trust in the hospitality of the people to whom they go. Then he warns them about the rejection and persecution they will endure, but that these moments will be opportunities to speak about Jesus.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
There are two elements to all of the readings this week. The first is that the readings all speak in some way about God’s election of God’s people. God chooses a people to partner with God, to be God’s own treasured possession, and to experience God’s promise, God’s presence, and God’s love. But, the second element in the readings this week is that this choosing is not for the sake of those who are chosen. God’s choice of Abraham and Sarah, of the Israelites, of the disciples, and of all who follow the way of Jesus is for the sake of those who will come to know God’s grace and love through them. The clear call of this week, then, is for us to be a people who respond to God’s choosing by partnering with God in sharing the values, priorities, and purposes of God’s Reign with our world. But, if we accept God’s invitation, God’s choosing of us, we have to know that this will mean that we have to endure suffering and persecution. This is inevitable because following Jesus way means being out of step with the society around us. But, it also means that whenever we find ourselves being misunderstood or questioned or challenged we have an opportunity to share the message of Jesus and to demonstrate God’s love and grace through our actions.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: There is a double challenge in this week’s theme as we seek to live out the call of God. The first is that election, or choosing, has become a potentially destructive idea in our world. Some extreme religious groups use their sense of being chosen by God as a way to justify violence and terrorism against those who look, think, believe, and act differently from their beliefs. Some nations view themselves as more important or more significant to the world and to God because they are exceptional and somehow a better embodiment of God’s values and purposes. The result of this thinking is that these “chosen” ones expect to be treated better than others. They feel justified in making their needs, their opinions, their beliefs, and their self-interest more important than anyone else’s. And naturally this results in oppression of other “lesser” people, it causes the legitimate needs of the “less chosen” to be ignored, and it results in massive imbalances in power, wealth, and well-being across the world. The second challenge comes as a reaction to the first, which is to reject the idea of election or choosing altogether. Certainly it is difficult to speak about any kind of choosing if we are committed to equality and justice for all. But, if we can overcome any sense that to be chosen is to be favoured or better, and see chosenness rather as a result of circumstance and opportunity, something magical can begin to happen. We can begin to recognise that those of us to whom much has been given have a great responsibility to share what we have with those who have less. We can begin to recognise that our greater opportunities, or education, or resources mean that we have a greater capacity to address some of the great challenges in our world. And it can also, paradoxically, offer us the chance to work much harder to recognise and celebration the “chosenness” of those who, in our society’s terms, seem not to be chosen at all.
It is always tempting to seek to find ways in which we are special, or chosen. We may begin to think that our church or our community or our family is particularly chosen by God and has a special place in God’s heart and purposes. We may also begin to fall into an arrogant pride that we are so valuable to God. We may begin to devalue any small works of God, and hidden moments of grace, and any unexceptional experiences of love. But, when we allow our faith to be governed by this attitude, we begin to feel persecuted whenever society doesn’t conform to our standards. And we begin to feel that we should be treated differently by everyone, and by the powers-that-be in our society. We might even believe that we should be the powers-that-be. But, in the meantime we end up missing the work of God that happens in small, unexpected ways. And we begin to miss the way God chooses the least likely people in our midst. And we miss how God seeks for us to serve those around us, and not be served. We miss that our chosenness is a calling to sacrifice and compassion, not to privilege and status. But, if we can embrace the call of God as a chance to work with God in serving the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community, we can experience God’s presence and power in very ordinary, but extraordinary, ways.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP: