03 June 2018
And so we move into Kingdomtide or Ordinary Time, and the Lectionary begins the journey of challenging us again to live out the message and mission of Jesus that we have been remembering through the events of the Church Calendar so far. This year, the Lectionary begins with affirming our dignity as human beings who are created in God’s image and are deeply loved by God. But this dignity also challenges us to treat one another with utmost respect and honour.
May our worship this week inspire us to embrace the dignity God gives us, and challenge us to embrace the dignity that God gives to all people around us.
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20): The child, Samuel, who is serving God with the Eli the priest, hears God’s voice in the night. He mistakenly thinks it is Eli, but then Eli explains it is God, and instructs him to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Then God gives Samuel a message of judgement against Eli’s family because of his corrupt sons. In the morning Samuel tells Eli the prophecy.
OR Deuteronomy 5:12-15: The commandment to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, because the people were slaves in Egypt but God delivered them. This is why God commands them to keep the Sabbath.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18: The Psalmist celebrates the God who has searched him and knows him, who sees him in all the parts of his life, and who goes before and follows him. This God created all the intricate parts of his body – wonderfully – and formed him in his mother’s womb, recording all the days of his life in God’s book.
OR Psalm 81:1-10: A psalm of praise, encouraging the musicians to play because God freed God’s people from the heavy load of enslavement, and saved them. But, God’s people must never worship a foreign God, for it is God who rescued the from Egypt.
2 Corinthians 4:5-12: God’s apostles don’t preach themselves but Christ crucified. The light of Christ shines in their hearts, but they are like fragile clay jars to show that the power is from God. They endure many different kinds of suffering and persecution, but the life of Christ is at work within them even as their bodies are dying. Our present struggles are nothing compared to the glory that awaits and that lasts forever.
Mark 2:23-3:6: Jesus’ disciples pick grain to eat as they are walking along, and the Pharisees challenge Jesus on this, because it was the Sabbath. But Jesus points them to David eating the sacred bread from the temple. Then he tells them that the sabbath was created for people, not people for the Sabbath, and he is Lord of the Sabbath. Then Jesus heals a man with a damaged hand and challenges the critics who want to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. But they do not respond.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The overarching theme this week is that God values and dignifies human beings immensely. In the old Testament reading we see the dignity God gives to the boy Samuel by speaking to him and through him. God’s word through Samuel confronts the corruption in Eli’s sons, and that speaks to God’s commitment to preserve and fight for the dignity and freedom of all people. In the Deuteronomy reading, the Sabbath command is rooted in God’s liberation of God’s people, and in the call to respect the dignity of all people. The Psalms both speak to this dignity and love that God gives humanity in the celebration of God’s deep knowing of us, and in the all ton praise God for God’s liberation. In the Corinthians reading the apostle reminds his readers of the glory that God has placed within then fragile clay jars of our physicality. Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus performs miracles that bring healing and dignity to people, disregarding the law that prohibits him from doing that on the Sabbath. The message this week is one of hope and inspiration as we are reminded of God’s deep love for humanity, and God’s determination to move humanity, and the whole cosmos, to a place of dignity, justice, mutual care, and deep interconnectedness.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE
There are so many issues in our world today that impact human dignity and freedom. Human trafficking, which reaches into so many industries (not just the sex trade) domestic violence, sexual harassment, poverty, racism, religious conflict, and the marginalisation of so many people for insignificant reasons, all bring such suffering and indignity to human beings. The challenge this brings to people of faith is twofold. Firstly, as a global community of those who claim to follow Christ, we cannot avoid the call of God to embrace Jesus’ way of welcome and upliftment. Unfortunately faith communities are too often exclusive, judgemental of those who believe differently, and legalistic in their application of what they consider to be God’s law. As a result we live in a world where religious conflict threatens the peace of our planet, and causes great suffering to far too many people. We live in a world where women, people of colour, the poor, and people of the LGBTI+ community are all robbed of dignity and freedom by people of faith. And we live in a world where foreign policies of major powers are shaped by fundamentalist and exceptionalist theology and belief systems.
Secondly, our calling as Church is to be a community that reflects God’s Reign to the world. This means that we cannot follow Jesus and stay silent with regard to these injustices against God’s people. We cannot ignore the indignities that so many of God’s beloved children endure on a daily basis. And we cannot believe that we can please God by remaining in closed communities of homogenous people. We are called to be active in challenging injustice, and we are called to stand with those who are marginalised and to love them as Jesus did, seeking in whatever way we can to celebrate and visibility their inherent dignity and humanity. May we find ways to proclaim God’s just and dignifying agenda, and ways to live it out publicly as followers of Jesus so that we have some impact on our societies in making justice a reality.
In our churches and neighbourhoods there is a lot of injustice and robbing of dignity of people which is unseen and unaddressed. In too many churches women are marginalised and even abused simply because go their gender. Racism is still rife within the Christian community, and the bigotry against LGBTI+ people is constant and deeply damaging. Yet Christian communities are called to be safe spaces for all people. The sacrament of Holy Communion proclaims that God’s table has a place for everyone, and that there is nothing we can do to either qualify or disqualify ourselves to sit at God’s table. In a world where the Church is too often seen to be aloof, arrogant, self-protective and hateful it is prophetic to be a community which welcomes all. Acts of kindness and compassion to those who are rejected by our society are prophetic and healing. Preaching and worship that welcomes all and publicly celebrates the image of God in all people is prophetic and life-changing.
Local church community do not have to embark on grand projects or public events in order to be inclusive, prophetic and affirming of the dignity of all human beings. We simply have to be wiling to greet all who enter our sanctuaries. We simply need to be firm in confronting those who deny dignity to others. And we simply need to be welcoming, loving, supportive, and affirming of all people. May we who follow Jesus be open and loving communities in which all who gather with us feel honoured, protected, dignified, and challenged to live into the fullness of our common, God-imaged, God-beloved humanity.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
We Shall Go Out In Hope Of Resurrection
You Are – The first song on the page
Everyone Belongs – The second song on the page
A Liturgy For The Breaking Of Bread
Justice, Power, And The Kingdom
In light of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, how do you explain your comment, “that there is nothing we can do to either qualify or disqualify ourselves to sit at God’s table”? Otherwise, I appreciate your insight with regard to the theme “that God values and dignifies human beings immensely.” That he does, and has proven it through the death of his Son on the cross. But in Love, God calls human beings to radical repentance. That is, God calls us to take up our cross by dying to our selfish human nature, and has given the Holy Spirit to help us move move toward becoming living images of Jesus..
Grace & Peace
Thank you for engaging so deeply with this post, David. I apologise that it has taken me a while to respond.
From my perspective, the passage you reference does not say anything about who is welcome at God’s table or not. It simply refers to how those who are already at the table participate in the sacred meal. There is no reference that I am aware of in Scripture that suggests any qualifying criterion for us to participate in Holy Communion. There is much that speaks about how we should participate, and the need for repentance – I think we agree on that.
I think of it in similar ways to when my children were young. Sometimes their table manners left much to be desired, and my wife and I would have to discipline them and teach them how to behave when sharing a meal with others. But, no matter how bad their behaviour may have been, I would never have excluded them from the family table. This was the place where they knew they were always welcome, always loved, and always recognised as part of the family. Nevertheless, part of their belonging in the family meant learning how to live with kindness, consideration and respect for the other family members and with regard for the proper etiquette when at our shared table.
I offer these thoughts as an explanation of my comment. Of course, as always, I am happy for you to disagree. Thank you for being willing to discuss our different viewpoints though. I appreciate your openness and engagement.
Thank you for your response. As with so many of our attempts to speak of the the things of God, the term “disqualify” is one that falls short, I think you would agree that those who are unrepentant but partake of the Lord’s Table does so in vain. That is, they deny themselves the efficacy of the grace that is offered.
Grace & Peace,
I appreciate the wording you use in your reply here, David: “…they deny themselves the efficacy of the grace that is offered.” I agree with that view. My perspective would be that no one can deny themselves God’s grace – God’s grace is God’s to give, we cannot choose whether it is given or not, and it is always given to all. However, whether we receive or experience the effects of that grace on our own lives is within our power to deny or receive. And in that sense, I believe, we agree that to participate in the Lord’s Supper “unworthily” does deny us the efficacy of the grace on offer.
Thank you again for your thoughtful response. And I apologise for taking so long to reply.