9 June 2013

Although we finished the “festival season” in the Liturgical Calendar a couple of weeks ago, this week retains some strong links to what has come before. This second week in Ordinary Time reminds us that we cannot live the Jesus way in the community of faith, without drawing strongly on God’s Spirit, God’s life and God’s resources. And the good news is that God’s empowerment is so readily available for us as we seek to serve, to follow and to bring justice into our world.

May your worship this week be thoroughly empowering!

1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24)
: The widow at Zarephath feeds Elijah and her oil and flour do not run out. When her son dies, Elijah raises him.
OR 1 Kings 17:17-24: The shorter version of the above reading – Elijah prays for the widows son who has died, and he is raised to life.

Psalm 146: Do not trust in powerful people, but in God who protects the weak and who gives justice.
OR Psalm 30: A cry for God’s help and an affirmation of confidence in God.

Galatians 1:11-24: Paul tells the story of his conversion, and how he did not depend on people to give him God’s revelation.

Luke 7:11-17: Jesus raises the widow of Nain’s son.

At the start of the season that focuses on our work of following Christ – Ordinary Time – we begin with a call to lean on God’s grace, strength and provision, and to avoid the temptation to seek security in people, in human power, or connecting with those who are “important”. Rather, God offers God’s self as our primary source of life, of support and of wisdom for life. In the Old Testament readings, Elijah the prophet is sent to a poor widow, who finds sustenance and life for her son from God, through the prophet’s ministry. In Galatians, Paul, who confronts the legalistic aspirations of this church to earn their salvation through obedience to the law, shows how he received his message directly from God, without the need to depend on others. And, in a passage that echoes the Elijah story, Jesus brings life to a poor widow’s son. The challenge of these readings is to develop a “confidence” in God that is authentic, and an ability to “tune in” to God’s Spirit. The call to trust in God, and not in human power or connections, does not contradict the call to community, but ensures that our interdependence on one another remains healthy and life-giving, and does not replace our dependence on God. Paradoxically, though, as we depend on God, we inevitably discover that it is through God’s people that God’s sustenance and power come to us. Learning to live in this balance of faith and community is a key to the Christian life, and the lesson of this week’s Lectionary.

GLOBAL APPLICATION: God’s care for those who are weak, poor, threatened and dying shouts from the passages this week. And God’s offer of God’s resources to address the challenges of these ‘least’ is equally clear. It is too easy to turn the work of justice and compassion into a kind of ‘slightly sanctified social work’. But even ‘social justice Christians’ need to recognise the Presence and availability of God and God’s Spirit to guide and empower both our work and the lives of those we seek to serve. So, a significant part of our serving and healing the world is to call leaders, influencers and carers back to vibrant spirituality and to ensuring that as they serve, they also enable others to find a faith that is authentic and alive for them. Simultaneously, though, we are also called to challenge those who are “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” to engage with the real, social issues of our day, ensuring that our faith is practical, connected and life-giving – effectively a channel for God’s grace and provision to reach others through us. When spirituality, social justice, politics, economics, and community development all work together, the result is a powerful, life-giving, healing and uplifting presence in the world – which is no less than a manifestation of God’s presence and Reign.

LOCAL APPLICATION: In our churches and communities we have often divided our worship and our missions. We have often fallen into a functional atheism which leaves us doing good work in our world but lacking the spirituality which gives it life, lasting impact and truly transforming power. If we are to be more than just another social service organisation, our missions must be flooded in worship, and our worship must overflow into vibrant, God-inspired missions. What might it mean for your church to seek to encounter God authentically, to serve one another and your community with a visible dependence on God, and to build your life together around a true marriage of worship and missions. Is this not what ultimately protects the weak, leads to justice and heals the world?

Always There
The Faith We Need
May We Be

Hymn Suggestions:
Praise To The Lord, The Almighty
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
God Of Almighty Love
They Who Tread The Path Of Labour
Breathe (Link to YouTube video)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Spiritual Feast

Video Suggestions:
The Gospel According To Luke