23 June 2019
There is a lovely progression in these first few weeks of Ordinary Time. Two weeks ago we faced a challenge to prioritise God’s strength and grace, and to reject the idea that mission and justice oriented faith leans only on human resources and abilities. Last week we were reminded of God’s call to be forgiven and to forgive. In the face of the world’s challenges and the work of justice, forgiveness is the Gospel response. This week the call to grace continues with a challenge to define good and evil not according to law, but in the light of God’s grace and liberation.
May we embrace a marriage of grace and justice, of inclusion and of confrontation with legalism and exclusivity as we worship this week, and may our experience of grace deepen as we do.
1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a: God instructs Elijah to go to Mount Sinai, and comes to him there. At Elijah’s cave he experiences wind, earthquake and fire, but God’s voice is only heard in the whisper that follows. In spite of his fear at the threats against his life, God leads him back into ministry.
OR Isaiah 65:1-9: A prophecy of judgment against the wickedness of God’s people, with the promise of a remnant who will be saved.
Psalm 42 & 43: A song of lament, with a commitment to praise God in the face of persecution of suffering.
OR Psalm 22:19-28: A prayer for God’s help in the midst of persecution and a commitment to worship and stay faithful to God.
Galatians 3:23-29: Now that the way of faith in Christ has come, the law is no longer needed. Those who trust in Christ are God’s children, and we are all equal in God’s family.
Luke 8:26-39: Jesus liberates the Gerasene demonaic, who begs to go with Jesus once he has been healed. But Jesus sends him home to tell of what God did for him.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The reality of evil and the destruction it brings is brought into sharp focus in this week’s readings. The threat that the forces of darkness pose to justice, and to those who work for it, is shown by Elijah’s isolation in the face of Jezebel’s threat, in the cries of the psalmists facing persecution, and in the diseased mind and body of the Gerasene demoniac. The hope of God’s people, though, is that evil does not have the last word. God’s presence and help is assured for those in need, God comes to strengthen and guide Elijah, Christ frees the demonised man, and Paul assures us of our place of belonging in Christ’s family, in which there is no privilege based on gender, social status, race or anything else. In Christ the divisive tools of evil are removed, and the power of evil is neutralised. Now, we who follow Christ are called, like Elijah, as prophets who live according to a different order, a different set of values, and who invite others into the freedom that Christ offers. This is an appropriate next step after the call to trust in God’s Spirit and the invitation to forgiveness that we have explored in the last two weeks.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: As we engage, as Church, with the big issues in our world, it is disturbing to see how the “big issues” are sometimes defined. Are issues of sexuality and the exclusivity of Christ really the main issues of good and evil in our time? Or does the Gospel call us to define global evil differently – using this weeks’ readings of God’s grace, protection of the threatened, and liberation as a basis? Could it be that any economic or political policies that deprive the poor of the opportunity to support themselves is evil? Could it be that ignoring the damage that our greed and exploitation of natural resources does to our planet is evil? Could it be that any faith that leads us to justify violent conflict with people who are different from us, or who believe differently from us, is evil? And could it be that using “the law” – whether human or ‘divine’ – to justify these evils is equally evil? How would we stand against evil if we used God’s grace, protection and liberation as the lens through which we looked at the world? What good might we celebrate and embrace if we used these lenses? What role would we seek to play in the policy-making, opinion-forming, global-crisis-addressing work that goes on in our world. In reality, it is easier to defend law, and condemn law-breakers, than it is to offer grace and stand against those who deny grace to others. But, the work of the Gospel was never about what is easy.
LOCAL APPLICATION: As we seek to resist the work of evil in our churches and communities, it is important that we are careful in what we identify as evil. Jesus correctly recognises the forces at work within the demoniac, but does not label the person as evil. In contrast, Elijah, finds himself in confrontation with people who have given themselves over to evil purposes and actions. As Paul points out, it is tempting to use the law as the basis for deciding what is good or what is bad, and obedience to the law as the basis for deciding who is good and who isn’t. But, from the basis of grace, and of Christ’s inclusive invitation, good and evil look very different. Anything that would persecute another (as the Psalmists experienced), anything that would oppress another (like the demoniac) or anything that would deny grace to another (as Paul teaches) violates God’s grace and love, and brings division and destruction. As we seek to stand for God’s justice, it is important that we keep God’s grace and love in mind, and that we rightly choose what to oppose and what to embrace.
It Is Well With My Soul
If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee
We’ll Understand It Better By And By
Sing Praise To God Who Reigns Above
Above All (Link to YouTube video)
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)
Hear Our Praises (Link to YouTube video)
I, The Lord Of Sea And Sky (Link to YouTube video)