Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Household Rules - Sunday 20th August 2017

Rules and laws come in a variety or shapes and sizes, from international law down to local custom. They tell you what you can or cannot do, threatening punishment to anyone who steps out of line. From speed limits to dress codes we are used to our lives being boundaried in this way, and are generally aware of the sanctions that will be applied if we don’t obey.
Laws come in a pecking order: international law is at the top, then European law, then national law, all the way down to the places we work or the clubs we belong to. At the bottom of this legal ladder we have our own household rules - the way we expect things to be done in our homes. At their best household rules require no threat of punishment. The message is simply: this is how we do things here; if you are part of our family, please do things our way - thank you.
And then there is God’s law. How does that fit into this picture? Religion and law have gone hand in hand as long as there has been religion, and religions have a bad habit of placing their laws high above all others. The threatened sanctions of religious law are no less ambitious: if you don’t keep within this god-given law (as we interpret it) you will be eternally damned. No pressure then!
In his letter to first century Christians, John, like Jesus and Paul before him, sought to turn this right upside down. We are not God’s subjects or his servants, such that we would be subject to his laws. We are God’s children. There are no laws for God’s children, and if there are no laws there can be no law-breaking (sin), and if there is no law-breaking there is no fear of punishment.
As God’s children we are not threatened into submission, we are loved into loving.
As God's children, all we have to do is follow two household rules: Love God (who loved you first), and look after each other. (You achieve the former by doing the latter.) This is how God does things; if you are part of his family, please do things his way - thank you.
Sadly, down the centuries, those who have claimed to be following Jesus have failed to keep it that simple. Laws have crept in, lots of them, with the religious leaders claiming that the laws came from God.
They didn’t.
God doesn’t do law and punishment, he does love and forgiveness. There's just the house rules. That’s all.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

God Goggles - Sunday 13th August 2017

Most of us have a wish list of things we would like to have, places we would like to go and things we would like to do. Every time we turn our our televisions or our computers we get bombarded with new ideas to add to the list. The world around us wants us to have more stuff, to do new things and go to different places. It’s good for the world’s economy.
With this constant bombardment of potential wants, our wish list can easily turn into a life plan. The things we want become the things we need. The places we’d like to go become the places we must go. And, little bit by little bit, our wishes take over our lives.
John (Jesus’ beloved disciple) wrote a letter to the followers of Jesus scattered across the Greek speaking world. In it he did his best to express the essence of Jesus’ message. No surprise - it is all about love. John reminds us that loving people needs to be a higher priority to loving the things that the world has on offer.
Imagine going about your daily business wearing a pair of glasses that only showed you people, and not things. Your view of the world would be very different. None of the stuff, or fashion, or style would show up - just the people. Then imagine a further feature to these remarkable glasses, so that people’s primary needs were highlighted. You would see the loneliness of the lonely person, the hunger of the hungry person, the sadness of the grieving person and the fear of the scared person. Imagine that view. You would go about your business with your attention continually drawn to the things you can do to be practically useful to the people around you.
This is how Jesus looked at the world around him - indifferent to wealth or status, yet keenly alert to people’s needs.
Sadly, such God Goggles are not available on the internet. Instead we need to develop godly vision by going about our lives with hearts that are open to God and to the people we meet.