Christ The Servant Church
homily september 2017
Homily for September 17, 2017
The key word for today is forgiveness.
The concept of forgiveness is nothing new for practicing Christians. It is generally accepted as a central part of the Christian ethos. The issue, however, is not the concept itself but the application.
Society, as we know it, would not last long if we forgave any debt since business is built on the re-occurring use and payment of monetary debt. Mortgages and loans are an ever-present part of our daily lives. As a matter of fact, I just read an article stating that the average Canadian has debt outside of a mortgage that is 168% above income.
Monetary debt can be used wisely, but, if it gets out of control, debt becomes the modern version of slavery. Debt slaves are those whose debt threatens their quality of life. Debt can destroy a person’s life, undermine the family, and in extreme cases, undermine our nation.
Our readings ask that we consider the importance of forgiveness in the context of personal indebtedness. The readings use, as an example, the well-known relationship between debtors and those to whom the debt is owed. The readings also speak to the unfairness that is created when we do not carry forgiveness forward.
Jesus has spoken about the unfairness of the world in which we live and the need for our community to not only forgive debt but to share wealth and good fortune. This directive, however, requires that all of us try our best not to create problems for others.
Self discipline is the essential ingredient to ensure personal accountability within the framework of our community. Living a balanced life that focuses on controlling personal desires along with living within one’s means is a good start. In other words, find an emotional and financial place where you can be content with what you have.
For some people there never seems to be enough, whether it be wealth, power, prestige or satisfaction. These people are constantly frustrated with never having enough and often say that they seek happiness while somehow missing the point. Happiness is not a steady state of being, just as sadness is not a steady state of being.
Being content, however, can be a steady state. Contentment leaves room for reasonable and obtainable life goals. Being content allows us to find satisfaction in sharing and forgiveness, in the beauty of love and friendship which are truly God’s most precious gifts. When we find contentment in our lives, we are building the foundation that allows us to focus outward and not inward.
One of the most important aspects of Jesus’s spiritual teachings is that there is a consistent duality. This duality is constructed of two purposeful kinds of lessons.
The first concern is how we should live on earth while the second focuses on what it will be like to exist in heaven.
Essentially, our journey on earth prepares us for heaven.
Everything that I have ever read about heaven and what I feel, leads me to believe that Heaven is a steady state environment. Heaven has no emotional trauma. There is no anger, hate or fear, no lust, no physical cravings, no unreasonable desires. It is a place of love, faith and friendship. It is a place of safety and true contentment.
Jesus is a true and God given interpreter of correct behavior. If we follow Jesus’s teachings on right thoughts, words and actions, we will find contentment on this earth while preparing ourselves to exist in Heaven’s inclusive community.
I have often wondered why Jesus had such an impact on his followers, and it occurred to me it was because he simply and clearly explained how God’s universe works.
God has infused the universe with randomness and, randomness is what creates change. We are born into this universe as imperfect beings who must constantly adapt to realities which are in flux.
Randomness is why some people have much, some have little, some are strong, some are weak, some are lucky and some are not.
But Jesus teaches us that there is a purpose to the random and unequal nature of our existence. This purpose is to learn and prepare our selves for Heaven.
You see, the larger reason we need to forgive is built on the fact that none of us can reach a more perfect version of ourselves the first time we try. Our natural imperfections are a miniature reflection of the randomness of the entire universe. Doing things wrongly is in our nature. It is in our very fiber. God sent Jesus to us to guide us towards spiritual perfection so that we might live in heaven with him in a state of perpetual contentment.
Jesus tells Peter that we must forgive over and over again, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because people can only truly learn the most important lessons in life through trial and error.
However, forgiveness is a two-way street. Not only must we be constantly prepared to forgive but those who are forgiven must also be contrite. Contrition, lays the foundation for enlightenment. When we are truly sorry for the wrong things that we do, in a deeply self-conscious way, we are telling the forgiver that we understand the nature of our bad behaviour and that we are willing to make an effort to move forward in a positive way.
The servant, in our readings begs for forgiveness without contrition. He sees only himself in the process of forgiveness. As a result, he does not understand that his duty to carry forward forgiveness to others is a constant reminder or lesson of God’s greater forgiveness of our (sinful) debt.
Just as a child does not learn to walk the first time he or she tries, we all fail to reach a state of spiritual purity the first time we attempt to do so. Failure is not a sin, but refusing to continue to admit wrongful behavior and refusing to try to improve that behaviour is what leads us away from God’s ultimate plan for us.
Jesus revealed to us God’s plan. He then revealed that righteous behaviour is the path to salvation and that forgiveness is a basic requirement for our spiritual growth. Our God is a benevolent God of love, forgiveness, and mercy. God forgives us our failings if we continue to try, therefore, we must continue to forgive both ourselves for our failures and others for their transgressions.
Homily for September 24, 2017
The Message for Sept 24, 2017
Some Reflections on Matthew 20:1-16
God's economy is not like ours. We hoard and stockpile; we measure out the day's pay according to hours worked. God, however, simply sees that there is enough for everyone. Enough manna—but no more. A day's wages—no less.
In God's economy there is enough. In our world, which is God's, there is enough—but not if we take more than our share. What do I have that is more than my share?
The earliest followers of Jesus wrestled with this question: How should they live their social witness? Our lives, like theirs, are a complex web of history, economics, politics, relationships, and faith. Yet, as church historian Roland Bainton reminds us, "Christians brought to social problems, not a detailed code of ethics or a new political theory, but a new scale of values." These new values were rooted in a charismatic movement bent on living in harmony with the kingdom of God.
Theologian Gerd Theissen says the first Christians focused on four things: peace, human dignity, benevolence, and a revolution of values. They addressed directly the violence, sex, money, and fear of change we find covered on the nightly news. However, they were not simply reformers who wanted worldly systems to be more just and equitable; they were translators of a heavenly language that had a new way of measuring values.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow Doing, working, making are not intrinsically evil. Modernity has made possible much that is valuable. But a society that never pauses to catch its breath and reflect on its values, never pauses to love and affirm community and family—such a society forms "making" into a grotesque mockery and turns production, consumption, and overwork into idols.
RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL communities can help individuals, families, congregations, and neighborhoods change this pattern in their own lives. Indeed, we have a special obligation to each other as members of communities of faith to help strengthen our spiritual lives in this direction. Together we can move in the direction of sharing work, encouraging rest, strengthening family and community, and living more simply—rather than piling up still more and more costly material goods by working yet harder and harder, longer and longer.
To do this we will need to strengthen the spiritual life through far more joyful festivals, far more deeply loving families, and far more soul-satisfying prayer and meditation. Those who are spiritually famished are almost certain to gobble up material goods; the spiritually well-fed can more easily choose to limit their material intake.
Clearly the words Jesus uses are a clear directive to all churches: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first”. All members of a church community are equal, whether the have been with the community a long time or they have just joined…All are equal!