Saturday, 26 July 2014

Bible Message for Today

Jeremiah 7 1-11; Psalm 84; Matthew 24-30

Christians read the scriptures, to meditate on them and apply it to their own lives and society. They help them look into their own hearts. to work on what is wrong and correct it. This takes time, energy and effort.

Today’s three morning readings seem to be chosen to create a unified message. First, the message through the prophet Jeremiah is that of a weary God, unbothered by the fact of his so-called people worshipping “The Queen of Heaven” not Him (the sin of idolatry). However, He is deeply angry that His Way has been forsaken by most people - and we must presume He is similarly angry, today. He is ready to apply Judgment on the land and all life, even to the extent of destroying His own Temple in Jerusalem. He abhors  all works of evil which today we might list as:

- hidden child abuse e.g. of children in care, orphans
- ill-treatment of elderly widows e.g. neglect of the elderly put away and forgotten in uncaring homes and not visited; those in hospital, dying alone on trolleys
- exploitation of immigrants - underpaying them for their labour, denying them a future.

This message connects to Psalm 84 about what I imagine as high summer marquees ("tents"). These are the tents of the complacent, the tents of the unbelieving, temples of material secularism where there is no fear of God. Here, people are relying on money and status and using it to sneer at, look down on those on a low income, the disabled and humble. Instead, they should be relying on faithfulness and dependence on God.

Notable is the teaching that one day devoted to God and His Kingdom is better than three years in the marquees of the complacent, presumably because there is no blessing in these tents - but rather strife, competition, lack of family love, pride, oppression - and, important for the vulnerable, no divine help and protection:

“Spending just one day in your temple is better than spending a thousand elsewhere” (Net Bible)

Finally, Jesus, in Matthew 13 24-30 talks about the narrow door and many who do not expend enough effort and energy on developing their spiritual life. As a result, the door closes in their face, in spite of taking Communion/Eucharist and being outwardly respectable believers. These people are not the secular complacent - but the churchgoing complacent. They are the half-hearted. Their weak, outward effort is deemed “Too little, too late”. They needed to have given their whole lives to God but their real focus was elsewhere - on pleasure, endless holidays, "Sunday supplement" luxury lifestyles, "me time".

Christ does not say to them, as we expect: “I never knew you” but “I don’t know where you are are from”. The clear message is that He does not personally know (or accept) those still embedded in sin, who have no salvation, who have not “cleansed the thoughts of their hearts” by the demanding and purifying Way of the Cross. Sin is the barrier which only coming to His Cross can break down.  There is no other means on offer.

So many of those who seem religious today, even hold high office, even as bishops, ministers and pastors, teaching in churches, will not be at the Banquet of the Kingdom, in Heaven. Instead, the obedient but despised fervent, the least, the nobodies, the outcasts will be gathered from every corner of the world. It is a sobering thought for the complacent.

The key question is: "I may be in the social whirl of the World - but will I be at The Banquet in Heaven?"

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