1st Scripture Reading: Psalm 85
This psalm poignantly reminds us of our own dilemma – how strong is our faith? And even if our faith is strong, still, bad things happen. We are all born to die. That is a fact. Sometimes our faith will heal us for sure, but inevitably we will all have to cast off our earthly bodies and pass over to our Maker.
I went to a Celebration of Life for the Rev. Cameron Reid yesterday. That man had a long and faithful life of service to the church. He was not perfect, and would be the first to say so. But his faith was very strong and his God never far from view. He had been ill and failing for a long time, but his attendance at the Powell River United Church was unfailing, tho punctuated by his illnesses.
Cameron was a generous man. He presented me with this stole at my covenanting service here on Texada. He gave me many useful books. He preached here whenever we asked him to. He did his best to live into his calling as part of the Body of Christ. He will be missed.
But not all of us have such strong faith, do we? We struggle with doubts, we fight against temptation, we wonder where God went… I think of the story of the Prodigal Son. God didn’t go anywhere – we are the architects of our own wandering, our own lack of faith. God is always there, always coming towards us at the slightest invitation.
So call out, children of God. God waits right beside you for you to open your hearts and minds to the Holy Presence.
Hymn #559 VU “Come, O Fount of Every Blessing”
2nd Scripture Reading: Colossians 2:6-19 & Luke 11:1-13
Paul says: “holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” We are One in Christ, and in Christ we grow into spiritual wholeness.
Paul is also at pains to point out to his readers that he is not talking about the physical body – for that has been “put aside” by baptism. It is no longer the primary reality for those baptized, but rather the new body, the spiritual body now becomes the dominant reality for them – for us.
And this new focus brings freedom – freedom from the man-made rules about food and ritual. You don’t need to practice severe ascetism or learn special knowledge to be part of the Body of Christ. The teachings of Jesus are enough, and more than enough for his followers.
Which brings us to Jesus’ words about prayer. Asked to teach the disciples how to pray, Jesus starts out “Our Father…”. In the passages leading up to this reading he has called God “Father” five times. At a time in human history, and in a place of rigid rules and social conformity, male dominance reigned supreme. Male violence and coercion were not contested, according to many sources, and Jesus sought to instil in his largely male disciples, who would carry forward his teachings, a different model of fatherhood: a kind, compassionate, caring father figure who took seriously his responsibility to provide all the necessities of life to his family. In such a setting as Jesus was living and teaching in, a female model of God would not likely have gotten any traction!
But we are not those people, and our society is very different. Many men have embraced the teachings of Jesus in this regard, and we are a better society for it. But as our consciousness grows, as we grow into wholeness in Christ, we are challenged to recognize that male supremacy, other than in the brute physical sense, is over. We are all equal and equally valued children of God. Our hearts and minds are One in Christ, and we share equally in the missional responsibility of members of the Body of Christ.
And then Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man who asks a friend for help – for food to give to his unexpected guests. How the man refuses at first, because he has already gone to bed, but how the person asking needs only to keep asking, because a friend will always give you what he can – eventually. We are part of a family in Christ. Prayer is one of the ways we ask for help from our spiritual parent – our father or mother or Holy Spirit or Jesus – and those prayers will be answered. The answers are not always what we want or expect – but they are always what we need – for a good parent gives a child only good gifts. A good parent provides for the children all that they need.
Carefully, Jesus begins the radical re-definition of who the people think God is, and at the same time, he begins to undermine the existing notion of patriarchy – who they think men are supposed to be in relationships.
Jesus was not a misogynist. Nor is there any evidence he was homophobic. He was a man of peace, and came to teach us how that peace is attainable. He offers us only good gifts – ours for the asking. Indeed – what a friend we have in Jesus!
Hymn # 664 VU “What a Friend we have in Jesus”