God lives as the ego dies!

Did you notice that the Pharisee said his prayer to himself… it never reached God!

He believes he’s a step above the tax collector.

It happens!

So when you pray, or when you’re here and take a glance sideways, do you ever think you’re a step above somebody else?

Well if you do… then you can be sure that you’re praying to yourself, and not to God – in a relationship with your own ego but not with God!

God lives as the ego dies!

The ten lepers and glorious human need – the beginning of conversion

There’s so, so much going on in this piece, apart from simple gratitude.

Jews and Samaritans were enemies and each justified despising and hating the other for political and religious reasons.

So all around there’s dislike, hatred, and division.

There’s another ingredient too – both Jew and Samaritan considered leprosy to be God’s punishment for sin so the lepers were rejected for religious reasons – and obviously on health grounds.

But leprosy introduced an additional fear factor.

So there’s so much in the air as Jesus walks along the border; dislike, hatred, division and fear, indeed terror, the terror of countracting leprosy.

Even the geography is noteworthy, Jesus is walking along the border between the two feuding tribes, Jews on one side, Samaritans on the other, and lepers approach him. This is coming to a head!

He tells the ten to show themselves to the priests. They’re not healed immediately but only as they’re going away. There’s an element of trust as they turn to go find the priests… but is it hope or faith or a bit of both that motivates the ten to keep going? It’s likely they’d try almost anything to be healed so they may be some way from faith at this stage. But something is stirring even if it’s only human need. Glorious human need… the beginning of conversion.

In sending the ten to the priests Jesus is putting it up to the priests; who am I? Take a look – the lepers are healed. Decide about me.

And at least one of the ten newly healed lepers is a Samaritan… ouch 😓… so the leper colony contains both Jew and Samaritan. Isn’t it remarkable that leprosy could unite Jews and Samaritans but in health they were divided and justified that divide by using God?

Jesus is having none of it!

Finding himself cured, the Samaritan leper returns and throws himself at the feet of Jesus. This is an act of adoration due only to God. It’s worship. It’s more than gratitude. Jesus says, “stand up… your faith has saved you!” This is an absolute insult to the Jews!

But what about the other nine? They heard nothing about being saved. Were they healed but not saved?

Yes, it seems just one of the ten healed lepers reached faith.

There’s more Christianity in the dog!

Twenty-sixth Sunday

Luke: 16:19-31 The rich man and Lazarus

Look at the dog – I’m loving 🥰 that dog.

He’s everything a Christian should be.

He rambles up to Lazarus, he has time, he’s not in a rush, he doesn’t pass him by, he doesn’t ignore him, he rambles over to him and licks his sores, he spends time with Lazarus.

A dogs lick is friendly… he likes you… not to mention the age-old belief that a dogs lick is healing ❤️‍🩹

In human terms it’s the equivalent of sitting down at the gate with Lazarus and putting your arm around him.

And even if the roles were somehow reversed, if the rich man was the one sitting at the gate, the dog wouldn’t pass him either… it’d make no difference to the dog whether it was Lazarus or the rich man… he wouldn’t discriminate between rich and poor.

There’s so much Christianity in the dog!

If we could all be more like the dog perhaps 🤔 we’d create Heaven on earth!

Jesus says we over-estimate our faith and goodness – with a nod to Peter Kreeft

Twenty-seventh Sunday

Luke 17:5-10

What are we to make of that?

Two things.

Even though the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith they’re still over-estimating the size of the faith that they do have. They think they have faith but Jesus raises the bar, he raises the standard; “were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.” Jesus is telling them that their faith is not even the size of a mustard seed!

In the second piece they’re over estimating their goodness. So Jesus tells the story of the servant who having worked hard all day in the fields is then expected to make himself tidy, lay his master’s supper and wait on him before he eats himself… and he is then required to say; no big deal, I’m merely a servant. Again he’s raising the standard… it feels like injustice.

All this means:

If we stroll up to Heaven thinking that we’ve both faith and goodness “to beat the band” we’ll be in trouble because God’s standard is so much higher.

If we approach Heaven humbly, relying on Gods mercy rather than our sense of our faith and goodness – which is almost always inflated and an expression of the human ego – we’ll have a much better chance of gaining entry.

Ouch 🤕 the standard of judgement is high!

Twenty-second Sunday

Luke 14:7-14

Once again Jesus uses something very ordinary to teach us about Heaven.

This time he’s observing people at a dinner.

So he takes just that – people at a dinner – and he uses it to describe Heaven.

Heaven is like a wedding feast.

Insights like this – and Jesus supplies so many – are useful in helping us address the mystery of death. Jesus is saying that what comes after death is like a wedding feast.

What else is he telling us about Heaven?

He tells us that in God’s presence, in Heaven, we are merely guests.

Guests don’t decide where they sit!

This is the real force of the teaching – we ought not presume that we know our place or that we’re already in!

The best bet is humility. Besides there’s only humility in God’s presence. Nothing else can exist there.

It will be our host – God – who’ll decide where we sit. In other words there’s judgment. My friend move up higher or to our embarrassment, we are moved to a lower or even the lowest place.

But it’s the piece about inviting guests who can’t pay us back that really puts the knife in!

Here we’re given the standard that God will use to determine where we’ll be sitting!

Ouch!🤕

The only disciple is a tough disciple!

Twenty-third Sunday

Luke 13: 25-33

Great crowds accompany Jesus.

But Jesus turns and says stuff that could easily drive them away!

Why though, why did Jesus do that?

Because he knows us too well and he knows that life itself will break the faith of many… so he urges caution ⚠️

We’re all familiar with people who’ve fallen out with God because of some suffering or loss, the death of a loved one, yes?

Often, we’re rattled ourselves.

When he tells the story of a man who started to build but couldn’t finish he’s talking about us, about that struggle, specifically about all who fall away.

When he talks about a man who marched out to war with 10,000 men without considering if he could stand up to the other advancing against him with 20,000 men he’s talking about us, about that struggle, specifically about all who fall away – the 20,000 men being life, cancer, diseases of one kind or another, disappointment, the tough stuff… and even the soft stuff, like our love of money, possessions.

And what’s really happening when we fall out with God because of some suffering or death, because of the tough stuff?

According to Jesus we’ve put ourselves or our loved ones before Jesus. There’s the knife!

Jesus understood that we’re inclined to think that God will somehow spare us suffering if we’re good and he knew this is nonsense, a recipe for disaster.

So when he saw the crowds he tried to warn them.

He’s just turned to you now and done the same!

In the end our choices are a very big deal!

Twenty-fifth Sunday

Luke 16:13

Jesus says that one or other – God or money – will win out.

So what? What’s the big deal? Well, here’s the big deal and it is a very big deal.

God always respects our freedom.

Our choices are the most fundamental expression of our freedom.

So God always respects the choices we make… our choices may grieve Him but he will respect our choices.

He has to, otherwise we’re puppets, muppets!

So we’re free to choose money over God – and many people do – but if we do, then at the time of our death we end up looking at money and asking it to raise us from the dead. That’s what we’ve chosen!

If I choose hurling over Jesus – and I love hurling – then I end up asking a hurl to raise me from the dead. That’s what I’ve chosen… it’s my choice.

If I choose a wife, husband, son or daughter – anything – over Jesus then I end up looking to that person, that interest, to raise me from the dead.

And that’s not going to happen.

So, in the end our choices are a very big deal!

Put dishonesty in Heaven and you’re creating Hell!

Twenty-fifth Sunday

Luke 16:10-12

Again, the teaching of Jesus is profoundly simple.

If you cannot be trusted in little things how can you be trusted in great things?

The little things mean the stuff of this world like money… all the stuff that you and I think is our life!

The great things mean Heaven and the things of Heaven.

If you give Heaven – even the tiniest piece of Heaven and the powers of Heaven – to a dishonest man, you’re creating a demon.

If you put a dishonest man in Heaven he’ll begin turning it into Hell.

So, dishonesty doesn’t – cannot, just cannot – enter Heaven, it’s impossible.

It has to be purged first, burned out of the person (soul) before entry.

Simple.

The joy is great because the loss is eternal!

Twenty-fourth Sunday

Luke 15:4-7

Once again Jesus uses something very simple – an everyday thing – to teach us about eternity.

An animal – a sheep 🐑 – is lost.

The lost sheep 🐑 – wherever she’s got to, that place where she’s lost is actually the road to Hell. Until that sheep is found by the shepherd she’s in grave danger. The shepherd knows that unless he gets to the sheep quickly she’ll be killed by a wolf 🐺, a predator. She won’t last long, so it’s time sensitive. So there’s real concern, a sense of urgency. If the sheep is killed there’s no undoing it, it’s final, a finality that means Hell, eternal loss, it’s an irretrievable loss.

And that’s precisely why there’s so much joy when the sheep is found in time, before tragedy strikes.

So in the simplest of terms, using a shepherd and a sheep that’s got separated from the shepherd, Jesus teaches us about God, about the nature of God and affirms not just the existence of Heaven, but the existence of Hell too.

Pentecost: Making things a little too black and white!

This is so simple.

It’s nearly too simple for many of us. I suspect it’s much too black and white!

The Spirit arrives into our lives in a very ordered way – remember it’s the Spirit that brings us into intimacy with God.

There are ordered steps and each step builds on the previous step.

If you love me – that’s the first step; if you love ❤️ me… look how he’s phrased it; if

If you love me, then the second step; you’ll keep my commandments. So the second step is keeping his commandments but you’ll never have one without the other.

Then Jesus repeats himself, making the same point but in a slightly different way.

And then to really push the point home he states that the reverse is true: “Those who do not love me do not keep my words.” Few of us are comfortable with this, typically we’d say; much too black and white!

So, the Spirit does not enter every life, only the lives of those who love Jesus (God), and keep his commandments, his Word.

So we’re given a reason for lack of intimacy with God.

Finally we’re told something of what the Spirit’s presence does; it causes us to remember Jesus teaching, his teaching becomes part of who we are, my identity, your identity, our identity.