Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Road to Emmaus

The story of Jesus meeting two travellers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) presents a number of challenges. The first relates to the way that we communicate. From a teaching perspective, these two travellers that Jesus talked in such a way that things made sense to them. They said “Was not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” As a teacher, I would seek that I would teach in such a way that those learning would gain a clear and definite insight and understanding. I don't want to those who I teach going away with clouded minds and uncertainty. I would hope that there may be a desire to learn more or even that they are encouraged to think more clearly about the issues. After all teaching isn't just about imparting knowledge. It is also about fostering a desire to learn and grow.

There is however a different challenge to those who believe in Jesus. These two travellers didn't realise that they were walking with Jesus until he sat down to eat with them and broke the bread. As Barclay (1975) points out, this wasn't the sacrament but “an ordinary meal in an ordinary house” (p 295). An ordinary loaf of bread was divided and the knowledge of the presence of Jesus was gained.

We give thanks for the meal but we seldom thank Him for or recognise his presence at our table. He is there and sits with us. He gives us all that we possess and yet we so often shut him out. It is as though we don't see him as being part of the ordinary things of life.

I envisage sitting at the table and breaking a pull apart loaf of bread. As I do so we give thanks and Jesus presence is felt by all around the table. The thing is that by creating a sacrament or a special occasion, we have removed Jesus from the ordinary. It is as though we have pushed him aside and can now only come to him through special occasions or at special times.

How many times do we go out to celebrate special occasions and not give thanks to God in that celebration. It is as though we are reluctant not only to give God thanks but we are also uncomfortable that others might see us acknowledge God's presence. It is as though we don't believe God is in the ordinary and that in order to meet with Him, we have to go to certain places and carry out specific rituals.

When Jesus told the disciples to prepare no defence (Luke 21:5-24), he didn't mean that they should never put themselves in a position where they might need to defend their faith. On the contrary, he was talking of them being before judges and being asked to defend their faith. Barclay (1975) says what Jesus was saying was that the “disciples would never meet their tribulations alone” (p 259). He would be with them giving them the words that they would need.

As we walk in the ordinary events of life, we can ignore God's promptings to speak into the lives of others or we can be sensitive to His word and to those around us.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1975). The gospel of Luke (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The coming of the kingdom

Jesus tells the Pharisees that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Barclay (1975) has two interpretations of this passage. The first is a “revelation in the hearts of men” (p 220). The second is that “the kingdom of God is among you” (p 220). It is the first interpretation that carries the most meaning for me and that I seek to communicate with others.

It seems to have immediate application if we take the kingdom as being in the hearts of men. If the kingdom of God reigns in our hearts then we will have less concern about some future coming. We will find an inner peace despite the outer turmoil. The kingdom of God brings change to a person in the same way that yeast ferments dough and salt brings flavour to food. If God's kingdom reigns in us then what happens around us will be less of a problem. Our attitudes and our way of living will work from within to bring us peace and confidence.

Will we cry how long before his return, when we know God's inner peace? Will we want to do anything other than focus on what God wants us to do if we already experience His kingdom within?

Speculation about the second coming only makes sense if we are not working to make His kingdom known to others. We have to work in the confidence that He is working out His will for us even if it isn't happening at the rate that we might hope for.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1975). The gospel of Luke (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

Materials sent up

Barclay (1975) ends his commentary on Luke 13:22-30 with the story of a wealthy women being directed to her house in heaven. When she protests about its size, the angel responds “that is all we could build for you with the materials you sent up” (p 184).

When we focus on status and comfort in the present life, we ignore how talents and assets that we are being given can be used for the kingdom of God. As I look at what we had acquired in New Zealand, I see that our focus has changed. As we planned to move to the UK, we discarded many assets and had to decide on their importance. So much is nice to have but unless it is working to build the kingdom is holding back the materials that we could be sending up for the work of the kingdom.

I realise that God has placed many resources around us that we can use for the kingdom. For me, he has brought knowledge and understanding. The challenge, as they say, “moving forward,” is how to utilise these resources for the benefit of God's kingdom and those people that God brings across our path. We need to focus on how to send materials up rather than on how to build an earthly mansion.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1975). The gospel of Luke (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

How important is it to work on relationships?

The issue of how to build and maintain relationships has been fairly important to us over the last week. No, we are not having a relationship breakdown. What has been obvious is the ease with which we see people willing to allow relationships to fall apart. I am not denying that relationship breakups will occur and in some cases are possibly inevitable and necessary, but it seems that we may have reached a point that people don't want to work at making relationships work.

Any relationship has its ups and downs, its agreements and disagreements, its times of being able to work together and struggles with working together. However, the real test of a relationship is how it grows and develops over time.

Of course a relationship takes two people to make it work. If one really decides to opt out, the other no matter how hard they try won't be able to restore it. The point that I want to make is that to make a relationship work means making a commitment to that relationship. The problem that I see is that we too readily accept relationships falling apart. In the comments that we have had from people, there is almost an inevitability that all relationships won't last and that those that do are a real exception.

There seems to be little investment in working to foster working relationships or build lasting relationships. If we don't like what is happening in a relationship, we simply move on to the next relationship. There is no concern for the collateral damage or how the issues of the break down might be resolved. It is move on and forget rather than commit and build.

As I reflect, I see this same attitude happening on the world stage. The problem is that in this context when a relationship fails, the consequences can be far reaching for the people who in some respects need the relationship in order to survive. A lot of the tension that causes the breakup of these relationships is related to not obtaining what a party wants from the relationship.

Relationships that work are based on a willingness to give and take. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes “Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people's point of view” (J.B Philips translation). My PhD research into the perceptions of programmers to object-oriented programming has helped me see more of the importance of this statement and I believe that for international relationships, seeing from “other people's point of view” is the only way to resolve the threat of terrorism and hatred that seems to be building around the world.

So coming back to the question that I posed? Working on building relationships, is important. We learn through interpersonal relationships how to work and assist others. On the international stage the stakes are higher and more people are likely to be hurt. If we want to work for reconciliation and redemption, then we need to work on building relationships so that we can more easily talk into the lives of others.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Second chance

How many chances do we need before we understand what God desires of us? This thought arose from the reading of Barclay's commentary on Luke 13:6-9. The Luke passage is about the fig tree that is given another chance to bear fruit.

Israel was given the opportunity to be God's chosen people but she saw that status as being for herself and not as a privilege and responsibility that needed to be shared with others. She was given chance after chance to redeem herself until finally God acted to open up the opportunities for others ignoring Israel.

This speaks to us as well. We are repeatedly given our opportunities and chances. If we don't take them, we will find God closing the door on us. We will lose the privilege that we have gained and find ourselves looking on others being given the opportunities that we used to have.

So often we can focus on things that give us status or an advantage over others when God really wants us working to bring equality and reconciliation. My goal isn't to preach a gospel of repentance but rather to open up the opportunities for others to know God's love and to work together for encouraging and strengthening others.

It is so easy to rejoice in what we have been given and to ignore the responsibilities that go with those gifts. As I write this I am looking toward my next job and what it might be. I am wondering how the next position will help me promote reconciliation and peace but I also need to be doing this in the current job. I am conscious of events happening around me which so easily could be opportunities to be judgemental but which require the showing of love, compassion, and a desire to understand. How do we show love that leads to repentance and reconciliation? How do we speak the truth in love? The choices that we have in life are not always easy and it is often more comfortable to seek security for oneself ahead of showing compassion and concern for others.

We are given our chances. What are we doing with them?

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1975). The gospel of Luke (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.