Skip to main content

Reflecting on the Readings for 2 September

Jeremiah 2.4-13
This passage has two abiding issues at its core. The first is faithlessness - the refusal to believe in God or in permanent values. Residual belief in God remains high in our culture, with many people retaining a soft spot for God although they never get involved in any organised religion, but there are a lot of faithless people who have deliberately turned their backs on religion and spirituality. They have created alternative belief systems for themselves. Can we hope to convince them that these do not hold water? Probably not.

The second abiding issue is people who change their value systems or their goals for something that does not profit. For much of the last two centuries, many people in the West believed in the idea of progress - that human society, and individual life was steadily getting better. There has indeed been much material progress in the West during that time. Life expectancy is much greater than ever before and most of us live surrounded by an array of gadgets and labour-saving devices that would have amazed our ancestors. But are we happier than people used to be?

Two world wars helped to undermine confidence in the idea of progress. Today's news headlines can only further dampen any remaining optimism. We live in a society which is more hectic, more selfish and self-centered, and more unsure of itself.

When Harold Macmillan told the British people that they 'had never had it so good' people were actually a lot less well off, on average,than they are now. But statistics show that they felt more happy and satisfied with their lot. Have we exchanged the things which made us happy for things that do not really profit us? If so, what have we lost or left behind?

Hebrews 13.1-8. 15-16
The writer of Hebrews develops the theme explored by Jeremiah. But where Jeremiah is negative, bemoaning what we have lost by becoming faithless, the writer of Hebrews is positive. He celebrates the benefits and responsibilities of mutual love. He advises us to be content with our lot and not to strive for greater prosperity or a better lifestyle because what really matters is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and he will never leave us nor forsake us. But warm feelings are not enough. Love has to be expressed through real concern for other people, including prayer and action on their behalf. This - not empty praises - is what really pleases God.

What are the things we need to do to share God's love in our community, our City and our world?

Luke 14.1-14
The Gospel passage for this Sunday reinforces the same message about what really matters. We must beware of status-seeking. It is a trap, because the people who really matter to God are the humble, the poor and the disabled. To these we could add anyone who is left on the margins of society and overlooked in the scramble to get on. Who might be added to the list in our society today?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I don't believe in an interventionist God

Matthew 28.1-10, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 I like Nick Cave’s song because of its audacious first line: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. What an unlikely way to begin a love song! He once explained that he wrote the song while sitting at the back of an Anglican church where he had gone with his wife Susie, who presumably does believe in an interventionist God - at least that’s what the song says. Actually Cave has always been very interested in religion. Sometimes he calls himself a Christian, sometimes he doesn’t, depending on how the mood takes him. He once said, ‘I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it.’ But his lyrics often include religious themes and he has also said that any true love song is a song for God. So maybe it’s no coincidence that he began this song in such an unlikely way, although he says the inspiration came to him during the sermon. The vicar was droning on about something when the first line of the song just popped into his head. I suspect …

True Love

Mark 12:28-34 In 1981 Prince Charles was put on the spot during a television interview with Lady Diana Spencer, his new fiancee. The interviewer asked them if they were in love. Lady Diana’s instant response was , ‘Of course!,’ but Prince Charles replied, ‘Whatever “in love” means.’ Now in case you think Prince Charles is just a bit of a cold fish, on National Poetry Day 2015 he read a poem on Radio 4, ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ by Robbie Burns. I thought, ‘This is going to be a bit wooden,’ but I was wrong. He read the poem so movingly that Clarence House has made it available on YouTube and Twitter. Listening to him it was impossible to escape the conclusion that he now knows what being “in love” means. O my Love is like a red, red rose, That's newly sprung in June: O my Love is like the melody, That's sweetly played in tune. As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in love am I; And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry. But what does being “in …

Why are good people tempted to do wrong?

Deuteronomy 30.15-20, Psalm 119.1-8, 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Matthew 5.21-37 Why are good people tempted to do wrong? Sometimes we just fall from the straight and narrow and do mean, selfish or spiteful things. But sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re still good people even though we’re doing something wrong. We tell ourselves that there are some people whose motives are totally wicked or self-regarding: criminals, liars, cheats, two-timers, fraudsters, and so on, but we are not that kind of person. We’re basically good people who just indulge in an occasional misdemeanour. So, for example, there’s Noble Cause Corruption, a phrase first coined apparently in 1992 to explain why police officers, judges, politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and so on sometimes get sucked into justifying actions which are really totally wrong, but on the grounds that they are doing them for a very good reason. A famous instance of noble cause corruption is the statement, by the late Lord Denni…