Saturday, September 25, 2010

C, Pentecost 18 Proper 21 - 1 Timothy 6:6-19 "Shrewd Contentment"

Hot on the heels of last week’s Gospel reading we hear from Saint Paul’s first letter to Timothy, calling us to godliness with contentment, and the love of money is the root of all evil causing some to wander from God into many pangs. A pang is a stomach pain or debilitating cramp, and as we all know one is never content when twisted up from stomach pain.

However, first we need to be reminded of the content of last week’s Gospel reading where we heard about the dishonest manager and his shrewd, or prudent, or wise reaction at his boss’s call for his removal as manager.

Let’s hear again what the manager did …summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. (Luke 16:5-8 ESV)

Shrewd here shouldn’t be connected with the dishonesty of the manager. To be shrewd, although it can be seen negatively as sneaky and deceptive, can also be understood as prudent or wise! A person who is shrewd is cautious and careful. Looking at the bigger picture they wisely move forward towards a goal of greater benefit.

And so the manager was shrewd, he sat back and took a look at the bigger picture and wisely made decisions which would benefit him after the boss had cast him out.

But then in the passage Jesus goes on to say …I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9 ESV) And in conclusion …No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Luke 16:13 ESV)

Now it’s clear the manager was dishonest with his employer through his self service to dishonesty with money. But he was very honest and righteous toward himself and his income. And so when Jesus says you will hate money or God and love the other, he puts it to you and me, “What is it that you serve out of love? Him and Our Heavenly Father, or money and your own self-interest?”

You see, as much as we might be confused hearing in this parable the dishonest manager getting commended for his shrewdness, or his prudence, or careful observation of his situation and reaction to it. Jesus knows we are shrewd for ourselves too. Perhaps this is why we are immediately perplexed by the self interest of the manager, and Jesus’ commendation of his actions.

And so we allow Jesus to delve deeper into our being with “the love of money or God the Father” question. Make no mistake; the love of money is actually a love of self, and money is just the means or power sought to foster this idolatry of the great “I” or “me” god.

With his Word Jesus divides and discerns you and me and the intentions of our hearts. He asks you “Are you wisely acting, being shrewd or prudent with the things of this world out of love for God, to glorify him alone?” Or, “Are you being shrewd with the things of God out of love for you, to glorify yourself, to have power in profit?”

Or to put it another way, “Do you sit back and consider the bigger picture of God seeking to use all the resources given to your disposal, to further your eternal relationship with God?” Or, “Do you sit back and consider yourself ‘as the big picture’ and use God’s resources and spiritual gifts given to further your position in this world?”

We might well be commended by Jesus for our shrewdness in the things of this world but be condemned at the same time for our immaturity and the foolish way we act with the only One who can save us, and the gifts he seeks to give which will give us salvation.

So we come back to the pangs! To feelings of hollowness only to be filled with internal spasms; gut-wrenching pain! More precisely your gut-wrenching spirituality that sees the hope we should have, as a doubtful response nervously said, “I hope I’m saved!”

Perhaps it’s time to turn your shrewdness towards the things that will truly save you! Jesus is right in saying we deal more diligently with the things of this world, and this generation, living as people of this darkened world, rather than as children of light.

Saint Paul tells Timothy, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7 ESV)

While we have our focus on this world there will never be contentment, or a godliness or piety which glorifies God.

For us who sit in church week after week and struggle with contentment, constantly feeling the uneasiness of self within, God calls you to repentance! To return to trusting the gifts where God faithfully promises salvation! He calls you to godliness with contentment.

And there is a word of warning here too. The dishonest manager, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, and the rich man who looked down on Lazarus, were all godly men.

The dishonest manager was godly towards himself, which is why he was so unrighteous before his employer.

But the Jews, the Pharisees, and the rich man knew the ways of the law. They seemed to be very godly or pious, and they were. In fact, it was hard to fault them. Yet Jesus did! He exposed their godliness as only a means to self gain. Perhaps, power, prestige or standing in the community, was there motivation.

But this type of godliness gave the Jews, the Pharisees, and the dishonest manager no satisfaction leading to salvation. They were shrewd and clever in their immediate situation, but in eternal righteousness before God they were very unwise and imprudent. In fact they were plain foolish and how they reacted to Jesus Christ is laughable.

God’s will for you is peace and contentment. To be content with the all-powerful providence of the Father! To be content with the work Christ has done for your salvation! And to be content with the Holy Spirit’s leadership in your life; to manage you in the way of contentment and peace! God’s will for you is that you shrewdly and wisely use the things of this world for contentment and hope in him, and an eternal life with him.

Therefore… pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV)

God has given us many earthly riches – blessings upon blessings. Don’t lament over these earthly riches, but use them to glorify God before others. Turn away from using them to glorify yourself before others. Your eternal life and the eternal lives of others is a fight worth fighting.

In fact, this contentment comes in the knowledge that Christ has already shrewdly fought and won the fight for us. He just needs us to believe in the fight and therefore retain the faith he won in the fight at Calvary.

In all your wealth both earthly and spiritually, don’t be haughty, puffed-up as if what you have is a result of your own doing. You will leave this earth with nothing, and the perishables you have accumulated account for nothing before God.

But be rich in works of sharing both earthly gifts and the spiritual gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, fully convinced of the treasures Christ has won for you in heaven. It is the only foundation for the future, so take hold of that which is truly life.

Be shrewd in salvation, clever in the cross, and prudent in the possession of the life Christ has won for you, a life of contentment and eternal peace. Amen.

Friday, September 17, 2010

C, Pentecost 17 Proper 20 - Luke 16:1-8 "Management Woes Made Right"


1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ 3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 ”‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ 7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ”‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ 8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.


This reading is possibly one of the hardest to understand in the whole bible. Hearing the master’s commendation of the dishonest manager for being shrewd goes against the grain of our thought. It seems Jesus is giving out licences to be dishonest and fraudulent. Surely, this is not Jesus’ intention! The parable of the shrewd servant seems to stand out like a sore thumb in the context of other things Jesus says.

Who is the rich man in the parable? Who is the manager? Only once we understand who these people are, we can understand the parable, letting it have an effect on our lives. Couldn’t God be the rich man? After all, he is rich in everything, and it is from him that we have received all things. So if God is the rich man in the parable then we must be the managers. God has given us his creation to manage.

How have we managed God’s affairs lately? As a parent, as an employer, as holders of God’s image, as a server of the common good of Australia, as a member of this congregation, as a Christian, as one whom God has made holy through the blood of Jesus – what’s your management been like?

In the text Jesus tells of a manager who has to give an account of his management just before he is removed from his position by the rich man. This servant, his household head, the manager of his possessions, is a rogue, and a deceiver. His negligence to care for the boss’s possessions is nothing short of fraud and dishonourable deception. He is one who has been given the responsibility of much, he is entrusted with the rich man’s wealth, his kingdom, everything that is his.

Jesus tells us the manager is accused of wasting possessions; he scatters the seeds of his boss’s resources with recklessness. It is surly right that he is accused, this is something that shouldn’t be left from the owner’s attention. The owner must be told; this bloke is out of control. How dare he do something so thoughtless, so wasteful, and so stupid! And if this is not enough, after he is exposed as a fraud, he seeks to feather his own nest by taking more from his employer by reducing the accounts of the boss’s debtors. This scandalous action deserves the full force of the law.

If Jesus reports in the parable that the servant’s management is untenable, let us remember that all of us have many possessions, we are rich in possessions given to us by our Heavenly Father. He is the One who gives us relationships with others, our friends, our families, and our enemies. He is the One who gives us enjoyment, love so we can love others, he gives us our senses and our bodies made in his image. He is the One who gives us a land and homes in which to live, free from oppression, and with freedom to choose. Yes! Our Heavenly father gives us everything to manage and enjoy. Moreover, he gives us himself through his Son, the Holy Spirit, and the church. How does your management of these gifts shape up in the sight of God?

You and I are the managers misusing the possessions and mysteries God has given to us. We take these gifts as if they were products of our own doing, any interest gained from these gifts we pat ourselves on the shoulder and credit it to our own tab, our own self-interest. We make a mess of the world in which we live, we rape and pillage the earth rather than care for it, and we abuse and look down on others and in doing so discredit God’s creation, God’s very own image. So he calls us in and asks us, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ Surely, we must pay for this deception, this misuse of funds, and this fraudulent activity with his creation.

In this text, the manager is shrewd. He acts in a way that gains the favour of his master’s debtors by cutting their huge bills. Surprisingly this behaviour, which seems to be even more deceptive and scandalous than the manager’s original activity, attracts the master’s praise. In verse eight Jesus says, ‘The master commended the dishonest servant because he had acted shrewdly.’

How do we act shrewdly? We know that to misuse God’s gifts is wrong. God’s word and our conscience tells us so. How can I win the master’s favour? The answer is as scandalous as this text. Pass the buck! Pass it onto the one true manager of the Father’s gifts, the manager of managers, the Lord of Lords, the shrewdest servant ever to walk the face of the earth. Christ Jesus is the servant, the manager who takes our responsibility, our wasteful and fraudulent management, who calls us to pass the buck over to him. He is the one, whom God entrusts with his gifts, his possessions, and his riches. With great thoughtfulness, prudence and wisdom Christ came to us, the scoundrels of this world. He shrewdly came into the world so that we could live lives as managers of God’s gifts. Jesus Christ takes the debt of God’s huge bill from our shoulders.

How can this be that Jesus Christ is the shrewd manager? The manager in this parable is in a process of being removed from the rich man’s service, for dishonourable deception. He is being removed for his foolishness, dishonesty; for the scandalous way he managed.

Dear friends, we preach Christ crucified, a scandal, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. These are the words of St Paul to the Corinthians. The scandal is the management of Christ. The deception is one of deception over our sin, our natures, and of Satan. On the cross, the sign of shame and scandal, Christ bore our sin, our shame, our foolishness; our poor management. At that time he was removed from the Father’s house, his purpose for doing so, was not for himself, but for the management and service of the whole world. He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Satan, the deceiver, was deceived. Just when he thought he had won the victory over us, he lost and Christ stepped in and took our place in death. And the Father commended the manager because he had acted shrewdly. The manager, Christ, became as though he was worldly, wicked, unjust, in the likeness of humanity; he dwelt in the presence of dishonesty, his disciples were frauds when the crunch came, he hung between criminals. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, Jesus is our Lord; and he is a very shrewd manager. We are dishonest servants but he is the shrewd servant who swapped places with us. What a scandal, what a deception!

In the same way we too are scandalous. St Paul confesses in Gal 2: 20, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’. The scandal is alive in all of us, we are the shrewd servants of God’s gifts, because God owns us, he lives in us, through Christ we reflect the true image of God. Through Christ we manage the world, as Christ manages. Because of what Christ scandalously did, we too can go out and give Christ’s love to the unbelievers, to the scoundrels, and to the rogues of this world with graciousness and freedom. Through Christ, we can deceive the devil too.

Are we foolish? Yes! Are we scandalous, scoundrels, weak and lowly? Yes! For the foolishness and shrewdness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness and scandal of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Let each of us not only look to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let our attitude be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Let us serve the world here in the presence of God as his holy people in our day to day lives. Let us shrewdly, pass the buck, hand our debt of sin over to Christ, so that we too can be commended, not for our sinful activity, but for the shrewdness we have gained in Christ. Amen!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ continually renew us so our management is your management! Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

C, Pentecost 16 Proper 19 - Luke 15:1-7; Exodus 32:9-10 "A Stiff Neck Gets You Killed"

The worst injury a WW2 fighter pilot could carry into the cockpit was a stiff neck. One of the Allies finest fighter pilots, South African born, Squadron Leader Gerald "Stapme" Stapleton, in a documentary on the Battle of Britain said, “I'll tell you what gets you killed, flying with a stiff neck gets you killed!” If the neck was stiff, the response of those being pursued in a dogfight is significantly slower than if one’s neck was free allowing a pilot to quickly glance over his shoulder and react in a way which could save him from being shot down.
So a stiff neck gets you killed! This also was the case in the Sinai wilderness when the Israelites became stiff necked and made for themselves a calf of gold and sought to worship it. And God’s anger raged against them.
He saw what they did and he said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32:9-10 ESV)
God like an ace pilot wanted nothing more than to bear down on those who had willingly and defiantly turned away, refusing with stiff-necks to turn back, and wipe them out of existence. They had corrupted themselves to such a degree; all that was due to them was God’s wrath and total annihilation.
Like the Israelites with their golden calf, humanity continues to willingly and defiantly turn away from God. Turning from his will towards our own wills! Amazingly each of us coarsely seeks to justify our will as somehow okay with God! Yet our sin tainted will living in its own justification becomes more and more unbending to the truth, not allowing us to turn back from a spiralling dive down into timeless eternal trouble, pain, and suffering.
If you think our society today is free from golden calves which lead us into stiff-necked idolatry, perhaps your need be asked, “Is your neck too stiff to see reality?”
Power and control still persists as a big idol in the lives of us humans. I want control, power over my own destiny. And when I get it I allow no one else to have it, because if I did it would no longer be control. Also you and I crave power as an extension of this control over others as well as me.
Pleasure is another calf these days and it comes through our short-sighted desire of things which appease the emotions, so we get that good feeling, that rush! Mind you there’s nothing wrong with emotions and feelings, after all God gave us our feelings and emotions as a wonderful gift. Yet when this gift, like any gift from God, becomes number one it becomes our golden calf!
The other sacred cow is possessions. Like emotions, there’s nothing wrong with having stuff! But like pleasure and power, possessions can quickly cause us to become so turned in and one-eyed on these created things that God gets put in a distant second place.
However, the only problem with him being in second place and you in first place with a stiff-necked attitude against him, he’s behind us, he’s angry with us, and he allows no one to put him second. For God’s holiness to be the pure holiness it’s expected it to be, stiff-necked unholiness must be dealt with, it must be shot down. A stiff necked get’s you killed!
And so God put in a distant second place to power, pleasure, and possessions, will incite a response from God. As humanity flies along in its sin, God dives down with his cross hairs locked on to us. He bears down on you, he can see your image, one which he build in perfection, haphazardly clunking along in all its imperfection, leaving a trail of putrid pollution, which spews from our engine, the core of our being, which seeks to run on this unclean power, pleasures, and possessions.
With his cross-hair undoubtedly on you, God pulls the trigger! His burning wrath shoots out at you! But, you have a wingman! He swoops in behind you knowing your stiff neck injury. He saves the day, you fly home, but he wears the wrath. The cross-hairs point at him and his shiny frame takes the heat, and he spirals down, down, down, into the darkness of death. Your Squadron Leader bears the cross-hairs meant for you; Jesus Christ wears God’s wrath because of your stiff neck.
Our Squadron Leader is in fact our shepherd. Not only is he the only true ace; a fighter pilot who rules the heavens. He is also our suffering servant, taking the flack — as if he were stiff-necked, hell-bent, and lost. He flew out to rescue you like a shepherd who looks for one lost sheep. A stiff neck gets you killed, yet not you! Your stiff neck got Christ killed. Jesus stuck out his neck for you!
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:1-7 ESV)
So the questions for us are these: Are you one who now draws near to God, knowing you are a sinner? Or, are you one who grumbles about those whom God wants to defend and rescue through the cross?
When Jesus spoke this parable, the Pharisees and scribes watched on and grumbled. They had stiff necks too. Yet, they thought they were injury free; and on seeing Jesus with sinners, labelled him the enemy.
So stiff had their necks become they had no idea God’s heat was bearing down on them. They had become just as much the enemy as the tax collectors and other sinners. However, Jesus was not just there to shoot down the enemy on his Father’s behalf, but to raise them up again as God’s children.
You have been raised up again through the cross too. Are there things from which you need to repent? YES! Any of us who truly know the stiffness of our ways, and the need for continual protection from the Shepherd, who continually flies out to rescue us, his black sheep, has to answer yes.
In this parable of the lost sheep a twist appears at the end. And it’s repeated at the end of the lost coin parable too. The celebration occurs though the repentance of the one who is found rather than them being found, as we would expect. Jesus came to rescue us, and that work is done. Are you now allowing God to move in you the faith and repentance which causes all heaven to celebrate?
Are you allowing the salve of the Gospel to relieve your stiff neck, to be rubbed in through the preaching and teaching of God’s word, and the eating and drinking of his body and blood? See the celebration into which you have been invited!
One might light-heartedly muse that on the shepherd finding the sheep and calling the neighbours together to celebrate, he might have very well butchered that sheep in celebration. Or, the woman used the coin she found to purchase what she needed to celebrate with her neighbours.
Seriously though, we the saved sheep, and God’s precious children, who allow the Holy Spirit to move in us daily repentance are not going to be slaughtered and spent for the sins with which we still struggle. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was butchered for us, he was the priceless Son of God completely spent on the cross for you. And because this sinless, spotless, priceless, holy and undefiled, Son of God became the sacrifice for your stiff-neckedness, we now get to join the celebration with the whole company of God’s heavenly squadron — angels and archangels, together with those set free, and being set free, from behind enemy lines.
No longer are we the baa baa black sheep hearing the demand, “have you any wool?” Singing the song of religious works, “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!”
But rather our song has changed from works to what God has done. Our song might be something like this…
“Mary bore the Son of God, Son of God, Son of God. Mary bore the Son of God; And sin he did not know! And every sin that we commit… He took upon himself. He died for your eternal life… He wants you to believe. Mary’s Lamb gives peace and hope… Through his own sacrifice. Jesus Christ is Mary’s Lamb, Lamb of God, God’s own Son; Jesus Christ is God and man, He died upon the cross. God’s Lamb is risen from the grave… And death no more does reign. We receive when we believe… We get true faith in church.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, our stiff necks should lead us to a horrible death, yet Jesus has stuck his neck out for us! Lord move in us so we allow your Holy Spirit to work daily repentance in us which we need so much, and cost your Son so much on the cross, Amen!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

C, Pentecost 15 Proper 18 - Luke 14:25-33, Psalm 1:5-6, Philemon "Hard To Hate"

Hate is a hard word to hear. Especially in the context of the Gospel reading where we hear Jesus say a person must hate his or her very own life, hate father and mother, or hate sister and brother. Hearing ‘to hate’ startles the senses yet Jesus goes on to shake us even more.
If you don’t perfectly hate like this, then Jesus says you cannot be his disciple. Added to this he says, “…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33 ESV)
What does God require of you? He wants you to lay down everything and take up your cross and follow him. Anything less and you cannot be his disciple. Without this hate of self and family, without the bearing of your cross, you and I are seen as flavourless salt… and salt that’s not salty is good for nothing!
A simple test of your hatred of self and family in favour of God can be best observed by your focus on your birthday over against your baptism birthday. Which of these two days gets your greater celebration?
Does the brighter spotlight fall on the day you were born, or rather, do you rejoice more over the anniversary of your day of birth into the eternal kingdom of God. Do you celebrate and commemorate the day you were born into your sinfulness or the day you were crucified and buried with Christ, the day you were baptised into his death, the day your sinfulness was defeated and you received eternal life?
Unless you hate your birthday more than the day your cross became Christ’s cross, and pick it up and follow him, you cannot be Jesus’ disciple!
In light of his word here, we start to see the shocking insufficiency of our existence. In fact, some of you are hard up remembering just what date it was when you were baptised, while some of you are questioning his word, trying to side step it, ignore it, or perhaps trying to justify yourself.
What is revealed here is we’re not what we’re meant to be! Humanity has lost its way! Our thinking has become confused and contradicted against the truth of the situation and our real position in this world and with God.
Most of us have come to accept a benign type of Christianity, devoid of anything which might seem offensive to our postmodern ears. However, what might seem to be benign is in fact malignant if you allow the word of God to dig beneath the surface and expose the reality of your human existence.
Is your quest for your idea of life the very thing that’s cutting you off from the life God wants to give you?
You know, it’s not meant to be this way!
In Psalm One, we’re told, “…the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV)
So what is it for you? Are you righteous; one in God’s congregation? Or, are you a perishing sinner?
There’s a number of ways you might respond. First there’s the way of pride. We might look at ourselves all puffed up thinking we’re not doing too badly! Then, there’s the way of brokenness. We might see deep within the darkness of our sin and in shame seek to flee further from God’s presence.
Both of these responses are flawed! They are both equally wrong because answers are sought from within you.
However, there’s another way! The third way! By this path you can be honest! And answer both questions… YES! Yes, I am righteous; I am one in God’s congregation! And yes, I am a sinner! There is a part of me perishing! Thank God it’s being done away with!
Why is this different from a righteous pride that comes from within, or, equally from within, a humiliation that leads to the giving up of hope? It’s different because the twofold yes comes from outside. It allows you to be completely honest knowing yourself as God knows you!
In fact, God knows you better than you know yourself. He knew you before you were born. He knew you before your baptism into Christ’s death on your cross! He even knew you before this world existed. As we’ve heard in Psalm One, the Lord knows the way of the righteous.
Now God calls you to know yourself! Know your nature; be honest with yourself and him. Know you’re dying, but not despair! Rather because of the eternal joy that awaits you, endure the cross of dying, the killing of your sinful nature, and look forward with hope; fully convinced of the future.
To see yourself clothed the way you were meant to be before sin entered the lives of humanity! To see with God given faith, when God looks at you he sees Jesus! To see you covered with the righteousness of Christ. Believing and trusting Christ’s righteousness is the only way of righteousness.
When this happens we will hate what we are, but love what we have become, what we’re becoming, and what we will become in Christ!
We will realise this life is more about death than life and regret and detest it’s like this. But we’ll also see in death what has begun in baptism will be finished and done away with, so true life can begin. We will grow in love in the knowledge Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And we will yearn, more and more, to be the same as him.
Today we also hear about Paul, Philemon (fill-ee-mon), and Onesimus (O-ness-ee-mus). Onesimus was Philemon’s slave, and after escaping and being found by Paul, Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon. But Onesimus is different from what he once was. He’s no longer a slave to sin but is now bound by the Gospel. He had become the same as Saint Paul.
Although we know little about what it’s like to live in a social setting of slavery, we in fact, like Onesimus, were slaves to sinfulness but are being freed from that old bondage.
If we look into ourselves we might seek to flee our slavery like Onesimus, in despair or arrogance. But Onesimus then relied on Paul to win favour with his master, Philemon. Likewise, Christ has won the victory for us and we can rely on him to put us right with God.
We could imagine Onesimus hated his old life as a slave. We too who trust Christ to put us right will detest our old life too. We will hate the way things have become in this world. We will hate who we’ve become, slaves of sin. And because of it long for something much better and trust God is bringing it to fruition in our lives.
In hating ourselves we might learn to truly love who God is re-creating us to be. And then with this Christ-centred love we might love our neighbour as ourselves. We might love and serve one another as Christ loves and serves us. Amen.