Tag Archives: living

What a Silly Question

An interesting theological debate?  Or a trap?

Trying to trip him up?  Or genuine questions?

Luke 20:27-38 (CEV)

Life in the Future World

27 The Sadducees did not believe that people would rise to life after death. So some of them came to Jesus 28 and said:

Teacher, Moses wrote that if a married man dies and has no children, his brother should marry the widow. Their first son would then be thought of as the son of the dead brother.

29 There were once seven brothers. The first one married, but died without having any children. 30 The second one married his brother’s widow, and he also died without having any children. 31 The same thing happened to the third one. Finally, all seven brothers married that woman and died without having any children. 32 At last the woman died. 33 When God raises people from death, whose wife will this woman be? All seven brothers had married her.

34 Jesus answered:

The people in this world get married. 35 But in the future world no one who is worthy to rise from death will either marry 36 or die. They will be like the angels and will be God’s children, because they have been raised to life.

37 In the story about the burning bush, Moses clearly shows that people will live again. He said, “The Lord is the God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” 38 So the Lord isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living. This means that everyone is alive as far as God is concerned.

So they didn’t believe that people rise to life, yet they had a question to ask – and a clearly ridiculous question at that!  If you don’t believe in a resurrected life, why would you worry about who someone would be married to in that life?  This question is clearly not about anything other than trying to catch Jesus out, to get him to say something that they can “use in evidence”.

This is all tied up in the questions about Jesus’ authority.  It is a power struggle.  Is he going to shore up the things that the current religious powers were saying, or was he going to do and say something radical as they suspected?

Jesus wants them to know he is the God of the living not the dead.  Faith is about life and now.  What happens after will be nothing that we can imagine, the rules will all be different, it’s not life as we know and understand it now – how that is should not worry us now.

There will be an after life – but there is a life now as well.  Is Jesus suggesting they worry about that, not their hypothetical scenarios?

It reminds me of the old Christian Aid strapline, “We believe in life before death“.  I’m sure that is what Jesus would much rather we worry about…

I Want to Serve the Purpose of God

Strong Faith

By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia (Taking the Plunge Together Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I think faith is one of those things that everyone thinks everyone else’s is stronger, deeper, more alive…When the truth is we’re all getting on with it as best we can, and probably someone else is thinking the same about you!

Even the apostles asked for stronger faith – and they were there, in the flesh, with Jesus…

Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith stronger!”

Jesus replied:

If you had faith no bigger than a tiny mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to pull itself up, roots and all, and to plant itself in the ocean. And it would!

If your servant comes in from ploughing or from taking care of the sheep, would you say, “Welcome! Come on in and have something to eat”? No, you wouldn’t say that. You would say, “Fix me something to eat. Get ready to serve me, so I can have my meal. Then later on you can eat and drink.” Servants don’t deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. 10 And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.”

Jesus tells some strange stories.  Some that appear at first glance to be quite heartless.  This seems quite hard on the servants – but that was their job.  In whatever our employment is, we expect to be given one task and another and another.  We have a contract, there are expectations, a job to be done.  You would not expect the MD to invite you in for coffee and a sit down every time you have completed one of your tasks.  You just get on with the job you are employed to do.

Presumably this little tale is to explain about faith, and getting stronger faith.  And Jesus is saying

Just get on with it!

Is having a stronger faith something God can do for us?  Or something we get by doing stuff that requires faith?  The more we use, the more we find we’ll have.  Using faith grows faith.  If we sit around waiting to have enough faith, we’ll never do anything, if we go out and do something, we may be surprised how much faith we have.  We can stay home and pray for it – or get out and do it.

This passage follows on from the part about “how many times should I forgive my brother?”  Perhaps knowing they need more faith comes from Jesus’ response to that.  And in itself perhaps that is a prime example of doing not thinking.  If we start thinking about how we can forgive someone, we will probably never get on with it.  If we just do it, we might discover it is so much easier than we thought.

I was tempted to add a song praying for faith – but that seems at odds to what I’m saying…

So, instead I’ve gone for this

sometimes it is not easy to understand the stories Jesus told.
we were not there,
we can’t see the look on his face,
or where they were at the time.

But we know we all long for more faith,
we want to know you more,
serve you better,
be sure of the way you’re calling us

– but sometimes we just have step out in faith
to trust you
and what we know of you.

So Lord,
as I long for more faith,
may I step out in your faith,
may I work with what I already know of you,
know that you won’t abandon me,
but love me.

Being With

In the ‘Afterword’, Cottrell speaks of Stanley Spencer,

He started to see the everyday life and activities of the village as sacred, as revealing the presence and purposes of God (p93)

God is everywhere and in  everything. He is not kept in a box for special occasions, or only in certain special places.

He also came to the realisation that,

In the eyes of God, all work is of equal importance (p93)

Everything we do is done in God’s service – God is in everything we do, not just what we think of as the “holy” bits, because In God’s service everything should be done to his glory.  We do not need to long for a “better” service, we can serve God where we are. What we are called, or asked to do, should be done showing that we love him.  Brother Lawrence is cited as reminding us that, ‘common business’, no matter how mundane, could be a medium for God’s love, including this brilliant quote from The Practice of the Presence of God:

It is not needful to have great things to do.  I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God.  When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and worship my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise happier than a king.  When I can do nothing else, it is enough to have picked up a straw for the love of God (p96)

This is the challenge for us – sometimes a huge challenge, to see God in all things, to live for God in all things.

In Spencer’s paintings, we have seen Jesus amongst the flowers, the potentially dangerous scorpion, the foxes, and wrapping his arms of love around the hen and her brood.  This is God with us.

And perhaps that is the ongoing message of Lent.  We have spent some time set aside, been in the wilderness and been stripped bare, but all that is to enable us to live life, to be a part of, to be amongst, as Jesus was.  His time in the wilderness was not the end, but the beginning of his ministry, a time of equipping – from which he then had to go out and be with.  To show people God’s love, God’s life, in the special times, but more in the ordinary times.  When they were at work, struggling with illness, questioning on what really mattered in life,.  Jesus was there amongst them, and that is our calling too – to be amongst people and show God’s love and hope to them.  We are not to shut our faith away, save it for Sundays or special places. It is to be lived where we are, where other people are.

Whatever you do, you’re doing it for God.  As Cottrell reminds us, every place is a place of encounter (p98).

Cottrell points us to this hymn

I have really enjoyed this book and found it really helpful. Many thanks to Stephen Cottrell for the insights and especially Stanley Spencer for the paintings.

This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.

I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts