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Wrestling with texts at a midweek Eucharist

November 18, 2009

When I read the texts for tonight my first response was O Lord why these texts? I bring my wrestling so you too can wrestle…

Luke 13: 22-30

Jesus is asked ‘will only a few be saved’ and we want him to answer, ‘No everyone will be saved. God is love. God is not willing that any should perish’. But Jesus offers no reassurance to those who question him this time. He doesn’t exactly answer the question either. He doesn’t want them to assume that they will get be part of God’s kingdom.

Jesus obviously hasn’t done pastoral 101. He tends here to cast doubt on their ultimate salvation. The way is narrow. Many will come and want to enter, but be unable to. Apparently because it’s too narrow. Diet, diet! Strive to enter in.

And then the master of the house closes the door, and Jesus questioners start knocking… Jesus is putting them into his story, not very encouraging to those who come asking theological questions…. The master replies ‘I don’t know where you come from’. It reminded me of the modern phrase, “I don’t know where you’re coming from.”…. Strange people!

What sort of pastor has no interest in telling people they are ok. If someone comes to me and says, Bruce, I’ve done terrible things, my life is a mess, I think I want to die, I’m a waste of space. Will I get into the kingdom of God? Everything in me wants to respond. Rubbish, you’re ok, you’re not so bad. There are lots of people worse than you. The way is broad. But when I think about it, my response has more to do with my needs than the other person’s situation. They might not be ok. They may need most of all to repent.

Many, will come from east and west and north and south… and will eat in the kingdom of God… This sounds a bit more hopeful. Now Jesus imagines many feasting (perhaps after all the dieting to get through the narrow door).

Perhaps many do get in, after the initial rejection … it’s just that some get in first and some last… The whole thing reverses everybody’s expectations.

Jesus concludes ‘some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last’. Jesus the revolutionary speaking. The world of the kingdom will be a stark contrast with the sense of what it is to be successful in this world.

Just when all our carefully nurtured ideas lie wounded on the ground Ephesians sticks the knife in somewhere else…

Eph 6: 1-9

My initial question is “How dare the writer accept slavery without raising an eyebrow?!

Then it occurs to me that perhaps here is where we see the revolutionary impact of Jesus. Jesus last words to his disciples, before he was taken away by soldiers, of an empire which enslaved the world by the sword was ‘put down your sword’.

As he said elsewhere, ‘Those who live by the sword die by the sword’ and ‘It will not be so among you.’

The one who refused the violent revolution inspires Paul (or the writer of the letter to Ephesus) to encourage subversion by love. Paul does not renounce the evil of slavery, but then neither does he expend a lot of breath denouncing the evil Empire that maintains it. Perhaps he knows that the empire and the institution of slavery will fall, not by the sword but by love. Perhaps he knows that even if it doesn’t fall, this response is the one that Christians are called to. So if slaves start to serve their masters not as if their master owned them, but because they are first of all slaves of Christ, and in the real world of God’s kingdom they stand alongside their masters together as brothers and sisters under the Lordship of the risen Christ. And if masters start to treat their slaves as brothers and sisters in Christ… If these things happen the world will change… just as the household and public divisions between men and women changed.

There was no Wilberforce in Paul’s day… it was very different. But the same Gospel ended up inspiring William Wilberforce many centuries later.

Maybe the real revolution happens when the world is subverted from within and slaves and their master sit together around the same table… the table of the Lord.

2 Comments leave one →
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