Home / Blog Posts / Ministry of Presence / Aligned with God’s Way of Love

Reflection for Wesley Uniting Church 

Jeremiah 17:5–10; Psalm 1; Luke 6:17–26 

Blessing. Woe. Judgement?

When a prophet, when Jesus, announces blessing and woe, what is really going on?

Well, let’s start with what’s not going on.

Prophets are not judges handing down sentence as punishment, bestowing reward for success.

Prophets are not soothsayer fortune tellers setting down a future we cannot escape.

It is important to begin there, seeking to leave behind paths of interpretation that could obscure life-giving meaning.

so now, what is going on?

Prophets are ‘seers’, in the sense that they see with clarity what is.

Prophets are ‘tellers’, in the sense that they speak boldly the truth of what they see.

Prophets are faithful, with an understanding of the way of God, the commandments, covenant, and call of Holy One to live the Holy Way of love.

Seeing. Speaking. Understanding.

It is the task of the prophet to name what is, and from experience, the likely consequences to come from the path we are taking, especially when it’s not the path of the wise.

Like trees beside deep water

the Psalm for the day, Psalm 1, encourages us towards the path of the wise. Let’s hear it in an Australian accent, as paraphrased by Nathan Nettleton of laughingbird.net

LORD, how good it will be for those
who turn a deaf ear to the advocates of greed;
who steer clear of corrupt short-cuts;
and avoid those who sneer at goodness.

Instead they relish your word, LORD.
Calming their minds,
they savour the scriptures day and night.

You make them strong and healthy,
like a Redgum tree with its roots deep in a river bank,
flowering abundantly every season,
and always laden with healthy leaves.
All that they do is vibrant with life.

But what a different story it is for the wicked;
they are about as secure as dry leaves in a cyclone.

They will have no defence
when they are brought to justice,
and no friends among people of integrity.

LORD, you keep a protective eye
on all who walk a straight path of peace and justice,
but nothing will save those who leave that road.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

It is the task of the prophet to name what is, and from experience, the likely consequences to come from the path we are taking.

So, Jeremiah sees the way the people are living and behaving; understands the way of God as described in Torah, and speaks what he sees:

you are placing your trust in human capacity;

placing humans above God

in your estimation and allegiance.

This does not bring life,

does not nurture wellbeing,

does not fulfill our potential.

You might want to consider change.

Psalmist

Prophet

Trees, water, life

humans, Holy One, life

Not passing judgement or sentence,

but naming the natural consequence their people have experienced,

telling the story, sharing wisdom, which says:

trust the Source of Life

get close to Holy One

align yourself with the Way of Love 

 

rocks 'wisdom'
hands holding new plant

Where we place our trust

And so we come to the story of Jesus

prophet – and more than that

he, too, sees

he, too, understands,

he, too, speaks

as prophets speak, observing and naming the consequences for those who turn their back on the Way of Wisdom

and Jesus could, Christ will, the theologians tell us, pass the judgement, hand down the sentence, in the fulness of time.

Yet, here, it seems to me more psalmist call to the path, more prophet warning of the consequences of leaving the path of the wise

Jesus says

Trust in your riches on earth,

and that’s all the consolation you’ll receive

(he says elsewhere, doesn’t he, you can’t take them with you after you leave this earthly life)

Trust in God, even in your poverty,

and the richness of the kin-dom of God is available for your consolation

(though it is a long-view of consolation, hoped-for and anticipated in this earthly life, perhaps)

Jesus says Trust in your own resources, your own full belly,

and you’ll go hungry, from the nourishment that matters

(he says to the woman at the well about water, more than what’s in this well, I can give you the water of life to quench your deepest thirst … it’s not what we expect, the nourishment that matters)

Trust in God, even as your belly aches with hunger,

and the bread of life will nourish you

(and we might also remember the feeding of thousands, the feeding of the whole person, and through Acts and letters, the kin-dom miracle of the people who resource each other)

Trust in your happiness, now, and you’re risking emptiness later that will make you weep

(think the quick fixes to our dis-ease, searching for highs, reaching for instant gratification …)

Trust in God now, from even your deepest sorrow,

and you may find the Divine Presence brings you inexplicable joy that breaks through your current weeping

(Jesus didn’t stop the thief beside him on the crosses from dying, but he gave him the joy of promised life beyond this earthly living)

Trust in human praise of you now, and – oh, dear,

such praise is also given to false prophets – it is not trustworthy

Trust in God for your sense of worth,

your place, your belonging – remember the prophets before you, derided,

and their enduring place with Holy One …

Psalmist

Prophet

Jesus

Trees, water, life

humans, Holy One, life

trust, Holy One, life

Not passing judgement or sentence,

but naming the natural consequence their people have experienced,

telling the story, sharing wisdom, which says:

trust the Source of Life

get close to Holy One

align yourself with the Way of Love

 

Living the Way of Love

I’ve been wondering about the hatred being spoken around us these recent days and weeks.

Did you also hear it in the incessant horns blaring around Canberra lately? The venom spat towards governments and individual leaders as if the vaccination regulations are NOT, in fact, for the care and protection of the people …

what good, what life, can come from such hateful angry venom?

I heard it, too, from churches, Christian schools and organisations, baying for this Religious Discrimination legislation. As if the Way of God can be pursued through the right to reject, exclude, dismiss people, humans, who differ from ‘us’ …

The Uniting Church offers a prophetic voice that names what we see in the proposed legislation – the potential for harm. Such harm as suicide, mental anguish, broken relationships, when folk experience the rejection of their person, their humanity, their dignity, their worth. And the Uniting Church saw the potential for such harm for LGBTIQ+ people, people with disabilities, women, and people of minority faiths through the proposed legislation.

Such harm as the diminishing of another’s humanity, which, in turn, diminishes our own.

Such harm as the lost opportunity for the richness of diversity that strengthens a community.

The richness of diversity that we at Wesley are learning to embrace, celebrate, as a gift we offer to the vulnerable, marginalised, rejected who are welcomed into safety here. And as a gift we all receive, enriched by the varied gifts and stories and perspectives that add vitality, depth, and breadth to who we are, together.

People not claiming ‘Christian’ as their story, but committed to community, Sacred, Love.

People living with mental illness, or disabilities, participating, serving, leading from their fullness of being.

People faithfully engaging with the Biblical story, with Christian spirituality, and finding meaning that differs from each other.

So that, in one of the more contentious elements of community life, it happens that we at Wesley, as across the whole Uniting Church, do not necessarily all hold the same view of marriage. Prophetically, showing a courageous way to live out God’s love and welcome for all, the Uniting Church has not abandoned a traditional view of marriage while also – ALSO – including a new view of marriage. If I, as a Uniting Church minister, preside at your wedding, you may choose a statement of understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman OR as between two people. The rites of the Uniting Church are equally validly enacted when we speak either of those understandings of marriage.

The Uniting Church – we – enact the strength of diversity in this particular choice to affirm two different points of view. The strength, and also the discomfort, let’s be honest. A good compromise is reached when neither side is completely happy … when both have given ground. Our differences don’t always sit neatly side by side. But we commit to still sitting together in the same tent – and is that not a model of courage, of radical difference that the kin-dom of God offers to a way of exclusion, narrowness and arrogance? radically different to ways of hatred we’ve heard shouted around us of late.

Blessed are those who walk the way of God – God’s way of love

Red candle and flower posey

When we may say with Jesus or prophet or psalmist, woe to you who speak hatred, we are not, I hope, passing judgement or sentence. That is not ours to do.

I hope we are seeing clearly what is; understanding the way of God; and speaking a call to change, for the sake of life.

When I hear this hateful speech swirling around us, I am dismayed, I am full of woe, if you will, sorrow, for the hurt, the misguidedness of people turning away from the choice to live a life of full, rich, love.

We hear today from Psalmist, Prophet, and Jesus the call to be like

Trees, beside flowing water, for life

humans, aligning with Holy One, for life

trust, in Holy One, for life

Not passing judgement or sentence,

but naming the natural consequence our people have experienced,

telling the story, sharing wisdom, which says:

trust the Source of Life

get close to Holy One

align yourself with the Way of Love

May this be our choice, each of us, all of us, each day. Amen.