Monday, August 23, 2010

Coming of Age

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."
This Epistle to the Galatians (4.1-7) speaks of our growing out of childhood and becoming fully mature as Christian men and women. This can happen at any age when we give our lives to Christ by faith. Then, we come into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ as sons and heirs to all his abundant riches in our lives; the love, joy and peace and patience we long for.
In the ancient world, the process of growing up was different. Even though an infant was an heir to a great fortune, there was no difference between him and a slave, he was under the control of the stewards and overseers. When he was old enough, he became the heir and was regarded differently, honored and obeyed. Different communities at that time had their own coming of age ceremonies.
1. A Jewish boy, on the first Sabbath after his twelfth birthday, was taken to the Synagogue, where he became "A Son of the Law." There was a clear dividing line in the boy's life. Almost overnight he became a man.

2. In Greece, a boy was under his father's care from seven until he was eighteen. He then became what was called a "cadet," and for the next two years he was under the direction of the state. His long hair was cut off and offered to the gods. Growing up was quite a definite process.

3. Under Roman law, a boy came of age between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. At a sacred festival, he took off the boy's toga, which was a toga with a narrow purple band at the foot and put on the man's toga. He was then conducted by his friends and relations down to the forum and formally introduced to public life. On the day a boy or girl grew up, the boy offered his toy, and the girl her doll, to Apollo to show that they had put away childish things.

We too, when the fullness of time comes, and we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, are adopted as sons and daughters and become heirs. Consequently, we are no longer slaves or servants but a son and daughter; and heirs of God because God has made us so in Christ. We also are no longer children, we have become adult sons and daughters and have entered into our inheritance. The freedom of manhood and womanhood has come.

The proof that we are adult Christian sons and daughters of God comes from the instinctive cry of our hearts. In our deepest need we cry, "Abba, Father!" to God or "Daddy, Daddy!" "Because you are sons," says Paul, "God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.""
"Ab-bah" is the Aramaic word for Father. It must have been often on Jesus' lips, and its sound was so sacred that it was kept in the original tongue. Paul tells us that this instinctive cry of our heart to be the work of the Holy Spirit. If our hearts cry, "Abba, Father" we know that we are sons and daughters, and all the inheritance of grace is ours. Have you come of age as a Christian? Are you no longer a child but a son or daughter of God. What a wonderful gift from God!

That's what I think, anyway.

Rev Ron

Be Prepared

Luke  or "Loukas" came from Antioch in present day Syria. Antioch incidentally had "the very first Gentile Household Church" and also where the followers of Jesus were first known as "Christians." Luke was a doctor and known for being observant, analytical and careful in his records.

There are two themes in Luke 12 concerning "financial responsibility." Jesus takes the opportunity to lay down what his followers' attitude to money and possessions should be.

He had something to say both to those who had an abundant supply of material possessions and to those who had not. Both were "to lay up treasure in heaven." It is however not the money that is very often the problem but the love of it. A Roman proverb says, "money is like sea-water; the more a person drinks the thirstier he becomes." It's more a question of how we use what we have been so graciously given by God.

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, had a rule of life. It was to "save all he could and give away all he could." When he was at Oxford he had an income of 30 British pounds a year. He lived on 28 pounds and gave 2 pounds away. When his income increased to 60 pounds, 90 pounds and even 120 pounds per year, he still lived on 28 pounds and gave the balance away.

You think we have too many taxes. In Wesley's day, there was a tax on windows and another on silver dishes. The "Accountant-General for Household Plate" demanded an annual return from Wesley. His reply was, "I have two silver tea spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate which I have at present; and I shall not buy any more, while so many around me want bread."

Jesus speaks in Luke 12  of the servant's preparedness in waiting for the master to return. The "master's return" refers here either to the Second Coming of Christ or to the time of our own death when we are summoned to meet our Maker. There is praise for the servant who is ready. Jesus says "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning." "Be dressed ready for service," refers to the long flowing robes in the east which were a hindrance to work so when a servant prepared to work he hitched up his robes under his belt to leave himself free for activity.

"Keep your lamps burning" said Jesus. The eastern lamp was like a cotton wick floating in a sauce-boat of oil. The wick had to always be kept trimmed and the lamp replenished with oil or the light would go out. So this theme of preparedness permeates the second half of Luke 12. It begs the question, "How would we like God to find us?"

We would like God to find us with our Christian work completed.Life for so many of us is filled with loose ends. There are things undone and things half done; things put off and things not even attempted. Our evergreen list may never be completed but our Christian work should. We are called upon to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness."
We would like God to find us at peace with our fellow human beings. It would be a haunting thing to pass from this world with bitterness towards someone in our hearts.

We should like God to find us at peace with God himself. It will make all the difference whether we feel that we are going out to meet a stranger or an enemy, or going to fall asleep in the arms of Jesus. No one can tell the day or the hour when eternity will invade our time and our summons will come. How, then, will God find us?
That's what I think anyway.

Rev Ron

Magnificat Dynamite

In Luke 1.46ff  Mary says, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name."

Here we have a passage which has become one of the great hymns of the church called the Magnificat. It is saturated in the Old Testament, and is specially close to Hannah's song of praise in 1 Sam 2:1-10. (N.I.V.) which says in part, "Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God."
Stanley Jones has said, "the Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world." There are three great revolutions brought about by God in people's hearts. Verse 51 says, "He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts." Christianity is the death of pride, and the greatest of sins is pride. That is a Moral Revolution. Why? Because if a person sets their life beside that of Christ the last vestiges of pride are torn away. Sometimes something happens to shame a person with a vivid, revealing light.
O. Henry tells a story about a lad who was brought up in a village. In school, he used to sit beside a girl and they were very fond of each other. Later in life, he moved to the city and eventually became a pickpocket and a petty thief. One day, he snatched an old lady's purse. It was a clever piece of work and he was pleased with himself. But then he saw coming down the street the girl whom he used to know, still sweet and radiant with innocence. Burning with shame, he leaned his head against a lamp standard and said, "God, I wish I could die!" He saw himself for what he was.

Christ enables a person to see him or herself for what he or she can be. It is the death blow to pride. The moral revolution in the heart has begun.

Then there is a Social Revolution, the Magnificat in Verse 52 reads, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." He casts down the mighty and he exalts the humble. Christianity puts an end to the world's labels and prestige. Upper class, middle class and working class any kind of prejudice or pride melts away.

A scholar named Muretus wandered around Europe during the Middle Ages. He was very poor. In an Italian town, he took ill and was taken to a hospital for waifs and strays. The doctors were discussing his case in the upper class language, Latin, never dreaming Muretus could understand. They suggested that since he was such a worthless wanderer they might use him for medical experiments. He looked up and answered them in their own learned tongue, "Call no one worthless for whom Christ died!"

When we realize what Christ has done for us, it is no longer possible to speak about a common person. The social grades are gone. We are all special and unique and equal in God's sight.

Then there is an Economic Revolution. The Magnificat in Verse 53 reads, "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." The hungry are fed ... the rich are sent empty away. That is an Economic Revolution. Our society is a society where each person is out to amass as much as he or she can. A Christian society is a society where no one has too much while others have too little. Everyone must get in order to give away.

There is a loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness there is dynamite. Christianity gives birth to a revolution in each one of us and that in turn brings revolution to our local community, our country and eventually to the world.
That's what I think anyway,

Rev Ron