Week 10

Monday 21 November

Read Matthew 9:2-13

Have we, like the Pharisees in both parts of today’s story, swallowed the lie of religion – do we have an ingrained sense of what is right or appropriate behaviour, company or ritual for a Christian? Are we therefore thrown by anyone or anything which breaks the boundaries installed in our heads?

“Jesus should not have said: “Your sins are forgiven”. The Service Book for healing has no such words!!! Jesus should watch the company he keeps – and as for recruiting Matthew “We know all too well where he has been!”

Religion puts everything in its place and provides safety – since you need not interact with the mess of the world or the mess that is in people or even less the mess that is in you – just keep the rules and you’re safe.

Jesus did not come for rule-keepers, self-righteous but broken messed up sinners.

Which is our attitude? Religion or Christ? Because long before a casual visitor has spoken to anyone, they will have sensed the attitude and know whether they are accepted or not.

Tuesday 22 November

Read Matthew 9:14-17

Disciples are not kill-joys – when the Master is with them – they rejoice in that. The gospel is far too important to be serious about it.[1] Long-faced seriousness and disapproval of humour do the gospel a grave disservice – the gospel is the most important and the most joyous news in the world ever – hence Jesus says in the presence of the ‘bridegroom’ [2] why would people fast?

The second half of the passage is just as important – we can’t expect to make those who come to fall in love with Jesus to swallow a church culture along with a faith. The tragedy of much missionary activity was that it brought people the gospel but often also imposed western capitalism (and exploitation) and even worse western liturgies on churches who would have been so much freer and so much more accessible if they had been allowed to express their faith in their language and culture. Disciples are real people; each needs the opportunity to become the new creature that they are made in Christ Jesus. Thus, we need to be aware that discipling is not making people in our image or the image of the church or congregation but assisting them be transformed into the image of Christ. Thus, the body grows as Christ wants. To do otherwise is to risk the old wineskin tearing, and people being hurt.

[1] I state this often and am not sure whether I first said it or if I am quoting a source long forgotten. If the latter, I apologise to the originator of to my mind an important insight
[2] The Bridegroom as a name of Jesus is one he often uses – he has come looking for a Bride – the Church. He has come in love seeking her. See the many parables about weddings and wedding receptions as well as Paul’s writing on the Church as The Bride of Christ and of course the Book of Revelation.

Wednesday 23 November

Read Matthew 9:18-38

Jesus is called by a ruler of the synagogue, side-tracked by a woman with a haemorrhage, pursued by two blind men and confronted by a deaf man. How is he to get any work done? Just one interruption after another!

I remember making this complaint to Helen one evening, when, at the end of a day, I had not managed to do a single thing off the list I had made that morning – instead I had talked with this person, prayed with that, listened to a third, made an urgent sick call and so on. Her reply, wise as always was: ‘Derek, sometimes your interruptions are your work!’

Who are you discipling, to whom are you listening, with whom are you praying? You do not need to set up a course or a programme; you do not need to set aside a timetable for my ‘doing the disciple thing.’ Rather like Jesus you simply heed God’s plan in the people he puts in front of you. Talk, listen, pray, tell your story. Just be alert to the opportunities in front of your nose. You can do it!

Thursday 24 November

Americal Thanksgiving Day

Read Matthew 5:13-16

I keep being amazed at the correspondence between the morning readings and the evening ones even though it is randomly in verse order of the passages rather than by planning. The gist of these well-known verses and the call to be salt and light bring the same message as yesterday. Our ‘being disciples’ is a natural process. Just as the Beatitudes are a description of the life lived in relationship with God – another way of describing the fruit of the Spirit[1], so a life devoted to Jesus brings flavour and light to every conversation.

You can change the tone and content of a conversation by simply refusing to belittle others and pointing out their good points, by speaking hope and peace into conversations that are negative. By offering the alternative voice – the voice of the Spirit.

[1] Galatians 5:22-23

Friday 25 November

Read James 2:14-26

What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” We are what we repeatedly do. …[1] Our protestations of faith are only believed as far as they can be seen.

How do you describe yourself: A Christian? A Church goer? A Believer? A disciple? Do your actions match the description?

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson. Though there may be an old Chinese proverb behind this statement.

Saturday 26 November

Christmas Fair – 10am to 1pm

A day for rest and reflection or catching up on reading missed earlier in the week.

You may want to reflect on these questions along with the weekly reading:

  1. How far are our actions and our judgements of people controlled by a religious culture imbibed without thinking?
  2. ‘The Gospel is far too important to be taken seriously’ – Do you agree?
  3. How aware are you of the God sent ‘interruptions’ to your plans?
  4. Where do you recognize that you have been ‘salt and light’ – that a situation has been transformed by your presence, actions or conversation?
  5. What situation are you aware of that needs salt and light? How can you bring it?

For Children:

Advent is starting – all the Christmas decorations are being set up and come down from the loft. Excitement is the house. Do you still have a lantern we made with the children in Promiseland or do you have other light decorations? Maybe a good time to sit together and do some craft. Speak to your children what it means to be ‘salt and light’ and why we set up all this decorations and lights.

What does it mean to let your light shine in school and at home with your siblings?

lts in loss and death

Sunday 27 November

11.00am Girls Brigade Enrolment / Advent Sunday – Hazel McCrea and Derek McKelvey
Matthew 9
Forgiveness and its consequences

7.00pm Evening service-Derek McKelvey
Matthew 5:13-16
Salt and Light – Incarnating the Gospel