|Pen and Ink Reflections||
We have a pretty tough parable today. For it can seem to be one of those uncomfortable passages about God’s end of time judgement and division. Is that all there is here though? We are so used to that conservative line that we easily pass over this passage for something more wholesome. Perhaps it helps to look a little closer however. For note well - this parable in Matthew 13 is called the parable of the dragnet but it does not stand alone. This striking comparison of the kingdom of God to a fishing scene is but the closing end of a series of parables. And this wider group of parables is important to remember. and I’ll come back to that later. Firstly however some key points from key words...
What do you think makes for a great political slogan? Whatever you think about him, I think Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ was pretty effective. Other catchy slogans which have famously worked well in the USA have been Lyndon Johnson’s ‘All the Way with LBJ’, Bill Clinton’s ‘Its the Economy stupid’, and the clever response to Barry Goldwater’s ‘In your heart, you know he’s right’ which was ‘In your guts, you know he’s nuts’. In the UK, the one slogan everyone remembers was Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Labout isn’t working’. What about Australia? My guess is that Whitlam’s ‘Its Time’ has probably been the most effective, with ‘Kevin 07’ perhaps a catchy runner-up as most recently memorable. It is hardly a new phenomenon of course. Leaders were coining political slogans from ancient times, not least the Roman Emperors. So too with Jesus. For, whilst Jesus’ proclamation – his evangelion, his ‘gospel’ - was much more than political, as we hear it again in today’s reading, it most certainly had its political dimension. It is something important that we can easily miss with the passing of time…
We don't often think of Jesus as having a home do we? We usually emphasise that he was a wandering preacher, who had 'nowhere to lay his head'. Yet for the first thirty or so years of his life he probably lived quietly in Nazareth, probably in one house. And here we are told that he actively chose some obscurity following the execution of John the Baptist, and made his home at Capernaum.
I don't know about you but I find it comforting that Jesus knew what it is to move house, to leave behind the comfortable and familiar, and to begin again in a new place, just as Jo and I have done this week, and just as some of you are doing in moving to a new spiritual home here at St. Francis College. It is not easy to do this, but it is absolutely necessary to the advancement of the kingdom of God. The Spirit calls us onward, and we never know where we may end up. Had you told me thirty odd years ago as I began my ministry in London that one day I would be part of a theological college and parish community in Brisbane I think I would have been astonished!...
This week a powerful warning was given to our world. For the people who operate what is called ‘The Doomsday Clock’ moved the hands two minutes nearer to midnight, to three minutes to midnight: that is, in their view, three minutes before the end of human time. The Doomsday Clock is one aspect of the work of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: a group which looks into the global security and public policy issues related to the dangers posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, climate change, merging technologies and diseases. They began the Clock in 1947, deeply concerned about the nuclear arms race and tensions between the then Soviet Union and the Western bloc of nations. At that time the hands of the Clock were set at seven minutes before midnight and they have been moved up and down, every January, ever since. The best time it ever registered was 17 minutes before midnight, in January 1991, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the superpowers reached agreement on nuclear arms reductions. Since then the hands have steadily moved nearer to midnight. Three minutes to midnight has only been reached twice before, and only in 1953, at two minutes to midnight, was there a worse assessment of our world’s situation.
Is the Doomsday Clock right do you think? Are these Atomic Scientists correct in saying that: ‘World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.’ ‘In 2015,’ the group says, ‘unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.’ Recent concerns might include the growing dislocation of Russia; the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers; struggles in the Middle East and the unprecedented levels of terrorism alert across the world. Not a very happy situation is it? So is the end of the world near?
Our lectionary readings today all reflect a similar urgency and challenge to human beings to respond to the signs of their times. They remind us that we are called to recognise God and to participate actively in the work of God’s Kingdom, God’s shalom, God’s longing for peace and love, and justice. So how will we respond to the signs and challenge of our times?...