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Marriage in Heaven

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Apocalypse 11:4-12 • Psalm 143(144):1–2, 9–10 • Luke 20:27–40

Jesus incurred the wrath and indignation of two groups in Israel: the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Each group was intent on trying to trip Jesus up, catching him out, boxing him into a corner. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in the resurrection of the body. They approached Jesus with all the arrogance of an elite professional religious caste and put before him a disingenuous conundrum all wrapped up as a sincere query about the levirate law on marriage. According to this law a dead man’s brother was obliged to marry the widow, who could then bear a child so that the deceased brother’s line and estate would be retained within the family and his lineage would continue into posterity. The Sadducees were trying to back Jesus into a corner, hoping that he would either renounce the resurrection of the body or condone polyandry (where a woman has more than one husband).

True to form Jesus transcended the question but seized the moment to teach about the afterlife. In heaven the institution of marriage will be succeeded by a new kind of relationship with God and with each other, which, despite us having a new body, does not involve procreation. We believe in the salvation of the whole person, body and soul, and although there is no marriage in heaven, we believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones.

For those who have had an unfortunate experience of earthly marriage, perhaps having suffered separation, divorce or other adverse circumstances, this prospect might not be a favourable one.  But in the passage from temporal to eternal on the good will remain – evil falls away – and the love that once united a couple remains.  Defects, misunderstandings or suffering will fall away.  Indeed this very suffering, accepted with faith, will transformed into glory.  Many spouses will experience true love for each other only when they are reunited in God, and with this love there will be joy and fulness of the union that they might not have known on earth.

In God all wıll be understood, all will be forgiven and all will be well.

Lord, you are the resurrection and the life.  Death is not the end, but the beginning of life, life to the full.

Chris 

From Bible Alive

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The Parable of the Talents

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Proverbs 31:10–13, 19–20, 30–31 • Psalm 127(128):1–5 • 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6 • Matthew 25:14–30

 
Three hands with talents
 
In the ancient world a talent wasn’t a coin but a unit of weight of about 80 lb or 36 kg. However, when used as a currency its weight was not assessed in gold but in silver, and one talent was worth something in the region of 6000 denarii. Since in the Middle East in the first century one denarius was a day’s pay for a labourer, 6000 denarii divided by 365 (the number of days in a year) would have been a little less than 16 ½  years’ pay. So the servant with 5 talents was given something in the region of £2 million – the amount of money we are dealing with here is colossal and definitely life-changing. Imagine how Jesus’s first hearers must have smiled when they heard this parable, rather as we do when, for a bit of fun, we imagine what we would do if we won the lottery.

One of the interesting things about the parable, and sometimes overlooked, is that back then, believe it or not, the notion of making loads of money wasn’t as lauded and applauded as it is today. People traded to survive, not to make a killing, and business (in the way we understand it today) was viewed in much the same light as prostitution and exploitation.  Nevertheless, the Jews were known as shrewd business people and canny investors.

Now clearly the parable isn’t simply about the benefits of making a return on an investment versus burying your capital and not even making any interest. Nor is it simply about using our God-given natural talents to bless our friends and neighbours, for example – there is no reward (return) in that (Matt. 5:46). No, the talents or gifts are primarily spiritual gifts: the charisms, graces, blessings and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are worth far more than gold (1 Pet. 1:7). We are eagerly (yes, eagerly) to desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1).  We are not to be ignorant about the spiritual gifts (like the servant who buried his talent). There are different kinds of gift (talents) given by the Spirit: the message of wisdom or knowledge, the gift of healing, miraculous powers, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues and the interpretation 0f tongues (1 (Cor. 12:1–11).

 Lord, thank you for the gifts of your Spirit.  Help us to use our gifts for the building up of the Church to the glory of God.

Chris 

From Bible Alive

 

 

 

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The Kingdom

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Philemon 7–20 • Psalm 145(146):7–10 • Luke 17:20–25

Sunrise over mountain and clouds

http://endtimestruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sun-and-Clouds-Images-of-the-Kingdom-Dollarphotoclub.jpg

A key ingredient of Jesus’ teaching is that the kingdom of God is within us. Expounding this truth, Paul taught that the kingdom of God is not a matter of rules and regulations but ultimately of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 14:17). St Anthony of Egypt said: “There is no point in us travelling to find the kingdom of heaven, or crossing the sea in search of virtue. As the Lord has already told us, God’s kingdom is within you.”

Jesus turned the idea of the kingdom of God on its head. The Jewish people were expecting a political Messiah who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and re-establish the Davidic dynasty They rejected Jesus because he did not measure up to these expectations. The kingdom of God was breaking into their world but they were too preoccupied with their own notions and ideas of the kingdom to recognise it.

The kingdom of God, manifested in Jesus, is first and foremost a spiritual reality rather than something of this world (vv. 20-21;John 18:36). The kingdom is not a place or a way of life but a person. Jesus is the kingdom and the kingdom is Jesus. Where Jesus is, there is the kingdom. As the Scripture scholar Origen once said: “The gospel of Jesus is autobasilea, the kingdom himself.”

Reflecting on the words contained in the Our Father, the great saint and Church father Cyprian of Carthage wrote, “ ‘Thy kingdom come’ . . . Christ himself is the kingdom of God, whom we day by day desire to come, whose advent we crave to be quickly manifested to us. For Since he himself is the resurrection, because in him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be himself, because in him we shall reign.” The closer we are then to Jesus, the closer we are to the kingdom of God. And the closer we are to Jesus, the more we wıll pray for his return to earth, because those who love long to see the beloved, the One they love.

We manifest the kingdom of God to the world by showing that we know Jesus. How do we show this? By our witness of peace, love, joy and righteousness in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

“Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ( St Augustine)

Chris 

From Bible Alive

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The Good of Money

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Power with coin

Philippians 4:10–19 • Psalm 111(112):1–9 • Luke 16:9–15

Money, money, money!’ – as the Abba song goes – ‘it’s the rich man’s world.’   And that’s where the problem lies.  Money is tainted, as Jesus describes it, because it carries the danger of reducing our world to the attainment or acquisition of money.  When money is our world, then it also becomes our God and we can find ourselves even serving it.

Like the Abba song, today’s few verses mention money so many times that it almost seems like a little world in which money dominates. But, of course, there is no real intrinsic problem with money. It is strictly an artificial means invented by our ancestors to facilitate trading with each other  In the past, trading happened through barter,  putting an equivalent value on various goods, even tıme, so that a day of a man’s work was said to be equivalent to, for example, a sack of potatoes. Money was invented to represent the same value as the hours of work or a quantity of vegetables, so that we would not need to carry around sacks of potatoes if we wanted a skilled worker to do a job for us. Money was a great idea and it facilitated society because we could give something we had in exchange for something we wanted. It was a way of using our gifts, skills, goods to service others and to benefit from those skills, etc., of others in return.

The taint of money comes not from money itself but from the human heart in which greed resides. From within the heart, the need and desire to build society and to exchange goods and skills can be corrupted into the lust simply for profit. The heart can produce a self-centredness that wants to take advantage of others. As mentioned above, the corrupt heart can shrink the world simply to ourselves.

Jesus invites us to use money in a different way. Profit is no bad thing: it becomes bad only insofar as it is used wholly to serve ourselves. What matters in the end is the state of our heart. It is through our union with Jesus that our hearts are transformed. Like the heart of Jesus, who came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many, our hearts can give money its true value in the building of society and the kingdom of God.

Most Sacred Heart ofJesus make our hearts like unto thine. Amen.

 

Chris 

From Bible Alive

 

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The meaning of Christ, by St Paul

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Philippians 2: 5-11

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus: His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A note from the Life Application Bible:

2:5-11 These verses are probably from a hymn sung by the early Christian church. The passage holds many parallels to the prophecy of the suffering servant in lsaiah 53. As a hymn, it was not meant to be a complete statement about the nature and work of Christ. Several key characteristics of Jesus Christ, however, are" praised in this passage: (1) Christ has always existed with God;


(2) Christ is equal to God because he is God (John 1:1ff; Colos- sians 1:15—19); 


(3) though Christ is God, he became a man in order to fulfil God’s plan of salvation for all people; 


(4) Christ did not just have the appearance of being a man — he actually became human to identify with our sins; 


(5) Christ voluntarily laid aside his divine rights and privileges out of love for his Father; 


(6) Christ died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face eternal death; 


(7) God glorified Christ because of his obedience; 


(8) God raised Christ to his original position at the Father’s right hand, where he will reign for ever as our Lord and Judge. 


How can we do anything less than praise Christ as our Lord and dedicate ourselves to his service!

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Jesus and the Pharisees

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Pope Francis must be a bit of a nightmare for the Roman Curia. His easygoing, warm and inviting Latino approach to life has certainly ruffled a few feathers and raised a few eyebrows over the years since he became Pope. He has a kind of healthy and rather amusing approach to pomp, circumstance and the trappings of his centuries-old office.


However, Pope Francis is undoubtedly very conscious that he stands in the shoes of the humble fisherman. He refuses to wear the traditional papal red leather shoes, preferring instead his well-worn pair. He chooses to travel in a clapped-out Ford rather than the papal limo. He has declined to have the kind of security fitting for a leader of state, even saying no to bulletproof glass. He refuses to be a prisoner of the Vatican but rather its liberator. We should thank God that he is our Pope. Of course, Pope Francis is walking in the steps of jesus — because Jesus too ruffled feathers, kicked against the status quo and moved in the power of the Spirit.


Today we join Jesus seated at a 'nd of banquet, given, it would appear, in his honour. Many of the religious establishment of the day were there, watching to see whether he would step out of line. It is very likely that the sick man was a fellow guest but, remarkably, when he was healed by Jesus there was no joyful celebration, only stony silence. The law of the Sabbath had taken precedence over the law of God’s life and grace. What is at the heart of the matter here? Jesus was constantly challenging preconceptions about God and how to live by faith. He clearly loved the Pharisees, who on the whole were good men devoted to God and his law. They were, however, closed to what God was doing in their midst.



At the World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013, Pope Francis urged the young people present to mess things up in their parishes when they returned home. He meant that when following God’s will we may have to step out of line, ruffle feathers and challenge the status quo – we need to respect what has gone before but be open to what the Spirit is doing now in our midst.


Lord teach me to be open to the work of the Spirit both in my own life and in your world today.


Chris


From Bible Alive


Philippians 1:1–11 • Psalm 110(111) • 1–6   Luke 4:1-6



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