God’s Blessing

God’s Justice Always Prevails!
October 15, 2022
For All The Saints…..
November 5, 2022
God’s Justice Always Prevails!
October 15, 2022
For All The Saints…..
November 5, 2022

I was listening to the radio this week and people were talking about losing everything they owned, while reflecting on the terrible floods over east.  A woman commented, she had lost her mother when she was 8 years old, their home had burned down when she was 12, and she had had the same thing happen to her about 10 years later.  So now, she keeps her essential documents and a few precious possessions in 2 small cardboard boxes.  ‘They can be put into the back of the car in five minutes,’ she added, and she doesn’t need to save anything else, except her children and her partner.  She said, ‘My house is certainly not worth someone else’s life.’  Her request to the emergency services is ‘please don’t defend the house if fire or flood threaten it.  People’s lives are more important.’

As I think about the people fleeing war in Europe and the middle east, possessions, lives and any sense of a future have been deliberately destroyed by others; and now we see lives being given away so others might live, as people think about what they possess and what they can give up.

God’s Son gave away his life so others might live.  God’s love for humanity meant Jesus could not and would not take the world’s way out to save himself.  Love was everything, not status, worldly success or wealth or possessions.

Last week, we heard Jesus tell us two stories: the first about a widow and the unjust judge, with persistence, faith and hope strongly in evidence (Luke 18:1-8); and then a pharisee and tax collector both praying (Luke 18:9-14).  One praying with a sense of entitlement and self-satisfaction and the other with vulnerability and humility, honestly, trusting in God’s love.

The next two stories in Luke’s Gospel are about small children and God’s kingdom, and about a rich ruler seeking to buy God’s kingdom (Luke 18:15-30). Jesus continues to describe what God is offering us and we hear about some small children, normally kept out of sight, being invited to come for a blessing. 

As I reflect on what a blessing means and what it does to us, the radical nature of God’s blessing is completely at odds with the beliefs and expectations of those around him, which is why the disciples were so shocked. 

A blessing means someone has seen you, knows you, loves you, is proud of you and wants the best for you.   God does this for Jesus, God said:  ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.’ (Luke 3:22) We hear God’s love, joy and hopes for Jesus in these few words.  We repeat them with our own beloved, with our children, grandchildren, and loved ones.  And when we bless, we touch, we hug, we give thanks to God for the specialness of the person and the gifts they are sharing.  Our hearts swell with joy and pride at their achievements and in their character. It’s not just about what they do, but how they are being as individuals, fully human and loved. You can’t buy a blessing of love.

Being blessed by parents, by those we love and respect transforms us.  It is truly precious.  These small children were encouraged to be seen and be blessed as beloved of God, while their parents would have been overjoyed and so proud.  Their children were normal, noisy, wriggling kids and this wonderful teacher and healer was clearing a way so he could truly ‘see’ them and they could see him. 

The rich ruler asks Jesus his question from a position of privilege, entitlement, wealth and status,.  No doubt for him, the disciples had cleared the path so he could speak with Jesus directly as an important member of the community.   Unlike the children and their parents who had been turned away too humble to waste the teacher’s time. 

The rich ruler’s life is not yet fulfilled, he wants to inherit eternal life, the remaining expectation of his entitled life.  He wants to live forever.  Jesus outlines the five commandments which the rich ruler says he has obeyed all his life.  And let’s be honest, it’s easy when you’re rich, while showing self-restraint is socially admirable and always draws praise.  Doing this while poor and marginalised is never honoured in the same way.   The rich man would have had no need to steal directly although I do wonder how he acquired his wealth. Those five commandments Jesus left out of the list included honouring the sabbath, not swearing, not having any idols, having only one God, and not coveting. 

Jesus has already reminded us of the characteristics of those truly living in God’s kingdom:  persistence, faith, hope, vulnerability, humility, love and trust.  Such characteristics come more easily when we have started to shed our worldly success measures and we begin to understand that trusting God means we do not need to live by the world’s expectations, comply with them, or believe them.   

The unspoken commandments perhaps reveal where the rich ruler is not paying attention in his life.  The idolatry of wealth meant God was not central in his heart and life, and the insidious destructive emotion of covetousness, leading to consumption, greed and entitlement come to mind.  He desires what he cannot steal or buy but he doesn’t want to change his life. He has tried to put a price on God’s love and this doesn’t work.  God’s gift of love does not make sense. His wealth has become a barrier between him and God in his priorities.  Following the letter of the law in our world is easier than letting in the spirit of God and choosing to live radically outside the world in God’s kingdom.

Nonetheless, Jesus tried to bless the rich ruler but he wasn’t having any of it.  He found it too hard to hear Jesus’ words of love and hope and he turned away, unable to bear what he could not have, rejecting and despairing. 

Perhaps we should ask ourselves after these stories, what are our own barriers we have placed between us and God? When have we pushed away the childlike openness, simple trust, love and hope in our hearts, been too frightened to be vulnerable and instead have ridiculed, ignored, hated and not trusted God?  Have there been times when we decided God’s price is too high, as though God’s love has a price or value and we have not accepted God’s blessings of love?

However, I have also listened to and seen the enormous tide of blessings you give to those you love.  Your stories to me are full of them. The question is, do you share God’s blessings to you with strangers, the vulnerable, those who are not rich and choose instead to fulfill the letter of the law with all who come looking for hope.  As we live into God’s kingdom, we can be comforted by Jesus’ response to his disciples’ anxiety who also asked themselves these questions.  Jesus said:

What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27)

We are reminded: Let us love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, with all your strength. 

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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