National church leaders gathering in Johannesburg from 21-22 October 2015 at Southern Sun Hotel OR Tambo International Airport, for the Annual National Church Leaders’ Consultation (NCLC), issued the following special...
Well, well, well! We have made it! 40-days of Lent, then the 40-days of the Easter Season, followed by the three Sundays of Pentecost, Trinity, and Corpus Christi. All in all, over a 100-days – more than 3-months!
Now, of course, comes the test – have we only managed to amble through or have we made it truly worth our while? Are we ready for the fray, and prepared to ‘go for it’ with renewed strength, confidence and enthusiasm?
If we reflect on the two first sentences (both questions and challenges) of this
SUNDAY’S ENTRANCE ANTIPHON we should be ‘fighting fit’.
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. whom should I dread?
Take a look at our
OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [1KINGS 17: 17 – 24]. It may well be that there will be difficult, harrowing, worrying, and even sad times ahead but if we return over and over again to the words of the Entrance Antiphon quoted above we will remain anchored in a strong faith which will know, as TODAY’S PSALM [30 or 29) informs us, that God-in-Christ hears us, is our helper, and changes mourning into dancing.
Elijah is confronted with the doubts of the same woman who a few verses earlier was in the last stages of despair in the face of the drought that had ravaged the land for years. The incident is recorded in verses
12 – 16 – immediately preceding our extract. Had the good widow forgotten so quickly that “there was food for him and for her and her family for a long time. The jar of flour did not give out nor the flask of oil fail.” It is interesting that this Sunday’s extract tells us that the widow had provided a room for Elijah who “carried (the boy) into the upper chamber where he lodged.” Elijah was, at the time, living with the family.
Are we sufficiently conscious of the fact that the Lord lives with us
? Is it not, too often, a case that we only remember what has been achieved (remember those 100-days?!) both by him and ourselves AFTER THE CRISIS HAS PASSED? … “NOW, I know that you are …” Why only at that point? Had the past experience vanished under present stress? Perhaps we all need to make more room and a larger lodging-space for the Lord in our lives and living?
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [GALATIANS 1: 11 – 19] Saint Paul provides a telling exposhis own ‘turn around’, and we know he did not slip back into former ways. We could easily apply the words of our Entrance Antiphon to this great apostle. Paul ‘gave up’ a great deal. He had to turn his life inside out and outside in.
There is little doubt that an essential element of Paul’s steadfastness was his utter conviction that “the Gospel … is not man’s Gospel.” The apostle had encountered the Lord and the Good News – both went together, and it became a consuming reality in his life and living. Here
we are faced with a real challenge. Do we see the Good News as REAL? Do we believe that it has the ability and power to give us a clear and specific approach to OUR life and living? In addition, do we recognise, as Paul did, that this Good News is the “revelation” of Jesus Christ to us? The Gospel is not some vague, general, philosophy of life which is merely ‘useful’! It is not an ‘a la carte’ menu but a package deal.
There is one other matter highlighted by the apostle on which we could profitably reflect. He tells us that he was “called through his grace.”
GRACE!? Now there is a word which has been hampered by verbiage … original grace, sanctifying grace, actual grace! What IS grace? Well, for me, the best understanding is GOD’S FRIENDSHIP. God’s friendship was offered to Paul at the start (original). Paul grasped it with both hands. The friendship made a substantive (sanctifying) difference to his life. The friendship was available to the apostle in all the varying (actual) situations of his ongoing life. FRIENDSHIP IS A TWO-WAY STREET – never forget it!
Finally, some brief words about
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 7: 11 – 17] which is a mirror image of the Old Testament extract. Jesus made himself available (in the actual situation) by his outreach (friendship) to the widow and redeemed (the original) situation. This gave both widow and son a new (sanctifying) lease on life: “he gave him to his mother.”
What did those two make of it? What do we make of his friendship?