Fulcrum sermon thoughts for 16th February 2014


Sunday 16th February 2014

Deuteronomy 30:15-end and Matthew 5:21-37

The Hebrew slaves in the desert are at a crossroads - will they choose life or will they choose death? You would think it an easy choice to make - life actually please!! But just as in the Garden of Eden the ways of death (“surely you will not die if you eat the fruit of that tree”) seems so much more attractive than the ‘boring’ ways of life’ (“everything else is for you”!).

For the Hebrew slaves that are becoming a nation, the patterns of living seen in the surrounding peoples will test their own sense of call and identity. As they move among the new nations, will they hold on to what they have known to be true (being led and fed in the wilderness, seeing the glory of God) or will they be lured away by other things that appear true as well. As they enter to transform the lands around them will they unwittingly be transformed by them? Going in God’s image - whose image will they become? They take with them the laws and festivals which will help them  remember who they were and now are. They are called live out the life they have been given, which aims to create ‘holy habits’  that will continually offer the ‘path of life’ for them. But will they choose it?

This of course is no ancient problem. It is an issue that the Church has faced in local and national expressions throughout the centuries. When does the engagement with culture become assimilation to culture? This is a hard issue to resolve and we should not be tempted to short circuit the much needed conversations that will be necessary nor be tempted to think ‘we have it all, they have nothing’. This where mission really matters. This is where theology and ‘faith seeking understanding’ mix into the very messy world we find ourselves in. To walk the fine balance of being a community that seeks to live the way of life whilst trying at the same time to work out what may be the patterns of life that lead to ‘death’. They are not always clear cut - voices from outside the Church (alongside those within it) led the Church beginning to see the role women should play in leadership ; yet voices within the Church (alongside those outside it) helped society see the evils of slavery.

Jesus continues his major assault of surface religion and spiritual shallowness in this section from the Sermon on the Mount this week. He is redefining what it means to be a follower of God: what the believer’s life will look like as it engages with the messiness of life. He midrashes his way through some key texts/laws and then seems to make it harder, throwing in a good number of hyperbolic grenades at the same time.

Jesus knows that living his life in the world will require a lot of discipline, thought, prayer, and ultimately an inner transformation that will mean continually revisiting what we are called to be. This inner transformation will affect our actions. Yet we also listen to the  need to create ‘holy habits’ ourselves that seek to replace the ‘worldly habits’ that we will very easily pick up. What ‘holy habits’ can you create? What ‘holy habits’ are offered to you in your local church?

3 thoughts on “Fulcrum sermon thoughts for 16th February 2014”

  1. Thank you Bowman. There were a couple of other sentences in Johns reflections that I feel are sometimes ambiguous they are “the inner transformation” especially with respect to gender specific issues and “time to work out the patterns of life which lead to death” They are difficult concepts to get to grips with, Jesus saves is of course the antidote. It certainly gives credence to what we see and hear shaping our inner beings, but I wonder does it give enough credence to what we understand or how we understand it, or in theological language does it pay enough attention to the hermeneutics. When we see that to use one of Phils favourite views that we are all worthy of Gods wrath, but for repentance. Patterns of life which lead to death is all of life really if as John reminds us we engage with the messiness of it. Many places have the “messy church” now, I personally do not like the description messy church I prefer the accepting church it does not give the impression that we accept we should be in a mess and we need to clean up, I am not happy with the concept of sitting in mess, yet I understand that that is what we do when we walk into a churches doors we take ourselves disorganised in thought and sometimes in person we are a mess who tidy ourselves in prayer , I get it but I don’t like it , it feels like going in the church doors and emptying a bin only to fill it up again when we leave. Some people call that catharsis others call it healing! and others call it repentance. I am left with the question are we predestined or programmed to make bad/wrong choices which lead to death and if we are do we really have a choice if God is in control. My next question is when and if we give God the control if we unwittingly make a transformation have we made a choice?. Do we need to make a choice? or does God in his grace simply give us what we need ?


  2. They are not always clear cut – voices from outside the Church (alongside those within it) led the Church beginning to see the role women should play in leadership ; yet voices within the Church (alongside those outside it) helped society see the evils of slavery.

    Thank you again John for your sermon thoughts. I read the readings and I need to read them again. Understanding culture and really understanding it relies on good empathic skills. .But it is always difficult to really empathise with a culture, where it is easier to empathise with the individual human emotion and spirituality which crosses the boundaries of different cultures. The Spirit cannot be defined by culture but by the outcome of its works. ie the fruits of the spirit. I found this and have always found it a very difficult passage to read and absorb like many I have had to adapt my approach to it. There are so many situations in life where people do not have a choice, descendants is one of them, as well as being fruitful being paralleled to childbirth. Worldly habits and Holy habits are sometimes like culture there paths can cross. There is always a danger I think in theology for leaders to make it seem ever more exiting, as they mirror the latest craze in the world in a theological way, or they must be seen to be always doing, Where as I see it as “let go and let God” or Be still and KNOW that I am God. It is also true that sometimes we do things and it is confirmed in someway by God and it reaffirms your faith. This tends to happen when the battle over whether to do it or not has been at its most intense. You know that crossroads that says the way forward is the way you understand it instead of the way God understands it. as you say it is not always clear cut and so discernment is very difficult. Humans can both affirm and get in the way when it comes to understanding. Being a christian is like being a bland dish but when you add the spices and flavours it takes on a whole new cultural taste.

    I also thought that the inside and outside of the church was like being a parent or family in whatever shape or form that takes. People outside of a family can sometimes find it difficult to understand the “habits” of that family but when those habits are unified through a hobby or belief they see them differently The common denominator though between the two is the working together or not as the case may be and the issues that that can cause. It is all of our calling to create a culture where we can live with difference and promote the benefits of Holy habits or create the environment where Jesus is central to the original intentions of any actions taken.


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