In our Gospel reading this week Jesus tells us the story of two men - a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man lived an extravagant life as rich men usually do. Meanwhile Lazarus in his poverty lay suffering outside the gate of his house, but his cries for help fell on deaf ears and he received no sympathy from the rich man.
This week is also the time when the church celebrates the feast of St Michael and all the Angels or Michaelmas. Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. He is best known in the scriptures in the book of Revelation where he leads the heavenly armies out to defeat Satan. From scripture and Christian tradition St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, The first is to combat Satan. The second is to escort the faithful to heaven at their hour of death. The third is to be a champion of all Christians, and the Church itself. And the fourth is to call men from life on Earth to their heavenly judgment.
But back to Jesus’ story. Eventually both of our characters die. Lazarus is escorted by the angels (possibly St Michael) up to heaven while our rich man winds up in a much less pleasant and far ,far hotter place where he cries out for Lazarus to be sent to help him. Even in death it seems our rich friend can’t think about anyone but himself.
Some people see this story as a story about death and judgement for rich people. But it really is a story about how we should live our life. The rich man is not punished for being rich but rather for his unwillingness to be merciful to someone in need. Last week Jesus warned the Pharisees to learn the meaning of being merciful. This week he shows them what happens to those who are not. In the same way Jesus commands us as his followers to live as people who practice love and mercy. .And each time we do his kingdom is revealed and God is glorified.
Till next time. Andrew
This week we remember the call of Matthew. Matthew 9:9-13 As we do Jesus reminds us of the great mercy of God. As always
Jesus is in trouble with the Pharisees for mixing with sinners and tax collectors. Doesn’t he know that these folk are not worthy of God’s love? If Jesus wants to be taken seriously as a religious leader then he really should be more careful of who he hangs out with. You can’t expect God to extend his mercy to just anyone you know.
But Jesus wants them to know that this is exactly the point. God’s mercy is unlimited and is for everyone! To be merciful is to show kindness and forgiveness to another regardless of whether or not it is deserved. This is something that Jesus wants all of us to learn.
Lamentations 3:22-23 says that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
In calling Matthew, a tax collector of all people, Jesus demonstrates this mercy in the most visible of ways. The good news of this Gospel is that if Matthew is worthy of Jesus call to follow then so too are we.
“Follow me”, says Jesus to Matthew, and in responding to Jesus’ call his life is changed forever. “Follow me”, says Jesus to you and me. Not because we’re good enough, not because we have earned it, but simply because he loves us and wants us to know life. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Matthew 9:12 Jesus came to bring healing to the world and his will for each of us, is that we would know the kind of wholeness, healing, transformation and life that can only come from him. That’s why he calls Matthew to follow and that’s why he calls us too.
So what will you do with his call? The choice is up to you.
Till next time. Andrew
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If you ever have had the experience of losing something very precious and then finding it again you will have experienced on a small scale the kind of rejoicing that takes place in heaven when even one lost soul turns back to God. Last week Jesus told us how very costly it is to be a disciple of Christ. This week in Luke 15 he goes on to tell us how very precious and valuable each of us is to God. I don’t know if you have ever thought of yourself as a source of joy to God but Jesus wants us to know in no uncertain terms how very much God loves us. “I tell you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
This truly is the story of God’s amazing grace. No matter how lost you may be and no matter how undeserving you may feel, God is not happy until each of his children has been brought safely home. It was this truth that the slave trader John Newton wrote about when he penned the famous hymn that we love so much.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found.
Was blind but now I see.
John Newton 1725-1807
Till next time. Andrew
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In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus has some hard words to say to the large crowds who have flocked to see him. Words that perhaps we too may sometimes need to be reminded of. “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27 His words may seem to be harsh but that is only because he is looking for disciples and not fans. Jesus is recruiting workers for the kingdom and the invitation comes at a cost.
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27
His requirement to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself shocks us. Yet that is only because even the greatest love that we may have for our loved ones and our life, falls so far short of the love that he has given us and requires of us. It is only in our willingness to give up everything that we can truly be all that he has called us to be. Nothing must get in the way if we are truly to be as salt and light in the world around us. Only then are we truly worshipping him.
People often talk to me about what they think is the best way to worship Jesus. But these conversations are usually more about style than they are about worship. Jesus calls us to worship him in Spirit and in truth, to give him our all and hold nothing back. St Paul puts it this way, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
Till next time. Andrew
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Rev. Andrew Smith
Vicar of Light in the Hills