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Where does scripture take us?
For those of you that were here over summer, I have no wings.
It will make sense later.
I want to ask, I want to begin by asking you to do something. I want to ask you with our when you know that you are listening to scripture that it changes the way that you listen.
That it changes. What you expect to hear?
Little different from the newspaper or that great novel. You don't want to put down, It is the scripture that we use as a foundation. If you like, it sets the theme each Sunday for someone such as me to pay attention to, from which a sermon a reflection are wondering. Perhaps a sharing of mutual unknowing is spoken.
And often in preparation, you look deeply into the text, you know, you use biblical criticisms and they various guises, you know, a studious dissection of the linguistic, the historical the cultural or religious influences on the text kind of takes place. It's almost as if you want to disinter it. So we can figure out what actually means.
And yet the Curious Thing is, the same time that we talk about scripture as a Living Word, it's something we're in relationship worth every time you read that same text, you find something new arising in it.
This is from one hand, we want to pin scripture down, I keep thinking of those probably beautiful, but I find rather horrendous to specimen boards with butterflies pinned to. We want to admire it and they also want their for the opportunity, to dissect it to pull it, apart to determine and control it. But on the other hand, much like a butterfly, we Delight that. It eludes our capture. It is a Living Word, Free to speak to us.
I recall when I was at theological college and sometimes you recall things accurately and sometimes you recall things because they suit you, but I think this is accurate and lecturer in biblical studies invited us to consider that when we read or hear scripture.
What may be significant is not the text not the words.
But where the text takes us.
It's as if he was saying, the text has an integrity.
But rather than try and pull it apart to suit our own ends, we might listen to where our mind goes where our hearts go. It may be that that is the place for us to learn from Today's Gospel, we only heard a bit of when the order of service came through to check. I looked at the reading and I thought and I looked at the lecture and I thought that's odd. The lectionary readings are a lot longer. I wonder why that is Helen came and see the same thing. She's do you want it long when I said? No. No, no. I don't want it longer. I want to preach on this.
For some reason and I can suspect why a choice was made to emit, all of the verses from the gospel. Text, I want to read the verses that were emitted to you now.
And I want you to remember that these verses are in the same chapter as the Beatitudes of Matthew in last week. These these words were spoken just prior to this text where Jesus declares he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them that not one liter or struggle. The later would pass from the door until all is accomplished as you listen.
I want to ask you to notice what arises in you in response. I want you to watch your inner landscape if you're like and notice because the gospel continues like this, You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in her heart and his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out, and throw it away. It is better for, to you, to lose one of your members, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, it is better for you to lose one of your members then pull your whole body to go into hell.
It was also said whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce but I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife except on the grounds of unchastity causes her to commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Again you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, you shall not swear falsely but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord. But I say to you, do not Square at all. Either by heaven for it, is the Throne of God, or by the Earth for it is God's footstool, or by Jerusalem for it, is the city of the great king and do not swear by your head for. You cannot make one hair white or black. It sure would be yes, yes or no. No. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.
You can see why they might have been emitted.
You're listening to it. Where has it taken you?
What are the things the responses that have Arisen in you?
When you hear it, do you want to kind of want to be able to go into the text to pull it apart?
To make it a little bit safer by distancing ourselves from it. That would give us space to consider the content more objectively, be, perhaps, more Curious, and wondering, then we active, It also might mean we can choose to disregard it.
See, it is outdated. No longer relevant applicable, perhaps in its time and place.
Or, perhaps we choose to gain perspective by following Jesus directives.
Spoken first in the Beatitudes and then that the law and the prophets would not be abolished until always accomplished which causes us to look deeper.
To look to the heart of the law.
More costly to us than negotiating. Our relationships contractually even of correctly by deed of the law by the letter of the law.
But I want to invite us to resist doing that to resist going into the text and getting all tangled up.
I want to ask instead, why?
He want to exclude them.
Because it was their exclusion that attracted my attention.
Is it to protect ourselves or to protect us? And those Among Us who have had these things used against them?
who have found themselves abused by the use of such versus is that because these texts have been misused by the institution of the church.
The church who claims to stand in the lineage of this. Jesus, who insist the vulnerable and most powerless have priority of care.
It takes most used within the walls of the church and as the church has had influence and wider Society.
The law and the prophets of which Jesus speaks arrives from an hierarchical and a patriarchal context. This is one we inherit and largely still inhabit both inside and outside the church Taking such scripture takes literally, the institutional church has chosen in the past and still chooses and many places to perpetuate a legalistic application of such literal interpretation and interpretation and an application that continues to privilege those with power and they are still mostly men.
To the enormous cost of those, this makes powerless.
the very thing, I believe against, which Jesus speaks acting against, the very ones with whom the church promises and proclaims, it stands, Like it or not. We stand with that lineage.
Is it easier for us to Simply stop beating these bits. So we are not reminded of and made uncomfortable or accountable.
Or maybe we should ditch the idea of being answerable to some notion of a God, who commands and declares through law and Prophets.
There are ways we can have well, together, and there are repercussions for not ways, we so fella blee in Acton edicts to keep those with power safe from threat of change.
Maybe we want to avoid the difficult bits and prefer to keep only the good and reassuring butts of scripture, maybe we want to keep the books. Likelihood from Deuteronomy, which I confess is one of my favorites.
One, I often use in marginally religious occasions.
But when I do that, I take out the god butts.
it makes it comfortable for the occasion, but What does the passage mean? If it's without any conditions?
We able to know which choices lead to life and which to death for Generations, yet to come within the limit of our few years.
We need only look at our world stage to see how easily, and how quickly truth has become and becomes a negotiable ideal.
Commenting on Trump's avoided impeachment and Rigo thought of the Guardian writes. This It's the Republican Party stuck by the president, through the Ukraine affair, they will stick by him through anything. They have acted like the totalitarian functionaries, who Hannah. Arendt said, view the difference between truth and falsehood as something which depends entirely on the power of the man who can fabricate it.
And further those who use their power to construct a world of falsehoods for their supporters, eventually have to destroy the power of those, who would challenge it with the truth.
Such phenomena, George monbiot. Oh also writing for the guardian proposes is not confined to the US, a culture of impunity is spreading around the world try to stop me is the implicit motto and Nations ranging from Hungary to Israel. Saudi Arabia to Russia, Turkey to China. Poland to Venezuela flaunting your disregard for the law is an expression of power.
What has this to do with listening to where a scriptural text takes us?
Do we avoid certain biblical passages because they are fin door because they confront us.
Maybe this is one of the places today's scripture takes us to confrontation.
It confronts us with religion how humans and human religious institutions such as churches, use or misuse the power of Holy scripture to control.
It confronts us with the notion of a God who expects accountability and has expectations expectations. Our relationship that we are to enact and live out in real time.
What we do makes a difference. If there is to be life and a future, Human constructs or no religions. That have stood, the test of time tend to be confronted. Not because of what they do to us.
but because of what they cause us to recognize life is a gift.
And we are vulnerable.
A fearful proposition.
We prefer religion that is certain that tells us what to do. That is. Nice and consoling. Perhaps disturbing but comfortingly. So but religion is not always nice and it is very often confronting and maybe that's part of its point.
But religion, as we know, it has been colonized for so long and we have been colonized for so long.
I wonder if we haven't forgotten. Do we even want to know that we have responsibilities to enact this religion of expectation that can transcend with and reveals how well we can live together and how we don't Today's scripture confronts us with the notion that we know how to choose for Death Or For Life.
We know how to choose as we live infidelity to expectations of living in ways, that enhance relationships in Risky, vulnerable ways that have curious Integrity with the real, that life is a gift and that we are vulnerable.
Confronts us with the notion that we are accountable for the consequences of our choices and our actions, whether we won another, our world have life now and into the future, depends on the choices. We know how to make In the light of the disease that is besieging our world at the moment. It seems to me. We do not protesteth too much.
Neither do we Proclaim it enough?
In word and deed.