Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Clifton.
 

Sunday 12th August 2018
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
1 Kings 19: 4-8     Ephesians 4:30 - 5:2     John 6: 41-51

The Little List.

Some preachers turn religion into fluffiness. They use the word ‘love’ so much that it stops having any meaning, and yet they never quite get round to saying what it means to love your neighbour, and so love becomes a theological painkiller, the sort of word that no one can disagree with because it has lost its practical application. St Paul had no time for neat notions of niceness. When he writes to the Ephesians he tells them that being a Christian is a very practical thing. It doesn’t just mean believing, it means doing. It’s not a philosophy, it’s a way of life. And he has a little list for his hearers to check, to see whether their words of love are really turning into deeds of love.

Never have grudges… This is really hard to do because it means being so secure about the fact that God loves us that we do not need to count the cost when others do us wrong. We leave that up to God, tempting though it is sometimes …or lose your temper… When we lose our temper it is usually because we have a greater opinion of ourselves than is real. Or because we think that someone else is behaving in a way that is an affront to our dignity or importance. Yet when our temper is lost, we have no dignity at all …or raise your voice to anybody… Sometimes raising our voices is just a sign of the urgency we sense, but more often than not it’s a way of intimidating another person – a subtle act of violence. If I raise my voice at you I am no longer treating you as the equal you are, but I am seeking to dominate by the threat of worse to come …or call each other names… To call someone a name is to seek to change their identity, to make others think of them as different from how they view themselves. We have all been named by God in baptism; our life’s task is to become what God has called us to be. To call people names is to join in frustrating that task …or allow any sort of spitefulness… The problem with spitefulness is that no one ever thinks they are being spiteful. Rather like bearing a grudge, being spiteful means that we do not allow God to be God: we take it upon ourselves to administer the sentence we feel people deserve.

This little list of Paul’s practical Christianity goes on. Underlying most of it is the fact that we should be treating other people in the way we have been treated by God. If we say that we cannot forgive someone, then God is being cheated. He forgives us readily, but we hold onto the gift and won’t pass it on. So next time you hear someone talking about ‘love’ as if it were a woolly idea or fluffy concept, stop and think. They certainly won’t be quoting St Paul.

 

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Scripture Reflections (below) © Peter J Harrison 2018