LUKE 11:1-13 & COLOSSIANS 2:6-15
I have been asked to put up the text of my sermon from Sunday 24th July 2016. If you have read my other blogs recently you will notice some overlap!
Last week we heard of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary. Inevitably that story provoked us to think about ‘being’ and ‘doing’. In the story, Jesus made it clear that at least at that moment Mary had made the best choice. ‘Being’ with Jesus was far more important that cooking a meal! ‘Doing’ isn’t always best. ‘Being’ is often much more important. ….
Straight after Jesus encounter with Martha and Mary, we have this morning’s Gospel reading. We find Jesus spending time in God’s presence, practicing what he preaches. Jesus spends time praying, being with his Father. And as they watch him doing this, his disciples ask him to teach them to pray. … Jesus replies in two different ways.
Firstly, he gives them a model for their prayers – a model that we now call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Then secondly, he tells some parables which have underlying them a very important question. In these parables, Jesus asks his disciples what they think God is like. Do they see God as a grumpy next door neighbour, someone they have to pester, so as to get what they want? Or do they think that God will give then something horrible when they ask for something good? A snake instead of a fish, a scorpion instead of an egg?
Jesus has given them a lesson at Martha and Mary’s house in ‘being’ rather than doing, then they’ve seen him spending time with God. As he gives them a model for their prayers he makes it clear that in coming to God to pray they must have their ideas about God straight.
So, what do you think God is like?
As a teenager my appreciation what God was like was to a great extent influenced by my relationship with my Dad, and to some extent by the Church in which I was brought up. Like many teenagers I found my Dad difficult to relate to. His opinion of me mattered a great deal, and it seemed to me that he didn’t think I was up to much. Looking back I can understand that he was struggling to cope with a difficult teenager, but somewhat inevitably my picture of God as ‘Father’ was influenced by my relationship with Dad.
My Church didn’t help too much either – it was a strict conservative environment where mistakes, getting things wrong, easily brought condemnation. ‘God’, in my imagination, was a demanding personality – he loved me alright, but that also meant he expected a lot of me. Although I believed he loved me (after all, that was his job wasn’t it), I found it difficult to really believe that he liked me!
So, what is God like for you? When we talk about God what do you see? A strict disciplinarian? A gentle giant? A cuddly old grandfather? A policeman? A head teacher? Ab sugar daddy who lets us have just what we want? It is almost inevitable that we create images in our minds which come from things that are familiar to us, from our own life experiences. It isn’t surprising, then, that our image of God is not the one that Jesus would have us see. Rather it is one which we have created for ourselves. Often a measly image of God which in no way matches the one in the Bible.
That was certainly true for me as a teenager ………….
So, what is God like?
The apostle Paul talks about this in recent readings set in the lectionary from Colossians, including today’s reading.
Listen first again to words from last week’s reading in Colossians:
Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created. … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And this week:
For in Christ the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily and you have come to fullness in him.
Paul says that when we look at Christ, when we spend time with Christ we see God and ourselves in the right perspective – we see God as he really is!
Sometimes I borrow Jo’s Computer Projector. What makes it very useful to me is that when I call up an image on my laptop it is faithfully reproduced on the screen for everyone to see. The image on the screen is a direct replica of the image on the laptop screen. We can be like a Projector!! We fill our minds with our own concerns or with our own ideas of God or with our busyness. And in doing so we make God in our own image – we project an image of God into our lives based on our experience. Just as I did with my Dad.
Paul in Colossians asks to think differently. ‘Christ’, he says, ‘is the image of the invisible God’. In Jesus, we see God projected in human form, for ‘God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him’.
Paul wants us to make the image that we project, that of Jesus. To spend time with Jesus, reading about him in the Bible, worshipping him, so that rather than our own measly images of God, we see God as he intends us to – because we see Jesus. …..
What is God like? Paul’s answer is, ‘Look at Jesus!’
And when we do this, we will be able to pray the ‘Our Father’, the Lord’s Prayer, without reservation, for we will really believe that God loves us and has our best at heart.