Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 25 August 2013
Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
Things are often not what they seem. The hardships and disappointments which feel like God’s forgetfulness may be precisely the deep and loving work of God’s transformative engagement with us. Conversely, the comfortable spaces we complacently name as God’s may be empty of relationship with the divine. We can hear Christ’s words and share Christ’s meal and yet never ever know him.
The boundaries between inside and outside, sacred and profane, may not fall quite where we think they do. Hymns like Psalm 117 call on the nations to praise God. Are the nations invited in as participants in the goodness of God, or only as envious bystanders and witnesses to what God has done for God’s own people? In other words, when we pray “steadfast is his kindness toward us”, who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’? Jesus challenged the way his co-religionists drew that line. What would he say about our own boundary markers?
Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem when he speaks about the narrow gate and how strong one must be to enter through it. This is Jesus’ journey to the cross, the journey that all those who follow him must be willing to take. No wonder he says that very few are strong enough! The strength it takes isn’t the preserve of those whom the world calls strong. Those with resources like that will probably choose to rely on them to get through life, and then wonder why they are not recognised in the upside-down-and-inside-out Kingdom. No, the strength called for is the courage to hear and to respond, to trust and to obey. The one who is strong enough is the one with drooping hands and weak knees who takes the next step anyway.