YEAR C,  EPIPHANY 7 

Sunday 7,  Feb 18-24

 

Luke 6: 27-38      (Sermon: “Hey, Big Spender!”)

 

1 Cor 15: 35-38,42-40

 

Genesis 45: 3-11,15

 

Psalm 37: 1-11, 39-40

 

“You never enjoy the world aright......till you perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world..... Till you can sing and rejoice in God, as misers do in gold, and kings in sceptres

                                                                                                (Thomas Traherne.)

 

Make God your chief delight,

and your heart’s purest desire shall be given to you.

 

The meek shall possess the land,

and delight themselves in God’s generosity.

 

The salvation of loving people is from God,

God is their fixed point in the troubles of life.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

God of Jesus, the joy of loving hearts, we love you!

 

Joy of dawn, joy of dusk,

joy of sunshine, joy of rain,

joy of birth, joy of growth,

joy of maturity, joy of death,

we worship you.

 

Joy of the meek, joy of the poor,

joy of peacemakers, joy of the pure,

joy of the persecuted, joy of the hungry,

joy of the thirsty, joy of the outcaste,

we worship you.

 

Joy of givers, joy of the generous,

joy of good measure, pressed down and running over,

joy of the forgiven, , joy of the mercy-full,

joy of the loving, joy of the hope-full,

we love and adore you.

 

Most awesome Friend, in our sanest and purest moments,

we do delight in you more than misers in gold and kings in sceptres.

Glory be to you, loving God, on earth and in heaven, for ever and ever!

Amen!

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

 

Introd.

 

In some ways Christianity may seem like bad news. In the life of Christ Jesus, the bar has been raised to unprecedented heights, and that sees most of us falling a long way short.

 

Yet there is also very good news, for through Christ God has also shown us “plenteous grace to cover all our sins.”  As we embrace the fullness of the good news, let us with quiet confidence confess our sin, saying together:

 

Prayer

 

            God of unutterable holiness, we confess to you and to each other that we have fallen far      short of the complete and generous love of Jesus, our divine Brother.

 

            Through our foolishness, our very own foolishness, we have not only stumbled but   caused             those around us to also fall.

            Through our wilfulness, our very own wilfulness, we have not only been corrupted but         have aided the corruption of others.

           

            Here and now, holy God, through our repentance, our very own repentance,

            we acknowledge our sins, turn with dismay from them,

             and pray for your saving grace to once more forgive and rehabilitate our lives.

           

            May the Spirit of Christ so continue to work in and through us,

            that we may forgive those who have sinned against us,

            and sincerely seek their rehabilitation.

 

            Through Christ Jesus our sure Redeemer.

            AMEN!

 

FORGIVENESS

 

For this church at.................... it is written: “Grace to you and peace from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God. and Father; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen!

 

To God be glory for ever and ever. Amen!

 

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

God of Jesus, you seem very generous.

Very generous in creating things,

and very generous in saving things

from hurting one another..

 

It must hurt you when you see any of us

become mean and selfish.

We are usually sorry afterwards

and know we need to be forgiven.

But it would be far better

if we could stop the meanness

before it starts.

 

Would you please grow generosity,

like sunflowers, in our heart and mind?

We look forward to the day when our world

will as full of golden generosity

as you planned it to be.

 

Through Jesus our Saviour.

Amen!

 

PSALM 37: 1-11, 39-40

 

---- With a Responsory

 

Don’t you fret because of the wicked,

nor be envious of those who do bad things.

They will dry up like grass,

wither like cut green foliage.

            Don’t be jealous when scum bags seem to win.

            Don’t be spooked; God is not fooled.

 

Trust in your God and do what good you can,

take your place in the land and be secure,

Find your delight in knowing God,

and your deepest longings will be met.

            True riches are found in unseen things,

            “Get high” on God and you will not fall.

 

Commit all your ways to God,

trust, for God is always at work.

Your vindication will be sure as sunrise,

your justification as bright as high noon.

            Don’t expect God to jump when you speak,

            trust and obey and you will never be let down.

 

Rest in God’s stillness,  and be patient,

Do not fret when evil seems to prosper.

The wicked will find themselves cut off,

but those who wait will possess the land.

            Make space for the gift of grace,

            the busiest saints always have time.

 

In a short time the wicked will be no more,

their mansions will stand empty.

But the meek will inherit the earth

and delight in the shalom of God.

            For those who have the guts to be gentle,.

            all manner of things will be well.

                                                                                                                        B. D Prewer 2006

 

COLLECT

 

God of extravagant love,

may your generous Spirit,

flow into our little lives.

Although our spiritual capacity is small

and judgmental thoughts waylay good intentions,

may we become miserly in recrimination

and more generous in our affirmation

of those who share this journey with us.

Through Jesus Christ

your most prodigal act of love.

Amen!

 

SERMON: HEY BIG SPENDER!

 

Love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return. Your reward will be great for you will be children of the Most High. For God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful

 

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap.

 

Let’s be a bit ridiculous and link those words of Jesus with one of the most renowned songs sung by Shirley Bassey:

 

“So let me get right to the point,

I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see.

Hey, big spender, spend....

A little time with...me...me...me!”

 

When Shirley Bassey, in the turbulent 1960’s, made these lyrics famous, I doubt whether she thought they would turn up in church. Well they have.  The words ‘big spender” have become a part of common speech; and today I would like to, sort of, baptise them ?

 

By ‘big spender” we mean a person who has style and wealth to share; who spends as if money grows on trees; who does not know when to stop. A big spender is profligate.

 

I put this to you: God is the ultimate Big Spender. The God of Jesus is the most stylish of  all the “real big spenders.” In fact, the God of Jesus makes all other big spenders, even the most generous among them, look just pale and distorted reflections. Most of the pale ones have ulterior motives. Not our God. God showers abundance upon us just for our own happiness..

 

I don’t

            pop my cork for every god I see.

 

But what I find in Christ Jesus, pops my cork bigtime.

            The minute Christ walked into my life

            I could see he was a god of distinction,

            A real big spender.

 

If you think you know the God of Jesus, yet have not realised how freely and generously this Most High One showers upon you unconditional gifts, without measure, then you have not met the Christ of the Gospels.  God is pure altruism, white-hot generosity, looking for no reward except the enrichment of each person.

 

Love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return. Your reward will be great for you will be children of the Most High. For God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful

 

OUR GODLINESS

 

Many good people aspire for godliness. What is godliness?

 

Is it keeping yourself apart from the world, free from any possible contamination?

Is it being ready for every occasion with a quote, chapter and verse from the Bible?

Is exhibited in those who refuse to own a TV or read a newspaper?

Is it found in those who can fluently pray extempore in any situation?

Is it the capacity to stay awake in prayer meetings that run from dusk to dawn?

Is it abstaining from sex, except for procreation, even in marriage?

Is it having a perfect attendance record at church, come wind or high water?

Is it the virtue of those who meticulously tithe from every skerrick of their income?

 

What is godliness? You could be all of the list I have just given you, yet sadly, you might still have missed out on godliness.

 

What is true godliness

.

Jesus leaves us in no doubt. It is being generous in motive, thought, word and deed; like the Most High God whom he called “Abba.” Godliness is following this “big spender” God. Therefore be sup-generous and…

            you will be children of the Most High. For God is kind to the ungrateful and the      selfish.

 

A WOMAN AT THE MARKET?

 

Do you like the skimpy sketch in few words that Jesus goes on to draw? It hints of a women at the market, buying grain for her family. She gets a surprise when the grain merchant goes far beyond what is expected from a fair deal. He first does the just thing and fills his measuring jar. Then this extraordinary fellow pushes the contents down hard, and adds more grain. Even that is not enough. He shakes the jar to make yet more room for additional  grain. This poor women does not have a bag in which to carry this abundance. She holds out her apron. Into this is poured much more grain than she ever expected or deserved..

            Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running      over, will be put in your lap.

 

This grain merchant is a first century version of “big spender.” He does not stick to the strict letter of a bargain, but goes overboard with generosity.

 

What Jesus is on about is not just about how we use our monetary wealth. It is a whole lifestyle. It is an generous attitude than wells up from the roots of our being. It is the truly generous spirit.

 

I find myself wanting to repeat the words of Jesus ,  over and over again to myself and to you.

 

Love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return. Your reward will be great for you will be children of the Most High. For God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful

 

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap.

 

Please God, is us that generous spirit!

 

That is the God who comes to seek and save the bewildered and the lost tribes of earthlings.  It is the only God with whom you need to have dealings. More than that, it is the only God there is in heaven and on earth.

 

“So let me get right to the point,

I don’t pop my cork for every god I see.

Hey, big spender, spend....

A little time with...me...me...me!”

 

AN ITALIAN  PAINTING

 

Recently I returned to visit the National Gallery, in the elegant, tree-lined,  St Kilda Road. Melbourne. I had not been back since the major rennovations, and the moving of the section of Australian art to the new Federation Square.

 

I was delighted to see how there was now space for many European paintings formerly kept in the gallery’s vaults. I came up to a painting by the Italian,  Giambatista Pittoni (1687-1767). The subject was the “Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes.” Struck by work of art I had not seen before, I sat down on one of those central benches to revel in it.

 

Let me tell you about the painting. In general the scene is as you would expect from such a painting of that period.  There is the big crowd distant and close ups of the colourful common folk. Some disciples carry around large baskets of food.

 

Yet tt was neither the people in the crowd nor the disciples, nor even Jesus, who had excited me. It was a dog. In a central place. What is more it looked like a tattered, stray dog.

 

This poor mongrel was having the time of its life. A basket of food had been left aside on the ground. The dog was into it. Literally into it. Not just his head and mouth but also a front foot. That poor dog was having the time of his life.  To make my excitement complete, not a single person was worried about this dog getting at the food. The loves and  fishes were so plentiful that if a stray dog wanted some, good for him!

 

What a wonderful parable in paint! Jesus and his God do not go in for half  measures. They do not even stop at the point of what is a just and fair measure . This God is prodigal in giving gifts. The ultimate big spender.

 

Who is that poor, stray dog? When I look at the painting it is me. If you won’t take offence ( for that matter, even if some of you do take offence!), I would like to include you; include you in the name of the true God; “God of God light of light.”

 

            The minute Christ walked into my life

            I could see he was a god of distinction,

            A real big spender.

 

             “So let me get right to the point,

            I don’t pop my cork for every god I see.

            Hey, big spender, spend....

            A little time with...me...me...me!”

 

I hasten add words Jesus spoke after his story about a good Samaritan: “Now you go and do likewise.”

 

Godliness? If we give less than what is just, we are a long distance off. If we deal justly in all things, we might be one third of the way there. But it is in the other two thirds of generous abundance, grace upon grace, that we begin to share the sheer wonder and delight that is of God.

 

And our text for this day:

 

Love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return. Your reward will be great for you will be children of the Most High. For God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful

 

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap.

 

Wow! What a life this is!

 

INTERCESSIONS: TO THE GOD OF HOPE

 

For the many who stand in queues at Centrelink,[unemployment ‘pension’] feeling demeaned like beggars, we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For those on the long waiting list for surgery, or other therapy, in public hospitals,

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For children who go to school hungry because parents gamble their family benefits,

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For refugees who are locked in detention camps, waiting for their cases to be processed,

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For the job seekers who long for interviews, as they compete for too few vacancies.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For the mentally ill who, denied adequate medical care, have become homeless derelicts.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For those who against their will, or at first willingly, are shamefully abused in the sex trade.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For the bewildered among young aborigines who are sniffing petrol or vandalising property.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For frail folk who live alone, without neighbours who care whether that are alive or dead.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For bruised souls once hurt by religion, and who now do not know where to turn for succour.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

For the host of ordinary citizens, who give their best without ever being noticed or thanked.

we pray to the God of hope.

Loving Spirit, reinforce our prayers with appropriate actions.

 

God hope, God of justice, God of mercy, disturb the peace of those comfortable people whose labour is small and whose burden is light. May each do whatever we can to bring others in from the edges of life, that all may find healing for body, mind and spirit. Through Christ Jesus, the Prince of hope.

Amen.

 

WORD OF MISSION AND BLESSING

 

Little children of God, if God so loves us, then so should we love one another.

 

The love of Chrst enables us.

 

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you.

 

And we will be children of the Most High, who is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish;

giving good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, poured into our lap.

 

The abundant grace of of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the immeasurable love of God,

and the boundless fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

will be with you

today and always.

Amen.