Monday, December 5, 2011

Good News! (Advent 2 Year B)

Good News!

The gospel of Mark opens with these words.  Good News!

Don’t we all love these words? Good News! If someone comes to us and says I’ve got some good news to tell you it immediately engages us. We usually start to feel happy, maybe even a little excited. We give the speaker our full attention. We listen in anticipation.  After we have heard their good news it often leaves us with a sense of wellbeing.

Immediately before writing this I was glancing at the English newspapers online. It seems to me that they are filled with bad news. Today, I read about financial disasters, soldiers getting killed, child abuse, legal and governmental corruption to mention just a few. I’m sure good things do happen but the focus always seems to be on the bad stuff!

I imagine it was the same in the first century. I doubt if human nature has changed much.  So Mark opens the gospel with the words good news and not just one event, an ongoing state. “This is the beginning of good news”. What a way to get the readers attention.

It served as a salient reminder to those believers who were suffering persecution and hardship. By the time the gospel was written Jesus had already been dead more than 30 years. For those disciples it must have felt a long time, perhaps memories of the events were starting to feel old. Perhaps a little hopelessness was setting in.

Then the reminder is given  . . . “This is the beginning of good news”.   The gospel was written and must have been a light to them, a chronicle of good news.

Perhaps, that is how we should view advent. It is a light to us. Reminding us of what is important. Indeed, the beginning of good news.

Bad news seems to loom strongly at this time of year. There seems to be a lot of extra pressure on our time and finances. It can be a stressful time. With the rushing and the busyness it is sometimes hard to remember what it is all about.

I do love the advent wreath and the lighting of the candles each week. The candles representing hope, peace, joy and love culminating with the Christ candle to welcome the Christ child. They are our tangible reminders of what advent is about: the beginning of good news.

So as we continue to journey through advent, take a moment to light those candles and remember what the season is all about. Good News!

+Ab. Jane

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More Reading Parables Subversively (Proper 28 Year A)

 Matthew 25:14-30

Today we read the parable of the talents. The way I want to look at this story is to subvert it.

As with other parables in Matthew I want to read this as a social comment to the hearers of the day.

This parable has traditionally been interpreted as a comment on the ‘end times’.  The inference being that God is the landowner, we are the slaves and how we live our lives will be reflected in the ‘rewards’ we will earn in the ‘end times’.

What are the problems with this interpretation?

1. Would we want to describe God as harsh?

2. Would we want to picture God as absent?

3. Would we want to picture God as leaving all the work to slaves whilst reaping the benefits?

4. Would we want to picture God as enormously rich and wanting to get richer at the expense of others “reaping where one does not sow”?

Comments on the culture of the day

1. A Talent is specifically a unit of money. Please don’t try and interpret this parable to say that if God makes one good at singing, speaking, art, etc then use the gift! This is not a parable about using one’s abilities for God. It is a parable about moneymaking.

2. Biblical scholar John R. Donovan, S.J., tells us a single talent was equivalent to the wage of an ordinary worker for fifteen years. A talent was 3,000 shekels.

3. Burying one’s possessions was a common way of keeping them safe. This was normal practice in the time.

4. Those who make money were often seen as greedy and unscrupulous. Money making allowed the rich (in this case, the person who owned property and had much money) to get richer. This usually caused the hardship to the poor.

5. The landowner actually was asking the third slave to make money by investing. Usury was against God’s law. There are many references in the OT forbidding this. (eg. Ex. 22:25, Lev. 25:37, Neh. 5:10,11)

Where are we going to find God in this parable?

May I suggest in the third slave . . .

the one refusing to exhort from the poor and suffering greatly as a result

the one who refused to be caught up in the money making schemes of the world.

the one who is rejected and thrown out  (the cross?)

Who should we strive to imitate?

Again may I suggest the third slave . . .

that we have the courage to resist the money making schemes of the day that disadvantage the poor and outcasts

that we follow God’s way even when we know it will cause us to be ostracized and rejected.

Blessings +Jane

PS,  An interesting exercise to do is to read the parable and whenever you see the words "The Master or landowner" substitute "The Emperor" or "Ceasar". You will be surprised how differently it sounds.