Thoughts for Saturday 27th June 2020

Psalm 13; Genesis 26:23-25; Luke 17:1-4

 

Saturday 27 June  - Rev.  Jerry Eve

 

If I can focus solely on our New Testament reading for today, it’s quite short, but in order to understand it I think it’s necessary to look to the previous chapter. Luke 16 begins with a story told by Jesus about the prudence of debt cancellation. Then when the Pharisees make fun of him for this – because they love money – he tells them that they cannot serve both God and money, before going on to tell them another story. This time it’s the more famous parable of ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus’. There can hardly be a story that is more critical of those who, like the Pharisees, love money.

 

Add to that a short verse condemning adultery (Luke 16:18), and the text is perfectly poised for what follows. For this is a passage about ‘scandal’.

 

Although Professor Willie Barclay’s (1907–1978) writings were very much of their time – and his scholarship has been overtaken more recently, he’s someone who I still find worthwhile consulting. And just one of his insights here in this passage is to tell us that the Greek word, which the Good News Bible takes seven words to translate (things that make people fall into sin), is actually skandalon, and that it originally meant a bait-stick for a trap. It’s where we get the word scandal from, and I very much suspect that what Jesus was doing here in Luke 17 was to draw attention to those sorts of sexual and financial scandals which are always in the news; and from which the Pharisees by no means would have been immune.

 

‘You make fun of me,’ I can almost hear him saying, ‘but it’s stories of you and your misdeeds that the Press is full of. You set yourself up as leaders, but by doing so you do need to realise the influence you have. And if young people (little ones) look at you and come to believe that the pursuit of ludicrous amounts of wealth by any means whatsoever, coupled with all sorts of sexual impropriety, is the way to go, then it’ll be every bit as much your fault, as it will be theirs!’

 

That millstone, incidentally, reminds me of all those Gangster Movies which feature cement shoes (or concrete wellies); never terribly practical, I’m sure, but entertaining nonetheless.

 

I always find it helpful to use a concordance when I come across a word like that, and usually – if it is something tangible – then you get a good mix of actual and metaphorical references. Millstones, for example, are mentioned about ten times in all. Just two of these occurrences are 1) in Judges where we learn that Abimelech got too close to the bottom of a tower he’s besieging, when a woman drops a millstone on his head, and 2) in 2 Samuel where this incident then becomes a way soldiers have of warning one another in time of battle not to come within arrow-range of the enemy.

 

Let us pray:

 

O God, Our Father, we know our own weaknesses,

Our minds are darkened, and by ourselves we cannot find and know the truth.

Our wills are weak, and by ourselves we cannot resist temptation, or bring to its completion that which we resolved to do.

Our hearts are fickle, and by ourselves we cannot give to you the loyalty which is your due.

Our steps are faltering, and by ourselves we cannot walk in your straight way.

So this day we ask you,
To enlighten us,
To strengthen us,
To guide us, that we may know you, and love you, and follow you all the days of our life.

Give to your Church your blessing and your protection.

Guide her in her thinking, that she may be saved from heresies which destroy the faith.

Strengthen her in her witness, that she may bring no discredit on the name she bears.

Inspire her in her fellowship, that those who enter her may find within her your friendship and the friendship of their fellow men and women, Amen (William Barclay).


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