Wednesday, 1 March 2017
"'Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and these know you that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.'" John 17:25,26 (NRSV)
In the ancient world to know a god's name was to know his nature.
Jesus says that the world does not know God.
The world thinks that God is angry, judgemental, harsh, even tyrannical. But Jesus shows us a loving Father who forgives even His most prodigal sons and daughters.
How could it be that Jesus knew God and the Pharisees - the keepers of the temple - did not?
"The shepherds also have no understanding, they have all turned to their own way, to their own gain, one and all." Isaiah 56:11b (NRSV)
The Pharisees had no understanding because they were motivated by their own greed.
"'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!'" Matthew 23:37 (NRSV)
This is God's desire to gather His children to His bosom but those in authority are not willing.
"Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them." Ezekiel 34:2b-4 (NRSV)
"With force and harshness you have ruled them."
Because they have no understanding of God and seek their own benefit.
Jesus shows us that God's nature is not that of a moral judge but of a loving Father.
Relationship with God is not about obeying but about love.
Love is considerate, love is forgiving, love is patient, love is kind.....
God's Church does not reflect God's love because the shepherds seek their own benefit. They want power and authority, they are full of fear, not love.
Jesus knows God because he loved God.
"'"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'" Matthew 22:37-40 (NRSV)
So it is through love that we come to know God.
Jesus loved God. The Pharisees feared God.
And this fear has been handed down from generation to generation to this very day as tradition.
Jesus criticized tradition as "human precepts." Matthew 15:9b (NRSV)
And practised love above all things.
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." 1 John 4:18 (NRSV)
So we are not to fear punishment - i.e. hell - we are to practise love.
The way of love still exists.
Love God and love your neighbor.
And you will come to know the name of God.
[Scripture quotations (marked NRSV) are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.]
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