Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A reflection for 26th July 2020 by Rev Alistair McLeod

July 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Latest News

Today’s reading: Matthew Chapter 5 verses 17 – 26.

“Is it an impossible ideal?”
Some time ago when on holiday, I visited York Minster. In the shop were cards for sale. One illustrated the Beatitudes.
A man had been reading his and looking a bit bewildered he said to his wife that he found the whole aspect of Christianity a bit daunting. In a voice a little louder than a whisper he said to his wife, “most of us can manage not to commit murder, but who do you know who hasn’t lost their temper and called their friend more than a fool. If we’re being condemned for that there’s no hope for any of us.” She answered, “Well after what you said to me tis morning there’s no hope for you”.
Christianity does sometimes seem a bit difficult to live up to.
There have been those who have tried to reduce the whole business of following Jesus to some simple undemanding customs and rules – but it can’t be done. Sadly, it just cannot be done; so some folk end up imagining themselves to be nice and dandy and others are left to wallow in the mire that of their own often misplaced guilt.
When we study scripture, the Pharisees keep on cropping up, and it’s no different here. Jesus in this Bible passage is saying that we need to be better than the Pharisees, and part of that was that many but not all the Pharisees thought themselves to be wholly righteous. Jesus was saying to guard against what often happens when people become deeply engrossed in themselves and in religion that they become self-righteous – not a good thing. And Jesus says that we should become more righteous than the Pharisees whilst at the same time being humble with it.
Now the Pharisees were for the most part good folk, so the calling to be ‘good Christians’ does sounds excessively difficult, maybe even impossible. So, what is the point of calling for something that is impossible?
We all need ideals in life to aim for. If we always and only do what we know we can accomplish then we are missing out on life’s challenges, and there can be no growth for us.
The relevance of an ideal for us is that it spurs us on. We try harder and maybe achieve more, even that we thought of as impossible.
If following Jesus what we can easily achieve, then maybe we are missing the point.
When Jesus said, “You must take up your cross and follow me” he knew that it would not be easy. But he never said “You are on your own so get on with it”. He also said, “Come to me, if your work is hard, and I will give you relief, and remember I will be with you even to the end of time”.
We are not left on our own without help. Jesus is there as he promised to be and he will strengthen you when things get tough. We may fail in our attempts at discipleship but that’s not the end of the story. Jesus is the one who forgives and accepts our failures, so that we can try to keep his ideals; aim for them, miss them, and still he will forgive us are receive us with his understanding, and his forgiving love. However, when we think about where we stand when we are asked to forgive someone, we know it’s not always easy. If it becomes easy it makes forgiveness easy and cheap and it demeans the cross. There was great cost to God’s forgiveness – the cost was the life of His only Son. So it tells us of a God who truly loves and values us enough to give us a high calling and who is ready to stoop down and pick us up when we fall. What really prompts the Christian life is gratitude and to continue to try a follow all the commands of Jesus, and to recognise in Jesus the graciousness of Almighty God. It is in His grace given and freely accepted.
Stay strong and follow Him.
Amen.

And now a prayer for you.
Holy God, we so often fail to uphold what is good and honest, right and true. Forgive us when we fall short of the high standards we should have. Make us ready to admit our faults, grateful to receive your forgiveness, and eager to renew our commitment to live only in your strength.
Amen.

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