“..are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner?..” Abrahams challenging question to God implies he speaks as a just man for just men..for just/good men not just men & not women!.. & Abraham begins to barter with God.. ..if there are just 10 just men / just women in this Church this evening/ this morning, would you destroy it?..if there were only 5?..& if there were only 2? ..& let’s be honest, how many times have you tried to barter with God..exchange & mart “..not I Lord, surely?”..a stiff statement of innocence or a heartfelt cry for mercy?..
“..how grievous is their sin!” ..indeed how grievous is our sin.. ; Lord have mercy “..I propose to go to see whether or not they have done all that is alleged..” ..against them & us.. ; Christ have mercy “..I am determined to know..” ..to read the evidence? or to melt in love into their moment? ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“..ask & it will be given to you..one who asks always receives” is prayer always heard? is prayer always answered? when was last time you prayed & didn’t get an answer? maybe not answer you asked for, as you, like Abraham, bartered for a particular intention in a tight time scale & under certain terms & conditions.. I used to go monthly to Thicket Priory to hear Sisters confessions..once & exceptionally for an enclosed Community, they were going to throw open their gates & monastery to let public see this northern powerhouse of prayer from inside..Prioress anxious everything went well so she asked if I would pray for the success of day..”& Fr Bede could pray for fine weather between 2pm & 430pm?”.. we smile at it but is our prayer life any less childish?..”ask &it will be given to you” maybe we are reluctant to ask for fear of what the answer might ask of us on next stage of our journey?..were our prayers for Joyce Chase not heard nor answered?..nearly 30yrs ago I was trying to help woman, mother of two teenagers, who was in relationship with three men at same time..she wrote this email “about to go away for the weekend as part of our Alpha course. Struggling with the group discussions. People talk in such inappropriate analogies about prayer. “it’s like a conversation” no it isn’t; God doesn’t chat back to me, does he to you? interesting isn’t it that in all the new testament prayers I can think of that people pray, & probably the most notable the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane, the bible is distinctly silent about the answers God gave. What did Christ hear God say..anything? nothing? & maybe we find it hard to talk about prayer because it is about intimacy & we all do that in different ways..some people are much more open than others, some share their innermost thoughts with their partners, some would not dream of sharing them with anyone. Some give readily, some withhold, some understand their own feelings, some haven’t a clue. Some are articulate, others unable to express their thoughts & feelings..& perhaps God meets us in as many different ways. But I have never had a conversation with God, & I suspect I am not alone in that. I find so much that is said is so glib & trite & unhelpful. It just leaves me feeling inadequate if I think that everyone else is getting answers to prayer & nattering away to God as if they are his best buddy..& there I am again, the one on the outside looking in, the one with my nose pressed against the glass looking at some other family having a great time sitting round the fire..& why has God dealt me this hand?..why have I met a man I really could love who is not free to love me?..oh what to do hey?..what to do?”..”ask & it will be given to you”..her experience of prayer outstanding holy & sacred, & from a woman not in three relationships but four..intimate with her God is she not?..she was longing to belong..not for glib trite unhelpful answers from a catechism or a homily..for reward points for her weekly attendance akin to her Morrisons reward card..or is yours a Waitrose & its free newspaper on Saturdays?.Matthews ending to same gospel reads “how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him!” reward based religion.. typically Matthew a practising Jew writing for practising Jews..stick &carrot..compliance & reward..whereas notice in Luke “how much more with your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” not brownie points on reward card but the love passion of Holy Spirit in your heart, which enables you & the Holy Spirit..each in need of the other, in partnership, to recreate the face of the earth..”oh what to do hey? what to do?” how do we begin?..by sitting round the fire of divine love & by trying to forgive the unforgivable..that is the ground zero when you & I make it as Christians, as intimate followers of Christ..I haven’t got there yet..but the living & praying towards it is unbelievable..ask knock search..I shaped these words last Mon feast of another woman disciple whose life & prayer didn’t fit mould..Mary Magdalen, now at last recognised upgraded by Pope Francis “Holy Woman & Apostle to the Apostles”Sara Maitland writes powerfully of her presence at the Crucifixion..“& that I realised was why he was here..we pushed our luck too far in the hill towns of the north, just as we pushed it too far in the market & in the temple courtyard this last week. We touched too many people’s fear & pride & self- loathing with our joyful freedom. I accepted that I , as much as any rabbi or temple lawyer, Roman tyrant or soldier, I as much as any of them had brought him here. Then it stopped mattering whether he could still see or hear or notice. I didn’t mind what anyone thought or said, I let my hair down just on the off-chance he might sense it & be comforted. It wasn’t much, set against what he had given me. I decided this afternoon in the long, hot dying that I will never put my hair up again, never cover it over & pretend to be respectable..I will take the freedom he has given me & live it for as long as I can.” ”..& why has God dealt me..me & you..this hand?”..as we are..inadequate & intimate.. [17thSunYrC Lk11;1-13]