notre dame montreal


Ordinary 14 Year A

Coming and going -  completely complete - Ordinary 14 Year A 2017

The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

Our Old Testament reading comes from a time about 2500 years ago, 520 – 518 BC.

Zechariah is a contemporary of Haggai and both are active as the exiles are returning to Jerusalem and the temple is been rebuilt (Ezra 5 – 6).  Shortly after this the walls are around the city would be rebuild under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Into this context, our passage from Chapter 9 open the second half of the book of Zechariah and speaks of a King coming, not on a war horse but on a donkey, the sign of peace.

He is depicted as one who is the recipient and messenger of God’s justice and protection, a humble Messiah who rides a donkey.  A king who brings hope for the future no matter what lies in the past.

In banishing chariots from Ephraim (in the North) and horses from Jerusalem (in the South) and banishing the bows of war He will bring unity to the Kingdom once more and God’s holy nation will stretch across the earth.

It speak about a significant moment in the history of Israel as the King comes.  A sign of completion.

About bringing to completion that which had already started with the rebuilding of the Temple.  A Temple, a city, a nation and a king.

There is a big difference in coming and going.  I cannot come, indicates a closeness and proximity to an event.  It implies an invitation to something.  I cannot go, indicates a distance and a separation, a lack of personal involvement.

For the nation of Israel, the king comes, he will be up close and personal.  There is an element of invitation to the passage, the king will come to all that welcome him.

In our gospel reading Jesus too issues and invitation.  He invites the hearers to come close to Him.

Matthew’s gospel has just moved into a narrative section following a section more focused on His teaching.  Just before this passage we have the query from John the Baptist to Jesus about who Jesus is, is He indeed the Messiah. 

We know Jesus replies to John’s disciples to go and tell John what they see and hear, so He can work it out for Himself, and also condemns those who would not listen to John.

For some people it appears there is no pleasing them.  John was too austere, Jesus is too liberal.

But for those who see and understand, they get it.

Jesus invites the hearers to be close to Him.  To come to Him where He is, to stop looking for Him in the old ways and in the old places but to meet Him where he is are where they are too.

To put aside the things they think they know and understand, the things they like and the things they don’t but simply to come to Him as they are and where they are.  To share with Him the burdens they carry.

It was Metropolitan Anthony, the Patriarchate of Moscow's diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church for Great Britain and Ireland in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when asked about stability meant in his monastic life is reported as reflecting that:

‘At the heart of stability there is the certitude that God is everywhere, that we have no need to seek God elsewhere, that if I can’t find God here, I shan’t find Him anywhere, because the kingdom of God begins with us….’
(from Esther de Waal, ‘Seeking God’, p46.)

It’s a challenge to us where we are.

Sometimes it must appear to God that we are like the children and the people in the market place.
No matter what happens there is no pleasing them.

Where there is music and happiness we don’t want to dance and adopt an ey-ore type approach to life

When there is sadness there was no mourning or empathy with those that suffered but more of a ‘they brought it on themselves type of attitude.

Whatever God did, or does, whatever He offered, it was misinterpreted and seen as wrong or not enough.

In Jesus God was inviting all to come to Him, to meet Him where He was, incarnate with them, and to encounter Him.  Just as when the king comes in Zechariah, so that we can be complete because without God we will never be ‘completely complete’

If we can’t meet God where we are, it’s unlikely we’ll find Him somewhere else.  Sometimes to find God we just need to stop looking elsewhere and look around and within ourselves and we find Him. 

We may remember times when people travelled to distant places to have mystical experiences.  They may well have done, but God was no more there than in the places they travelled from. 

The God of peace and hope, the God of restoration and justice.  The God of love and eternity.

Perhaps we need to slow down or even stop for a while all our business and activity and spend time just being, rather than doing.  To come to Him with all the burdens we seem to carry with us, all our questions and uncertainty, all the strictures and rules we place on ourselves and come to God where we are, and where He is, so we can find more if Him and of ourselves.

God’s invitation to us should be our invitation to others too.  Perhaps to a people who feel burdened beyond what they should be in life, those who are finding things tough.

Those who have a perception of faith and the church which is not the reality of a people walking with a God who is here.

An invitation to come and be complete too.  To bring to completion that which He has started within everyone?

An invitation to reveal the God who is here through our words and our lives, as well as through our actions.

An invitation to find God where they are, not somewhere else.

Like the people Zechariah addressed, sometimes those people feel displaced or understandably disoriented.  But God was with them in their exile as He was also present in Jerusalem, whether the walls were build and the Temple re-established.

How do we begin to find more of God where we are?  To come to him to take another step towards being more complete? 

Perhaps the answer is a simple as to stop a little of what we are doing, take time to be quiet before God and see what happens and what He might reveal to each one of us.