Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Healing, Wellness and Wholeness

Readings for reflection for Sunday February 5th: Epiphany 5 - Isa 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11; 1Cor 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

20th Century SNAGs might have some abhorrence of the events
surrounding the healing of Peter's mother in law.
Peter arrives with a whole load of strangers
she's not well with a fever
Jesus heals her
and they seem to think it's then OK for her to get up and wait on them hand and foot.

Women will think this is par for the course!!
Of course we all know that it is the case that sometimes these ailments are indeed minor
They can come upon us quickly
and leave us quickly.
So we might assume that Peter's mother-in-law had a 24 hour wog!!
We have become rather fixated on the miracle cures of Jesus
that often we forget that this is not the major part of Jesus's ministry at all,
while it is important, particularly to those who are healed
when we ask ourselves what Jesus did and who he was
the healing is almost incidental.
We paint bigger brush strokes
and talk about things like:
Jesus dying for the sins of the world,
Reconciliation between God and humanity,
Restoring the human race...and so on
Healing almost pales into insignificance in the face of all this.
In this little story then we get a sense of the insignificance of healing in the broader scheme of things!
Some difficulty
This presents us with some difficulty
if we are sick, even with a head cold, or a 24 hour wog
it is all-consuming, and all we want is to be rid of the symptoms.
But the Gospels don't actually show us a Jesus who waves his hands
and symptoms disappear.
The thrust of the Gospel is not ...believe in Jesus and you will be healed
the point of the Gospel is
believe in Jesus and you will have eternal life.
God is offering us far more than healing
God is offering us wholeness
We sometimes don't get this,
in the midst of symptoms all we want is relief from the symptoms
But God wants us to have eternal life.
That is one reason why we see Jesus's encounter with those he heals
often have a little dialogue that goes with them
Jesus asks questions not just about the sickness
but about the wholeness.....Do you believe?
Do you want to be healed? What has caused this sickness?
And makes statements that are not healing statements but faith statements
Go and sin no more, Your faith has made you well.

We should and can expect healing
but we cannot expect healing without wholeness
God wants much more for us, than we want for ourselves
The things that will contribute to wholeness
are genuine repentance and forgiveness.
  • God will forgive our sins.
There will be healing of relationships
  • God will bring about reconciliation
We will grow in faith
  • God will deal with us in depth
Weak prayer
Our prayer may often seem weak or unanswered
Is it because so often we want far less for ourselves than God wants for us?
God will not play games with us.
We may only want superficial healing
But God wants wholeness for us..

Strong Prayer
We should critique our prayer for healing
for ourselves and for others.
Am I praying only for healing, when God wants wholeness?.
What else needs to be drawn into our life of faith
in order for our weak prayers to be made strong?
The symptoms are important to the sick person,
even if they are minor.
But let us not get fixated on them.
The preaching of the kingdom demands
that we preach repentance and forgiveness.
The preaching of the kingdom demands
that we seek to set free those who are captive:
to the motives and manipulations of others, to their own history,
to their misplaced psychology
The preaching of the kingdom that we address social evils like poverty and hunger
Don't pray for someone to get magically well.....if you are not
also prepared to stand alongside them
in their struggle to gain proper housing, to have sufficient means to be able to have a proper diet.

God wants not just "healing" as important as that is
we pray and work for wellness and wholeness.
not just a relief from symptoms
but also the permeating of God's life through the whole of our being.

Audio Download (about 1.5M) of this homily

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Power and authority

The readings for Sunday29th January 2006: Epiphany 4 - Deuteronomy 18:15-20; PSALM 111; 1 COR 8:1-13; MARK 1:21-28

I was once asked to say grace at a barbecue and my host said
"Well don't mention Jesus as our newly found Jewish friends might take exception"
I was a little shocked. But it is not hard for us to say prayers in the Jewish traditions

as at least Christians and Jews worship the same God
Spiritual issues
But of the curious issues of the Corinthian church
none was more curious than the controversy over whether or not
Christians should eat food that had been offered to a pagan god.
An equivalent for us would be
whether we should share in a meal
in which a pagan grace had been invoked.

It is far more confronting
than simply being asked to "not mention Jesus"

Would you feel comfortable eating lunch if grace went like this:
....We thank you gods of the sea for this fish and these prawns,
we thank you gods of the earth for bread and drink,
we thank you great god of thunder and lightening for water that nourishes us.....
Some of you like me, would feel a little uncomfortable
but then we might think...well all this sort of stuff is rubbish anyway
as there are no gods but our God.
so it doesn't matter a hoot

Paul says, do what you will
but be conscious in your community
that some people are more sensitive than others.,
and what you find easy to cope with
others take offence at.

Today's readings give us some reflections about authority and power
In the person of Moses we see a key figure
who God chose to exercise power and authority amongst his people.
What this means for us is that
God's involvement with us, his people,
is not accidental
it is deliberate.
God has made and makes provision for us his people.
Moses job, and Moses struggle,
is to bring God's people into a sense of community.
It is a struggle and sometimes seems to evaporate, and to be remarkably precarious.

The idea of the "chosen person" is an important one,
but it has both positive and negative dimensions.
Positive in that we can look and see that God has provided for us
leaders and teachers.
God has provided for our welfare and growth.
Negative in that we can think that God's provision is for others
to do it on our behalf.
Both of these problems beset Moses,
Moses, in authority, was given a hard time
by this frontier people as if they were Australians!
Both of these problems beset us!
But what they both acknowledge is that Christianity
understands that God is engaged not just in some general way with the world
but in the day to day living of life.
and is drawing us into community with him and with each other.

What Mark's early picture of Jesus reminds us of
is that the exercise of authority and power
will cause things to happen.
In this encounter with a demon
we see that Jesus uses his authority.
Although we often exegete this passage to death
to try and understand what exorcism means today
this passage is about showing us
God's life as lived in Jesus
is a life of authority and power.
It is authority and power in a s
piritual world.

This might cause us to reflect
that drawing people into community
is not so much a political or social phenomenon
as a spiritual one.
When we talk about building community in our churches
in our country, in our families
in our work places
Do we begin to ask ourselves
what are the spiritual issues here?
building Community is a spiritual issue.
Exercising authority is a spiritual task.

Not many of us will be terribly worried by the issue of whether or not
the barbecue we are about to eat has been offered to an idol.
All of us however will have some equivalent
in the places where we are called to be and build community.

Where we are asked to surrender
the authority that belongs to God and God alone
to something that is not God.

Our authority is derived from Christ
through baptism
and that baptism calls us
into community
as we act and practise our faith
we can and should ask
:does what I do bring people closer to Jesus or drive them away
:does the way I live my life draw people together or drive them apart

We are people who live with power and authority
it shows us that God deals directly with us
and has made provision for our particular needs and growth.
Power and authority is exercised
to bring us into community with God and with each other,
we are sometimes lax and careless about this
and want to say...let's leave that to another
but we all know I suspect
that this is an authority
which we share and which we need to practise.
May God enable us to grow in love together.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Jesus calls us

Readings for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany: Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20 for a display of all these readings go here

When we want something done
we are often tempted to say:
Put an advert in the bulletin
or make an announcement and ask for a volunteer
And my experience has shown me
that this is often. even usually, unproductive.
There are many reasons why this is so,
and we do not need to canvass them at the moment.

But today's readings show us that when God wants something done
as we read the scriptures
and reflect on the lives of God faithful people
God calls...individuals, groups
specifically and directly.

So today there are a number of insights
into what it might mean
to be called

Going backwards
Right at the beginning of his ministry, as Mark records it,
Jesus calls disciples.
This is a fairly curious event
It is done like this:
jesus makes a proclamation
...The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God
has come near; repent and believe in the good news.....

I wonder if anyone understood what he was saying,
in hindsight we read a lot on to it
but it is a generalisation
and it will only be fleshed out
as events take their course
and come to their fateful conclusion on Calvary

As Jesus moves on he invites the first four disciples,
Simon and his brother Andrew, and then James and John,
to "follow him"
Many of us would understand this,
so attractive is the person of Jesus
that we want to be with him,
you may have felt like this at a time when you gave your life to him,
when you were confirmed, or baptised.
Others of us just know the great joy
of always having had the privilege to follow Jesus.

What we can observe is that the four first disciples
can never have known
what they were letting themselves in for.
As the Gospel goes on it is clear that they misunderstand Jesus all the time,
they are at odds with him
and at the crucial point
they desert him.

What are we to make of all this?

Moving on
As we trace back through the readings
  • Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that it is easy to be lacklustre about being a disciple. And that discipleship requires not just a general sort of adherence, but rather a commitment
  • It needs the commitment that is like saying...this is more important than my marriage, this is more important than my grief, it is more important than that which causes me to be most excited. It is more valuable than the greatest possession that I have. It is is more important than anything in which I am caught up with in the world.
  • He is not saying, I think, that these things are not important. But rather in his emphatic way trying to get us to understand the depth of commitment that is necessary if we are really follow Christ.
Similarly as we reflect on the story of Jonah
we note that God's called people
are sometimes unfaithful to the call
We say we want to be faithful
but we are not prepared to do it.
Jonah was told to go and tell the people to repent
...but he was frightened, unsure....and well we know the rest of the story
We hear today that
he is able to have a second go,
despite his failure
despite his stubborness
(even then as we read on in the story
it is not over)
So we have two more insights
  1. Discipleship requires deep commitment
  2. Discipleship admits of the sort of failure that allows us to mature by it
A pattern has now emerged
  • God calls us to be disciples
  • We may not fully understand what this means
  • We may sometimes get it wrong
  • We may sometimes be willful
  • God continues to call us
  • The call is not so much to do things as to be with Jesus
  • this requires deep commitment
Measuring stick
As we hold up our own lives
I suspect we see this pattern there too
We know the sense of call
We may not be sure just what it is we are supposed to do
But we learn that we are taken there by being close to Jesus.
Sometimes we are bad at this, often we are willful, disobedient, arrogant.
God continues to call us
we are invited to be seriously committed.

I pray that as we face challenging times
as a parish, as individuals
that we may also pray for this strength to be more deeply committed.
For the courage to embrace failure
for the desire not so much to be successful, big or famous
but rather to be close to Jesus.

Have we the courage to exercise this source of discipleship?
I believe so
God gives us the Spirit to achieve this.
Do we have the will to do it?
We can decide...but will we?


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Christ in the world- Christ in our lives

This season is often called "epiphany"
In the Christmas story it commemorates the coming of the Wise Men to visit the Infant Jesus.
Thematically this event expresses the Christian Gospelmoving outside the narrow confines of Israelto all the people of the world.

So we think about God manifesting himself to all people.

This is in fact what the word "epiphany" means.

--demonstrating, showing forth, exposing,----

This is a most important theme.

Christ is for the world

not just the temple or the Church.

I often say my job as a priest is to stand aside so that people can see Jesus

And, indeed, I think that despite all the Church troubles in recent times it is the Church that people don't like not Jesus.

Where is Jesus in your life?

Where do you need him

Where could he fit?

Where is he reaching out to you?

Where Jesus meet us
Typically the words that trigger off responses

to these questions...are love, forgiveness, healing and intimacy

You don't have to be genius to realise hat we all crave these things.
I try to bring people to Jesus so that we may know his love, care, forgiveness and healing.
You may wish to pray for yourself that you might know his real presence
touching those places where you are most in need.
Lord Jesus, come into my life today
that I may know your closeness, your care,
your healing and your forgiveness
Lord Jesus, make yourself know to me today. Amen