Friday, January 12, 2007

Moving through Epiphany Season

Epiphany began on January 6th with the coming of the Wise Men to the Infant Jesus. This story reminds us how the Good News of Jesus is not just for a few select people but for the whole world. The Wise Men are symbolic of the fact that God relates to every human being. Not just our family, not just our nation, not just our church, not just our relations

God is the God of All People

The next two entries are brief summaries of one theme for each of the next two Sundays when I will not actually be preparing full sermons

January 21st- Jesus’s Ministry
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 21, 2007 Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 I Corinthians 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21

In Luke 4 we read how Jesus invites us to understand him as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Now is the time that Lord is beginning a “new thing”.
What part do we play in that? How does God call you and me to make ?
What concrete actions can I put into place to enable God’s peace, healing and wholeness to be available to those I encounter

January 28th Dealing with rejection

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 28 , 2007

Jeremiah 1:4-10 Psalm 71:1-6 I Corinthians 13:1-13 Luke 4:21-30
Jesus is not welcomed with universal acceptance. We often experience rejection from those who are closest to us. We are reminded however that our sense of purpose, like Jesus, comes from the fact that we are called by God “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; “
This tremendous affirmation can also remind us at this time when we think about our National Day, that as a nation we would do well to seek after God

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The (in)famous miracle

Readings this week (SundayJanuary 14 2007 ) are for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-5 Psalm 36:5-10 I Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11

No miracle attracts attention like the turning of water into wine. It is the butt of all the jokes that cynics and non-Christians throw at believers in Jesus.
Be that as it may. It is also profoundly misunderstood.
We are fixated on getting our water turned into wine
whereas it seems the holy God
might be intent on something else.
A couple of points
Jesus is with us in the ordinary.
Although we think this story is about a magic trick of changing water into wine
it speaks volumes more to see
that it is not the extraordinary
that is the key
but the ordinary.
Here we have Jesus at an ordinary, albeit special, event
a marriage
and being bothered about an ordinary, albeit serious, problem
the wine has run out.
If we hear nothing else in this story
we need to recognise that it is speaks to us about how Jesus
lives with us in the ordinary world.
The world of weddings and bad catering!
We often confine God to "religious" areas
but this story, like much of John's Gospel,
reminds us that Jesus does not take us out of the ordinary
but rather transforms it.
One of the keys to enabling this transformation to happen
is to hear the words of Mary to his disciples
"Do what ever he tells you!"
So two key principles so far in this story are:
  • allow Jesus into the ordinary
  • and listen to what he is telling you and do itt.

This simple advice might stand us in good stead.
It requires simply that we open our ordinary life to God
And that we listen to what he is saying
We are not always good at this.
Do we take time each day, each week
to even think about what we are doing
in our ordinary life, at work, at school
at home
with our family, in our duties,
in our recreation
do we submit that to God
and allow God to add to our experience of it.

NOTE that Jesus does not cane the wedding guests!
he does not say "You are a mob of drunks! and it serves you right."
I have come that you might have lie
and have it more abundantly
is one of the great themes of this Gospel.
There will be times when God tells us to draw back
that we have got it wrong
and there will equally be times
when we are invited to throw ourselves in with zest and flare.
Dare we do this.

This is not so much a story of wayward drunkenness
but an invitation to give every aspect of our life to God
and live it with the abundance he desires for us.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Seeing God

Today, January 7, 2007, is often called the Baptism of the Lord (First Sunday after the Epiphany)
Readings suggested for today are: Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 29 Acts 8:14-17 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

If you were to draw a picture of God
what would you draw?
Some of our fellow monotheists (that is believers in one God)...the Jews and the Moslems
find this idea of representing God
to be so slippery an idea
that they forbid it all together.
If you go into a mosque or a synagogue
although you will find elaborate decoration
(Islamic art represents some of the highest forms of decorative art the world has ever seen)
But you will find no human form, or even animal form represented
we call this idolatry.
We are profoundly aware that any attempt to represent God will fall far short.
Any picture we draw will be some how inadequate
and contentious.
It will cause offence because of this.

This is of course true not only of visual art
but also of the written word.
We only have to start talking about our experience of God
to realise that the words fail us.
It is easy and tempting to be simplistic and paint or write about God.
But we should always be aware that our words will fail
our pictures will be inadequate
they are only like a calculus which draws close to the ultimate expression
but they never quite get there.

I don't think this should prevent us from trying
but there is a serious warning here.
The warning is not about what might happen to us if we should somehow stumble across the face of God
The warning is about making God in our own image.
Some current refelections about this include:
We need to recognise that language is only an approximation of our understanding about God
when we call God HE and even FATHER
we are using the approximations of finite language
to describe the infinite.
God is not a man, nor even a superman!
God is not male or female at all.
We use our limited language
to try and express what we cannot fully understand.
Some of us think this doesn't matter,
but others of us find this deeply alienating.
We do need to respect other people
and not just brush their reservations aside.
What this reminds us of is that one the attgitudes that we have to adopt towards God
is one of openness.
recognising that we are limited and God is infinite.
This should warn us against being dogmatic about God is like
and challenge us rather to always be open to the challenge that God presents to you and me

These are some more intellectual reflections for us in this Epiphany season
when we focus on how God is made known to us.
But we need also to be in touch with the emotional and spiritual understandings,
which is perhaps more where you and I are situated
in the realm of EXPERIENCE.

The same warnings apply;
we need to be critical of our experience
and recognise that ours is not the only experience.
Nor do we always understand it properly.
When, for example, we are sad when someone dies
we could suggest that that is because "God has let us down"
or even that "God doesn't work"
if we are more open and positive we might say "We do not understand God's will".

You don't have to think very hard to realise that all of these statements are not complete.
They do express something, but they are attempting to express the unknowable.
St Paul reminds us in that famous we only see through a glass dimly,
but then we shall see face to face, with understanding.

So again we need to be cautious to not jump too quickly
and say God is like this or God is like that.
We want it to be simple, but it is not.
We want, all the time to be able to define God.
But in so doing all we succeed in doing is limiting our understanding.

Now we see only dimly.
What is God inviting us to understand:
By being born as a baby?
By dying as a man?
By being really present in this sacrament?
By sometimes seeming totally absent?
By saying that we are made in God's image-male and female?

As we look for understanding
What does God also invite us to do and be in our lives?
These are the Epiphany questions,
we get the answers wrong if we think they are easy.

We become idolaters, when we mistake the wrong answers for the truth.
Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will open our hearts to see and believe
the truth of God
and to live with the courage that we do not and cannot know everything