Monday, February 26, 2007

Divided loyalty

This Sunday 4th March is the Second Sunday of Lent with readings as follows:

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

In short the readings this week remind us that we have an identity in Christ, and Christ alone.
That this identity draws out of us a responsibility to be "ambassadors" for Christ.
And the consequences of this commitment will not be trivial, but in reality will demand the totality of our life!

The Gospel holds a number of contrasting images for us
There is chief amongst these Herod the fox
and Jesus the mother hen caring for her chickens.
In the midst of this is an ever-puzzled group of Pharisees
who tell Jesus to get out of Jerusalem
because they can see that all is potentially going to go pear-shaped.
We who know the story know how the story plays itself out.

In the end, Jesus stands alone
the one who would protect is ravaged by the fox
and the religious figures stand by
not only powerless
but also sucked into the destruction
that is brought on the innocent victim.

If we understand nothing else in this narrative
it is that this is what the Christian life is about.

We seek to be Christians, people of faith,
in a world that is essentially hostile to Christian goals.
We might expect to have support from our fellow-religionists
but don't be surprised if this turns around and bites us
and becomes part of the problem.
Even worse, we ourselves may be part of the problem.
We may be the Pharisees.

The State
We live in a generally benevolent country.
It is not a Christian country.
The economic goals that we so often espouse
...goals in which the rich are applauded and get richer
in which we blame the weakest in our society for their own failing
or where selfishness and greed are rewarded.
This would not what we as Christians believe society should be like I suggest.
We are often short-sighted and self-interested as a nation
looking after ourselves and seeking only to increase our power, wealth and influence
...the present power debate highlights a number of aspects of this
We often hear articulated lack of care for the environment
or a view point that says: It's OK if someone else is the Bunny and not me.
It is the language of the fox.

Our fellow religionists
The narrative of the way Jesus is dealt with
also reminds us that it is often those from whom we should expect more
who are the worst proponents.
It is often the Religious who are narrow, and judgmental
who far from caring for the weak
are seeking to preserve their own power and influence.
We need to take note.
Because it is a warning of what you and I may be like.
There, as the saying goes,but for the grace of God go I.

Where to from here?
There is then a series of cautions about the way we follow Christ.
And indeed to remember that that is what we do.
We need to be sure what it is that Christ wants us to be and do
and that we have the realistic expectation
that the State is sometimes, even often, at odds with the gospel.
This does not demand radical confrontation
or civil disobedience
Though at times we will need to be sure about what is God's will
and what is the fox.

The key will come from being faithful to Jesus
and hearing his call on our life
and responding to that.


For our meditation and reflection we ask:
What are the key principles that are involved with me living my life as a follower of Jesus?
How do I put these into practice?
Are there places where this conflicts with other view?
How doI reconcile them?
What am I being called to do in being faithful to Jesus rather than the fox or the religion?
JESUS, you are for us the Way, the Truth and the Life

Grant me the eyes to see
and the heart to know
and the courage to live

What is truly your will for me

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Being challenged

First Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2007 Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13

The readings this week are pretty challenging
this is because we begin the season called Lent
which is perhaps the most rigorous of the Church's year.
It is a time of fasting, prayer, self denial and giving.
We are invited to use these six weeks to take our Christian call
seriously, urgently, with some flair and some gusto.
Temptation is a fact of life.
What this story reminds us more than anything
is that temptation is part of the human condition.
We know this because Jesus is tempted
and Jesus show for us what the true human life is like.
Which is interesting because we are reminded that the life of Jesus
is about being tempted...but not sinning

So we might observe:
1. Temptation is not wrong
We sometimes make the mistake of confusing temptation with sin.
We think that because we feel tempted
that some how we have sinned.
This is not logical and is not true.

2. Sin might happen when we yield to temptation
It is not the feeling angry, or jealous or attracted to someone
that is sin
It is what we choose to do with it.
We punch someone in the face, or we steal someone's money
or we commit adultery

3. Temptation comes in different shapes and sizes
We see some of the more obvious temptations
in this story...appetites, power, lusting for attention
They are not the only temptations
but they are pretty pervasive.

The Prayer Book reminds us in one of the Collects
"O God who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves"
It seems a strange thing to say in the world of omni-competent human beings
The way out of temptation
is not will-power so much
as relying on God

We will all be tempted
We will all most certainly give in to temptation
We do all need to repent of sin (let's not excuse it by saying's only human nature)
We need to rely on God to strengthen and uphold us.

Being tempted this week
pray for the Holy Spirit of God
to guard and protect you
to strengthen your will
and to enable you to be truly human
like Christ.


Jesus highlights for us where the sources of temptation might be
and how we might be tempted and
how we might repsond
First, we are tempted by our appetites
It is good to realise that we have appetites
and that these are sources of demand.
Appetites are insistent
often insatiable
and the mistake we make is in thinking that if we satisfy our appetites
then all will be well.
We can name many appetites :hunger, thirst, sex, craving affection
and so on on
THE TEMPTATION: If you satisfy the appetite then all will be well
THE LIE: We are essentially incapable of being satisfied and will always want more
THE TRUTH: There are deeper and more important things that we need to pay attention to.
The truth of this is evident to us, in the end we will not be satisfied by our appetites alone
One does not live by bread alone
Second, there are competing kingdoms
and we can give our lives completely to one or more of these.
But our ways are not God's ways, necessarily or at all,
We see this perhpas when we look at the sort of politicial world that we are intent on making
They are real enough but we canb see much in our society that is not God's plan
THE TEMPTATION: Power and authority in this world is a seductive temptation
THE LIE: The more power we have the more liek God we will be
THE TRUTH: We have no business doing anything other than God's will
Third, we can have a false view of God
we can even use the scriptures to back up our curious theories.
The fairy tale God who flies angels in and out to offer special protections
to those of us who think of ourselves as chosen
is a deeply false view of God
that often totally dominates our thinking.
It is not relationship with the God of love
it is rather the wishful thinking of the God of magic
THE TEMPTATION: To try and make God what we want God to be rather than to allow ourselves to be drawn into the difficult mystery of the crucified God
THE LIE: even allows us to quote scripture to support our inadequate case
but it is a testing line which we cross at our peril
THE TRUTH: We are called to dwell in God, not to test God's graciousness with our narrow and selfish version of what we would like the Gospel to be.

Temptation is at once easy to understand.
Yet it is also slippery and profound.
We are seduced into something far deeper than we imagine.

As we are tempted (for we surely will be)
Pray and look for grace to better understand what is being asked of us.
How does feeling the demand of appetite,
or the urge to be in control,
or the need to make God into something unreal
...when I feel this how might I respond more faithfully.
Can I seek God real will for me,
and respond to that.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Looking up...what do you see?

Transfiguration Sunday-The Last Sunday after the Epiphany February 18th 2007

February 18, 2007 Exodus 34:29-35 Psalm 99 II Corinthians 3:12-4:2 Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

It is not always the case buty this week it is.

When you type in the word Transfiguration into Google you invariably get a religious style image.

With most words, like blessed, or happy (last week) you get a variety of ideas. But Transfiguration seems to engender the sort of narrowly religious idea.

Life would of course be quite boring without transfiguration, so we should not dismiss these experiences. I always point to the the birth of my first child as being such an experience, many men...even rough, shallow guys...attest to this.

There is a sense of the overwhelming awareness of "other", of change, of awe....all the things indeed we read about in this we should be thankful for these events as well as trying to underestand them.

Theer is also a straight forward point made in this story, and in many of the hymns and songs about this event...while we are transformed ourselves by these powerful experience we have to move on from them.

"No," says Jesus to the apostles, "you may not build shrines here" His inference being that you must move back to ordinary life and allow this event to change that

'Tis good, Lord, to be here.
yet we may not remain;
but since thou bidst us leave the mount,
come with us to the plain.

It is good to know and expereince the supernatural presence of God. But this is the end what life is about. At the best we are to ask ourselves how these powerful experiences inform and change our life.

It's all well and good to feel powerful change when your child is born, but how does this affect how you live your life.?
What is the point of continuing as is..after you ahve had a revelation?
If when our parent or spouse dies we experience the wonder of the grief process
and we find that our understanding of death, pain and resurrection is deepened
What difference does this make to the way we live our life?

You see we are tempted to allow Transfiguration to only be a religious experience
the invitationm that God is offering is for us to look through and beyond these experiences
and allow them to change how we live.
As we see God more clearly in glory
as we hear him speak
what is he inviting us to do with that.

Gather a sense of those powerful moments of your life when you have experienced Transfiguration
When things have shone in a new light and we have had new awareness.
When we do that the next question is to ask:
What is God trying to draw out of me through this experience?
And what will I do with that?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Happy are you

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 11, 2007 Jeremiah 17:5-10 Psalm 1 I Corinthians 15:12-20 Luke 6:17-26

The New English Bible (now over 40 years old) did us all a great service
by translating the word Blessed! that appears in these sayings
as Happy!
It is not 100% accurate, but translation is not an exact science.
But Happy is a much more user friendly word.
Whereas Blessed is really churchy
When we suggest that God is interested in our happiness and not just our blessedness
it does remind us that life in God is about the ordinariness of our day to day life
and not just some pie in the sky sort of religious-blessed life
The sayings themselves remind us of this
Hunger and thirst both spiritual and physical are of concern to God
God is concerned with and wants to solve the dilemma of the world's hungry
as well as the great demands for truth and love (spiritual appetites) that our owrld knows
God is concerned about our weeping and our laughter
...these matters which so affect the quality of our lives
which make us happy or sad
are God's concerns
so too, when we find ourselves hated and despised, pushed to the edges of our lives
there is in bringing these things to God in a spirit of openness and hope
the chance to be truly blessed
It is easy to be seduced by the false gods of this world:
Jesus names money, greed, and arrogance
these, he suggests, have their own rewards
but do not bring true happiness.

This week
Where do you find yourself looking for hapiness
but instead find shallowness and emptiness.
Where is God calling you to a difficult place to seek true happiness?
What is the other side of the coin?
What else do you need to be able to do
and what demons do you need to confront
in order to risk the search for happiness.
Pray for the grace to be truly happy
and you will be truly blessed!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thanksgiving for a Life

A sermon preached at a Thanksgiving Service for the Late Fr Bill Bennetts at the Interment of his ashes

As a Rector or Parish priest
you are used to living with ghosts.
Chief amongst these ghosts
are the spectres of your predecessors.

There are a couple of predecessors
who lurk in this parish
and one of them is bill bennetts.

This is partly because when I was a student at St Barnabas’s College
which was then not far away
Bill was the rector of this parish
and we saw it as a parish in full flight
with a priest at the heart of it who was an enthusiastic dynamo of a person
Indeed I remember one of my colleagues
saying to me
“That Fr Bennetts down at Blackwood
preaches like a machine gun!”

It is an image that has ever stuck with me.

It is not the violence that a machine gun might strike into the hearts of people
but rather the high powered
unremitting delivery of the goods
that hit the target.

So I have found that in the more than ten years
that I have been in this parish
the remembrance of his ministry
has come round periodically
and he has been remembered with thankfulness

That is not to say that there were not those
who found his ministry difficult.
He was a key promoter of the charismatic movement
while this enlivened the faith of many there were some who found it deeply alienating
and who even left the parish.
There were some who didn't like the way music was changing, or the services of the church were changing
and who stopped coming to church.

It was ever so. If I gave it more than 30 seconds thought there have been equivalent difficulties during my time.
It was indeed, ever so!

What is more interesting is not those who didn’t fancy Bill
but those who found in him
something admirable, something challenging
something spiritual.

They did this, I believe, because they saw in him a man who responded as Joshua challenged God’s people……
Revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness
he was patently a man of prayer, faith and genuine love of God.
He was like the servant who took his responsibility seriously and who struggled to work with the little resources that he had.
The Master when he returned said
Well done, good and faithful servant
He threw himself into his ministry here
because he saw the challenge of God’s ministry for his parishes
He could perhaps have been a little kinder to his family
in determining his priorities
it is a temptation for all clergy
one that is not so much forgivable as understandable
As we each give thanks for his ministry
so we remember his family in their grief
Betty, Elizabeth and Stephen
we remember Bill and also Jo and commend them to God.

We pray that we may learn from their example
to revere and serve the Lord, and the Lord only
To care for those whom the Lord has given us
and to ten that part of the vineyard
however modest
that has been committed to our care.

So we pray that we may all know God’s love and mercy
in this world and in eternity.

Thanks be to God

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Where am I?

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 4, 2007 Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13) Psalm 138 I Corinthians 15:1-11 Luke 5:1-11

Where is Jesus in what I have been doing this week?
There is an important point to get here in this story that we often don't seem to connect with.
So blinded are we by a miracle story that we may miss the more obvious point
that Jesus is with us in our ordinary endeavours such as our work.
And this is the rich experience of our encounter with Jesus
that he is there with us in the reality of our day to day life
That his presence is transforming for us
if we only but give ourserlves to the presence of Jesus
already with us.

As we peel away the layers of this story
what wows the disciples who encounter Jesus
is that as they went about doing what they normally did
listening to him
and being obedient
their ordinary work is transformed

They had no doubt caught lots of fish before
and no doubt had to deal with days when things had not gone well.
We know that
because everyone's life is like that.
What I suggest we are being invited to see here is not a quick way to improve your average fishing catch
but rather that our daily labour is transformed when we draw it into the circle of Jesus's life.

Some days it will mean that things seem to go better,
even look rather miraculous.
Other days it will mean we will deal with all the rubbish that is thrown at us
and the bad feeling that we have.

We know this to be the case
when our life and the life of Christ are drawn into the same ambit
then things are rather different.

This is why praying is so important
not so much in that it increases the dividends
but rather that it transforms our experience
and that we see in life's ordinariness
possibilities, opportunities
hope and joy
that maybe we don't always fully experience.

This week
Can we open each situation we enter into with spirit of prayer?
Can we look back at what has taken place and give thanks to God for it?
Can we see the invitation that Christ puts before us
to view it differently
to respond better
to be men and women of faith.

There is already ther
an abundance of expereince and hope to grow in Christ
and for Christ to grow in us.