Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Family of Faith

Readings for Sunday 2nd September, Proper 17 Year C. This Sunday is also kept as Father's Day in many parts of the world
Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Psalm 81:1,10-16
{[Sirach 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7] and Psalm 112 }
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1,7-14


Most of the 'banquets' I go to, involve my family.
Our extended family almost seems to get bigger every week.
Three new babies this year, and at least one new boyfriend.
So I am struck as we have read in the last few weeks
part of the great treatise on faith
which is the letter to the Hebrews
where we are shown
how much of what God promises to us is the story of what happens
to the family of Abraham.
Indeed I remember being quite overwhelmed three years ago
when we were reading these passages
and I heard a certainty of promise and faithfulness
to my own family
equally as strong as the one to Abraham
There was a real sense in which I have felt the unfolding of the promise of God
in my own life
as I have been challenged and privileged to share my life with my own family.

On this Father's Day, can we reflect just what God promises to me and mine
and how those promises are being worked out.
There is a lot of difficulty
but there is much to be thankful for also.

A couple of insights from the readings to deepen this reflection:

Do you ever sit at functions and watch the enactment of this parable?
(and secretly giggle and say 'those who exalt themselves will be humbled' )
Indeed we always seem to think of it in the negative...when someone has to move because they have sat down in the wrong seat
Of course we are also meant to take it the other way, too,
and there have no doubt been times when you have seen some humble worthy
who has thought only to come and sit at the back
to be escorted to the front by someone who recognises them as guest of honour
Perhaps indeed Father's Day may give us opportunity to do that today.
We often take those who are close to us for granted.
Those who do a lot for us, we often assume that this is what they are supposed to be doing!
(I speak from some sense of experience here!)
In the way that these days remind us what we should do in terms of giving honour
they point us beyond the immediate target to a way of life
which delights to give honour.
The parable goes on to remind us that we are easily kind to those who it is easy to be kind towards!
We are called not only to give honour where it is due
But we should also look beyond that.
It is not saying don't have a Father's day lunch
but there is more to do.
I am pleased to say that that happens quite a bit in our parish community
we see that some could be overlooked if we don't look after them.
(We don't always do this, and can always improve)
...but let's at least ask the question.

Such days as this are not always easy to get right
and this question of honour where honour is due
is one of the the wider dimensions
also looking beyond the obvious is also brought to our attention
...look not just at those we like
but also at those who are needy.

Keeping on the right track
We also need to know that sometimes good think get derailed
our human relationships are overtaken by the wrong stuff.
Jeremiah says as he looks at how God's people got derailed
"They went far from me, and pursued worthless things"
This is true in families too, and we will all have our different stories.
On this day of honour giving
some families will find it hard to honour their father.
We often don't get this, do we, in the desperate desire to idealise our parents
we don't do them the honour of extending forgiveness
for things they have done wrong.
I have been a father for long enough now
to know that I have not always got it right.
This seems to me a dishonour
and a distortion
that we could do well to think about
on such days
and more than that, to do something about!
  • In reflecting on our family life can we see it is an opportunity to be inclusive rather than exclusive
  • Invite the Spirit to allow you to open your life to others
  • Look honestly at your life. What do you give thanks for about your relationship with your parents? What do you regret?
  • Pray for grace and opportunity to give thanks for them
  • Pray for grace and opportunity to forgive and move forward

Seeing it like it is!

Readings for this Sunday 26th August 2007 (proper 16) include:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6; or (Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8)
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17


Religious people can be such gooses
so often we just don't get the sheer joy
of what it means to be alive in God
and what a great gift faith is
so we are often cast as hypocrites
and self-righteous know-it-alls
and, indeed, with some justification!

We have in these readings a very strong healing story perhaps one of the strongest
13:10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."

13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."

13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?

13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"

13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

It is not difficult to understand what is going on here, though it is deceptively simple.
My initial reaction to this story was to wonder where I have been chronically crippled
Where have I carried a wound for 18 years or more?
I can find a couple of places
and I know that although there is a certain sense of self-indulgence in chronic oppression, possession, depression...however we choose to name it
---that is, we learn to live with it
and in a way perhaps we are frightened to live without it---
we also want to be free of it.
More than that
we need to be free of it.

Liberation on this sort of scale for human beings
is in the realm of desperation and fundamental hope.
When it is all said and done
we know where we need to be fixed
and we know when we want it....NOW!

It is unimaginable that Jesus would have said to this desperate woman
"Come back when the Office is open tomorrow, I'm at Church today!"
To be sure we say this sort of thing
But this is not how we imagine Jesus reacting.

Where is Jesus calling us to act, and calling us now?
Where do we hold back, for what ever pious reason, when Jesus is inviting us forward?

  • Ask the Spirit to show you where you need to be healed
  • Invite the Spirit to allow you to open your life and trust the healing that God wants to give.
  • Pray for that healing to happen

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fire and hail

Reading for this Sunday 19th August can be Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 (orJeremiah 23:23-29) and Psalm 82 Hebrews 11:29-12:2 Luke 12:49-56


Have we replaced genuine Christianity with pleasant cups of tea

Some passages of scripture don't actually encourage the faint hearted

to take up Christianity

though it is important to note that the readings this week are not so much about how hard it is going to be as attesting to the fact that there is a consequence, and indeed a cost, to identifying yourself as a Christian.

Although some people might think that the Christian Gospel is all fluffy puppy and sweetness and light
Jesus reminds us that this very message
peace, love and forgiveness
is a divisive message.
It will drive a wedge between those who thought they were inseparable
and alienate people from those who they most love.
Contemporary commentators remind us that

the price of true peace
the cost of genuine love
the expression of
genuine compassion and forgiveness
comes with a price.
It is a price that not all are prepared to pay
and indeed we seek to avoid.

Running the race
I am not a runner! Never have been,
but the image that the the writer of the letter to the Hebrews uses
captures something of this idea
of the effort that needs to be put into of faith.

This is a sort of dynamic contradiction
about faith.
Although we do not have to do good to curry God's favour
we have to believe in Jesus
Yet this believing has to be done right
There is a sense in which we have made for ourselves
a caricature of faith.
We have replaced genuine costly faith, the sort that invites you to carry a cross
with pathetic and polite expressions of belief which lack any real focus or cutting edge.
Have we, as I say, replaced the Cross with cups of tea?
There are many fine example of people who have chosen to live sacrificial lives
in the name of faith
and because they seek to follow Jesus.
We can name Maximilian Kolbe, one of the many martyrs of Auschwitz,m
William Wilberforce who lead the battle against slavery in England,
Florence Nightingale, Francis of Assissi, and of course many more
This 'great cloud of witnesses' attests to faith with a cost.
Can you think of those who you regard as most faithful,
what is the cost to them of being a faithful Christian?

Jesus himself, the writer tells us

is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that
was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his
seat at the right hand of the throne of God

His pioneering example was that faith has a cost.
Have you and I lost that,
or replaced it with a cup of tea and a biscuit?


  • Ask the Spirit to show you where you have become apathetic and lustreless
  • Invite the Spirit to show you a way that is more costly, more challenging, where you can respond more fervently, more faithfully to Jesus.
  • Pray for the courage to do it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Certainty and Hope

Readings for Proper 14 -Year C - 12th August 2007

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40


Will we get to a point when we don't have to rely on faith any more?

Yes, but it is not now!
St Paul tells us that there are three great things(1)-Faith Hope and Love
and the greatest of these is love
And the hymn writer (2) reminds us
Faith will vanish into sight;
hope be emptied in delight;
love in heaven will shine more bight;
therefore give us love.

When all things are brought to completion, as God intends
there will be no need to have faith
because we will know
We will see what we have always hoped for
and we will no longer have to have faith
because we will know.

But we are not at that point
so the way we operate is as a person of faith
and we get a definition of that today in Hebrews 11

To illustrate that the writer tells us the story of Abraham
and Sarah
who received the promise of God
That they would be the ancestors of a great people…
they had no evidence of this
indeed rather the contrary, they were both old
and it seemed unlikely.
So the challenge of faith for them

was to believe
rather than to know or to prove
Faith, is assurance without fact
Being convinced of what we are promised even though we don’t have the evidence.
In fact it is the way that the life of God operates.
The criticism that faith is ‘unscientific’ is true
--it is not meant to be
we have faith where we cannot prove.
If we can prove, or see
then why do we need to have faith.
This is not to say that because we do not have evidence
then we are talking nonsense
or we are lying
we are saying we are not in the scientific realm at all
we are in the life of faith.
And we assert that the life of God
is about faith
not of proof.

This should not be a surprise to us
there are a lot of things that are about faith
rather than fact
and most of them are pretty important.
Chief amongst these is love
Love is not about evidence, facts and measurements
---we don’t say if there are three out of five characteristics (faithfulness, children, laughter, sharing pain, cooperation) and/or
--if a relationship has lasted longer than 15 months and/or
--if after three break ups the couple are still together
then they are in love

that would be absurd
The substance is actually not measurable
and is at least as much about what we can’t count
as what we can count.
Our life in God falls in this same sort of area.
More than this, we would say
this is what makes this relationship so powerful;
So the example of Abraham tells us about keywords:
Like trust, promise, hope, vision and aspiration.
The journey of faith is about implementing
these realities.
Indeed these realities cannot be manufactured
(we can’t go to the shop and buy them!)
it is only by a journey of faith
that they can be realised in our lives.

We see this journey chiefly in Jesus
It is the journey that will confront everything that destroys us
and will give us the power to be born anew and to come through the experience of death
not just at life’s end
but in every aspect of our life.
So faith is a pretty important journey!!

Is it a journey you are prepared to make?
Where is God inviting you to step out beyond the bounds of certainty
and walk in faith?
It is not an easy decision
but it is the decision that is set before us.
Will we walk by faith and live?
Or will we stumble by our own limited sight
and die?
Where is God inviting you to step out beyond the bounds of certainty
and walk in faith?
1. 1 Corinthians 13
2. Bishop Christopher Wordsworth 1862 - Gracious Spirit Holy Ghost

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Freedom to choose

Readings for Sunday 5th August, Proper 13 Year C, The 10th Sunday after Pentecost

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Here is a short YOUTUBE reflection on this reading

Almost everything we do is critiqued or chastened by something else.
This parable reminds us of that.
With the best will in the world
everything can be cut short by death.
If we knew we were going to die tomorrow then we would behave quite differently today.

But there is also a more subtle undertone
we act out of mixed motives
We are often unaware of what these motives are.

I am conscious, for example, that sometimes
when disagreeing with people
that they change their stance
almost imperceptibly
so that by the time we finish our exchange
we end up in agreement
even though nothing has changed.
[-Sometimes it is the reverse that is true and we started off agreeing
and end up disagreeing
-or it's me who does the changing]
What is going on here?

Well, of course a major driving force is how we feel about the person with whom we are interacting
Most of us don't like being disliked
so sometimes we change what we say:
to avoid that
or we modify what we say so it doesn't sound like we are disagreeing.
We have a freedom to choose
but often we are not aware just why or even what we are choosing

This week's readings invite us to look beyond the obvious
and try and get to the core.
So Hosea reminds God's people unremittingly
how much God loves them
and how often they have turned away.
Time and time again, God says,
My people are bent on turning away from me!
His message is that this sort of behaviour
is its own judgment,
it causes separation from God.
But he also reminds us that coupled with this
is the sense of God's persistence.
God persists with us
even when we turn from him.

The Gospel has one of those curious encounters too
where Jesus is confronted by someone who does not want truth or equality
but rather advantage through their relationship with Jesus.
Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me
On the face of it this seems fairly innocent
but these things seldom are.
It begs the questions
about all sorts of things that may need to be resolved.
And Jesus refuses to play this sort of game.
How often do our prayers smack of this
..Lord do this for me
it is obvious what needs to be done...
Pretty impertinent really
and usually fairly dishonest.

Instead Jesus reminds his listeners about the importance
of getting priorities right
and making the right decisions,
of being honest and clear about motivations.
Maybe, he suggests, we have to ask ourselves a strong question
to focus us
If I was going to die tomorrow....what would I do today?
You see we are so very good at either putting this sort of thought off
or of deceiving ourselves.
What strong question can you ask yourself today
that will set things in the correct context?
If I was going to die?
If I never see this person again how will I spend my time with them?
If I am struck dumb tomorrow what will I say today?

Paul reminds us too that we are often driven by inner darkness
impurity, passion, evil desire and greed
and that if we are to be Christ's
then we have to choose to do something about the malice, slander and abuse
and all those things which are wrong.

This is the realm of choice.
The choice to be free
or the choice to be something less than that.

Can we focus these questions today?

Lord if today
I die, what will I do,
If I never see this person again how will I spend my time with them
If I am struck dumb tomorrow what will I say today.
Lord grant me the wisdom to know
and the courage to act.

YOUTUBE for today