Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Word is made flesh

Suggested readings are: Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21; Ephesians 1:3-14 John 1:1-18

One of the most trenchant criticisms of a practising Christian is
That quaint little saying

We do not need to discuss why people might say such a thing
But it often seems to me that it is a way of easily dismissing
the demand of the Spirit on our lives.
It suggests that things SPIRITUAL
Are somehow fundamentally disconnected from things MATERIAL
more than this, it says that spiritual focus is probably less important
than our pedestrian every day focus.
An example ...when we have a problem...and we are advised to pray...we may keep quiet about it
but often we think spiritual advice is not practical advice
Today as we read John’s prologue...we hear what are probably the most important words he will utter

It is touching this issue of the connection between the spiritual and the material world
reminding us
that this material life
is now rather different
because it has been caught up completely in the Godly life.
It is not one or the other.
For the Christian, this has been interpreted as saying that God is vitally concerned about the human condition
so concerned that
Far from being so heavenly it is of no earthly use
the Incarnation—–the enfleshment— of God
reminds us that the spiritual will be worked out
in the material.
It will be as we live our lives
tend to the needy
address the environment
live our lives in reality
that we will understand that the
Spiritual and the Material are united
that you don’t have one without the other.
If we want to be holy
we will be vitally caught up with
serving God in others
...Christianity cannot be an escapist religion….
we are called to service and ministry
of others
particularly the weakest of the weak.
This is what God has done…
The Word has become flesh…
so this is our call to service
whether it be through Kids Hope, Kids in court, helping our neighbour, seeking to improve our world.
We do this because we recognise the key message of Christmas.
This material the dwelling place of the Word of God.
It is (if you like)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Hidden Years

Sunday 28th December is sometimes kept as Holy Innocents' Day, or we think of it as one of the feasts of the Holy Family suggested readings for this year are: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

Children, particularly small children attract a lot of attention
In these days a lot of it is tentative,
and we are cautious about the unsolicited attention of people not known to us.
Today we see Jesus encountering two people
Who rather fall into that sort of category:
Simeon and Anna.
They are devout people.
Perhaps we are called to remember
That there are some people
Who can help us to see things differently
I have appreciated over the years
The insights of some who have helped me to see my children differently.
(We can be blindest to those to whom we are closest!)
So SIMEON is able to tell Mary and Joseph right from the start:

I wonder if this might be an insight that we all need to appreciate.
As careful and as faithful, as our hopes and expectations for those we love might be,
God’s plans will be deeper and profounder, and we need to be open to that.
The prophetess ANNA is often glossed over, but she reminds us
that this is not just (or only) the musings of a crazy old man.
It is the sincere reflection and agreement of two faithful people.
They remind Mary, too, that her life and her destiny will be caught up intimately with that of her son

God invites us to look more closely at the destiny of his chosen ones
We often (even usually) see less than God does
We are called to look with faith
And to work in concert with God’s purposes
To expand our vision
Even thought it may (at times) be difficult.

So there are two things we might profitably ponder:
As we see that we are being pointed to the fact that there is more about Jesus than meets the eyes.
It is a reminder that we may treat Jesus like this ourselves.
We diminish his importance and hence his call upon our lives.
It is almost certain too, that we need to be reminded about those closest to us...that our lives are intertwined .
We share the space, and are called to bear the burden.
What does this call of Christ,
and call of the other elicit from us today

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who is Christmas about?

One of the disarming things about a baby
is that it grabs our attention.
My daughter and I were sitting in a shopping centre the other day having lunch
and there next to us was a sleeping baby.
We both admired and smiled at said infant.
This is the universal experience of people
and is a reminder that Christmas
is about something other than ourselves.

We're disarmed by this baby
for a few moments.
our self-interest
and narrow focus on our own little world
is challenged.

Then we discover
that coming together in this child are two things
the eternal Word of God
and the human race.
While this concerns us
and indeed affects us
WE are not the centre of this story.

To remind us of the fact that this is God's story
in which we are caught up,
and not OUR story
in which we might deign to allow God a place
there is that focus which grabs our attention.
It is a baby.
The one thing in human life
that serves to remind me
that life does not revolve around me alone.

If we latch on to this point
if we understand that life is about God
then things will work rather differently.

Perhaps this is why we so often feel
that things are out of control.
Or why we have no purpose.
We are looking at ourselves,
when we should be focussing on God.

How might God be trying to grab your attention
at this time,
and what might God be saying... might indeed be by a baby
..or a particular concern... opportunity, or sickness....
...a challenge, a failure or a success...
Very often it will be about another person
and we're challenged to understand that there is more going on in life
Than my narrow wants or wishes
The language of Christmas
is rather of hope....
The Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counsellor,
reconciliation between enemies

the invitation is to shift the perspective from selfish wishfulness
which is almost always about me and what I want
and what God wants for me, and you.

The baby reminds us.
This is not about me.
It is at the very least about a baby,
it is in reality about what God's hope is for you and for me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paying attention

Readings for Christmas include more reading from Isaiah, various lessons from the letter to Titus. Luke Chapter 2, John chapter 1, and many more..In our church we will focus on Isaiah 9, Titus 2 and Luke2 (see here)

There is something disarming about a baby!
If we accept the general parameter about this story
that in this event God is being made flesh.
We might ask ourselves
why did God choose to be born as a baby
and not just appear in glory,
inviting us all to bow down and worship?
Being God he could do this!
Perhaps the chief thing that we need to note is
that whilst being an extraordinary event for a family
the birth of a baby is also a very ordinary event.
And this alerts us to something about the presence of God in life.
Though, of course, being mindful of the fact that God in our lives
is the key idea that we need to address
if we are going to live our lives meaningfully,
perhaps we fail to realise
that while this is really extraordinary
.....The Word is being encountered in the flesh....
it is also ordinary.
It is not with trumpets and loud explosions
but in the midst of day to day life.
Unnoticed by most
other than those who are directly involved
Some shepherds spot the significance of a baby's birth
but the wise men take a long time getting there
and then get lost.
We are reminded in the Christmas story
that God is not hard to find
we just have to look in the right place.
So we get little insights from time to time,
like the birth of a baby
or the death of a loved person.
God is not far and remote,
but close and near.
He will be in our day to day relationships,
with our children and our friends
more so, I suspect,
than in the halls of the rich and powerful, or in the lives of the famous.
We will find that the Good News
of Immanuel
-God with us-
is more likely to be small and close,
than big and grand.
Where is God beckoning you and me today.

This forgiveness that we talk about,
will not only be about Reconciliation between black and white,
but it will be about the relationship between two brothers,
and the unconditional acceptance of friends
drawn together in love.
We will find it close
rather than far.

Sometimes we will miss it completely,
never understand that
love and hope, trust and forgiveness
are about the way we live our day to life
and not just about th high goals we set ourselves.

The baby confronts all this in us
as we encounter it.
Will you allow yourself
to encounter the small and simple
the direct and personal
and see that this is Christmas for you

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O Bethlehem!

Readings for the last Sunday in Advent. Sunday 21st December 2Sam 7:1-11, 16, Magnificat, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38
We experience a lot of Christmas input at this time One good question I heard asked about various school and church presentations was:
Why all these stories and plays with a Christmas
theme What's wrong with the story of the stable at Bethlehem.........?

There are of course many representations of that story and it is rich in symbolism, myth (in the finest sense of that word) and cultural nuance
When in doubt we should allow God's Word of Scripture to do its wonderful work in our hearts So take time this week to read the readings and just to allow them to speak to you. As you sit through the endless Carol Services take time too to be a little more open. Remember, as we see in this week's readings, that Christmas is God showing himself to us in human form. It is about understanding who God is, and what God is about.
So we find that Mary, when confronted by the angel has to begin on a journey of discovery because she does not understand what all this might mean
"29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be"
And Paul tells us at the end of
Romans as we read today
"the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages
26but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith"
The sort of message, that so puzzles Mary, is God revealing in Jesus what has been true for all time. This is the overarching message of the Christmas story.
God is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is, what controversialist, John AT Robinson describes as
The Human Face of God. This is a description I find really helpful.
God cannot be described...he is indeed "
the mystery that was kept secret" our philosophy, our history, even our theology does not come close to fully disclosing who God is if we want to know what God is like then the fullest revelation is Jesus.
So what do we see

We find at Christmas a deeply confronting story. God chooses a young girl about whom we know remarkably little.
In the short passage of this morning's Gospel we know more about Joseph ....

a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David

than we do about Mary herself
In fact we know more about Zechariah and Elizabeth than we do about their cousin:

he belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
What might this say to us?
At the very least we are reminded that God views people differently from the way we do.
We make different choices about what is important so we look for wealth, success, power and prestige ..
God looks differently.
There is an invitation here in the Christmas story to look with different eyes at the world in which we live.
In the reading from the Hebrew bible too, we read of David's desire to build a Temple. This seems like a righteous desire, a good thing.
But it is not what God wants.
We do not always get it right, we are often fixated on the material when God is inviting us to look deeper.
These are two modest insights that we get from addressing the stories of the Bible rather than sidetracking it.

Making room

Part of the frustration for us at Christmas is finding Jesus amidst it all.
Let us not so much complain about what Woolworths and Target do, let us rather see the challenge to point ourselves and others to Jesus.
Ask tricky intelligent questions of your youngsters:
Why did God come as a baby?
What is he trying to tell us by being born in a stable?
Why did the shepherds and the wise men come?
and what do you think they said to Mary and Joseph?
What would we say to them?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Living la Vida Loca!-the call to live in reality

Sunday 14th December 2008.Readings for Advent 3 Isaiah 61:1-11; Psalm 126, I Thess 5:12-28; John 1:6-28

What is your lifestyle choice? This is something of a modern question.
Today's readings invite us to identify our lifestyle
as Christian

How do you live faithfully as a modern Christian day to day?
Once again we have a pattern for faithful living
in each of the three readings.

One thing that is striking
is that "faithful living"
is not lived out in a vacuum,
but rather is the act of living vigorously and actively
in this world in which we find ourselves.
Though many religious words are used,
the emphasis of the passages
is not on the narrowly pietistic
it is on the dynamically active
a life lived
in full communion with God
and totally engaged with human life.
Fully in communion with God,
totally engaged with human life.
These themes flow through all the readings
but in this reflection I will focus on the reading from 1Thessalonians
6Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets,but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24

The call to worship
I am struck always when I read this passage of its absolute nature..."always" & "in all circumstances" & "without ceasing"
Paul anticipates here that worship will not be an occasional, Sunday-only, type of activity
It will be all of life.
Two points can be made about this.
One, we need to get down and do it!!!

We need to do it.
So find the place and start.
Pray daily, for your family, for yourself
for your concerns.
Decide that this is a life-habit
that you are going to commit to and do it.
Try, too, to seize the opportunity to turn your day to day activities
into deliberate, unobtrusive prayer.
Some years ago I was asked by a woman
who was very upset about blasphemy
"What do you do you when people punctuate there speech with "Jesus!", this and "Jesus" that!"
My response was that I try and use this as an opportunity to pray.
It's not always easy.
We can find our own little ways to be more attentive to the need to pray constantly.
One of the great benefits of afternoon and evening walks is that we can use the opportunity
to give thanks to God for our local environment
and to pray for our neighbours.
This may not work for you....but find something that turns your heart to God
is a GOOD thing
and we will reap benefits.
The great traditions of meditation call us to "mindfulness"
not just allowing our day to day experiences
to go to waste
While we might take this to mean that we "should take time to smell the flowers"
and we should
it also means that we should treasure our daily emotional and spiritual experiences.
How often do we have ups and downs...and simply not do anything about them
other than fret!!!
Take time to debrief yourself
and commit to God
The American farmer-poet Wendell Berry
reminds that we are called to engage with life
He says we are called to live the given life not the planned life.
It is a reminder that what ever else we think we are to do
we are in danger of avoiding living the life we are given
in favour of the life we think we should have
or that we so desperately long to live.
We are called to live the given life...not the planned
being mindful of what we have.
The kings missed the Christ child
because their plan had him somewhere else.
In this season of vida loca
we are called back to the given life
and Christ really present with us

Friday, December 05, 2008


This seemed particularly apposite today

From the "Proslogion" of Saint Anselm
(Today from the Office of Readings)
Longing to see God
Little man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in God.
Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek God. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.
And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.......
Reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself.
Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Readings for Sunday December 7th, 2008: Advent 2 Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85, 2 Pet 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

Advent, as we journey towards Christmas is filled with hope
as we look forward to the presence of Jesus in our lives.
We have thought in the last few weeks
about some of these big words, hope, faith, trust and belief
what is it that we hope for
It seems important to get this right
as the language of faith
is about what we hope
Faith, the writer to the Hebrews tells us,
is the assurance of things hoped for
So it is not unreasonable just to try and think about what we hope for.
We confuse, I suspect, the words 'hoping' and 'wishing'
Something that is not hard to grasp as we are very wish list focussed at Christmas.
But even the dimmest of us realises that our hopes are deeper than our wishes.
The new car that we wish for pales into insignificance
beside the hope that we may live a meaningful life, or that we might have trust in our relationships.
To help us understand this,
God has given us in the Christmas revelation a profound insight into the difference between wishing and hoping
Our hope is not founded on 'stuff', not even on that much bandied about phrase 'infrastructure' (or what we might have called in the past...institutions),
our hope is not even in the Bible or the Church
Hope is founded on Jesus.
So getting in touch with hope in advent is about getting in touch with Jesus
one of the great Anglican Archbishops, St Anselm wrote this (here)
Little man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in God.
Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek God. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.
And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.......
Reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself.
Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

1. Let Advent be a season when we take the time to be in touch with God. If we do not take time to combat the busy-ness then it will take over.

Where else might be in touch with Jesus? A couple of weeks ago we were reminded that we find Jesus not in some high mountain shrine, or even in heaven...but in the lives and service of the humblest and the weakest (see Matthew 25).
Our hope will be discovered as we care for the sick, help the poor, feed the hungry, house the homeless
Far from being an exercise in despair we discover as we touch the lives of others
that we too are touched and filled with hope

2. Let Advent be a season when we find Christ in the needy

And lastly we all know that this frenzied season is about Giving and Generosity, not harding and selfishness.
It celebrates that our God is a Giver.
Giving his Son, in human form shows us that
being in touch with our own hope
is also about an invitation to us to be generous.
We sometimes lose the focus of this
it is not about getting the biggest pile of presents
(how often we teach this to our children!!)
It is about being challenged to become givers ourselves.
Is there not hope in the idea that we can do better than just lock ourselves in our tiny world

3. Let Advent be a time when we are challenged to be givers

1. Advent: the season when we take the time to be in touch with God.
2. Advent :the season when we find Christ in the needy
3. Advent: the season when we are challenged to be givers

Thursday, November 27, 2008


For the First Sunday of Advent, November 30th 2008, see the readings: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37;
Some Christians are fascinated by the so-called
Second Coming of Christ.
This doesn't surprise me
and in a way it is good to keep one's eye on the ball
.....or perhaps to realise that the ball is still in play....
God's work is not yet finished.
And though we see and understand
that everything that is necessary to be done,
in order to reconcile
humanity and God,
has been done
by Jesus on the Cross
and through his resurrection
And God continues to pour out the Spirit so that this work of salvation
may be taken up by us
and that we may live the new life,
yet there is also a sense that this is not all complete;
it has to be worked through and made real.
A weak analogy is that it is like a house that has been built
at great expense and with great care.
It is the house of the future.
Indeed one of my friends was telling me only the other day
about such a house that she is building in the next couple of years.
It will replace an old house
and will be designed to cope with all sorts of modern needs,
not the least of which is that she is older
and her lifestyle has changed.
It will no doubt be executed
and there will be a day when we will be able to say
...this house is complete....
and yet in a real sense it is only the beginning
....the ball is still in play...
the house has yet to be lived in
and that will open it up
to a whole new range of possibilities.
As yet undreamed of.
As yet unrealised.
The coming of the kingdom
When Jesus talks about the coming of the kingdom
he talks about it in range of ways.
At times it is as if the kingdom is something that will be instituted
at the end of time
and yet he also says "the kingdom of God is amongst you"
He can also tell his disciples to pray
"your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven"
While the house has been built
it is yet to be experienced
and lived in
...the ball is still in play.....
we need to keep our eye on the ball.
Advent and Christmas don't so much point us to the second coming
but rather warn us that we should be alert, and awake
to the possibility of Christ's kingdom here on earth.

We have the heavenly image, the ideal if you like,
of what it might be like when the heavenly kingdom is realised
and Christ will come with shouts of acclamation.
But are we also alert to the signs of the kingdom
that are in our midst.
Are we sufficiently awake to see that there are opportunities
to proclaim the kingdom
right where we are today?

Small possibilities
A retreat I went on reminded us in a poem
that our life is worked out in the small stuff rather than the big stuff

I keep my answers small and keep them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bulwark to my fear.

The huge abstractions I keep from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.

But the big answers clamoured to be moved
Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.

Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, I still hear
Big answers striving for their overthrow

And all the great conclusions coming near.

Elizabeth Jennings
This kingdom that we are called to experience
is at least as much in the small answers
for us
as it is in the big stuff.
In a real sense, sometimes the "big stuff"
threatens the small things
and yet, for most of us, for most of the time
it is the small answers
that are the authentic ones.

The kingdom of God is close at hand.
It will be in our care for our children
and the care that we take in our relationships
the gentleness and the kindness
the generosity of spirit
and the day to day forgiveness
that God's kingdom will be known
on earth as it is in heaven.
We need at the very least to pay attention
and be awake for the coming of the kingdom.

Let us not be too distracted
looking for the stars
that begin to fall
(which Jesus tells us is not something that should essentially concern us)
but rather pay attention to our own little patch of earth.
And live in the house in which we find ourselves;
it is at least
in paying attention to the process of living that we
may discover the purpose and meaning
of this place where we dwell
and that God's kingdom
is in our midst.
This is our Advent Work!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Searching for King Jesus

The readings for this Sunday the 34th Sunday of the Year, often known as Christ the King...the Sunday next before Advent. Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24; Psalm 100 (p 326 APBA); Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

In our sister Church of England this extended season before Christmas starting from about the end of October is often called Kingdom season. And today is called The Feast of Christ the King, or The Universal Reign of Christ,.
In reality these ideas to do with the language of monarchy do not sit easily with the 21st century democratic idea
Once we get over this,the ideas of this king, though, are fairly straightforward.

Let me use three examples.

The Three Kings of the Christmas story get lost looking for Jesus the King.

They expect to go to a palace and find him amidst the life of privilege and wealth. They look for the king where they think he should be. And they do not find him.

Right from the start we are to see that God's kingdom will not be where we think it is going to be. Do we miss God's kingdom because it is right there under our noses, and we don't want it to be?

We want Jesus to be with the rich and famous

the powerful and influential

but he is with the weak, the hungry, the naked.

Have you missed the kingdom of God that is there is the ordinariness of your life

because somehow we think God should be bigger than that.

Is the kingdom of God beside the bed of the smelly incontinent old man

dying sad and disappointed

rather than in the pomp and circumstance of the nation?

We understand more about elected rulers than hereditary monarchs.

Perhaps today should be called Christ the President.

Where do we look for authentic leadership.

It is in the genuineness of their actions.

So much of the critique of Kevin Rudd, (and we all await President Obama to judge in the same way)

Is not do they look like a ruler but do they act like one

Exercising authority, certainly, but not for self-interest (so much the critique of others)

but do they serve the weakest and the most vulnerable.

Rulers we recognise need to expend themselves in order to be good rulers.

Is this how we act?

Finally this is the feast of Christ the King

His example is "I come amongst you not to be served, but to serve"

And St Mark give his life.

If we are to get in will with the King

then that will the character of your and my life too.

For as much as we care for, serve and attend to the needs of others

We are tending to Christ himself.

  • Are we looking in the wrong places?
  • Will our actions show the Spirit of service which is true leadership?
  • Are we radical servants? Committed to worship Christ through the service of the needy?
You tube of this reflection

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Monday, November 10, 2008


As we draw to the end of our Christianity Explained course the theme today is Believing . Readings for today include: Genesis 15:1–6; Psalm 25:1–9; Hebrews 10:35–11:1; Mark 5:25–34 and can be found here. [If you are looking for the Common Lectionary Reading for today the 33rd Sunday they are here]

What a great joy it has been to follow this course through

...more coming

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This week we follow our Christianity Explained course theme of Repentance: Ezekiel 36:25–27;Psalm 130; Acts 17:24–31; Mark 8:34–38 (Common Lectionary themes for Sunday 32 can be found here )

Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us there is no such thing as Cheap Grace
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, (it is) baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."
What do we make of the promises that we have been thinking about that come to us as free gift from God?
God is not just toying with us.
He is not suggesting that there is no such thing as a free lunch,
or that there is always a catch
but rather that now, having heard the promises of God:
For example the new heart promised by Ezekiel's God, or the washing away of sin,
the gift of abundant and eternal life
promise by Jesus to those who are born again
If we are to live out of these promises
then we are to live rather differently.
We cannot have a different quality of life
and just go on living as though nothing has changed.
This is Bonhoeffer's point... no cheap grace...
there are consequences
not because God is tricky
but because God wants us to live our lives well
If we want forgiveness, then we must act as if forgiven
We must live differently, we must forgive,
we need to confront our own darkness: sin, selfishness and evil
If we want God to be close
then we must live close to God
..prayer, worship service
will be the watchwords...
let's not play games.
Quality relationships?
Then let's love unconditionally.

This repentance, is about making a choice to live rather differently.
Not just about dealing with the bad stuff
(though it is that)
but also about living the faithful, humble, life of Christian integrity.
Stop playing games.

We remind ourselves again
God who is rich in mercy
out of the great love with which he loved us
even when we were dead through our trespasses
made us alive together with Christ.

May we choose to live out of that promise

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The grace of God

As we continue to think about the Christianity Explained series our theme this week is the grace of God and some readings are: Hosea 14:4–7;Psalm 85; Ephesians 2:4–10; Luke 18:9–14 (if you are looking for the Commnon lectionary Readings they are here for all All Saints Day; or here for The 31st Sunday of the Year)

What the grace of God assures us is that God's love for us is so great
that he will do everything he can to bring us into the fold of the loving relationship
We are so perverse that we often seem to think
that God will only love us
if we are good enough
or if we are worthy.
The truth is that God loves us
not just when we behave,
or when we have totted up enough brownie points
to merit being loved.
God just loves us!
That love is not bought or sold
it is freely given.
We are often told that the Greek word for 'grace'
is closely related to the word for gift.
God's gift of love is a "grace"
and is truly and freely given.

So we see exposed in the Gospel we have chosen today (Luke 18:9-14)
the story of two men
who stand before God.
One, a religious man, an upstanding man
stands before God
and tells him what a good person he is.
And, I suppose he is, not humble but 'good'
We also see he seems arrogant
and we would probably say
there is a a lot of 'self-justification'
The question , it seems to me, about this man
is what need does he have of God,
he seems to think he is doing OK by himself.
We can all be a bit like this.
BUT if we are honest we should also recognise
that this sort of self-righteousness
is rather shallow, and not entirely truthful.
None of us can entirely justify ourselves because we cannot undo the wrong we have done.
The murderer, however repentant, cannot undo the murder;
nor the one who has hurt another with unkind words and actions
cannot make up for the hurt

So there is a contrast with the other man
who is actually crushed (it would seem) by the mess he has made of his life
His response is not to try and point out that he is not really all that bad
but rather to throw himself on God's mercy.
There is no other choice.

The truth is that the first situation
the self-righteous justification is actually a deception
and the second, that all have sinned and fallen short
is the reality.
The story tells us that it is the sinner who opens himself to God's mercy
who goes away put right.
Because God gives him what he cannot earn.

We find this pretty hard.
We don't like the realisation
that we cannot force God to like us by being good.
We have all really been mis-taught that if we are good enough
then we will 'get into heaven'
The truth is that god gives eternal life to us freely
we do not have to earn it.
In fact it is this trying to earn it that often seems to stand in the way!!
Our self righteousness and self justification
(often aimed at saying how bad others are
as much as how good we are)

This week
Instead of trying to bribe God be being God
can we think about what God might be trying
to give us that we don't think we are worth of?
Can we also try to model this in our relationships with others?
Instead of trying to give people the impression that if they
behave as we want them to then we will love and like them
can we rather give the impression that we are trying to love
unconditionally. This is hard and radical stuff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jesus - His Resurrection

The readings for this Sunday when we look at Jesus-His Resurrection are Acts 2:22–24; Psalm 16:7–11; 1 Corinthians 15:1–8; Mark 16:1–8 (readings for the 30th Sunday of the Year in the Revised Common Lectionary can be found here)

It is easy to get fixated on the important questions of bodily Resurrection,
as key as they are I think we miss something of the richness
if that is all we think about.
Key amongst the experiences of Christians
is not just exactly how Jesus is amongst us
but the reality of the shared experience
that where two or three are gathered
then Jesus seems to be present.
Indeed in the Eucharist we talk about Jesus
being really present.
Many of us would attest to feeling this
but it is also something that we hold by faith
that is, we believe it, and act upon it.
Pray to know Jesus, really present
trust the guidance of the Spirit
and listen to God's voice

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jesus-His Crucifixion

During this season we are thinking about Jesus and his life and meaning today's theme is about the crucifixion. Some readings are here:Isaiah 53:3–6Psalm 89:39–461 Peter 2:22–25Mark 15:33–39
If you want to follow the Revised Common Lectionary then readings can be found here

How might it be if we lived without the burden of sin?
What would our world be like?
So often we excuse our bad behaviour by suggesting we have no other choice,
because we are just like that
But what if we were not.

We present a mask, often,
because we don't like what we believe we are;
and we certainly don't want others to encounter it

What we need to realise about the Crucifixion,
is that it is about God seeing us as we really are.
We may not like it but
There is nothing about us that Jesus does not love
We often find this difficult to believe.

What we see on the cross is that
God loves us
in a way that often we cannot love ourselves.
Often our greed, our sensuality,
our passion, our self-centredness
disgust us.
We often don't love or like ourselves.
We are embarrassed and ashamed by our mistakes and our frailty
So we are often self-deceptive,
we think of ourselves as different from what we really are.
We certainly try to present an image to the world
that is not what we are.

The message of the Cross is that there is nothing about us
that God does not love.
He loves us so much
that he will not allow us
to be destroyed
by the sin and corruption
that would seek to separate us from God,
or cause us to think and believe
that we can be separated from the love of God.

This is what is happening
on the Cross
everything about is laid upon Jesus.
God's love for us is so great
that we are totally identified
with his own Son.
The net effect for us
is that everything that would separate us from God
is destroyed in the Body of Christ.
Lies, hurtfulness, shame, mistakes...
St Paul tells the Corinthian Church
that it was for this purpose that he who is without sin
Became as sin, and put sin to death in his own body.
What ever power sin might have held
before the Cross
it no longer holds.
He himself bears our sins
in his body on the cross.
so that free from sin we might live for righteousness.

What is asked us of us
is to have faith in this sacrifice.
We are free from our sin.
Put aside the self-indulgence
that we cannot escape sin
We can...through faith in Jesus.
Nothing too big, nothing too small!

God loves us so much
that we do not have to live with the burden of sin.

So let us live that way

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Taking responsibility...not apportioning blame

Readings for the 27th Sunday of the Year, October 5th 2008 can be taken from the following: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 Psalm 19 Philippians 3:4b-14 Matthew 21:33-46

We have today a triptych of readings
about our relationship with God
and how we are to respond to the call of God on our lives.
The Ten Commandments
are an essential statement of universal values
which are widely, some would even say universally, accepted.
They could be seen as a legal code, I suppose,
but in reality the spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures
contained in the prophets
sees them more as a distillation
of a way communities might live together
and some of the fundamental principles
like the sanctity of life, the respect for property,
the importance of truth and integrity in relationships
Preceding all that is the key idea
that we are worshippers of the one true God,
the God who is (for want of a better word) jealous
and who will brook no rival.

The Gospel story is about recognising that
there is a responsibility for those who are in this relationship.
The responsibility is not to be legalistic
but to participate in a dynamic and active way in the life of the kingdom
The condemnation that Jesus holds out in this parable
is for those who make the mistake of thinking and acting
that this relationship is legalism
or for those who take the privilege of the covenant
without any responsibility.
It is a sombre warning
for those of us who religiously inclined.
God will try and try again to draw us into relationship
but if we simply ignore that invitation
or prefer legalism
then eventually we will be excluded.
Not because God is damning us
But because we remove ourselves
from the generosity of God's grace.
Relationship with Jesus
Paul's wonderful dissertation in Philippians
which also continues today, reminds us
that we can have perfect credentials
our ancestry impeccable
but all this is rubbish
by comparison
with what is being offered in Christ.
A relationship in God.
It is this that will motivate.

It is taking responsibility
to have a vital life in Christ
and not apportioning blame
or creating an elite
which will see us drawn into the kingdom.

This week
  • Is there one thing that may be standing in your way to being more faithful in Christ?
  • Is there one thing where God may be inviting a deeper, better response (an act of forgiveness, more fervent prayer, an act of charity...etc) and can we make that transition instead of preferring a legalistic way of little or no accountability.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some Authority Issues

Readings for the 26th Sunday of the Year, Sunday 28th September Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 ;Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

The authority of spiritual teachers is often called into question
so we are not surprised to read this week that Jesus's authority was called into account.
In fact it happened on a number of occasions, and one thing we can see from the passage is that the question is complex.
So there are a couple of observations we might make.
One is that we often question authority, when we are trying to trip people up.
So often, as in this case, the questioners are not interested in getting the right answer
but rather in getting the replier to put himself offside
with one group or another.
We are used to this because we see it all the time in the political arena.
Second,Matthew gives us a bit of an illustration to help us better assess.
You would be better, he suggests, to look at what a person does rather than what they say.
Even if a person says I am going to do the right thing
but then doesn't do anything
we should look at the action rather than believe the words.
Even, bizarrely, if someone says they are not going to cooperate with you
but then does
Then believe the action rather than the words.
Children do this all the time
they believe what we do
rather than what we say.

It is interesting that as we read Philippians 2
and we are here reading about the nature of Jesus
again we read about what the action of being godly is like puts aside pride and selfish ambition, it is humble
it is obedient
it does not presume on greatness.
And in fact it deliberately puts these things aside.
How unlike you and me this is!
So often, full of our self-importance
we forget that we are urged to not presume
on our own rightness, goodness, holiness, intelligence or strength.

St Paul in another place reminds us
that the reason for this is because
it is not when we are strong, powerful and great
that God is glorified
But it is when we are weak
aware of our limitations
and trusting only in God
that God can be God for us.

  • Where are we guilty of not practising what we preach? Is there a way we can better put into action what being a faithful Christian means?
  • Look for one opportunity to humbly follow Christ this week, so that we may better trust.

Lord Jesus, you became obedient

you offered your life, that others may live.

May that same Spirit infuse my life this week, and every day. AMEN

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Action and Response

This Sunday 21st September is also the Feast of St Matthew some suggested readings are : Proverbs 3:1-6, Psalm 19:1-6 APBA p 239, Ephesians 4:1-14, Matthew 9:9-13

and you thought you had a bad day at work!

I am always fascinated by what makes Matthew respond to Jesus.
Had he just had a bad day (like S did yesterday) at work?
And just felt like chucking it all in!
Of course we are here seeing not just a fit of pique
but someone responding to Jesus
so as people of faith we recognise that there may be more to it.
And we also identify that
Jesus calls and we respond
(or not)
This is something in which we are caught up every day.
Matthew, on this occasion, responded
we do sometimes
Often we just ignore the call of Christ on our lives.

What follows on in the nartrative is a little reflection, which perhaps helps us to get Matthew's understanding of what Jesus is doing when he calls people
We read:
And as Jesus sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and
were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they
said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and
sinners?’ 12But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of
a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “I desire
mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

There is, it would seem, purpose when Jesus calls someone!
And that purpose is that those who have been cut off from God
those who are in need of wholeness, acceptance, reconciliation
Might be able to come and receive what God will give them.
As, again, we reflect on who might we might invite to come to something like Christianity Explained
Maybe we have here a clue about what sort of person to look out for.
We are not being asked to be pedantic or patronising,
any way when a call is issued there is always the possibility that the one called may choose to sit at the table and not respond.

Asking ourselves
I wonder why, too, God might have called you and me .
Assuming that we are here because God has been here before us
what is it that he is offering to do for us
What might we receive?
St James makes the cryptic comment
You do not receive because you do not ask (James 4:2)
Sometimes I suspect we do not understand that we are being invited to receive from God,
maybe we are frightened
if we hear the call, as Matthew did,
and get up and walk away
(this may be so for some of our CE invitees)

This week
  • Continue to pray for insight into who might come to Christianity Explained
  • Ponder what God is calling me to be. Why on earth has God thought I can be a Christian, what is God wanting to achieve in my life?
  • Is there an invitation to respond more definitely, fervently even dramatically?

Living God from your Heart flows love in

Give me courage to respond to your call

Give me vision to change

Friday, September 12, 2008

Nada Te Turbe-Don't be disturbed

Nada te turbe
Nada te espante
Todo se pasaDios no se muda
La paciencia todo lo alcanza
Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta
Solo Dios basta!!!!................
Si a tanta dicha subes,repara
Que aunque haya bienes
Solo Dios basta!!!!!!!!

Let nothing disturb you,nothing afright you.
Whom God possesses
in nothing is wanting.
Alone God suffices.
All things are passing.
God never ceases.
Patient endurance attains all things.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Eucharistic Revolution

Eucharist as Revolution
Any act that provides the Bread of Heaven
and the Cup of Salvation for all - and anyone
who comes to the table - will always cause at
least a stir.
When one who has been excluded is the one
who presides at that Eucharist, or when the
one who has been excluded invites absolutely
everyone to the Table to be fed, well, it becomes,
in and of itself, the revolutionary act which
Jesus intended it to be.

We adore you O Christ

Sunday 14th September is kept as Holy Cross Day. A Day when we reflect on the significance of the Cross and the life and death of Jesus. readings can include. Isaiah 45:21-25 Psalm 98 or 98:1-4 Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18 John 12:31-36a

St Paul makes the curious comment:

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by
which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Gal 6:14)
This is at once curious, and yet fully understandable
When we invite people, as we will next month
To come and hear what the Christian Gospel is all about
We have to tell them about the fact that Jesus was crucified
And that we believe that by that act the world has been transformed.
At some point we understand that it as at the point of intense suffering, when we are broken
When we recognise failure and sin
That we encounter the depth of ourselves and God.
This is, of course, a mystery
There are theories (a link which is of interest here, but it is not comprehensive) which seek to explain it, they do not sit easily with our understanding.

But it is out of our experience
That we can readily discern the truth of what is being claimed here
It is when we stand in the face of death
When we seek God in our pain
When we struggle with the intense difficulties of our life
Death, depression, sadness
It is there we find that Jesus meets us having been there before us.
Perhaps as we wonder about who needs to have Christianity Explained to them
We should look for those for whom the Cross is already a reality.
And that is all of us.
This sacrament of the Cross, this Church of the Body of Christ
Is not for the strong but for the weak.
We are not vetting members to join our exclusive club,
But seeking rather to try and recognise
Who God is already calling.
This is something of the reality of the Cross.

I came, says Jesus, not to call the righteous
But the sinners to repentance
(Mark 2:17)
And He said,
"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick".
(Matthew 9:12)

We are called to boast not in our beautiful churches, liturgy or organisation.
But that at the point of suffering
being in relationship with Jesus,
through the Cross, makes a difference to how we live our life

More on the Kingdom

If you keep the Sunday of the Year (Proper 24) then the readings are Exodus 14:19-31 or Genesis 50:15-21 Psalm:[Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21] or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 , Romans 14:1-12 , Matthew 18:21-35 but we will eb keeping the Feast of the Holy Cross (see above)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Life together

Readings for Sunday 23, 7th September are: Exodus 12:1-14 (or Ezekiel 33:7-11)Psalm 149 (or Psalm 119:33-40 ) Romans 13:8-14 Matthew 18:15-20

What a lot of people don't get about Christianity
is that it is about living together
How do humans live with God, and how do they live with each other?
While there is no doubt that religion can seem to be remote and ritualistic, this dimension only makes sense when it connects to life
Nowhere is this truer than in the Eucharist.
 As we gather together to worship and share Bread and Wine we are recognising that good experience of God
Is as fundamental as the food and drink we share
That God is present to us in the ordinary stuff of life
So we expect that that the key stuff that we talk about
Should not only just sound good in theory it should be practical in application
Matthew’s advice about how to deal with disputes
Is sound and practical.
It emphasises discretion and forgiveness. 
It has about it mutuality and care
What else would we expect?

Apart form anything else it also says we should try.
A lot of reconciliation doesn’t happen because we can’t be bothered.
We would rather ignore conflict 
Than be reconciled.
Pride, embarrassment, arrogance, wilfulness
All stand in the way.
Christian principles suggest
That we should at least try
It won’t always (or ever) be easy
But we are called to try, to engage seriously
In the practical implementation of the gospel

This week
  • Where do need prompting to be reconciled 
  • What do I need to do? What precautions/supports are there that need to be applied?
  • Are my strategies genuinely kind, patient, forgiving and loving?


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Counting the cost

Readings for the 31st August the 22nd Sunday of the Year can include: Exodus 3:1-15 [or Jeremiah 15:15-21] Psalm:Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c [or Psalm 26:1-8 ]; Romans 12:9-21 & Matthew 16:21-28

For all Peter's realisations that Jesus is pretty important in the scheme of things ( as we read last week) and he is rewarded with some pretty dramatic words....I will build my church on you
Words which the Church has been keen to exploit, they are not so keen to observe that moments later Jesus is berating this Prince of the Apostles and saying
"Get behind me Satan!"

And that he who was once a foundation is now a "stumbling block"
Equally strong words in the other direction.
I think we see here what is an observable phenomenon for spiritual people.
There are times when it is all pretty clear, and we can make it hang together
And then it evaporates and , once again, we lose the plot.

Equally well we have the seminal story of the burning bush.

This too is the experience of people.
God grabs our attention
and if we are attentive
we hear and receive
then we can hear what God might be saying

[I am not too worried about
how a bush might burn
or what it might mean
this is not a story about supernatural phenomena,
this is a story about how God catches out attention
how we hear God
and what we might then do]
As Christians who believe in an ever-present, and transcendent God
experienced in and through the world
we experiece "burning bushes" all the time.
Do we just take any notice?
Moses, we note, had to turn away from what he was doing
and go and take a look.
Our problem is that we may often see
but then just go on with what we are doing.
So we don't see or hear
God saying to us
Instead we see the sheep going crazy.
It is when we turn aside
take off our shoes
because we realise the encounter is holy and powerful
and then act out of that expereince that it all makes a difference.

This is what happened to Peter
when he recognised
what God might be doing in Jesus(here)
this changed his life fundamentally.
As did Moses.
Because he now had the choice to live out of something new.

This is how it works for us.
As we ask ourselves
where is God's grace active and alive for us today
there is also the invitation
to live rather differently.
Out of knowledge of the fact
that God is who God is
---we use the shorthand term Yahweh, Jehovah or LORD

The Question then is...what do we do with this?
The invitation
is to live out of the new encounter
the temptation is to go back to doing what we did before.

As I ask myself, where have I asked experienced God's grace today
the next step is:
And what difference does that make ?
Will I choose to live differently
because I have encountered God.
We don't always get this right.
This is Peter who was a "foundation"
becoming a "stumbling block"
Having been granted the vision of the future
do we choose to go back tot he past.

Too often yes!

This week

  • Where have I experienced the presence of God at this time?
  • What is God asking me to be and do? What does it reveal to me about the nature of God? What is the invitation to live differently?
  • What changes do I make to the way I live because I have encountered God on holy ground?
  • Will I live differently?

O God, you invite me to turn aside

and be with you.

Why on earth do you want to speak with me?

What do you want of me?

Give me not only this grace,

but also the courage to live out of your life.

In Jesus name. AMEN

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chrysostom on Repentance

St John Chrysostom offers some detailed reflection on the road to repentance

"So now I have shown you the five paths of repentance. First, condemnation
of sins. Second, forgiving the sins of those near us. Third, prayer. Fourth,
almsgiving. Fifth, humility"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The key to prayer

A reflection for this Sunday 24th August

Matthew 16:19
Jesus said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

For quiet prayer

Jesus was speaking to Peter when he said these words. What if he was sitting with you today…what if Jesus was saying these words to you…

“I will give you, (your name), the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”
“Whatever you, (your name), bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.”
“And whatever you, (your name), loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The key to the problem

This Sunday 24th August we use the readings for the 21st Sunday which can be taken from Exodus 1:8-2:10 (or Isaiah 51:1-6); Psalm 124 (or Psalm 138); Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 [it is also St Bartholomew's Day so there are alternative readingn for that day too]

One of the points I made last week was that we always bring a lot of baggage to the Scriptures when we seek to interpret their meaning
One of the biggest pieces of baggage is our understanding of 'authority'.
If, after all, Scripture is divinely inspired [however we interpret that]
then what it has to say about authority is important.
The Gospel passage we read this week is one of those portrions
where the issue of authority is very much to the fore:
We read

16:18 I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

The Roman Catholic Church has taken this passage to speak about the particular authority that was given to St Peter
and then by extension to Peter's successors as Bishop of Rome
This Papal claim may be interesting but, in the end, to me it is difficult to sustain.
More than this, it obscures the insight that is being offered here to all Christians.
It is part of th baggage!
The dynamic that is going on here
is that in relationship with Jesus
we come to an understanding of who we are.
So Peter, though he might be tempted to think otherwise,
comes to understand that he can and will be
a foundation that God can use to build
[By way of a side issue in John 1 :43-52 we see another man, Bartholomew,
(who is called here Nathanael)
who has a simple encounter of recognition with Jesus
and who is blown away by the fact that he seems to be known at depth]

Much of what is said about Peter in this encounter
would wait to be realised
It is often only in looking back that we see God's hand evident.
As we reflect on the Moses story, for example,
which we begin this morning also
we are able to frame a fairly hair-raising story of murder and cruelty
and see how God was able to take that and make something bold out of it.
This is not moralising or fable telling
with a view to getting an object lesson
but rather exploring a foundational principle of the faith-journey
that God takes the stuff of our life
and gives it meaning.
For Peter and Nathanael
(and indeed for us)
it is encounter with Jesus
which will give meaning to our lives.

This is what we are trying to 'explain' about Christianity
It is what happens to people when they are 'saved'
it is the 'grace' which God gives us
bringing meaning and purpose.

Our prayers, thoughts and reflections
might be well spent
listening to what Jesus is speaking into our lives

This is not an exercise in fantasy.
It is about getting in touch with the reality
of what God is saying to me today.

This week

  • Sit quietly and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Lord show show me who and what you want me to be this week
  • Use one of the following scripture passages
  • Lord speak to me today
  • Romans 13:12
    12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let
    us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light;
  • 1 Cor 4:13
    13when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become
    like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
  • Matthew 14:23
    23And after Jesus had dismissed the
    crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was
    there alone,
  • Judges 13:13
    13The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let
    the woman give heed to all that I said to her.
  • Hosea 6:6
    6For I desire steadfast love and not
    sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than
    • What might God be saying to me ?
    • What does this invite me to do tomorrow and in the week to come?