Wednesday, May 28, 2008

God calls, we respond

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19; Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28; Psalm 46; Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-28, (29-31); Matthew 7:21-29. The Readings this Sunday are for the Third Sunday after Pentecost or the 9th set of proper readings

The readings this week focus on God's graciousness to us and the constant call to, as it were,
'Get it right'.
St Paul reminds us, in what is a sort of backhanded comment,
that God makes no distinction between people
but is open to and accept all
Why? Because we all stand on an equal footing before God

Romans 3:22b-24 For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;
they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

What this might say to us is that however else we view our relationship with God
it is God who initiates and sustains our relationships
Thank goodness...that it does not really on me!
The Deuteronomy text for today
reminds us that God's word and life
can become part of the depth of our lives
and it is God's will that they be so
It is the deepest desire of God
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
from The Confessions of St Augustine

These powerful words of St Augustine have about them a driving force
which suggest how God unremittingly searches for you and me.
It is not that God does not speak
it is that we do not hear.
It is not that God does not give to us
but that we choose to not receive
God does not hold back
we hold ourselves back.

Likewise the Gospel reminds us not to play games with God.
God's unremitting desire for us
is that we belong to God
not that God belong to us
(if you get the difference).
"Not everyone" says Jesus,
"who says and does the right thing (says Lord, Lord
will have got it right"
Word and formula do not work
if we do not take trouble to respond to what God is seeking to do in and for us.

  • Where is God inviting me to be different?
  • What do I believe God is trying to make of me?
  • Pray for insight to change and grow
  • Look for an opportunity to talk with someone else about this

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The centre of faith

Trinity Sunday May 18, 2008 Genesis 1:1-2:4a Psalm 8 II Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 in the APBA lectionary Exodus 34:1-8 can also be used

In the embarrassment of riches that this season affords
we move from the great story of Easter, Ascension
and then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentectost
to today being invited to put all this into context
with a focus on the community of God
The community that we call the Trinity.
In an idea that I quite like Archbishop William Temple
says that we need the doctrine of the Holy Trinity
it helps us not fall into the trap of having an idea of God
that is too small.

While we often think that this doctrine is hard to understand
At the heart of it is the idea that God is love
that love is about community
and that God is constantly seeking to embrace us
and bring us into this community of love

So the language that is used to talk about God
is relational
We talk (after St Augustine) of a Father, a Son
and of a Spirit which flows out from them
their relationship being so profound
that the Spirit issues as a different persona
empowering us and always seeking to draw us into the circle of life
(the circle, or three interlocking circles is often used to symbolise the Trinity)
This idea is not without difficulty
but it does serve to give us the sense
that God is relational
that God is community
that God is love.

It is the same God who is the Father of Jesus
who declares himself to be our Father
It is the same God who is the Son of the Father
who says to us you too are the sons and daughters of my Father
you are my sisters and brothers
It is the same God who is the Holy Spirit
who says my love for you is so real
that I am always drawing you into community with me.

God is calling to be part of the same community
That Father-Son and -Spirit share
It is not a closed shop
Our fulness of life
comes from being in communion with God.
God is sharing his life with us
God is sharing his love with us.

Does this make a difference?
The Trinity initiates us into the idea
that God is actually in relationship with us
that God loves us
and that we are invited into community with God.
When Jesus speaks to his disciples (as we read today)
and suggests that they should spread the Good News
he is saying that all people can be drawn into the life of God
and this will liberate and enliven them
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

The invitation is to be drawn into the life of God
the responsibility is to live in the Spirit of God's life
and the promise is that God will be with us for ever

We might go on to say that the expectation is that this will change our life
We are after all being drawn into the circle if God's life
So transforming is this experience
that we will want to share it with others.

This is NOT some difficult doctrine
this is the centre of our faith experience

If you want your life changed, enriched, transformed
then it is done by allowing yourself to become a daughter, a son
a sister and a brother
In relationship with God.
Our Christian understanding is that the Trinity is always
seeking to draw us into closer and more personal relationship.
This is perhaps rather different from Judaism and Islam.

This week
  1. Pray each day to be aware that God wants me to be drawn into the community of love and service which is the Holy Trinity
  2. Dedicate yourself each day to seek to more fervently to be close to God
  3. Is there one person who you can tell this week that God desires them to be close to their life also? Why not tell them or discuss this with them?
O Holy Trinity
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Your love for me overflows
and draws me in
I seek to be in the circle of love
may I share this love with others too.
O Gracious Holy Trinity

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pentecostal challenge

Readings for Whitsunday or Pentecost, May 11, 2008; Numbers 11:24-30; *Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34,I Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23
Anglicans like candles! In fact people like candles
they are such a warm symbol
and so multi-layered in imaginal links
that we readily warm (sorry) to them.
At Easter the principal symbol in many Churches
is the Paschal or Easter candle
which is marked in various ways at the Great Vigil.
With Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) , the number of the year, the sign of the cross,
and often including five nails.
It burns for the great 50 days which conclude today with the feast of Pentecost when we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples
What to do with with this very rich symbolic candle at the end of this season?
Well of course the logical thing to do is extinguish it,
though we do not want to give the impression that everything is now over and done with,
because of course it isn't!
In a way it has only just begun.
So in our churches today as the large candle is extinguished
individual worshipers are invited to light a personal candle of their own.
The simple idea is that the Easter Commission
is deliberately transmitted
to each individual as part of their baptismal responsibility.
This is, indeed, the movement that we trace in the readings today.
God pours out the Holy Spirit to renew the world
and to encourage and bless the community of faith
in order that they may bring the hope of Christ to the world.
The way this Spirit works is that it is given to individuals
whether it be (as in Numbers) the elders of the Church
or as in Acts and I Corinthians on the individual baptised;
we are invited to appreciate that the gift of the Spirit
apart from being a numinous spiritual blessing
to the world or community of faith in general
is also, in practice, worked out in the individual giftedness of each of the baptised.
So, St Paul's idea is that
the Holy Spirit gives to each of the baptised an outpouring of the Spirit
which manifests itself in particular gifts
He cites a number of gifts..teaching, hospitality, prophecy, prayer, deep faith
and so on (some number these as many as 75 specific gifts)
His implication is that every baptised Christian
is gifted in some way
and that we are to use those gifts
for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.
That is, the presence of the risen Christ
is committed to you and me
and we are gifted by the Holy Spirit
to carry on Christ's work.
We are not expected to pass an exam
or do a whole pile of learning
in order to do this work
we are rather required to use the gift that has been given.
We each need to think about
how the Spirit has lit our personal candle.
Far from the work being over when Easter is finished
and we extinguish the candle
it is not so much over as transferred
to each of us individually.

So we need to ask,
what is my particular gift?
and how am I to use it to further the kingdom of God?
We are given gifts, our candle is lit,
not to hide (Jesus uses this sort of image)
but for a purpose.
We do not have to get a qualification ourselves
it is more that we need to take the gift out of the box and use it.

So there are two questions for each of us
the second more important than the first,
First, what is my gift
and the second important question how might I use it?
The kingdom is weakened in so far
as we hide our light
or ignore it.
Our gift, be it prayer, teaching, almsgiving, hospitality
prophecy or what ever is to be used.
Paul is clear that not everyone has the same gift
we are not all teachers or prophets,
but we are all gifted as individuals and as community
with all the gifts necessary to do what God wants us to do
and to be what God wants us to be.

This week
  • Give thanks to God for the Easter mystery, and the promise that Christ has given to be with us always
  • Ask the Spirit to show you how you ahve been gifted by God, and what you are to do with that gift?
  • Pray for imagination, opportunity and courage to use the giftedness that God has given me.
We pray, this today and every day:
Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me
Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Putting it all together

Readings for the Sunday after the Ascension (Seventh Sunday of Easter) May 4, 2008 Acts 1:6-14 Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 John 17:1-11

Now this can either be hard or easy!
Because, either the point of the physical removal of Jesus
is an insurmountable obstacle to 21st century rational-scientific minds
or it is as easy as recognising
that in order to mature
we cannot go on having others
doing for us what we need to do for ourselves!
I opt to think, today, about the Ascension
in this latter way!

In the most obvious sense
if God wants mature men and women.
People who will have depth and understanding
then that is not achieved
by always stepping in making up for our inadequacies.
Any parent knows the truth of this.
Indeed anyone in any relationship whatsoever
needs to understand this,
we are not called to step in and make up
for the inadequacies, mistakes and failures
of others.
However well-intentioned,
this breeds immaturity and over-dependence,
rather than freedom, initiative
and sophisticated maturity.

There is a difference between supporting people in difficulty
and in not allowing people the opportunity to make their own mistakes!

The withdrawal of the physical presence of Jesus
rather than being an expression
of God's disappointment and heartbreak with the world
can and should actually be seen
as a statement of faith by God in you and me.
God believes that we have within us
the means to be effective people
God believes that we have within us
the means to be effective church
God believes that we have within us
the capacity to fail and to know that failure is not the end

This is what is going on

Two encouragements
We may feel as though this is too hard sometimes
Can we hear two things today:
That Jesus prays to the Father for our protection.
He is not assuming that it is going to be easy,
indeed the reverse would seem to be the case.
So he prays for our protection.
In the midst of difficulty
our faith requires that we bring that 'big gun' into play.
Let us not forget that God is on our side,
this is not some sort of crude lining up allies
during war
but rather seeking to draw out of you and me
Faith in God.
Perhaps we need to pray that prayer that one of the rulers prays
Lord I DO believe
but also help my unbelief.
feeling undersiege
is not necessarily a sign of spiritual weakness
but rather an invitation
to strengthen our faith
As we rely on faith
we learn to be faithful.

Second, Jesus's key promise
in this time
is that he will not leave us friendless.
He promises the Holy Spirit.
We are not called to do this alone,
but rather to realise that we act out of God's power.
there is something important
about being able to ask for help.
As we seek to move and grow
we pray that God's Holy Spirit,
the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself
will cause us to move as God wants us to
and to understand as God wants us to.

And we discover what the first Christians dicovered
that in acting out of faith
their faith is increased.
In that exercising their God-given independence
they find a new sense of freedom
which opens them up to the gracious life of Spirit of Jesus.

More mysteriously, then, though Jesus is no longer
physically with them
they have a deeper, profounder sense of His abiding love.

May this be ours too

This week
  • Remember to commit yourself deliberately to God's care and protection as you seek to be more faithful
  • Pray deliberately for the Holy Spirit to guide, encourage and lead you