Monday, June 23, 2008

God looks out for the faithful

Genesis 22:1-14 Psalm 13 (Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18) Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42 Propers for the Thirteenth Sunday of the Year which may be celebrated on 29th June 2008
Can God do the impossible?
Even more, does God delight in making things more difficult than they already are
The story of Genesis 22 is a key narrative in the story of God's relationship with humanity.
Will we trust God even when it seems that there is nothing to suggest that God can be trusted?

Abraham has only one son, and has been promised that he will be the father of a great nation
He then comes to the belief that God wants him to sacrifice his only son
What is going on here?
This story is so dramatic that we can be easily distracted by its force.
It is about the requirement for God's people to have faith in God and God alone.
Abraham has done that, and he is not now at liberty to have faith in himself, or his son Isaac.
Having put faith in God, we are not then at liberty to put our faith in the means that God has given us
to fulfill the promise.
This may seem a subtlety,
but it is also a truth.

For example, God uses our family
our marriage, our children,
our church.
Education, work and country
to provide for us.
But we are not allowed then to put our faith in them.
If we don't understand this

....more coming

The Feast of St Peter

These are some the readings that can be taken for 29th June, St Peter's Day, Ezekiel 34:11-16;Psalm 87; 2 Timothy 4:1-8;John 21:15-19 & also Acts 12:6-11 is particularly suitable

June 29th is a particularly special day for the Diocese of Adelaide
as the Adelaide Metropolitan Cathedral Church is dedicated to St Peter.
Our first Bishop, Augustus Short, no doubt was keen to keep before the pioneering church
one saint, Peter, who struggled vigorously
to faithfully follow Jesus.
The Prayer for today talks aboth about Peter and Paul and says:
Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom:
Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

In the way of heroics the phrase
"glorified you by their martyrdom"
just trips off the tongue, doesn't it?
Indeed, the early church seemed to hold martyrdom
in particularly high regard.
It is probably not too much to say
that many early Christians
were some what like some present day Moslems
who regard dying for their faith
as the ultimate act of faithfulness.
(Of course there is a lot of difference
between dying for your faith
and deliberately getting yourself killed
or blowing yourself up...but that's another story)

BUT 'martyrdom' does not mean 'dying'
even though it may have that popular overtone.
To be a martyr is to be a witness.
The early Christians witnessed in many ways
and the most dramatic was dying for the faith.
But it was not the only way.

The readings today perhaps lead us beyond
the death-martyrdom nexus.
Ezekiel is keen to promote the idea that
there is challenge involved in being faithful
it is not just about fattening the sheep!
Or creating an easy life.
Paul, writing to Timothy, also reminds us
that one key feature of his ministry
has been that he has not always got on well with people!
But he has tried to do his best.
At an ordination a couple of weeks ago the preacher reminded the people gathered
that clergy, and indeed all Christians, are not likely to be perfect!
But we are to try! God wants us to do our best

Both Peter and Paul intrigue us
as we look at them.
They like all of us
are deeply flawed people.
They have strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes in wanting to canonise
major Christian figures
we overlook their flaws
So we do not see Paul's
arrogance, authoritarianism
often a failure to admit he was wrong.
It is good in a way to balance him with Peter
because we characterise Peter
as the one who denied Christ.
But to characterise him only as a betrayer
would be wrong,
just as to characterise Paul as perfect
would be wrong.
What we see in both these people
is someone who struggles with their humanity
as well as their capacity to be a saint.

This is, I think, what martyrdom-witness is about.
Not heroics, but how we implement the Christian faith
in our day to day struggle with what it means to follow Jesus

So Paul has to confront his seemingly brittle personality, which doesn't suffer fools gladly,
Peter has to confront his desire to be liked
and his inability to respond well under pressure.

This sounds more like you and me
than St Sebastian who gazes lovingly
as he is pelted with a thousand arrows.

How do we live as followers of Christ
when things aren't going well
with other people?
When we are tired, or depressed
how do we think Christ wants us to behave?
When like Paul,
---we get angry with those
who are slow to understand
---or who go back on their word?
---or We are arrogant
When like Peter
we discover things about ourselves
that we don't really like
---that we are not necessarily people of principle but that we do what is easiest
---that we don't always think things through properly, but act impulsively

Their witness comes about not because they are put to death (both are)
but by their struggle
with what it means
not to live the fairy tale of Christ
but to witness to the reality.
Our weakness
our failure
our humanity.

For Paul, that it is not when he is most erudite or clever
that Christ is most evident
but when he is weakest.
That in human relationships he needs to be reconciled
to all those from whom he has alienated himself.
and for Peter, that failure is par for the course
and that Christ himself uses our weakness and vacillation
to establish a powerful life in the Spirit.
You are a pebble, he jokes with Peter, I will make you a rock.
You are a betrayer, but I want you to feed my sheep.

There is great hope
in true Christian witness.
the call of Peter and Paul
for you and me is the call to be a martyr
in our lives,
bearing witness
not to an adventure story
but to a reality of day to day struggle.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Let's sin all the more!

Proper 7 (12) June 22, 2008 Genesis 21:8-21;(Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17) Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39 -These are some fo the readinghs that can be considered for today

The epistle to the Romans is a cracker!
It is worth sitting down and reading it all in one sitting
as it gives you a better sense of the masterly nature of Paul's discussion.
One of the curious literary devices we come across is his use of "By no means!"
I always chuckle at this
because it seems he lets us see his inner struggle some what.
When he has argued himself into a corner,
and we might be compelled to get the wrong idea
he has to turn us round and steer us back in the right direction.

So we read today:

6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Paul has been arguing that one of the greatnesses of God's love to us
is that we are not left to cope with sin by ourselves

In fact he says it is when things are really tough that God really cuts in
in fact :
where sin increases, grace abounds all the more,
God's response to us is not to reject us when we sin
but to equip us all the more.
So that we can fight back.
Paul, is no doubt relying on his own experience,
he understands that when he is weakest,
when failure is all too evident
then, he finds that, the grace of God is even stronger.

This is a key insight.
Not that God is trying to catch us out.
But that God is trying to encourage us..

When we allow ourselves to embrace this spirit
then that is our experience too.
You see God is not trying to beat us over the head with a stick,
we are not being smacked because we are naughty.

We begin from the starting point that God loves us
and wants the best for us.
The love of God understands
that sin diminishes us
it actually makes our life worse.
And so, Paul is telling us:
God pours all the resources he can
into enabling us to struggle with this sin.
He has given us the life of his Son
and we are talking here about the constant giving of the Holy Spirit
to enable us to progress in the war with sin.

So we might joke (as Paul does)
this fantastic inpouring of the Holy Spirit
is so good for us
that maybe we should sin all the more!
so that God might give us this Spirit.

But to view it like that is a joke.
The serious point is
that God wants to deal with sin
for our good
because God loves us

Dealing with sin
So might we get the point
that if God takes our sin seriously
then so should we.
We often deal with sin
by ignoring it
and yet Paul is telling us here
that it is so important
that God throws everything He has got at it.
We need to see that there is a serious invitation here
if God think sin is worth this effort
then perhaps we need to see that too.
It is where we sin, that the potential for God's grace abounds!

This seems a contradiction to us,
but it is going to be at the points
where we lie, cheat, steal and do not love.
Should we then lie more, hate even harder.

By no means!
God is active.
At His most active.
Can we cooperate with this Spirit?
And throw our energies into it?

This week:
Where is God inviting you to act decisively with sin?
Pick one thing you are going to cooperate with God and seek to let God deal with it.
This will not be easy,but God willequip you all the more.
Pary for that equipping

Are we serious about our discipleship? Then let us be serious where God is most active.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The death of a young man

Readings at the funeral today include the first Creation story in Genesis and the Beatitudes from Matthew 5
What to say about L?
17 is too young to die.
One week ago we did not think we would be here today.
I knew him only a little.
We had a few difficult conversations
and occasionally we touched a deep spot.
"If you are going to die L, what would you do today?"
It is a question that faces each one of us.
What would I do today if I knew that
this time next week
it would be my funeral?

One of his answers you would expect,
"Well, there are these games and I would like to complete
all the levels"
We both smiled and I said "Well what is to stop you?"
And we both knew that this was not the most important stuff
that he had to do.
[There is some evidence that he tried to achieve this goal
and had late nights, and failing sight...and he threw himself into it!]
I am not going to tell you what else he said
because it was deeply personal
and there would be even more tears.
But it was about how he would have liked the future to be
and opportunities that would now never happen.

he was a bit worried that he would leave this world
and leave no impression
who would remember him
in 10 50 or 100 years.
It is a good & deep question.

We could all say
"Well we will all remember him for ever"
We need to be careful to not burden ourselves,
with an impossible burden.
Our memories are poor, they play tricks
and we lose them.
He was little bit worried too
that he would not be good enough
for God
Fortunately, I was able to tell him
that God does not require us to be "good"
God is not going to balance
the right and the wrong
and accept us only if it tips in our favour.

So that is why we commend the dead to God,
because God can and does care for us
and accept us
it is not reliant on our faulty humanity
or on our warped sense of good.

That relationship can and does begin now,
we do not have to wait until we die.
L had begun to discover that.
May each one of us
courageously set out to discover that too.

Monday, June 02, 2008

What does God desire?

Readings for the 10th Sunday of the Year (Pentecost 4) June 8, 2008 Genesis 12:1-9; Hosea 5:15-6:6; Psalm 33:1-12; Psalm 50:7-15; Romans 4:13-25 Matthew 9:9-13, 18-2

There is a great series of readings for this week
they talk about faith.
True faith, what it is like.
The challenge to respond to God
and the call to understand that God calls us beyond our expectations.
We see God's work with very limited eyes
part of the challenge is for us to respond the very limitations
that we set ourselves.

At the very heart of the idea of faith
is the challenge to look beyond our limitations
and trust God
in everything