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