Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aulder Acquaintances!

There are many readings for the Sunday after Christmas which today falls on 27th December. This is also the day of the beloved patron of this parish of St John Coromandel. Readings for today can include: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148;Colossians 3:12-17;Luke 2:41-52
You could take 10 minutes each day to read one of the passages and listen to the God who speaks to us through the scriptures
(some will appreciate the call to servanthood that is in the obscure picture!!!)

I hope you have been enjoying this rich time of year.
The Church's calendar invites us to keep this as a range of Festivals:
St John, The Holy Family, The Sunday after Christmas,...and of course we are thinking about the coming New Year!

All of these have about them the sense of new beginnings.
So we naturally are drawn to reflect on how we respond.
What might be our resolutions?
Most of us are not particularly good at keeping these,
so much so that they are often the cause for laughter.
What if we were to take our reading today from Colossians 3
and see that here there are a whole series of new beginnings being set our for us to act upon
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This agenda is almost as challenging as Copenhagen!
There is a range of things we could focus on as our resolutions
...not just for the New Year but for our Christian life.
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other;

The image of putting on new clothing is a popular one that Paul uses.
It is about the outward appearance that we project to others
and also about the way we keep ourselves secure and intact!
Paul sees
  • kindness,
  • humility, gentleness
  • and patience
to be the hallmarks of the Christian.

I had a very intellectual friend once who was really too smart for his own good.
But he also had a great sense of priority
and he would say...if it was a choice between being intellectual and being kind
then being kind was the way to go
We often forget that.
We justify unkindness, impatience, intolerance
in all sorts of rationalistic ways but we hear the Gospel point us elsewhere.
This year can we we see that it is kindness, humility, and patience
that are meant to draw us and lead us on

as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
New beginning will also need to be about forgiveness
We all carry a burden of the unforgiving heart
of those who have hurt us recently or a long time ago,
the Gospel tells us that in order to be free ourselves
we need to forgive
where are you being called to forgive at this new beginning?
And will you do it?

Above all, clothe yourselves with love,

It comes as no suprise to us that the Gospel points us towards love as the key.
Not the mushy sort of slush,
or the sexy kind of imaginary stuff that is often exploitative
and may even steer us to sinfulness
but rather the self-giving love
of parents towards a child
of one who gives themself for another
We see in Jesus the ideal of love that we are called to.
it binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Finally Paul reminds us
that we are called to be in relationship with Christ.
The fruit of this will be peace, stability, harmony...who of us does not want this?
let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
and Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly;

Here Paul would appear to be talking both about that word that we read
which teaches and admonishes us in all wisdom;
and fills our hearts with praise

but it is also about whatever you do, in word or deed,
we are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
All this might seem a tall order
but it is the way of the true disciple
the way we are called to follow.
It is not so resolutions
as ongoing resolutions
The character of the life of faith
that we seek to form in ourselves and in each other.

  • kindness and humility
  • forgiveness
  • love and peace
  • relationship with Christ
A prayer for the New Year
In a stable in Bethlehem, Lord, you show us a humility that we find overwhelming and wonderful
In the gift and mystery of human life togetther, you show us kindness, love and peace
And you invite us to live creatively in harmony with you and with each other.
Let this year be the year when we will dwell richly with Christ
and Christ will be born anew in our lives. Amen

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love- some reflections for Christmas

There are many readings for the services of Christmas have a look for example at Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2.
Also Matthew 1, and John 1 give us the perspective of the other evangelists
One of the popular books doing the rounds is Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray,Love"
It is the story of how a woman attempts to put her life back together after a particularly messy relationship breakdown
And she identifies these three components
Eat, Pray, and Love
as key components of the healing
she was able to gain.
It strikes me that this is also something we can think about as we approach Christmas
Because it is a time when we are drawn
To eat, to pray and to love.
These are part of the fundamental invitations to life
that Christmas seems to be about.
Thrown back on her own resources, Gilbert discovers
that it is in sharing time with other people
over food
that she is able to regain the balance of her life.
Most of us will spend a special time today eating with family and friends.
But we have come to live in a world
that seems to have forgotten that this is not just a convenience
it is a necessity.
To take time to eat together
is an important, restorative and human thing to do.
It is no surprise that as we come to worship
we are reminded of Jesus's eating with us his disciples.
We not only satisfy our bodies but we encounter God
and are fed spiritually.

Gilbert also realises that there is a need to take time
to attend to the spirit
to be with God
for her she uses the word "pray"
as a sort of shorthand.
What she is getting at is that each of us needs to attend to
the Spirit of God within us.
To take time each day to be in touch with God.
Some of us find this easy
some of us find this hard or foreign.
Gilbert's advice is good advice...
...I am not sure about this but if I have a need
then let me just put it out there before God...
I have faith enough to know that this sort of process works
not because we pray
but because God is faithful.
As we come to Church today
for a whole range of reasons
can I invite you to "put it out there before God"
As the shepherds come to the stable
they do not really know what is going to happen
the wise men think they know
but they don't fully understand
what we all encounter as we come to God
is that we are moved on
Deepened, changed.

What we, like Gilbert, go on to discover
is that if we pay attention to the ordinary stuff of life
(like eating)
if we put it out there before God
(called praying)
then the transformation come through the third possibility
which is Love.
That in the ordinary we find we can love and are loved.
It is what parents, like Joseph and Mary, very quickly discover
they can love their children in a way they never imagined.
We discover that we are capable of taking risks
and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable
and rather than avoiding each other
by fast food with no possibility of human encounter;
or by paying no attention to our inner life
through prayer and drawing close to God.
That if we allow ourselves to challenge those shallownesses
we discover a new depth and meaning of life
called LOVE.

This Christian sacrament, a simple meal
reminds us that
Christ's broken body is shared
not sadistically
but so that we might also be encouraged to break ourselves open
to Eat together and share our lives,
to "put it out there" before God
and allow the possibility of a deeper spirit
through prayer
or however we name it.
And at Christmas to name the possibility of love.
Love which will enliven, strengthen and change us.
May we all eat well, pray well, and love well
this and every day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Meditation

I like to call this picture "The Miraculous Icon of Coromandel".
It was painted by children in the Kidsplus Group under the guidance of Jenny Poole and it sits outside St John's Coromandel Valley during the Advent and Christmas season.
Is it 'miraculous'?
Well Christmas is certainly a great spiritual gift.
You can reflect on this picture or any other for 5 or 10 minutes and allow God to miraculously give himself or herself to you

Sit down quietly and pray for openness to the Spirit of God

What am I most grateful for about the last day? What does this tell me about my life? How can I nurture this seed of insight?

Take some time to look at the details of this picture.

You don't need to judge whether they are good or bad, note the characters, the animals. Do you like the colours? Can you get a sense of the smell or the noise that is happening here?

How is Mary feeling? And what might Joseph be saying to her?

Is there something as you sit and take this scene in that particularly speaks to your life at this moment?

Take a few moments to share with God what you are thinking, feeling, hoping about Christmas

Talk with God, or Mary or Joseph.

Say quietly as you end this reflection:







If you find this meditation style helpful and need more assistance please email me

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Through the magnifying glass

Christmas invites us to look closely at God. Perhaps through a magnifying glass, taking care to note what we often don't see and need to actually deliberately look at.
In this final week of Advent we hear the words of Magnificat...Luke 1:39-55...which Mary is recorded as saying when she came to understand what God was asking of her. This is a particular reflection on those words

Some commentators suggest that
coming as it does at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel
The Magnificat (this name comes about because of the first line..My soul magnifies the glory of the Lord)
it is presented as something of a manifesto
of what Luke believes God is doing
through the saving act of Jesus
My soul magnifies the Lord
We are being invited to look closely
at what God is doing
So often the real problem
is not that people reject God
but that we don’t even care.
It is not so much antipathy/hatred, as APATHY

Or maybe like the wise men we look in the wrong place.
We want God to be in spectacle and power
but he is in the wonder of a child.
When we get this, we realise that maybe we have been looking in the wrong places
If we take care we see that there are many places where we can give thanks
that he has looked with favour on us
If you are like me, my problem is that often the woes of this world
so weigh me down that I lose sight of the fact
that God sustains and upholds me
powerfully and abundantly.
That the problems don’t really disappear
but we see amidst all the mess
that there is grace...the gift of God
Usually in the gift of people,
in unwarranted kindness
in generosity of spirit
In fact John tells us that there is not just grace but grace upon grace
This grace is not about making the successful more successful
or the strong stronger
but the new creation is about
lifting up the lowly
aiding the weak
We are easily seduced by power and fame
but there is something new here
This is God’s promise to us.
St James reminds us that we often don’t
avail ourselves of God’s promise

  • Can we hear a call to give thanks to God for what is happening day to day?
  • Can we find a way to be an agent of caring for those for whom God cares?Not the rich and famous but the weak and downcast
This is not difficult to understand
It is sometimes difficult to implement because we have our own agenda
and we do not hear God’s radical manifesto
and call on our lives
WE are not required to turn the world upside down
But God is acting differently and we choose to be God’s people.

On being full of grace

The funeral service says (quoting the spirit of the psalm) "In the midst of life we are in death", if not 'death' then we have a fair bit of trouble and mess.
In all this comes a message that God deals graciously with us.

Some Readings for this fourth and last week of Advent...some readings are: Micah 5:2-5; Luke 2; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55
For me this season, whilst not being easy. has been one that is rich in experience
and encounters.
We often have to dialogue with death and dying,
we all have to engage with the complexity of our human relationships
and there is a richness of imagery that abounds
and of course all the wonderful words, spoken and sung.

This is necessary, but not always positive;
some people (research tells us) find Christmas very stressful.

One of the recurring themes of Advent is GRACE
This is a "buzz word", of course,
and easily glossed over.
Grace is about the free gift of God
of life itself.
God gives himself, his life to us
in these and many other ways
all the time
powerfully, intimately, gently, abundantly.

The readings point us to a number of different aspects of this.
God gives his grace to the world
We live in a gift of a world.
As our eyes turn to Bethlehem
we are also reminded how human beings
sometimes are hell-bent [advised use of words!] on destroying the giftedness
we have received from God.
Pray for peace in Bethlehem
that they may know the peace that Jesus bring.

Not easy work

The writer of Hebrews reminds us
that the era of grace in which we now live
is a new era
In theological terms, we are in a new era
because the death and resurrection of Jesus
have put us in a new place.
What this might remind us of is that
grace does not just happen accidently
it is as a response of God's deliberate action
While God's grace is abundant and plentiful
It will not just overwhelm us in in our lives
we need to open ourselves to it
and also be responsive to it.
That is; Grace is given, freely given
do we accept this free gift of God's love.

As you reflect on these last 3 or 4 weeks and the richness of experience
what is God calling you to respond to.
Have you responded? Will you respond?

It is likely that we see the gracious gift of people.
Have we taken time to think on this?
How is God calling us to respond to those who he gives us.
Not always easy, but part of the way that we are called to grow into the personhood that God has in store for us.

The theme character for this week is Mary
It is interesting to hear the classical words
that often refer to her.
They are contained in the angel's greeting to her in that house in Nazareth
as she goes about her daily business.
"Hail Mary full of grace"
Don't let anti-Catholic prejudice blind us to the fact that these words come straight from the Bible themselves.
What the angel says to Mary, Gid says to all of us.
Hail full of grace!!
Each one of us has a life full of grace.
It is not the easy cheap grace that titillates us, or makes us feel tipsy
Sometimes it is deeply sad and confronting,
ALWAYS it is drawing us closer to God
and making us more fully human.

What has God been saying to you this season?
Where are you called to respond more freely to God's giftedness
is God saying, perhaps, ....there is someone you need to forgive, or someone whose forgiveness you need to seek
Does God set before you a lonely person to whom you can be a grace?
Is there a situation that you need to resolve?
Is there a freedom that is summoning you?

Will you take this gift, this offer of freedom and embrace it?

As Mary is confronted by the Angel...Hail full of grace!
and as she responds...saying be it done to me according to your word
so the angel says to her this new promise, The Lord be with you
The gift, the grace, the promise of Christmas
as we open ourselves to the sometimes, often, maybe even usually difficult of grace
we encounter Immanuel- God with us
The gift is here, accept it...full of grace
And May the Lord be with you.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent, 13th December 2009: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

Some people rail against the proliferation of religious self-help groups.
As one who encourages people to be introspective I hear them say
"What are these people looking at? What are they trying to find?...Looking at themselves!! As far as I can see"
They may have a point.
Many of us religious people get sidetracked looking only at ourselves.
The genuine religious pursuit, when we encounter it, must inevitably turn us outwards.
I am struck, for example, by two or three great figures of the last 50 years
who have striven to encourage people to turn inward and learn to pray deeply.
Some such are Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, I think also of Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, and Jean Vanier.
There are many others who have perhaps not caught the public imagination in quite the same way.
All of these people advocate a strong internal, reflective life.
And yet all of them were pushed increasingly outside their cocoon towards an active, converting ministry which many people (myself included) find profoundly attractive.
Nouwen, for example, ( perhaps the most popular of these) gave the final years of his life to looking after a profoundly disabled man on a one to one basis.

Many thought this was a waste of a brilliant intellect and a gifted author.
Nouwen, however, saw it as the climax of his life in God, and you detect in his writing about this young man he cared for, Adam, a much profounder encounter with God and life than any of his other masterly writings were able to convey.

The movement
This is precisely the direction that we are moved in at this point in Advent.
not towards a fanciful introspection
or a sort of namby pamby Christmas card view of life
in which "God's in his heaven and all's right with the world" as Browning penned
Rather we hear Zephaniah
talking about the establishment of a real earthly kingdom in which the marginalised,
the poor, disabled, weak and outcast
will be cared for and will be secure (hardly a view of our present world)
We hear John the Baptist in inviting people to prepare for the coming of a Messiah
telling them that it is not just about a narrow religious practice
rather it is about practical expressions
...We should share, we should be honest, we should not cheat
This is a far cry from the sort of introspection that the self righteous agnostics often quite rightly condemn, which is inward looking and self-obsessed
Likewise in one of the the purple passages we hear Paul saying to us that we need to orientate ourselves in the right way
and he uses the word rejoice to describe that orientation.
It is worth reflecting about the absolute nature of this practice of "rejoicing"
Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication
and the fruit of this is that Lord will become near
and we will discover this profound peace...which passes understanding...
that we long for.

So, misericordiae mea, I have to admit that the angry old agnostics may have got it right.
They are right to rail about the self indulgent, inward looking that passes for a lot of genuine faith today.
It is shallow, and to be despised.
But it is not what the Gospel advocates either!
The true life of faith will indeed seek to pray seriously anbd carefully
But that commitment will orientate towards others in a spirit of compassion and hope.

This week in Advent

  1. Try to find a time to be quiet to God and make a commitment to try to pray better
  2. In that time look not only at how God leads you in, but also where God is drawing you out. What act of service, care of compassion (plenty of opportunity in this week prior to Christmas) is being set before you? Why not try to do it?
  3. In the spirit of Rejoicing! give thanks to God for anything that stands out as an opportunity for life rather than death.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting to know Jesus

Some of the Readings for Sunday 6th December, the Second Sunday of Advent: Malachi 3:1-4; Philippians 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-6
Some things always surprise us,
even if we are well prepared.
Birth is one and death is another
Of the rich themes that this season of Advent gives us
Preparation is one of the key ideas.
No doubt many of us are caught up in some rigorous preparations for Christmas,
for family visits, for present giving.
In Australia we also need to prepare for holidays,
and for those of us who are going away that is soon enough
My Messenger
In each and every life there are people who bring meaning and understanding to our life.
For Christians, Jesus is that person,
but because we also recognise that the life of Christ is shared amongst God's people
I also realise that there are many others who bring meaning and understanding to my life.
Who is "my messenger"? You can probably think of one or two easily.
But I also want to encourage you to think closer to home.
If we think carefully we can see that parents are called to be messengers to their children.
It is part of our role to help shape meaning and understanding.
We are not called to indoctrinate
or to bully children into narrow understandings
rather we are called to encourage them to be open and expansive.
Responsive to God's call to be full and whole people.
So too, we might say, husbands and wives are not just the incidental partners of people
rather they are the messengers of God's love for their spouses.
This is a high view of relationships.
Who is "My messenger"?
and To whom am I called to be a "Messenger"?
We often don't think of it like this.
But it gives a dignity and importance to our relationships
which reminds us that God unfolds for us in our daily lives
so we expect that we will encounter God through the most obvious messengers and we also need to be aware that we are the messengers for some people.
This, perhaps may fill us with foreboding.
At the very least it might cause us to stop and reflect about how well we might do this.
Who is God's messenger for me?

This week.
Who am I the messenger for? And what message do I give?
Advent work
This is Advent work! It may seem harder than it really is but there are three things that we are asked to do:
  1. Who is my messenger? And what is God saying to me through that person?
  2. Who am I a messenger for? And what am I saying to them? Can I at least "give thanks" for those who God has given to me?
  3. Can I, in this Jesus-rich season, also take the opportunity to point Jesus out to those who are looking?
He is there (of course) in the manger. But he walks along with us in our life. Can we help our loved ones to see him and know him better at this holy time?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making the heart bolder

Readings for the First week of Advent beginning Sunday November 29 2009: Jer 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thess 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-38 (the 3 year cycle begins Year C this week, reading through Luke's Gospel as the year goes on) Advent is heavy on themes.
Chief amongst these is preparation for Christmas.
Week by week we mark this passage (slow for children, but astonishingly fast for adults) with the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath.
It rather ticks the weeks off. Though if we pay attention it is not just about getting through the season; we are led carefully into the mystery of the life God has in store for us
the hope God has for you and me
and for the world
and the sense of promise that is caught up in human life.
We 'intuit' a lot of this at Christmas time any way.
With a strong sense of expectation at the great celebration,
we need to also look for something more substantial than a day of fun and feasting.
Advent tries to encourage us to go a little deeper
so try and take time in this season to absorb something of the ethos.
Some pointers
The prophets point us to a sense of political fulfilment.
For the people of Israel it was about peace and stability.
These things do not come without cost and without work,
there is not the suggestion that some how God will come
and wave a magic wand and all will be made well.
There is always a sense that if we are to enjoy peace then God's people are to lead the way
so when we hear Jeremiah say:
The Lord will raise up a righteous branch who shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
We can also ask ourselves what this calls us to do
how do we, the righteous branch, grafted into Christ
work for justice and righteousness here in Australia (or where ever we find ourselves to be).
We are often very passive when it comes to politics
but where do we feel there is more need for justice where can we strive for peace and stability.
This is of course part of the motivation of churches in trying to to help support families and individuals in need
This is about fulfilling our Advent call.
for justice and righteousness
for peace and community
and not just sitting on the sidelines expecting something to happen.
Rocket science?
In a way this is not rocket science.
Jesus reminds us with the exampleof the trees changing
and growing that there is
a continuous cycle of growth, expectation, and fulfillment
and his reminder is that we should
‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
We should take the opportunity that we are given.
It is a recurring theme of his teaching
Be watchful and take the opportunity
So some Advent questions are:
Am I in touch with what God is promising me?
Can I speak to God about what I hope for at this time in my life?
Is there some thing that I am called to do in this season which furthers God's cause of justice, peace and righteousness?
What do I need to do to put that into action, or if I can't easily latch on to this idea can I ask God for some direction. The time is short...but the time is enough

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

King of the Cross

The strongest Christian image is that no doubt that of Christ on the Cross. On this feast of Christ the King one of our key insights is that the crucified Jesus wears a crown, and has a sign on his cross...The King of the Jews

Readings this Sunday are for the feast of the Reign of Christ. sometimes known as Christ the King. The last Sunday of the church's year. John 18:33-37 for Sunday 22nd November 2009

For we Christians there is a certain irony about this notion of kingship
which we ascribe to Jesus.
First it is old-fashioned.
Although we here in Australia do have a monarch. That monarch has only symbolical power.
If she were to choose to try and exercise the power that she allegedly has
the whole political system would explode.
At its very best it reminds us that leadership is not about being the boss
it is about being a servant.
And although Queen Elizabeth II lives an opulent and privileged lifestyle
most of us realise with even a cursory glance
that she is also tyrannised by the idea of monarchy.
In the blatant exposure that the famous are subjected to
we see that being a ruler
has not protected the things she hold most precious,
no doubt her family
from all the woes and troubles of life.
Rather the reverse.
Second, if we turn to the bible and look at the notion of kingship presented there
we see that it was an experiment that was predicted to fail.
And which did!
Samuel, seemingly against his better judgment, is persuaded to anoint Saul king
but he predicts that this change of government will end in disaster.
Though it is not without its high points
Samuel's prophecy is proved tragically true.
The kingship is a cause of pain and heartbreak,
of injustice and sorrow
to the people who God calls to follow him.
So, it is not suprising that the idea of kingship
even though it be Jesus who is our king
is not one without problem.

Christ the King
Indeed the clearest picture we have of Jesus is not enthroned on a throne of glory
but on a cross of wood
above which Pontiius Pilate has placed a sign
INRI - "Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm."
Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.


There is something profoundly confronting about what is being said here

which is easy to overlook or mistake

We can take the sort of 'high moral ground' lesson

Like the one I just made about her majesty the Queen.

Kingship -is -a -form - of -radical -servanthood

(and that is certainly true)

But more is being expected of us than just moralism.

Or we can take the line

that life invites us to die to ourselves

(and this too is true).

But are we also being invited to see that Jesus's way of living life

is about confronting death and not being cowed by it.

Another way of viewing the atonement.

Not that God demands some sort of appeasing sacrifice

so that He will get over his (quite rightly justified) anger.

But rather that the Cross is an act of freedom-making.

How easily we forget this.

We seem to always think that the cross invites us to be crucified again.

We don't hear (maybe don't want to hear) that the enthronement of Christ the King

has set us free so that we don't have to attempt to do the impossible.

We cannot die for our sins, or for anyone else's

and we don't need to.

Everything that need to be done has been done.

Have we thus spotted the characteristic of kingship that is displayed on the throne of Calvary.

The king dies to set his subjects free.

If we are called to live our lives in that spirit

then the question that we ask is not can I make up for the things that I have done wrong

but how can I set other people free?

Does what I do set myself and others free?

How easily we put demands on people which enslave them

Expectations on our families that tyrannise rather than set free

Conditions that we place on our relationships

that in effect say ...I will only love you if you do what I want of you.

This is not true kingship that sets free

It is dictatorship that enslaves.

This week

As we look at our lives:

Do I accept the freedom that Jesus has won for me? Freedom to know forgiveness. and freedom to forgive?

Are things that I can that set people---family, friends, associates---free rather than enslave? Can I give myself so that others might be free? What small thing can I do for someone this week that will give them greater freedom?

The servants of Christ the king, we, are not cruel masters; we are freedom fighters.

Embrace that freedom

Monday, November 16, 2009

A poem for the Celebration of the Feast of Christ the King

Aeterni Christi Munera

The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to tie my child’s sandal
and to encourage her
to leap small buildings

The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to dare to love
but to dare to do it any way

The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to step into the traffic
with a body of one my friends
following in a hearse

The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to accept myself with love
not with indulgence
but with love, and perhaps a little care
Such is the eternal gift of Christ
who doesn’t seem to think of himself
as a king

Stephen Clark
November 2006
The Feast of Christ the King is kepton Sunday 22nd November 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being faithful now

We try to explain God, but in reality part of the fundamental nature of God (and indeed our delight in God) is that God is inexplicable
We can't really 'define' God at all!
Readings for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost (proper 33)...Sunday 15th November 2009 1 Sam 1:4-20; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-11

...If we want to say anything about God
then we want to say that there is never a time when God was not,
there is never a time when God is not,
and there will never be a time God will not be
This is fine language, reassuring and affirming
and the Bible readings this week help us to appreciate it more fully.
The story of Samuel's birth,
how every thing is seen to be in God's care right from the word "go"
so that Samuel is in the right place at the right time
and is able to do what God has set out for him to do
reminds us of a profound characteristic about God.
He has already prepared the place for us.
There is never a time when he was not.
And he draws us into this
From the very wombs into which we were born
to the moments in time and history
that we encounter
there is never a time when God's presence is not felt
and not available to those who yearn for God

Hebrews reminds us, too,
that God is a God of destiny
who has things prepared for those who love God.
There is a goal, an end, a vision.
That vision for us is realised in Christ
who we are called to emulate
and who calls us to be like him.
God calls us to share the future with him.
Our destiny is to be drawn into the fulness of ligfe with God

So whether we look to the past or whether we look to the future
we find God already there.
God's hand already active in our life
even though we maybe don't recognise it.
God's hand already preparing a way for us.
So that we may become what God wants us to be

God of now
But as we embrace this powerful sense of destiny, even predestination
we are pointed by the apocalyptic sense of the gospel
to realise that where God's kingdom is to be focussed for you and for me
is not by looking back to see where we came from.
It is not by looking forward and trying to predict when the end of al things will come.
It is by living out our lifein the present.

The God who rules history and whose mighty care and love for us
is recognised in how we have been brought to this place.
The God who will bring all things to perfection
and who is our ultimate resting place.

Calls us to live in the here and now.

We may be tempted to retreat
We may be tempted to worry about the future

But the invitation of God's Holy Spirit is
Live NOW
Preach the Gospel now
Trust God now

we are to understand not how to do things as they were once done
not to try and do it as it should be done in the future
but to live out our faith NOW
The reality of what we are called to be and do iis to be lived out in the present.
What else do we have!

This week

Where is God calling me to live out love, forgiveness and hope in what I am going to do this week?

Where am I tempted to escape form my responsibilities by looking to the past, or predicting the future?

Is there some way that I can be more genuinely present to those who God calls me to serve?

Is there a way of being Christian that invites me to be faithful now?

How can I do it? Do it!!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Taking our godliness seriously

Ruth and Boaz (the stylistic work of Polish-Iraeli artist Shlomo Katz see here for more)

Reading for Pentecost 23, Sunday 8th November 2009 (Proper 32) Ruth 3:1-5, 4:3-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:19-28; Mark 12:38-44

There is certain profound gentleness about this week's readings.
The story of a woman who finds a genuine life partner. And who against all odds becomes the mother of a great man.
And the gentle reassurance of the woman whose generosity is seen by God; even though she gives little in "real terms" she gives everything she has in hers
and God see this
and we recognise it and so we are heartened.
In the middle of this there is something of a sterner reminder
that God abhors hypocrisy
and that there is about life the mystery of sacrifice
which tests us to the very core of who we are.
The writer to the Hebrews spells out in great detail
that sacrifice is at the core of what our relationship with God is all about.
Getting it straight
Now we need to understand that there is a common misconception about sacrifice
and that is that it is essentially about the taking away of life.
This is not necessarily or particularly so. ]
In fact if we look at the detailed instructions about sacrifice in the Hebrew scriptures ]
we see that a lot of it is not about animal slaughter at all
There are all sorts of sacrifices of grain and produce which do not involve bloodshed.
In fact if we look at the word sacri-fice
we can see that it is about making (the fice part of the word) things
sacred or holy (the sacri part of the word)
Christ died that we might be made holy
In fact the writer of Hebrews uses the idea of Christ entering into God's presence
(going into the most holy place)
so that we too might enter into that presence
Simple reflection
The story of Ruth is an interesting but gentle tale.
It seems a simple love story
yet it needs also to be read in the context of the sort of ethnic tensions
that still exist in those lands we call HOLY today.
Ruth was not a Jew she was what today we would call a Lebanese, or Syrian, perhaps even an Iraqi.
Yet her faithfulness to her Jewish mother-in-law
and her willingness to do what needed to be done
saw a simple little tale become an object lesson in the all accepting love of God.
The Jews were racked by ethnic division then as now.
And yet we read of one the greatest heroes (in backwards order)...his father was Jesse, his grandfather was Obed, who was the child not of a Jew but of a Moabitess.
David was the great grandson of an outcast.
Be careful about what you hear.
There is more than meets the eyes.
Likewise in the letter to the Hebrews
it is the call for us to be holy
and the permission to enter the closest presence of God that we need to hear.
Not just the bloody sacrifice of Christ.
So obsessed are we about guilt and sin that we fail to hear that there is cause for rejoicing.
Christ died, so that we could be close to God.
God is close, not far.
Don't push him away
A simple tale that we all know to be true .. the rich can afford to be generous
But do we also pay attention to the great warning
God is not looking for who gives the most either in real dollar terms or even proportionately.
God looks at the heart and despises hypocrisy.
The hypocrisy that judges others and fails to critique oneself.
THIS WEEK Where is God inviting me to be tolerant?
To step outside my prejudices and to be more accepting?
Where do I hold back from drawing close to God?
Is there a time and place to be quiet and listen?
Is there an opportunity to serve God through care for others?
Where in my life am I most hypocritical? Where can I change and be more honest?