Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The authority of Jesus

The readings for Sunday February 1 2009: Epiphany 4 - Deuteronomy 18:15-20; PSALM 111; 1 COR 8:1-13; MARK 1:21-28

In this first chapter of Mark we are gradually brought into the process of understanding who Jesus is.
We have seen how individual disciples
are called to follow him
and now we have declared about him
that he has Authority.
The authority is no less than that of the authority of God.
This is why he is so important
he puts us into touch with the reality of God.
If we want to know God’s will,
if we want to understand God
then we look to Jesus.

The problem of authority is not without issue
Moses tells the people how to discern whether a person speaking in God’s name is an authentic prophet:

His principle is “If prophecy comes true then it is vindicated!”
This may raise more questions than it answers
Paul also tells people that they need to exercise discernment about what they believe and practice
While there are no longer “rules” not everything is necessarily helpful.
He tells people to be sensitive to other people’s weaknesses.

What Mark’s statement is about this is...that we have a new seat of authority
Jesus….the signs and wonders that he does, and principally his resurrection, validate his authority.

How then can we be in touch with Jesus?
It is simple and it is hard!
Simple because it is the straightforward job of just doing it: through, prayer, scripture, worship, talking with Jesus. By serving Jesus in others.
It is simple basic Christian stuff

But hard because we are also a bit deceptive about this sort of stuff
and it requires
honesty, openness and integrity
It is interesting to note that this does not always go down well.
And we ourselves can be slow to respond
or even just plain wilful.
This week:
  • What is Jesus saying to me about my life?
  • How can I better respond?
  • Can I pray deliberately each day to pay attention to God’s will for my life and to respond to that

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coming back to God

Reading for Sunday 25th January 2009 are for the 3rd Sunday in Epiphany and can be taken from: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; and Mark 1:14-20

Unfortunately most of us know only one thing about the prophet Jonah
and that is that he was swallowed by a big fish!
It is of course a compelling story, but what is it actually about.
Most of us don’t know that Jonah was actually running away from God
nor that God had asked him to go to the roughest toughest place in the world and tell the people to repent
(no wonder he ran away)

When he finally yields to God’s will
he gets annoyed with God
because God accepts the repentance of the Ninevehites
and doesn’t just blast them out of the water!
This repentance is a call to change our ways
As we continue to focus on the call of Jesus
are we like Jonah and running hell for leather in the other direction?
and/or are we also angry that some people seem to get closer to God than we do? Particularly angry that so often it seems they are the ones who don’t deserve it.

The Call to Repent is genuine
This call that we hear to get serious is a genuine one
God is not playing games with us
but are WE playing games with God
The time is short
people need to be healed
Sinners need forgiveness
It is not a call to wait until it is convenient
It is a call to act now.
So we see:
these disciples drop everything and act
those who, like Jonah, run away are pursued by a devouring spirit. The sources of discomfort and disease may well be our own wilfulness

Where am I being invited to act, and to act now?
Where am I running scared?
Where am I resentful of God’s grace to others?

The call to repent is a genuine one
It is not only to other people via my mouth (it may be)
It is also to you
And yes, the time is short
...the time to act is now….

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hearing the call of God

Readings for Sunday January 18, 2008...The 2nd Sunday after Epiphany include I Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20), Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18;I Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
I find the story of Nathanael (or Bartholomew as he seems to be known elsewhere) in the first chapter of John to be strangely intriguing.
John is still setting up for us the thrust of his gospel
and thus having declared that this is the Word made Flesh, the Lamb of God, the Messiah
people are drawn into the circle of faith
Simon Peter and Andrew respond readily and quickly, Philip is not far behind
but not so easily convinced...his natural instinct is to be dismissive...he has perhaps (like us)
heard all this before.
Philip says to him...Why don’t you just come and check it out!
Because Nathanael does decide to adopt this open
he is able to hear Jesus.
Jesus speaks to him in a fairly low key sort of way….here is someone who calls a spade a spade….
and Nathanael, I think, likes being taken seriously
and finds this Jesus engaging,
and so follows.
A lesson for us
the two dimensions that I think we can well pay attention to are:
not taking the call of God for granted or just hoping it might go away (this is echoed in the Samuel story)
this is often the way we deal with our religious conviction
...let’s not take it terribly seriously…..
I suspect that this is the cause of great spiritual weakness in the church today
Nathanael’s stance (and indeed Samuel’s) is
give God the opportunity
and God will do what is necessary
....but we need to give God the opportunity.....

The second thing that we can note is that Philip is a source of encouragement to Nathanael (as Eli is to Samuel)
Without that comment...Come and See... or Go back and listen again...
would Nathanael or Samuel have taken the final step

Is there someone who we have to support in a similar way?
Can we ask God to show us that this week, and also to give us the faith and the courage to be quietly and gently supportive?

  • Are we prepared to look again at what God is seeking of us?
  • is there someone I need to encourage?
The Illustration is Open Voyage by Michel Rauscher

Sunday, January 04, 2009

And this is my beloved

Readings for Sunday January 11, 2008...The Sunday after Epiphany include Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
In these weeks after the feast of the Epiphany (January 6th...or Twelfth Night) we focus on how Christ is made known beyond the bounds of the inner circle of God's revelation.
It begins on January 6th when the Christmas story is expanded by the arrival of the Wise Men
this is to show us ('epiphany' means to manifest or to show forth)
that this Christ, is not just for the narrow concerns, of a little group of people
in a strip of Mediterranean Land which is presnetly much-troubled
but for the whole world.
The Wise Men are presented in Matthew as the fulfillment of prophecy
that shows God will be made known through this Messiah
to all peoples (see the readings Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14)
As the story moves on we see one of the incidents in which the identity of Jesus is declared
...the event is his baptism by John, which Mark offers as the beginning of the Good News..
What is interesting to us is what this baptism confers
It is an understanding that as God speaks into the situation
this is what he says
"You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased"
These words will be spoken again at the Transfiguration
when the disciples recognise Jesus
for who he really is.
And because the climax of Mark's Gospel is the Crucifixion
we are invited to see
that these are words that are spoken at that time, this time by the centurion who says for all to hear
"Truly this man was God's Son"
Because in Mark's Gospel we are being invited to share
in this journey
These are words that we might see
are being spoken to us
"This is my Son, the Beloved"
"You are my daughter, and I love you"
I find these words deeply assuring
and perhaps we need to hear God saying this to you and me
often and deeply during this Epiphany season.
--You are my son, and you are my daughter--
and I love you!
This is not the message of idle comfort,
rather it will lead us, like Jesus,
to the Cross.
Our faith tells us
that the Cross, though it looks like death,
is the way to fullness of life.

  • Allow God to assure you of his love for you, and to confute everything that says anything less than ...I love you, and I am well pleased
  • Pray for Grace to respond to that love, and to open yourself to the power fo the Holy Spirit
  • Pray for Courage to embrace the Cross

The icon of the Baptism of Jesus in this post is by Chinese artist He Qi