Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What must I do?

During Lent we will be following a local series of lections.If you are looking for the Common Lectionary References try here Revised Common Lectionary

The principle reading for this 29th March, 2009 the 5th Sunday in Lent is Mark 10:17-31, other readings include Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 119:9-16, Hebrews 5:5-14

It seems that there is both a universal and a particular message
in this story of Jesus 's encounter with a rich young man
The particular message for this man
is that there is one area in which he hold himself back
from God.
That he may do all sorts of other things right
but there is still
one thing more
he will not surrender his fondness
for this world's wealth and security
The general message is that for each one of us
is there is always
"one thing more"
it may not be money, or security
(it is very seductive)
but we are not to hold anything back.

What is it that we are reluctant to hand over to God?

The young man, and the disciples have rightly identified
that this is hard.
Let us not be seduced by the then can it happen?
What is beiong said here is that
WE cannot effect our own salvation
It is indeed impossible for us.
We will always be compromised
always seduced by some other thing.
Our faith must be and can only be in God alone.

We can have faith that all this will work out
but we may not quite understand how.
We are not called to understand.
Weare called to have faith!

Thomas Merton, who we have talked about
in recent weeks
reminds us that this is serious business
we are not playing games with God
(so often we do!)
we are trying to bring our real self before God
because it is the only self
that is known by God.
This young man comes to Jesus
he presents not his real self
but what he wants the world to think he is like.
"All these commandments I keep,
I am a good person"
But Jesus sees right through this,
as he does so often with people who seek healing.
"You need forgiveness!" he might say
"You have go to sort out your relationships".
No game playing.
It is not a reward exercise
in which we get a prize for being good
It is that when we are known by God
that our life is fulfilled, right, good.
Anything less is a game.
It is (as Merton says) a false self.
God only knows our real self,
the pursuit and promotion of the false sself
leaves us sad and unsatisfied.
This young man grieves
the disciples are profounbdly shocked.
But the affirmation is this:
This is God's work, and with God nothing is impossible.
Anything else is false,
at best a game, and at worst the road to hell.
Can Easter be for you and me,
this time of presenting the real-self to God?
Of commitment to Christ, that we know is right.
But we may be too frightened to let go
of one (or maybe more than one ) thing?
What 'one thing' is God inviting me to yield to him?
How can I do it?
Pray each day: LORD HELP ME TO BE REAL

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Transfiguring power

During Lent we will be following a local series of lections.If you are looking for the Common Lectionary References try here Revised Common Lectionary

For this Sunday, 22nd March, in the Diocese of Adelaide the focus readings will be Ephesians 2:1-10, Mark 9:2-13 (and Numbers 21:4-9)

[We have already reflected once on the Transfiguration story this year which marks the Sunday before Lent, this week we take opportunity to reflect as we look at it in the context of the flow of Mark's Goispel story]

Our experience of God is both natural and supernatural.
If we were to describe what our experience of God is like
we would no doubt find that we described some pretty mundane stuff.
How at meal times if we stop to give thanks
we can just be profoundly aware of the abundance that God provides for us each day.
How when we spend very precious time with people we care for
that often we are left with a sense of wonder at God's presence
Funerals, weddings, christenings... special but quite normal events
often leave us gob-smacked at their sense of power and God's given presence
in the very ordinariness but nevertheless authentic presence of God.
I am often struck at the Eucharist, which lies deep within our Anglican hearts;
the very Real Presence of the Lord God
as we gather together...two or three meeting in his name..

Equally well, I imagine if we were to have this discussion 
about how we encounter God
many would attest to experiences great and small
of the supernatural
These are important, but we make the mistake of thinking
that it is this supernatural experiences
which are what it is all about
and the natural encounters are secondary.
I rather suspect it is the other way around.
Jesus does not allow his disciples to enshrine the Transfiguration
and thus strip of its meaning.
Rather, Peter and James and John are reminded to keep quiet about it.
What is the purpose of it?
It is perhaps to reinforce and strengthen
what we discern through other spiritual means.
And what is reinforced

It is this....This is my Son the beloved
Listen to him

It is not that Jesus does not speak to us as we go through grief
or that when we talk carefully about forgiveness
and deal with issues of reconciliation, love and acceptance
it is that we are reminded that we need to Listen to him.
In particular Mark reminds us
that we are to listen to Jesus saying:
"If you are to follow, then you must take responsibility for your cross"
There is no cheap grace,
no good news without responsibility.
This is the Natural and the Supernatural teaching
Listen to Jesus
This week
  • As you reflect on the week gone by, what has God been saying to you? How has Jesus spoken with and to you?
  • This is a transfiguring voice. Our world will be different. What needs to change in my life if I am to respond in obedience?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who do You Say that I Am?

During Lent we will be following a local series of lections.If you are looking for the Common Lectionary References try here Revised Common Lectionary
In The Diocese of Adelaide on this 3rd Sunday in Lent, 18th March 2009, we are focussing on Mark 8:27-38

Does it really matter who or what we think Jesus is?
I have been privileged to rediscover Thomas Merton in the last few weeks, and as so often often happens with spiritual writers they speak afresh many years after first being encountered.
One of the things I hear Merton say is that we should take the search for God seriously,but that we should not become doctrinaire or dogmatic.
It is not that these things are unimportant, but that in the end it is our pursuit of God
and not our level of understanding
or depth of learning
that is the point.
This perhaps also points us to a truth about this question
that we encounter in this passage.
"Who do you say that I am?"
There are theologically and historically correct answers
but in the end what is being drawn out here
is more personal than that.
Merton says we should have "an awakened heart"
in order that we may be able to respond to God in love.

Jesus puts this differently by saying
If you recognise in me something that needs to be followed
a life that is authentic to God.
Then you don't just sit on that
You "take up your cross" and follow.

We all know Jesus
or know about him
if we are to follow then we need to act.
So how have you been going in Lent,
have you been able to listen and to act.
Is your heart a little more awake?

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"© Abbey of Gethsemani

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Faith and risk

During Lent we will be following a local series of lections.If you are looking for the Common Lectionary References try here Revised Common Lectionary

The focus reading in Adelaide Diocese this week is Mark 5:21-43

This passage is not without its difficulties

Two accounts of people being healed.
I am interested that our study notes point us to the fact that the woman with "the issue of blood" as the KJV euphemistically put it is highlighted as ritually unclean .

I think this was probably the least of her worries!

In different ways people come to Jesus seeking healing.
Jairus comes as a man of prestige and religious standing
seeking help from someone who is not socially acceptable
The woman, I think,is a destroyed person
whose sense of personal worth is so low
that she cannot even come and front Jesus face on.
Part of the message that Mark is communicating here
is that it doesn't matter who you are
that Jesus is open to all.

More than this because he is inviting people to respond out of faith
we recognise that faith requires risk
Jairus risks his reputation
the woman risks being knocked back again.
What do we risk to be challenged by the Gospel,
or have we so controlled our experienec
that we have taken all the risk and challenge out of it.

Faith will inevitably invite us to move out of the zone
where we control everything
(because we recognise in reality
that nothing is actually ours to control)

Where does God invite me to trust him and him alone?
Do I have the courage to do it?
To risk my reputation/failure or what ever?
Pray to trust God alone