Saturday, January 30, 2010

And the greatest!

St Paul tells us that the greatest gift is love. But it is not an airy fairy sort of love.
It is a love which is immensely practical .
Reading s for January 31st– the gift of love
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Cor 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30

The Christian message is not particularly difficult to understand
it is that God loves us
and that God want us to love each other
We do however seem to be resistant
to the implementation of this simple and straightforward message
There is a warning early on in Jesus’ ministry
that the Gospel message may be heard
but it will not always be received.
Even by those, like our friends, and people who know us
you might think would be the first to take up the precepts.

Growing into maturity
St Paul reminds us that the message of love
whilst being rich and poetic
is also immensely practical
It is about patience, kindness, goodness
working against irritability, resentments, rudeness and arrogance
This may be what some people find difficult to take
It is easy to dismiss an airy-fairy gospel (so heavenly that it is no earthly use)
not so easy to dismiss something that really connects with out day to day life


Take a little time to ask God where you have heard the message but not been
terribly interested in responding, where you have even been resistant to any
sense of the Gospel requiring a response

Is there somewhere where God is
asking me to implement the Gospel practically?? Do I need to be kind, patient,
forgiving, open?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Here's your present!

January 24th- Jesus’s Ministry
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 24, 2010 Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 I Corinthians 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21

There is an inference in Luke 4 (and beyond)
that God might actually have something in store for us
We read how Jesus is revealed not just as a nice chap
but who we are invite us to understand as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
The Lord is planning to use him, because the Lord God
has given him the Holy Spirit
and that Spirit is there for purpose
not just for decoration!
Now is the time
and the Lord is beginning a “new thing”.

We too are given the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminds us (1 Cor 12)
that we are not all called to be bishops, teachers, or apostles
healers or prophets.

What do you think you might be called to be and do
Two clues: Not all are called to be the Bishop, or the organist
or the healer
Second clue: We are all called to be and do something
There is no free lunch or free ride..

This implies so much for us.
Don't do or dumb yourslef down.
Perhaps others see in us what we do not see ourselves.

But not one of us is not gifted.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The season of Epiphany begins on January 6th with the coming of the Wise Men to the Infant Jesus. This story reminds us how the Good News of Jesus is not just for a few select people but for the whole world. The Wise Men are symbolic of the fact that God relates to every human being. Not just our family, not just our nation, not just our church, not just our relations

God is the God of All People

The next two entries are brief summaries of one theme for each of the next two Sundays there will be more extended entries following.

January 24th- Jesus’s Ministry
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 24, 2010 Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 I Corinthians 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21

In Luke 4 we read how Jesus invites us to understand him as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Now is the time that Lord is beginning a “new thing”.
What part do we play in that? How does God call you and me to make a contribution ?
What concrete actions can I put into place to enable God’s peace, healing and wholeness to be available to those I encounter in my life?

January 31st Dealing with rejection

readings for this Sunday: particularly Luke 4
January 31,2010

Jesus is not welcomed with universal acceptance. We often experience rejection from those who are closest to us. We are reminded however that our sense of purpose, like Jesus, comes from the fact that we are called by God “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; “
This tremendous affirmation can also remind us at this time when we think about our National Day, that as a nation we would do well to seek after God

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

So you are the Christ...the great Jesus Christ

Readings this week (SundayJanuary 17 2010 ) are for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-5 Psalm 36:5-10 I Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11

No miracle attracts attention like the turning of water into wine. It is the butt of all the jokes that cynics and non-Christians throw at believers in Jesus.
Be that as it may.
It is also profoundly misunderstood.
We are fixated on getting our water turned into wine
whereas it seems the holy God
might be intent on something else.
A couple of points
Jesus is with us in the ordinary.
Although we think this story is about
a magic trick of changing water into wine
it speaks volumes more
it is not the extraordinary
that is the key
but the ordinary.
Here we have Jesus at an ordinary,
albeit special, event
a marriage
and being bothered about an ordinary,
albeit serious, problem
the wine has run out.
If we hear nothing else in this story
we need to recognise that it speaks to us about how Jesus
lives with us in the ordinary world.
The world of weddings and bad catering!
We often confine God to "religious" areas
but this story, like much of John's Gospel,
reminds us that Jesus does not take us out of the ordinary
but rather transforms it.
One of the keys to enabling this transformation to happen
is to hear the words of Mary to his disciples
Do what ever he tells you!"
So two key principles so far in this story are:
  • allow Jesus into the ordinary
  • and listen to what he is telling you to do and do itt.

This simple advice might stand us in good stead.
It requires simply that we open our ordinary life to God
And that we listen to what he is saying
We are not always good at this.
Do we take time each day, each week
to even think about what we are doing
in our ordinary life, at work, at school
at home
with our family, in our duties,
in our recreation
do we submit that to God
and allow God to add to our experience of it.

NOTE that Jesus does not cane the wedding guests!
He does not say "You are a mob of drunks! and it serves you right."
but rather
I have come that you might have life
and have it more abundantly.
This is one of the great themes of this Gospel.
will be times when God tells us to draw back
that we have got it wrong
and there will equally be times
when we are invited to throw ourselves in with zest and flare.
Dare we do this.

This is not so much a story of wayward drunkenness
or a cheap party trick
but an invitation
to give every aspect of our life to God
and live it
with the abundance
he desires for us.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

But I see Jesus

Today, January 10, 2010, is often called the Baptism of the Lord (First Sunday after the Epiphany)
Readings suggested for today are:
Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 29 Acts 8:14-17 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

If you were to draw a picture of God
what would you draw?
Some of our fellow monotheists (that is believers in one God)...the Jews and the Moslems
find this idea of representing God
to be so slippery an idea
that they forbid it all together.
If you go into a mosque or a synagogue
although you will find elaborate decoration
(Islamic art represents some of the highest forms of decorative art the world has ever seen)
But you will find no human form, or even animal form represented
we call this idolatry.
We are profoundly aware that any attempt to represent God will fall far short.
Any picture we draw will be some how inadequate
and contentious.
It will cause offence because of this.

This is of course true not only of visual art
but also of the written word.
We only have to start talking about our experience of God
to realise that the words fail us.
It is easy and tempting to be simplistic and paint or write about God.
But we should always be aware that our words will fail
our pictures will be inadequate
they are only like a calculus which draws close to the ultimate expression
but they never quite get there.

I don't think this should prevent us from trying
but there is a serious warning here.
The warning is not about what might happen to us if we should somehow stumble across the face of God
The warning is about making God in our own image.
Some current reflections about this include:
We need to recognise that language is only an approximation of our understanding about God
when we call God HE and even FATHER
we are using the approximations of finite language
to describe the infinite.
God is not a man, nor even a superman!
God is not male or female at all.
We use our limited language
to try and express what we cannot fully understand.
Some of us think this doesn't matter,
but others of us find this deeply alienating.
We do need to respect other people
and not just brush their reservations aside.
What this reminds us of is that one of the attitudes that we have to adopt towards God
is one of openness.
recognising that we are limited and God is infinite.
This should warn us against being dogmatic about what God is like
and challenge us rather to always be open to the challenge that God presents to you and me

These are some more intellectual reflections for us in this Epiphany season
when we focus on how God is made known to us.
But we need also to be in touch with the emotional and spiritual understandings,
which is perhaps more where you and I are situated
in the realm of EXPERIENCE.

The same warnings apply;
we need to be critical of our experience
and recognise that ours is not the only experience.
Nor do we always understand it properly.
When, for example, we are sad when someone dies
we could suggest that that is because "God has let us down"
or even that "God doesn't work"
if we are more open and positive we might say "We do not understand God's will".

You don't have to think very hard to realise that all of these statements are not complete.
They do express something, but they are attempting to express the unknowable.
St Paul reminds us in that famous we only see through a glass dimly,
but then we shall see face to face, with understanding

So again we need to be cautious to not jump too quickly
and say God is like this or God is like that.
We want it to be simple, but it is not.
We want, all the time to be able to define God.
But in so doing all we succeed in doing is limiting our understanding.

Now we see only dimly.
What is God inviting us to understand:
By being born as a baby?
By dying as a man?
By being really present in this sacrament?
By sometimes seeming totally absent?
By saying that we are made in God's image-male and female?

As we look for understanding
What does God also invite us to do and be in our lives?
These are the Epiphany questions,
we get the answers wrong if we think they are easy.

We become idolaters, when we mistake the wrong answers for the truth.
Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will open our hearts to see and believe
the truth of God
and to live with the courage that we do not and cannot know everything

Friday, January 01, 2010

Singing the gospel overture

We often don't have a 2nd Sunday after Christmas but this year on January 3rd 2009 we do, readings are from Sirach 24:1-12, Ephesians 1. and John 1.
In structured writing what happens in the opening chapters
is an important statement of intent.
Just as in a musical the composer
makes an opening statement in the overture
which draws the audience in.
So John gives us an overture to his gospel
"In the beginning was the Word" he strikes up
he reminds us in what is really
a great trumpet blast
that the presence of Christ in the world
has changed the very way
that the universe operates.
From the very beginning of time
God has been working his will in the world
and the fullness of this has been revealed
in human form.
John says in the climactic verse:
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us
this is not a very common expression
The Word made flesh!
What John is saying is not entirely expressible in language.
It is that the idea of God, the meaning of God,
the intention of God, the theory of God
the wisdom of God
...however we might want to express it
is shown to us in human form
in the person of Christ.

A number of powerful things
This says a number of powerful things
It says that there is no Christianity without Christ
We are not a theory
we are about God being involved with the world.
There are ideas of God that are rather like the fact
that though there might be a God
God is not involved with us.
Sort of like the watchmaker who has wound it up
and left it to run on its own.
The first things the incarnation says to us
is that the focus is on Jesus
and that Jesus is about God being vitally involved with the human race.

What we might then observe is that this is not exclusive
it is for all who believe.
It may be that you feel you don't believe or understand this very well at all.
That is not really the point
none of us will ever fully understand
what is, after all, the mystery of God.
We are not so much called to fathom it
as to trust God.
Maybe our prayer should be not
"Help me to understand the theology of God"
but " Lord I believe, or want to believe
help me to believe in the midst of my unbelief"

What then John tells us is that,
committed to this promise of God,
focussed on Jesus
then God can open up our lives and fill us with abundant grace.

The everlasting, and abundant life that is promised
is not exclusive
nor is it dependent on how well we believe.
It is rather about the fact that we trust in God.

Our prayer, perhaps our new year's prayer
can be
Lord in the midst of so much doubt and cynicism
May I believe
In Jesus Christ
who tells me everything I want and need to know.
And may I be open to the mystery of God's grace.