Friday, April 23, 2010

On not being impotent

The readings for this week are those for 25th April 2010 the 4th Sunday in Easter. Acts 9:36-43 • Psalm 23 • Revelation 7:9-17 • John 10:22—30
Today is also observed as
Commemoration of ANZAC, and it can be St Mark’s Day.

The resurrection stories tease out for Christians what it means to live life in the light of the resurrection.
What does it mean to see life through the lenses of the resurrection?
What they discovered is that things were rather different.

The promises of Jesus seemed to be becoming true.
What are these promises?
Well, there are many. Jesus promised, for example , to be with his disciples always.
What a mind blowing thought!
Jesus is with us all the time. This might mean that any situation we find ourselves in. Jesus is already there.
Whether it be sickness, difficulty, spiritual difficulty.
Or let’s face it when we rejoice at a new birth, walk into a new job, meet an old friend. Walk into Coromandel Primary School to spend an hour mentoring one of our children. Jesus is with us.
We need not fear, nor feel alone. We need not fear as though we do not have capacity to cope.
Because the disciples also discovered that Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit to equip the disciples to do what needed to be done was also true. They could speak the Gospel and people would understand, they could pray and prayers were answered.
What do you believe Jesus has equipped you to do?’
Part of our problem is that we don’t seem to think that we can or need to do anything.
But we see in the lovely story in Acts 9:36-43 where Peter heals through prayer a young girl who is sick, perhaps dead, that the disciples discover another promise of Jesus.
You will do what I have done and greater
Do we have the courage to kneel down and trust that promise as Peter did?
New Learning
Where might Jesus be inviting you to live in the light of the promise?
To put aside the sense of living out of impotence and shallow convention, and rather to live out of the spirit of resurrexion

The ovine tendency

Post for Sunday 25th April 2010 John 10:22-30

John 10:22-30

10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,10:23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."
10:25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;
10:26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
10:29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand.10:30 The Father and I are one."
No image is fonder to traditional Christians than that of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Yet it is a foreign image which bears little relevance to most of us urban city dwellers. Even in this country (Australia) the intimacy of the shepherd caring for a small flock of not the way we look after sheep. They are in hundreds and thousands, largely left to their own devices until the time comes for them to be killed or shorn. So we need to look beyond the image and translate it to our modern times. A couple of pointers
being a sheep is about belonging It's only as we belong to Christ that we understand and believe
  • This would suggest that the Good News is about the decision we make to be Christ's
  • And not so much about intellectual knowledge.

    As important as doctrine and learning are, life in Christ is actually about being in touch with the person of the Risen Christ

  • How might we be in touch?

    We need to maintain a deep commitment to personal and regular prayer. We will meet Jesus in so far as we encounter him in the early morning, and in the evening, this is a figurative way of looking at prayer of course. but we need to do it

    We will meet Jesus in the shared life of the Christian community. There are no solitary Christians...we are the Body of Christ, members of one another.

    in so far as we struggle with one another (difficult as we are) we are exploring the depth of relationship in Christ and coming to know Jesus in depth

  • The spirit of obedience

    Jesus could not be blunter..We hear his voice, and we do what he tells us. What is Christ saying to me in my life? Do I respond by doing what he tells me to do?

    What does the life of the Body of Christ say to me about what Jesus invites me to be and do? Do I do it?

  • Take some time to reflect on what I hear Jesus saying, through my prayer, through my life, through experience of community
  • What 2 or 3 things do I seem to hear Jesus saying to me about how to faithfully follow
  • What resistance do I have to obedience? What do I need to do about it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey Lads.

This Sunday, 18th April 2010l is the Third of Easter and the readings are Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

This chapter of John's Gospel is a question of some debate, many commentators think it is not part of the original and is drawn from Luke's account of the big haul of fish.
I like the nature of the story where Jesus calls to his friends in a personable way "Hey Lads! So you haven't caught any fish"

There is in this passage a mixture of the historical and the symbolical
this is not to denigrate either of these important aspect of literary style.
Quite to the contrary, they rather work together
to give us a more complete picture.
John's gospel always seems to offer a richness
which is worth pondering on as there is usually more there than meets the eye.

There are two simple things immediately apparent
The first is (as noted in my earlier commentary)
that John is providing the logical development and conclusion
to the story of Peter's betrayal.
Peter, who has betrayed Jesus
not once but three times
is given the opportunity to make it up
....not once but three times.
At the very least, this shows the way God deals with us
not just matter of factly
but with care and consideration
attending to the depth of the restoration
that is needed
and not just going through the motions, however thorough.

There is also an abundance of material flowing out of John's pen (or quill I suppose)
which is providing the closure of his treatise on the gift of eternal life.

We see being concluded in these final chapters of John
what is posited in the opening chapters
that the Word made flesh
is drawing people
in their human lives into the relationship with God
we called abundant and eternal life.

The mystical fish that are caught...153...
sometimes taken to be all the nations of the world
a sign of the universality of this eternal life
that is being offered:
God so loves the world
not just a select handful of initiates
or one tiny little nation

we sometimes miss some of this important symbolism.

But if we bring the two together
we recognise that nor is it just about understanding the mystery of faith
it is struggling with how this is worked out in our lives.
It is not secret mystical knowledge - Gnosis
It is the fleshliness of our lives
it's the emotional trauma we get into
because of failure, weakness, betrayal

This is the world in which the Divine Word has been made flesh.

The very ground in which God's salvation will be worked out
is not mysticism
it is life.
Not that we should treat this lightly
or even assume that we understand it terribly well.
We often muck it up.
Or run away from it.
We need to plummet its depths,
with Jesus for sure
and encounter the woundedness of the risen Christ
as we also open our own woundedness up to him..

This week
Where is God inviting me to be deeper?
Where do I need to allow Christ to meet me and restore my life?
Can I pray for courage to attend to the most difficult depths and to allow Jesus to bring eternal life to me there?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Speaking through the wall

The reading for today are the continuation of the Easter narratives:Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31

This Sunday is the Second in Easter, April 11th 2010 sometimes called Low Sunday

We are at the business end of the Gospel

because, in the end, the resurrection is what it is all about.

In this passage from John 20:19-31 that we read today

we encounter a lot of important ideas.

So it is worth taking time this week to go through the whole passage.

Today I am only going to look at the beginning:

Jesus says Peace. Jesus says I send you with this peace.

Jesus says I equip you to do this by giving you the Holy Spirit

And, this peace which you are to share through the Holy Spirit is about


The resurrected Jesus brings peace.

This peace that we are talking about is the peace -shalom-that permeates the First Covenants

It is not only about the absence of war

It is about wholeness of life.

This is the life God wants us to have...abundant life, eternal life.

God wants a life for you and me

that is better than what we want for ourselves.

If you wonder what you are supposed to do with this

then this is The Good News that we are to share with others.

Key to this is the promise that forgiveness

can be a reality:

Forgiveness by God of those things we have done wrong

The capacity to forgive other people

and the openness to seeking the forgiveness of those who we have hurt.

Lest we think this is a tall order

Jesus also tells do not have to do this in your own strength

but Receive the Holy Spirit of God to let you do this.

Today, as you worship and pray

Pray particularly for God's Holy Spirit

to enable you to receive

abundant life

to exercise forgiveness

to forgive

and to seek forgiveness.

Peace be with you

Looking for Jesus

The reading for today the Second Sunday of Easter, 11th April 2010, are the continuation of the Easter narratives:Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31

This Sunday is the Second in Easter, April 15th 2oo7 sometimes called Low Sunday

A spiritual companion once advised me when talking of "speaking to Christ"

that if I was unsure about the process

then I should ask Christ to show me the wounds in his hands.

It seems a macabre thing to do, but it is I think authentic

We should beware the sort of Christianity that avoids the wounds of Christ.

We should not make the mistake of thinking, on the other extreme,

that we should inflict suffering in order to encounter Jesus,

But we have here an insight about resurrection faith that is quite keen.

It will be in pain and anguish

that we come to understand

that Christ holds us in place.

It will be at death's door

that the mystery of life eternal

is most keenly felt.

It will be when we feel uncertain

unsure, and even faithless

rather than when we are confident, strong

and full of spiritual energy

That we hear Jesus call us by name.

This sort of experience is so widely documented

in the lives of faithful people

that we do well to note that it was right there at the beginning

with the apostles

In our life

Look for the wounds

and there you you will find the Christ

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Do you want a meaningful relationship?

The Cross takes us to the point where we have to let go!
What ever view we have about God
is likely to be tainted, partial, self serving and inadequate
The Cross takes us to the point where we have to let go of that.
What ever comfortable view of God we have developed
-it may be
that if we are good then God will do what we want
the Cross puts an end to that shallow conception
-it may be
that if we go to Church, say the right prayers then we will be in God’s good books
the Cross shows us that even religion will not protect us

-It may be that we think if we retreat to the bosom of our family
then we will be able to protect
and be protected
the important paintings and sculptures of Mary and the dead Jesus remind us that this is not true.
The only truth is that weare not being asked to do anything
We are not constructing any scheme
but rather God is not giving us a plan, a scheme, a solution
but a relationship.
This relationship is with a person who has died
What we are invited to discover
is that if we dare to risk this crazy relationship
that this dead person
will be experienced as alive.

As you are invited in a few moments
to say I turn to Christ
Do you want to encounter the living God?
This is what God is offering.
We do what we can to make this Jesus relationship work
We listen,-we talk-we listen a bit more
we visit, we spend time, we trust our friend
even sometimes when it is hard
but we stick with our friend

The first disciples discovered
that out of the haze
this Jesus who died
was alive
and is always with us
(we are not always with him)

What ever else we make of it,
it is a relationship not a scheme
or a system
that is being offered
as you say
I turn to Christ
Be sure that this is what is on offer
And commit yourself,
with all your heart
to that.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Making a difference....Easter Day

I am glad that we are spared in the Southern hemisphere the incessant link of Easter with Spring.
Although almost everything we do symbolically and liturgically
is redolent of the Northern and Western hemsipheres
here in the south, it is dry, dusty and dying
as autumn sets in.
So we do not have to grapple too much with the idea that
Easter is just a sort of universal principle
of death and rebirth
like the bulbs that are planted
and come back to life
or the lambs which skip in the fields
and the chickens that hatch on the supermarket shelves!!

What then is Easter for us?

It is caught up, I suggest with the rumour of Easter
that spreads amongst the early disciples
that things can be made new
that things will change
that life will be different.
That difference is spelled out
in the focus on baptism
that is so much for us the focus of Easter.
In saying
I turn to Christ
whether as a baptismal candidate
or renewing our promises
we are seeking a radical re-identification
of our lives with something that is important.
We don't just want life to be the same
we want it to change.
That is not to say that we are called to flit around from pillar to post
never settling at anything or anywhere,
but rather that there are aspects of our lives
which need to change.

The baptismal vows invite us to repent of sin
who of us in our right minds would not do this
I don't want to be a thief, a liar, a cheat, an adulterer.
Easter says, then don't.
Live differently.
I am invited to reject selfishness
a hard ask in today's world.
We all know that
piles of stuff, and an endless supply of everything
will not give us what we want.
That "looking after number one: is a vain and empty philosophy
Strangely as we look at families bringing babies to be baptised
we see a radical challenge to selfishness
right in the most obvious place.
People commit themselves to live with each other
not selfishly
but giving their lives to each other,
parents to children, wives and husbands to each other.
We reject this mystery of the unselfish life at our peril.
We are understanding on a global scale
that we need to live cooperatively
with each other, with our environment
if we do not live unselfishly, then we will not live at all

And finally I renounce evil that pattern of life
which will say principally
that other people are for my use and benefit.
This is is both a "micro" pattern and a "macro" pattern.

Micro evil exists, for example, when I think that I can use other people
for my own fulfilment.
This is a warped view of relationships.
It is the parent who enslaves their child through guilt
It is the boss who exploits the worker.
It is the friend who use their friendship to manipulate their friend
rather than to set free.
This is the level at which most of us seem to choose to operate most of the time.

There are bigger patterns.
Where wealthy countries (like our own)
exploit the resources of the world disproportionately
where we abuse our power so that we get wealthier
whilst the poor get poorer.
There are iniquities like prostitution, pornography and the drug trade
which treat people liek commodities.
Easter says there is a possibility to say NO!
I reject evil

If we appreciate nothing else at Easter
we are called to appreciate that
the bold words
I turn to Christ
are words of change and words of action.
They are the possibility that things will be different
and end to sin, selfishness and evil.
We make an individual commitment to this.

Of course there is a sense in which this will all go pear-shaped.
That is not the point.
because we can come back and make this commitment
again and again if necessary.
It is a freedom to understand that things can and will be different.
I am part of that.
And so so are you.

Do you turn to Christ?

Thursday, April 01, 2010's Friday

The Crucifixion of Jesus

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’
And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

This story is so powerful, and yet ordinary.

Although we make a big thing about it. People die every day.

I am struck as I write about it that this is the sort of thing that I say about the Christmas story. Waving my hand in the general direction of the Flinders Medical Centre, we forget that young girls give birth all the time.
People also die every day.
Most do not die in the sort of excruciating way that Jesus died. Some do, as victims of torture. But most go unnoticed.
Exccpt by a few family and others who hope against hope that things won't turn out so bad.
Often even those who do not die violently
Do not go easily
A few do
But most of us don't want to do that.

We note some things then that this death tells us about all deaths
Our own included.

death is a barren and difficult place.. even the sound Golgotha
tells us that it is not easy to be at this point
We need to be sensitive to that for ourselves and others.
We are misunderstood, even at death's point
A sign is put over his head Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews
He neither assent to this, nor agrees with it.
We are misunderstood even at the point of death
this often happens when we talk to each other over a cup of coffee
about our father or sister, and we hear stories from sources other than ourselves
that tell us that different people have differing experiences of the dead one.
Our knowledge of each other is partial.
We should be slow to judge and generous to forgive

Life goes on, Christ robe has to be disposed of
this needs to be done in the right way
we need to be careful to do it properly.
We are so often hurried, and uncaring
and need to be carefull(sic)...Full of Care
for ourselves and for each other.

There are few people who are there at the end
who really know
we need to be careful of each other
our sadnesses, our sense of powerlessness
and to recognise that it is part of our humanity
to be there for the dying
and to to be there for each other.

As we watch our bodily urges get stripped away
we are reminded that they need to be attended to.
Praise God for the modern Hospice Movement
which encourages us to attend properly to the comfort and needs of the dying

Finally there is a real sense
that we die when we are ready.
Jesus was not so much killed
as he allowed himself to die when he was ready.

There is a sense about the freedom which God gives us
which is never taken away.

death is an invitation to enter into life.
With all its difficulty.
Trying to name things correctly,
to be honest and bold.
And in the end to decide to submit
to what will be
our last act.