Monday, May 24, 2010

Holy, Holy Holy

Some reflections for Trinity Sunday May 30th 2010

John 16:12-15

16:12 Jesus said to his disciples "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

It is sometimes said that according to Genesis "God created man in his own image and then humanity duly repaid the compliment by making God in our image"
There is more than a grain of truth in this!

Archbishop William Temple suggested that we need a doctrine of the Holy Trinity-that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit-
because otherwise our doctrine of God would be too small.
At its very crudest our God is idolatrously small!
We create an image, an idea or a program and call it God.
But that "image" can be an idea, or a philosophy
or a conception (eg....that God is simply a powerful example of a superman)
and is deceptively simplistic.
Even our ideas of Jesus can get fundamentally distorted.
We often seem to talk as if Jesus is only a pretend human
that he just seems human, but is really God disguised.
Or that he is pretend God,
he is really just a man who gets as close to being godly as you can.
Both of these ideas are false,
they do not agree with what Jesus says about himself
or with what the Scriptures say.

We need to take care that we are not just fitting God into our own little box
and making God what we want God to be
rather than seeking to encounter God as God really is.

There would seem to be little point in doing anything less.

This week reflect on:
What do I think of God? What is my experience of God? Do the two match up?
In what ways is my idea of God too small?
Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding of God

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Describing the un (in?)describable!

The Feast of Pentecost May 23rd 2010

John 14:8-17, (25-27)

14:8 Philip said to Jesus "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."

14:9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

14:25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you.

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

We are not very good at accurately stating the way Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other
And it is fraught with doctrinal minefields.
But we can note a couple of things.
First it is about
Although it would be innacurate to say that God is only Father, Son and/or Holy Spirit
These words do highlight that we use the language of relating to talk about God, and not just the language of function.
If we are to understand what God is like, then he is like a Father, he is like a Son.
This language is rich and powerful and meets us more than half way in understanding.
But it is not the only language.
We also use the word Spirit...when we talk about the Spirit of a relationship
or understanding the Spirit of an idea, person or thing;
this also meets us half way.
It is about what is at the core.
What is important, what is essential.

We could (and should) also note that God is not
just these things.
There is, for example, and in particular a whole stream of feminine imagery
Mother, Wisdom, Birthgiver
which is used in the Bible
to help us understand what God is like.
These are also relational words.

Our God is a God who relates.

Perhaps we are best helped to understand this by the title that is sometimes given
to God's Holy Spirit in the New Testament:
where the Spirit is referred to as
The Spirit of Jesus.

We will encounter this Spirit
  • in the person of Jesus himself
  • as we exercise the gifts that God gives us
  • as we encounter Christ in the community of the Body of Christ.
The Spirit enables us to discern Christ in the lives of others,
Jesus himself points out that when we see in the poor and weak
those who should be served we are encountering Christ himself.

Like a relationship this is not just a static one-off experience
but rather a growing emerging encounter.

The Spirit draws us into this relationship
in order that we may encounter the risen Christ
in our lives
in others
in the world and in the Church

This week

  • Where do I see Christ in my life today?

  • What is the Spirit inviting me to understand about God through the relationships in which I see Christ?
  • Pray for renewal in my life through these dynamic encounters with God.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Being one

I will not be preaching this Sunday, which is the Sunday after the Ascension as we will be having a speaker, Royce Thompson from Bush Church Aid (here) This is a reflection from the last cycle of year CJohn 17:20-26

17:20 "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

17:21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

17:24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

17:25 "Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.

17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." I sometimes think John 17 goes round and round in circles and states, restates and then does it again the simple idea.
May my disciples be one with me, as I am one with you, that they too may be one with you.
We have equivalent phrases in modern parlance we talk about being 'together' or 'being made whole' or about 'holistic healing', 'self realisation', or in more recent times 'finding your voice' This important chapter speaks thus of the high destiny that each human being has. It is to find that we are indeed created in the image of God and that that image is deep within each one of us. It is not that we are God. It is rather that we are like God and that our Godliness will shine through if we let it. Jesus is ever praying for us that we may be open to this. The Holy Spirit is ever working so that our Godliness will be realised. We sell ourselves short if we understand anything less than God understands as being our destiny and self relisation. But what does it mean? This Easter season shows us that this 'togetherness', this 'unity' this 'ultimate destiny' is realised only in so far as we live our lives as Christ lives. The key is that we LIVE not that we are given a perfect box which we open and reveal it. As we look to Jesus we understand that he is not principally a doctrinal revelation That is he is not a text book. He is a life lived. The invitation is not to understand the text so that when we are examined on it we can get 100% The invitation is to put into practice in our own lives what we see being enfleshed in the life of Christ. It will be lived at the service of others a life of love and forgiveness of openness to suffering and not avoiding the darkness which is death. An invitation Where is Christ drawing me to be more like him? Where do I experience "togetherness" in my life, in the world? What might God be seeking me to be and do in order to consolidate that?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ascension Day

This is a reflection from a couple of years ago about the Ascension

You might like to read another reflection on
Resurrection and Ascension here by Bishop Tom Wright of Durham in which he speaks powerfully of the importance of the Ascension for the modern Christian

It isn't easy to understand how hard it is for a preacher to sit and listen to someone else preach.
Some times it's a delight
other times it is painful
(like last Sunday when I sat and heard a well-meaning priest
talk what seemed to me unending drivel
I kept asking myself ...
"But what difference does this make to anything?")
Now I struggle to be temperate
and humble...
Yes, in the face of the mysteries of God
you have to be be temperate and humble.
I am so often not good at either of these of things

That priest was talking about the Ascension of Jesus
and he seemed to make sense of it
for himself....
but I struggled to make contact.
I don't think I was just in a bad mood.
Or being more arrogant than usual.
I had even alerted myself to the possibility
that it would be particularly difficult today.

It is partly the nature of the Ascension.
We just don't seem to get it.
So in the face of a story which talks about holy Jesus
being taken up on a cloud into heaven
we begin to make stuff up!
In wanting to believe everything the Scripture might be saying
we twist and we turn
in order to fit the text into our distorted view of God's reality.

Bishop Tom Wright makes the point that the one thing the Ascension story is not saying
is that Jesus is trail-blazing
and inviting us to find our own lift into heaven.
He notes that if we read the Acts of the Apostles
we struggle to find a view of the Christian life
which says:
If you keep on plugging at it then you will finally get your heavenly reward
he says, rather, that the early Church discovered
that Jesus was showing the world that
the kingdom of heaven was in our midst
it is not something that is to be discovered
it is
here and now.
The New Testament community rather than being devastated
by the death of Jesus
discovered that far from Jesus being taken away from them
his life, his love, his community
was found in a deeper and profounder way.

Wright's message?
Let's not replace the vibrancy of the Spirit-filled New Testament Church
with the wishful thinking that if we hang on for long-enough
then everything will be fulfilled.
It IS here and now.

Archbishop Rowan Williams says:

… the idea of ‘the Christian religion’ is a late and weak formulation: what first exists is the Assembly, to give the literal meaning of the Greek word for ‘Church’, as a fresh configuring of the whole of experienced reality – a new set of human relations, a new horizon for what human beings are capable of, a new understanding of the material world and its capacities. The Christian involved in the celebration of the Eucharist is not affirming a set of propositions with the help of an audio-visual programme, but inhabiting, in speech and action, a drama which purports to ‘re-locate’ him or her in the space occupied by Jesus Christ in his eternal relationship with the Father, a relocation which is enabled by his sacrificial death and his rising from the grave and ascension into heaven.
Rowan Williams

The Spiritual and the Religious: Is the Territory Changing?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Powering up

What to do when you actually have to do it by yourself! When there is no one standing over your shoulder telling you what to do next.

We might call this the Masterchef challenge!

The readings for this week are those for 9th May 2010 the 6th Sunday in Easter. Acts 16:9-15, Ps 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29

What the early Christians had to learn was how to be Christian, how to be Christ indeed, when Christ was no longer with them.

Jesus’s promise to be with his disciples always was fulfilled through another promise. That of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Spirit who will teach us how to know God’s life active and present in our own lives.

We might note:

Intuition: part of our spiritual training is to learn to trust the leadings of the Spirit. When we feel deep within the promptings, perhaps to contact somebody, to be silent, or to speak, to go somewhere.

Can we pray for discernment and trust to be guided?

The early apostles seem to develop this. Paul finds he is able to trust his intuition about dreams, about plans, about people.

The Positive Movements of the Spirit

What do you make day by day of how God’s Spirit has dealt with you? And can we trust that?

If we think back over the last day or so and ask: For what am I most grateful, we begin to detect those places where we have been on the same side as God! Or if we ask Where am I most alive? This is the resurrection question, of course, because where we are ‘alive’ there Christ is!

Is it when we take time to be with someone, or when we prepare ourselves properly, or in a particular place….

Gradually we build up a profile of how we work well with God and how God works well with us.

If we flip the coin, perhaps asking “where do I experience death, or where do I feel awful?” we also find those dark places where we have chased God away.

What we see in the Acts of the Apostles is how the disciples learn to trust these discernments of the Spirit.

The fulfillment of the promise of Jesus, that he would not leave us friendless is in the person of the Spirit, who we have to learn to trust.

Developing our intuition,. And interpreting our experience!

New Learning

This week can we pray each day for the Holy Spirit to be close to us and to lead us. This is a surprisingly effective prayer!

Can we take a little time to

o Be a little more intuitive

o Note where we function well, feel alive, discover we are close to God!

o Note, also, where the reverse happens and pray for strength to act differently

Monday, May 03, 2010

Come, Lord Jesus

Reflection on John 14:8-13

This morning's prayers:
Come, Lord Jesus!
Bring hope and harmony
to our lives.
when things fall apart
when life is chaotic
and when there seems
no way;
show us that
destruction and death
is often the gate
to new life;
that chaos
is the prelude
to a new way;
and that where there is
no way
we are invited to discover
that the Way, the Truth and the Life
is neither path nor gate,
it is not a test
but a person.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Come my Way, my Truth, my Life!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Growing in Christ

The Sixth Sunday of Easter, 9th May 2010

John 14:23-29

14:23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

14:25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you.

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

14:28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Life is full of arriving and departing
But it is more than just getting on and off trains and planes
Every day we come and we go,
and others do the same in our lives.
Some of these are bigger experiences than others
I was saying to my sister only recently
how I had been feeling the death of our mother
(over eight years can it be?)
These departures are so significant
and laden with the opportunity
to understand more about life and love.

Equally well, babies are born,
new relationships are formed
and so the coming and going fills our life

So it was for the disciples of Jesus.
He went from them.
And like our lives we realise that as sad as it is
when someone goes, or circumstances change
there is also a necessity about it.
It causes us to grow and mature.

What might Jesus have been drawing out of his disciples
that required him to go away?

There are a number of things:
  • We only realise when we are independent what we can do of our own accord
  • The disciples (us) were pretty pathetic when it came to over-relying on Jesus
  • This has a tendency to make us inactive and lazy
In a way, this analysis is too simplistic, because Jesus also points us to a "life in the Spirit"which is more than just object lessons on how to be independent.
This is an important dimension of the promise of life in Christ
which is not realised simply by overcoming our natural indolence.

For thought and prayer this week

How is God calling me to be open to the Holy Spirit?
Spend some time praying for the increase in God's Spirit in my life

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The way of love

The readings for this week are those for 2n May 2010 the 5th Sunday in Easter. Acts 11:1-18Psalm 148Revelation 21:1-6John 13:31-35

We don’t live in the same world, either today or tomorrow. So we need to work out how we are going to respond to change, because whether we like it or not we will virtually always find that we have never properly imagined the future, and we almost certainly have distorted the past, for better or for worse.

The story of the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that as the disciples encountered the Holy Spirit, they also found that their ideas and certainties were being challenged to their very core

What we read today (Acts 11:1-18) doesn’t resonate easily with us. It is about the first Jewish Christians coming to the realisation that God’s promise went beyond their understanding of what it meant to be faithful. Was this just about the clearly defined, but small, world of Judaism

Or was something different happening here.?

The first Christians had to leave behind their preconception that God was operating inside their framework and come to understand that they were being called to move outside their comfort zone. This would no longer just be a Jews-only club.

Where, we might ask ourselves, are we being challenged to think more expansively than our prejudices have led us to.

Jesus teaching

Jesus reminds his disciples that they are to be open to the true spirit of love, and not the spirit of legalism, tradition, or the past.

In the end, it will be how Christians love

each other

and those they are called to serve

that we will see the hallmark of the true Christian life

New Learning

Where might Jesus be inviting you to move beyond the comfort zone of the familiar, the traditional, the made up minds of the past?

Is there somewhere where we can love better? Where am I challenged to love Jesus and God better, in my human relationships and the way I live my life. of resurrexion