Wednesday, June 30, 2010

God wants more for us than we want

Readings for this Sunday the 6th After Pentecost, July 4 2010 are
  • 2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30
  • Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-9
  • Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
  • Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

  • In this week's readings we see something of the application of
    Healing, wellness, and wholeness
    God wants more for us than we want for ourselves
    The story of Naaman the leper that we read this week
    is a confronting one for all of us who think
    we have our lives well under control.
    Naaman is a powerful, successful man
    and yet he is sick.
    He has the sort of sickness
    that people will not tolerate socially-leprosy
    Quite what this was in his case is not clear.
    we have rather poor attitudes
    to leprosy
    largely what we have been (wrongly) taught.
    (see for example the life of
    Damien of Molokai)
    Nevertheless it is something that would have taken
    Naaman out of circulation,
    perhaps by disfigurement
    certainly because of ritual prohibitions
    designed to prevent infection
    ---Primitive but effective---
    Naaman, like many who become seriously sick,
    find their life is taken over
    and they are no longer free to do what needs to be done.
    the handsome,
    the powerful,
    the successful
    is sick.
    What to do?
    He uses his connections to get to the doorstep of Elisha.
    He will have done this sort of things many times before.
    As a highly motivated person he is used to
    identifying the problem
    finding a solution
    and effecting the operation.
    This is how a highly successful person operates.
    The only trouble is that sickness
    is not a cash flow problem
    it is not a stock shortage
    or a management crisis.
    If we are to be made whole
    then we will need more than just management
    or even skill.
    We will also need openness to God
    a fair degree of
    preparedness to change.
    If you think about in-depth healing
    or wholeness
    we understand that there is more to it
    so he is deeply confronted.
    Elisha is not actually over-impressed by his status
    he can barely come out of his house
    he sends an underling to communicate with Naaman
    and Naaman is not impressed.
    Let us look at some of the things that Naaman does
    which might expose some of the issues
    he brings lots of money
    but his healing is not going to be paid for by lots of money
    he shifts the responsibility to another person,
    In the process that person (the king of Israel) is deeply stressed
    and he doesn't know what to do.
    We often do this.
    This is different from
    sharing the responsibility by inviting others to pray for you.
    Healing will require that we open ourselves
    not just that we get someone to do the slog for us
    he needs to learn about simplicity, humility and obedience.
    Elisha is very offhand with him.
    He refuses to let Naaman think that this is the only problem in the world.
    This is hard for us to endure.
    In the end he is required only to be faithful to a simple process and to submit to that
    he is seduced by the spectacular.

    "‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the
    name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!

    Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of
    Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a

    ..when things do not go as he wants
    then at least he demands spectacle
    spectacle that shows he is pretty special?;
    spectacle that shows God is taking notice?

    Are you beginning to get the idea that there is a lot going on?
    Naaman needs to confront a whole lot of stuff in himself:
    Pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, lack of faith....
    all of these things will be up for grabs
    if we open ourselves to
    wholeness rather than just removal of symptoms.

    This week
    • Where have I stopped responding to God and started demanding that God responds to me?
    • Where might my suffering, unease, discomfort be inviting me to respond to somethign deep that's going on inside me?
    • What does God want for me that I haven't yet realised

    Lord of truth,
    I need to me made whole
    even if I am not sure that I know what that means
    let me trust you to restore me.
    In Jesus. Amen

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Free at last

    Readings for Sunday 27th June the 5th Sunday after Pentecost-Proper 8 in the season of the year

    It is for freedom that we have been set free
    this inviting gambit that Paul sets out at the beginning of the 5th chapter of the letter to the Church in Galatia
    is deceptively simple.
    But it is worth clinging on to.
    Most of us find it slips away all too easily.
    It is not so much that we are enslaved
    or locked up in prison
    or even that we find our rights curtailed ny the State
    (although all those things can be true)
    but rather that we actually surrender our freedom.
    This idea is perhaps graphically illustrated in a person like Nelson Mandela
    who was imprisoned (as we know) for political reasons in apartheid ridden South Africa
    What ever we may make of Mr Mandela's particular cause,
    it is his decision whilst in jail that he would no longer carry the burden of imprisonment
    that points us to the reality of this truth of the Gospel.
    It is for freedom that we have been set free.
    Mandela came to realise that as long as he hung on to the bitterness and hatred
    of his captors
    that the rocks and stones that he was being required to smash
    were indeed smashing him.
    The prime example of this sort of attitude is Jesus himself
    who could have condemned those who condemned him
    and justifiably
    Yet he steadfastly refuses to do.
    We hear Jesus saying....Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

    The key
    It is for
    freedom that we have been set free.
    This seems to be a key to understanding
    how we lose our freedom
    and become diminished as persons.
    We lose sight of what we are doing.
    Nelson Mandela regained sight of what needed to happen
    and reclaimed his freedom.
    But look at those apostles in those little vignettes today
    Realising that they have been given power by Jesus
    .....when they face opposition from people who disagree
    their response is ....Should we use our power to zap them?
    Jesus will not be sucked into this sort of vortex.

    or to those enthusiasts caught up in the thrill of the moment
    who want to throw everything to the wind
    and make grand gestures.
    Jesus says.....True freedom comes not from grand gestures
    leaving home, making loud proclamation,
    fine sounding phrases
    But True freedom comes when
    realising the consequences
    you embrace the future
    and the difficulties.
    When faced with challenge and barrier
    to those things we have found fundamental
    instead of turning round and backing off
    we keep our shoulder to the wheel
    and press on.

    True freedom,
    and it is for freedom that we have been set free
    will have consequences.
    it requires commitment
    it requires that we not give it away

    it will change our hearts
    and grow the fruit of the Spirit
    (this indeed will be a test of whether or not we are on track)
    So much of what we hear as 'gospel'
    does not seem to foster: patience, goodness, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, gentleness

    which are the hall marks of true freedom.

    Some ideas, then, to explore this week
    Where is God calling me to be free?
    Have I allowed myself to be enslaved by hanging on to attitudes of bitterness and hatred that far from satisfying me are actually destroying me?
    How do I need to open myself to the ministry of reconciliation which might set me free for this?

    Talk to Jesus about one area of your life where he is calling you to be free?
    What do you need to do to begin today?

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    A new start

    Readings set for this Sunday can be taken as listed below. These are for Sunday 20th June 2010 also called the 4th Sunday after Pentecost or Proper 7

    1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a and Psalms 42 and 43 Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39

    Most of us do not easily identify with the idea of being possessed
    If we believe in it at all
    it is something that happens to someone else who is not quite right in the head,
    who is severely stressed, perhaps even a religious nut.
    If we think, though, of what the idea of being possessed is all about
    and lay aside the demonic and supernatural stuff
    we can easily appreciate what 'possession', 'oppression'
    ...perhaps we call these things OBSESSION
    is all about.
    We lose control to an external force
    we hand it over and instead of being free
    we are enslaved
    we no longer drive our lives rather we are driven.
    Does this sound familiar?
    Yes, it does.
    We can all readily identify places where we are driven rather than we drive.
    Easy examples are addictions: alcohol, food, drugs or anything which begins to become the complete focus of our attention.
    Those are the sort of things that affect them
    We are perhaps less apt to name the things to which we are addicted by which we are obsessed You might take time to ask the question What drives my life? Where have I handed over control :
    to my own desires to have everything under control
    to my need to have more and more possessions
    to my desperate need to be liked by everyone
    or any one of the myriad of other things that possess us
    Their name is legion!

    What to do?
    The reading from Galatians for today (here) tells us about the change that has changed the relationship between God and humanity.
    In terms of that discussion it reveals how we have been transferred
    from a relationship with God bound by formal rules and legislation
    which Paul argues is a kind of slavery and imprisonment
    even in a religious situation there is not freedom and we need to be set free.
    We are set free by coming into relationship with Jesus
    this is relationship as opposed to contract.
    It is not an arrangement whereby we are give a handbook and a set of rules
    rather God gives himself to us and this sets us free.
    We should not be surprised then as we see the possessed,
    the oppressed and the obsessed
    encounter Jesus as we read about in this morning's Gospel
    their lives are transformed we are set free.
    So this man, possessed we are told by a multitude of demons
    being drawn into relationship with Jesus is delivered.
    This is for you and for me the truth too.
    We need to note that this confronting opression is not necessarily an easy thing.
    Pigs hurtle off the cliff!
    as we rid ourselves of a lifetime of addiction/possesssion
    do not expect that the drivers will go without a fight.
    This week
    • Ask the Spirit to show you where you have handed over control of your life
    • Talk to Jesus, in order to open and strengthen the relationship.
    • What does he speak into your situation?
    • Pray for the courage to be set free
    Lord speak my name and set me free. Amen

    Tuesday, June 08, 2010

    In need of forgiveness

    Proper6 for Sunday 13th June 2010

    Luke 7:36-8:3

    7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.

    7:37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.

    7:38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.

    7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner."

    7:40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak."

    7:41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.

    7:42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?"

    7:43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."

    7:44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.

    7:45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.

    7:46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

    7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."

    7:48 Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

    7:49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

    7:50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

    8:1 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him,

    8:2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,

    8:3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

    We are capable , each of us, of consciously or unconsciously
    doing some awful things.
    When we act out of rage, or impatience, or frustration
    or just sheer badness
    we potentially separate ourselves from God and other people.

    We invest an awful lot of energy in either pretending this isn't so
    or that things are some how otherwise.
    This process begs the question about how conscious we are
    or can be of such behaviour.

    But we see a number of times in the Gospels
    people who actually become aware
    of their own unconscious behaviour
    and seek to change.
    They come to Jesus and he opens up to them (us!)
    to enable this process to happen.

    This story shows us that this process
    is not reserved for the pious
    or the intelligent
    and certainly not for the good
    But rather for the one's who realise they need to repent.
    They become conscious and start to live differently.

    What is also interesting in this particular story
    is that Jesus does not see the righteous or the religious
    as being particularly welcoming of this process.
    Quite the reverse.
    Religion often seems to decrease the likelihood that people will be able to see the need for this.

    This is exposed by judgmentalism.
    When we all to readily see the faults of others
    but fail to see that
    we are just like too.

    Where is God inviting me to be conscious of what is happening in my life?
    Where does my own judgmentalism of others exposed my own need to repent?
    Pray for consciousness of Christ living with and in me, for grace to repent, and for courage to be non-judgmental

    Thursday, June 03, 2010

    Raising the dead

    A complex of stories is given as readings for this week The Second Sunday after Pentecost June 6th 2010

    Luke 7:11-17

    7:11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him.

    7:12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.

    7:13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep."

    7:14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!"

    7:15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

    7:16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!"

    7:17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

    Any story in which a dead person comes back to life is going to present the modern Christian with some difficulties

    Such stories do not sit easily with us.

    Though I have had at least one occasion in which a dead person was indeed found to be alive some hours after they had been declared to be dead.

    That experience (and a whole range of other experiences) lead me to believe that we often try to be more definite about death

    than death actually allows us to be.

    In recent weeks, for example, my aunt who was "given 24 hours to live"

    rallied and was quite lucid for a few days.

    It is not therefore terribly surprising to find in ancient times that there was one occasion, at least, where a person who had "died" was found to be alive.

    We do not have to "explain this story away", my point is that death is not an easily definable phenomenon

    and the point of this story is that things are different when Jesus is there with us

    This is the steadfast experience of those who die

    that the presence of the Risen Jesus makes a difference to the way we encounter death.

    For a woman with an only son,

    the consoling power of the Spirit of Jesus

    can be not only comforting

    but also transforming and healing.

    Your experience of death
    What is is your most recent experience of death?
    Where is God in this, and what might God be saying and doing in your life?
    Pray for comfort and encouragement for those who grieve, and for healing and wholeness for ourselves as we look for meaning in the face of death.