Sunday, July 25, 2010

What should I do today?

The readings for today are Hosea 11:1-11, Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21 Sunday 1st August, the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (proper 13)

Here is a short YOUTUBE reflection on this reading

Almost everything we do is critiqued or chastened by something else.
This parable reminds us of that.
With the best will in the world
everything can be cut short by death.
If we knew we were going to die tomorrow then we would behave quite differently today.

But there is also a more subtle undertone
we act out of mixed motives
We are often unaware of what these motives are.

I am conscious, for example, that sometimes
when disagreeing with people
that they change their stance
almost imperceptibly
so that by the time we finish our exchange
we end up in agreement
even though nothing has changed.
-Sometimes it is the reverse that is true and we started off agreeing
and end up disagreeing
-or it's me who does the changing]
What is going on here?

Well, of course a major driving force is how we feel about the person with whom we are interacting
Most of us
don't like being disliked
so sometimes we change what we say:
to avoid that
or we modify what we say so it doesn't sound like we are disagreeing.
We have a freedom to choose
but often we are not aware just why or even what we are choosing

This week's readings invite us to look beyond the obvious
and try and get to the core.
Hosea reminds God's people unremittingly
how much God loves them
and how often they have turned away.
Time and time again, God says,
My people are bent on turning away from me!
His message is that this sort of behaviour
is its own judgment,
it causes separation from God.
But he also reminds us that coupled with this
is the sense of God's persistence.
God persists with us
even when we turn from him.

The Gospel has one of those curious encounters too
where Jesus is confronted by someone who does not want truth or equality
but rather advantage through their relationship with Jesus.
Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me
On the face of it this seems fairly innocent
but these things seldom are.
It begs the questions
about all sorts of things that may need to be resolved.
And Jesus refuses to play this sort of game.
How often do our prayers smack of this
Lord do this for me
it is obvious what needs to be done...
Pretty impertinent really
and usually fairly dishonest.

Instead Jesus reminds his listeners about the importance
of getting priorities right
and making the right decisions,
of being honest and clear about motivations.
Maybe, he suggests, we have to ask ourselves a strong question
to focus us
If I was going to die tomorrow....what would I do today?
You see we are so very good at either putting this sort of thought off
or of deceiving ourselves.
What strong question can you ask yourself today
that will set things in the correct context?
If I was going to die?
If I never see this person again how will I spend my time with them?
If I am struck dumb tomorrow what will I say today?

reminds us too that we are often driven by inner darkness
impurity, passion, evil desire and greed
and that if we are to be Christ's
then we have to choose to do something about the malice, slander and abuse
and all those things which are wrong.

This is the realm of choice.
The choice to be free
or the choice to be something less than that.

Can we focus these questions today?

Lord if today
I die, what will I do,
If I never see this person again how will I spend my time with them
If I am struck dumb tomorrow what will I say today.
Lord grant me the wisdom to know
and the courage to act.

YOUTUBE for today

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What do I really want?

Sunday July 25th is the Feast of St James, the Apostle some suggested readings are Jeremiah 45; Acts 11:27-12:3 ; 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 ; Psalm 126 ; and Matthew 20:20-28
The map alongside is the famous pilgrimage journey to Compostela in NW Spain (El Camino de Santiago) where traditionally pilgrims have gone to venerate St James at the great cathedral shrine. Traditionally pilgrims journey for weeks or months from Southern France.

Tarted up
I always find Matthew’s version of the story we read in the Gospel today a little amusing
it has James and John’s mother
asking Jesus
to grant her sons the privilege
of being his chief lieutenants when everything starts to happen

In Mark’s more direct version (probably therefore the earlier, less politically corrected and hence more likely to be accurate) it is the boys themselves that ask Jesus.
Is Matthew trying, as some commentators suggest (eg John Drane), to make the apostles look good by making their mother (rather than them) seemingly crassly ambitious on their behalf.
There is a sort of childish naïveté about the exchange
which makes us suspect that this theory is correct!
Jesus asks them:
what do you want?
It’s probably significant to note that he does not ask ‘what do you need?’ or even ‘what can I do for you?’
The naïf story is a question about what motivates them
What do you WANT?
It is not always nice

and we do not always like to admit
that we would like to be the boss
or that we are seeking our own advantage
or that we are bit selfish
(which is why Matthew is trying to make the apostles look good by blaming their mother)
But God is responding to us where we are
and though we might like to look good in the eyes
of others
or not look as bad as we really are…is perhaps another way of putting it
God responds to us where we are
and as we are
not to some game we might play.

Advice therefore
So some advice therefore is to be authentic.
In reality God knows all about us
so there is no point playing games.
If you feel angry then pay attention to that,
if you are sad or excited
then that is what God is going to be dealing with

Jesus is able to warn James and John
what we all know to be inherently true
that there is no privilege
without responsibility
and that there is no responsibility
without personal cost.
he himself demonstrates this in his own life
they will be required to demonstrate it
if they really want to go this way.

This is important stuff
So it is necessary to be keenly insightful
about our real wants
(as opposed to our politically correct needs,
or what we might blame our mother for)

What do you really want from God?
Can you this week try to tease that question out?
To be a little bit more honest and open
and therefore to maximize the chance
that we might hear what Jesus might be actually speaking into our lives

How do you feel God has treated you so far?
Does this encourage you, disappoint you?
What do you want God to be for you?

The message, we can hear on this St James Day
is that we are “earthen jars” not stunning jewellery.
We, by and large, are dull and flat,
lifeless and characterless.
Yet…we are not without promise and potential
For we are filled with treasure.
But the treasure is not what we imagine
it is how Jesus meets us,
so it is not about unreality
or political correctness
or what our parents might want for us.

This week
What do I want from Jesus?
What is he asking me to be and do?
Can I…will I do it and be it?

Saint James, pray for us
that we may be willing
to leave everything to follow Jesus
as you did.
Help us to be the true friend of Jesus

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who's that knocking at my door?

In our Church next Sunday (25th July) we will keep[ St James Day but here are some reflections the readings for Sunday 25th July 2010 Proper 12, Year C. The 9th Sunday after Pentecost are.Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85 , Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19) Luke 11:1-13

I don't like being woken up
let alone being woken up at midnight.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Who is knocking at the door?
When we thought about this together on Monday
we had a mixture of feelings
If it is
your friend who is knocking
then in a way
it is a privilege
that you have a friend who believes that they can come knocking at the dead of night
you are not sure who it is who is knocking
then there can be an element of fear
you have children who are out then this fear
can be even greater as you wonder
what on earth has happened.
All in all it is a pretty disturbing sort of event.
But let's not make it harder than it needs to be.
Parables are a straightforward teaching device
which usually have one point.
They are not allegory
where every detail needs to be interpreted.
What is the
one point?
Well, because there are a couple of parables rolled into one
we may see two or three points.
But let's focus on this knocking

Who's that knocking at my door?
We can see the 'knocker' as either being ourself
or God
If it is
God, then this parable
reminds us that God persists with us.
That is a reassuring thought.
It is reinforced in the conclusion
How much more will God give the Holy Spirit?
How might you know that God is 'knocking'?
We have to be a bit intuitive here
Is there something that keeps grabbing our attention
but we 'roll over and try to go back to sleep'?
I find that I need to pay attention about some of these things,
if someone crosses my mind forcefully
over and over again
is there some prompting here.
We don't need to be
superstitious or ridiculous
about such things
sometimes we will ring a person up
or pop in to see them at work
and we will have come at just the right time.
Other times it might just be good that we have said hello
and it doesn't seem to be so obvious.
If God was speaking to us...
we asked last week...
would we hear
If God is hammering at my life
can I drag myself out of bed?

But there is another sense
of course in which it is
you and me
who is knocking at God's door
and we are simply being told
to persist.
Ask and it will be given to you, Knock and it shall be opened
Seek and you will find.
These, to me , are very reassuring words
Coupled with the reminder
of the last verse of this section
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him
Don't get fixated on "you who are evil"
it's merely making the point that God knows better what to do than we do ourselves.
And that we should persist,
in fact we should keep on knocking
and hammering until we get a reply.
Let's not make it too hard.
This may mean that
we have to keep knocking and asking
until we get what we need
rather than what we want.
This is a major reason why we think our prayers don't get answered.
Sometimes we are saying....
God give me a black dog
And maybe we have to keep on praying until we get a brown rabbit!
Or maybe there is something much more important, you need to focus your love on a person rather an animal you need to allow yourself to open up the grief in your life when your last pet died, or a relationship ended or the disappointments of childhood?

We need to persist until we get fed,
but maybe we may get scones instead of bread,
or cake
or we may need to learn how to cook!

There is, I say again
great reassurance in the fact
that though we may not be terribly good at this praying
that God is
and that as we stick with it,
as we keep tapping at the door
God does indeed hear and respond.
But we need to persist.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Doing what's right...and being what's right

The readings for Sunday 18th July 2010, the 8th Sunday after Pentecost ( Proper 11) of Year C are :
Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52, Colossians 1:15-28,Luke 10:38-42

I guess that no one other than the sociopath wants to do the wrong thing!
But we also seem to have a bit of difficulty doing the right thing.
St Paul at one stage is so frustrated with all this that he protests
It is almost as though the more I try to do the right thing
the more likely I am to do the wrong thing.

he says in Romans 7 for example

15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ...he goes on in verse 18 ....... I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

This is quite a complex, yet real argument about our inner struggle with sin
and our difficulty with doing right
The key to doing right is understanding that it will not just happen accidentally
It will be a decision we make
and which we stick to.
Unless we decide to do the right thing
it will not just turn up out of the blue.

The lessons point us to various dimensions of this reality
Amos the prophet does not shy away from
telling the people that they have not done what is right.
he suggests, what we all basically know to be true,
that we actually know what is right, merciful and just.
For Amos wrong has come about because the people have
chosen to NOT do it.
you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
Yes, when we not only ignore the plight of the needy
but we also exploit them
make no mistake
we are not doing what God wants.
This sort of wanton abandonment of what God wants
will bring about a famine
not so much of of food and water
but of the living Bread and of the Word.
When we choose not to act as God's people
we starve ourselves of the very food
that will keep us spiritually alive.

How to do right
Paul's teaching is clear for us
we do what is right by keeping
Jesus at the Centre
of our life and faith
The work of reconciliation in us happens
as we continue secure in our relationship
with Jesus
who is as Paul says
The image of the invisible God.
We see the will of God made visible in Christ.
This is why the other picture we see is the contrast of this morning's Gospel.
Two sisters,
Martha and Mary,
who pay attention to Jesus in different ways.
What ever else we may make of this story
there is perhaps a warning here for us
of what is a great danger
for us.
Let us not make the mistake
of thinking that extreme busy-ness
is the same thing as doing God's will.
We are often guilty of this.
We mistake busy-ness
for faithfulness.
So the point of the story
is that Mary who sits
at Jesus feet
is doing the right thing.
This rankles us somewhat,
as indeed it rankles her sister,
we have sometimes sat at meetings
and said this to each other.
So careless are we with what is committed to us
that we make the mistake of thinking
  • that doing anything is better than doing nothing
  • that activity is always a sign of doing good
  • that paying attention to what God wants of us is a waste of time
This is not what we are getting this morning
Quite the reverse.
the lessons perhaps help us to see the great dangers in these attitudes
when we do not pay attention
when we do not know what it is that Jesus wants us to do
then we are not actually so much
in danger of being diverted
as in peril for our life.
and on the threshold of sin.

We make choices all the time
the choices that as Christians
we seek to make
should be God's choices
How sure are we that the choices we make
for our own convenience
for our own comfort
out of our own busy-ness
are attentive to what God wants?

We recognise what God wants
in our openness
to what Jesus wants
are we so busy fussing around
that we do not take the time to listen

So listen now...
and each day
can there be a time in your daily prayers
(do you indeed pray?)
to ask the question
if there is one thing that you want me to hear today then what is it?

Lord, this week
let me put aside the busy-ness that I so easily find
which fills my life
and let me hear you speaking
and give me courage to respond.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

God of the poor, God of the broken

One of our best loved stories....The Good Samaritan...features this week
If you can't read the cartoon then click on it to go to a larger version.
It's worth it!
My suggestion would be that God's will is not terribly hard to discern
Most of us have a fairly well developed sense of it.
Indeed, theologically we would say that baptism orients us towards God
and so we grow in that direction.
Like plants towards the sun.
So I am always puzzled when I meet someone who is genuinely hard
who hates refugees
who thinks that poor people deserve everything they get
because they are lazy.
Very few are so perverse as to think that the poor are being punished by God
for something or other,
but secretly many of us despise the poor.
So it is opportune to be told, reminded if you like,
by the prophets, like Amos, Hosea and Isaiah
that God's measuring stick
....for Amos it is the famous plumbline....
is not just right belief or thoughts
it is not just correct religious practice.
In fact at times the prophets are downright dismissive of such things,
as indeed Jesus can be.
But we are to heed in the call of Jesus
the call to care for the poor, the needy.
To look around and see
that there are people in our society
who are in danger
and it is part of our job to walk around with open eyes
and respond as we can to their need.

Fear et al
What I think it is that makes us like this is
The cartoon illustrates this quite well.
I can be compassionate until the fear button is pushed.
For this man when he hears the beaten up man speak Spanish
(the language for Americans of illegal immigrant...what would it be for
an Australian...Afghani, Tamil, Indonesian, Sudanese, Vietnamese!!)
suddenly his world view is changed.
This is confronting for us at this time.
One of the things this story confronts us about is
Will we challenge our own fearfulness,
will we stop to help the person who has been beaten up,
will we venture into the dangerous environment
where we know people are in trouble?
Will we confront our own inner ghosts...terrorism, illegal immigration
fear that our comfort may be jeopardised...
and respond rather to God.
Often we just say No!

God gives more, wants more
God wants more of us than we are often prepared to give.
There is a reason for this.
God sees that we need to to be challenged more deeply
than we often begin to suspect.
Where might this be for you?
Can you at least pray for courage to be a little braver
than you are inclined to be?
Can you, can we take the next step?

This week
  • Where is God asking you to respond to the desperate need of others?
  • What prevents you from doing this?
  • Can you find someone else to support you in venturing into difficult territory?
God of the Samaritans, God of the Poor, God of the Broken
give me the same eyes of compassion that you have.
The eyes and heart of Jesus. Amen.