Monday, August 30, 2010

Seeing through other eyes

Readings for this week September 5th 2010 (proper 18) are taken from the following selection :

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 or [Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Psalm 1] Philemon 1-21 Luke 14:25-33

The potter at his wheel is a very evocative image, more so to those who would have witnessed it (like Jesus) in their own backyards.
They would have seen the craftsman start to make the pot
and then decide it wasn't quite right and squash it all down and start again
often the amateur looks on with amazement wondering why the work has begun again. To us it looks OK
to the artist, the craftsman, the master they see something that needs more and more and more work
So, this is a quite a useful image for you and me
of the way God sees us
we may think we are OK
or that there is not much that can be done but God views us rather differently than we view ourselves.
So Paul revisits quite a lot of his old friendships, and relationships this one with Onesimus
and finds with maturer and deeper reflection
that things change
He was not always given to kind reflections,
but he does not stand still
and there is a sense in which he becomes more compassionate,
more charitable as he grows older.
So might this happen to all of us!

  • Take a few moments to ask God if you are seeing your life as God sees it.
  • Is there something about your life that you are just not understanding?
  • Do you have a relationship with another person that needs to be re-evaluated in a more positive light? Are there things that need to be begun again?
  • And remember, sometimes what looks or feels like destruction is a new beginning

Sunday, August 29, 2010

For whom did God vote?

A sermon preached at Evensong Sunday 29th August 2010.
As we await the outcome of our recent election
there is opportunity for us to reflect
on how a Christian should vote.
There is no doubt that Christians are political.
One only has to cursorily read the Old Testament
to discover that God is the God of a nation
and that the affairs of the nation
are God's affairs.
He cares for them in difficulty and travail,
he admonishes them when they fail in their work.
As when, for example, the rich and powerful exploit
the poor and vulnerable (The Story of Naboth's Vineyard)
A tale familiar to us even today, of compulsory land acquisition by Government!
Of course, as we often say, history is written by the victors.
It may be true to say also that the Old Testament
was written by the victors, God's victors!
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
1 Tim 2:1-2
This is for the good of all society.
I make the observation that even though our Prime Minister
may declare herself to be an atheist
this does not absolve us of the responsibility
of holding our leader befo0re God.
Just because she does not believe does not mean
that we should stop believing!

So, lest we think that Christians are to look upon the body politick
with disdain
or to live in a realm other than this world;
we are reminded that this is not the case.
Indeed, at this service of Evensong
we heed as the centrepiece
the canticle Magnificat
which reminds us that
God, regards lowliness rather than power and influence
as the key characteristics of Godly life,
that God moves to strike the arrogant and those who think that they, not God,
rule all things
It is for the hungry that he cares
and he turns the rich away empty
as he exalts the lowly.
This is truly a radical policy!
Indeed, some commentators observe that this statement
is Jesus's political manifesto.
One that deeply threatened the established order.
When we wonder ...who God voted for?
It is likely that we should look not for those
who promised to make us rich and successful
but rather for the ones who sought to care for the poor and lowly
(we might differ about which side ....if any...was promising that)
A real question for us who call ourselves
is whether we critiques the bribes and policies
that were thrown at us
by such criteria as...will this advance the cause of the poor, will this care for the weak
It is more likely that you and I said...what's in it for me?
And we wonder why we are in a bit of a mess.!!

May God help our country
to be truly Godly.
caring for the poor and lowly
Rejecting the greed of rich, and the ambition o0f the powerful.
May God bless Australia, and make us truly Godly. Amen

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The hospitality imperative

Jesus often uses the image of a feast or banquet to talk about the kingdom of God
and we are invited to reflect
not always on the inviter
but on the guests.
For Jesus the banquet is God's invitation
to all people to participate in the life of God

Some notes on this week's readings, Sunday 29th August, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost. In particular
In the Middle East we hear talk of legendary hospitality
Jewish, Christian and Islamic culture
have generous hospitality as part of their tradition
It is a reflection of God's own openness
to all humanity
- there is no one who is not welcome -
This icon of the resurrection
shows us the risen Jesus
with open arms
The resurrection is a radical act of openness
-God with open arms-
longing to welcome beloved sons and daughters
back to the fulness of life
that God always intended for us

So we are not surprised to read in letter to the Hebrews
an exhortation to be mutually supportive,
to care for those in trouble,
for those who are persecuted,
and to have good, solid and honourable relationships
As important as security and wealth might be
the love of money is not the way to fulfilment.
This is sufficient for us to think about I suspect,
but the Gospel also reminds us to stop thinking
that the world revolves around us.
Jesus tells a sort of amusing story
about people being displaced at a dinner party
because they think that they are the important ones
and we are reminded that in God's kingdom
things are not like they are in the world.
It is not the rich, the powerful, the sexy, & the influential
who have pride of place.
It is rather the reverse.
Back to Church
We might think about the forthcoming Back to Church Sunday, for example
who does God want there?
maybe we need to look beyond
those who we are seduced by
and also beyond ourselves
-our place is at the bottom end of the table-
Legendary hospitality tells us that
all are welcome
and this story reminds us
that it is those who we are least attracted to
who may be the very ones God commends to us.

This week
  • How legendary is our hospitality?
  • Is God commending to our care someone who we just don't see?
  • Can we welcome others more fervently? Into our lives? Into our Churches?
  • Find one person this week who God commends to your care and perform an anonymous kindness
  • Invite someone to Church on September 12
LORD Jesus you welcome us
MAY we welcome you
AS Lord and
IN others

Monday, August 23, 2010

Feast and famine

Readings for Sunday 29 August 2010, Proper 17 Year C.
Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Psalm 81:1,10-16
{[Sirach 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7] and Psalm 112 }
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1,7-14

Most of the 'banquets' we go to, involve family.
Our extended family almost seems to get bigger every week.
Three new babies this year, and at least one new boyfriend.
So I am struck as we have read in the last few weeks
part of the great treatise on faith
which is the letter to the Hebrews
where we are shown
how much of what God promises to us is the story of what happens
to the family of Abraham.
Indeed I remember being quite overwhelmed three years ago
when we were reading these passages
and I heard a certainty of promise and faithfulness
to my own family
equally as strong as the one to Abraham
There was a real sense in which I have felt the unfolding of the promise of God
in my own life
as I have been challenged and privileged to share my life with my own family.
Can we reflect just what God promises to me and mine
and how those promises are being worked out.
There is a lot of difficulty
but there is much to be thankful for also.

A couple of insights from the readings to deepen this reflection:

Do you ever sit at functions and watch the enactment of this parable?
(and secretly giggle and say 'those who exalt themselves will be humbled' )
Indeed we always seem to think of it in the negative...when someone has to move because they have sat down in the wrong seat
Of course we are also meant to take it the other way, too,
and there have no doubt been times when you have seen some humble worthy
who has thought only to come and sit at the back
to be escorted to the front by someone who recognises them as guest of honour
Perhaps indeed we may have opportunity to do that today.
We often take those who are close to us for granted.
Those who do a lot for us, we often assume that this is what they are supposed to be doing!
(I speak from some sense of experience here!)
In the way that these days remind us what we should do in terms of giving honour
they point us beyond the immediate target to a way of life
which delights to give honour.
The parable goes on to remind us that we are easily kind to those who it is easy to be kind towards!
We are called not only to give honour where it is due
But we should also look beyond that.

I am pleased to say that that happens quite a bit in our parish community
we see that some could be overlooked if we don't look after them.
(We don't always do this, and can always improve)
...but let's at least ask the question.

Banquets, parties and celebrations are not always easy to get right
and this question of honour where honour is due
is one of the the wider dimensions
also looking beyond the obvious is also brought to our attention
...look not just at those we like
but also at those who are needy.

Keeping on the right track
We also need to know that sometimes good things get derailed
our human relationships are overtaken by the wrong stuff.
Jeremiah says as he looks at how God's people got derailed
"They went far from me, and pursued worthless things"
This is true in families too, and we will all have our different stories.

  • In reflecting on our family life can we see it is an opportunity to be inclusive rather than exclusive
  • Invite the Spirit to allow you to open your life to others
  • Look honestly at your life. What do you give thanks for about your family relationships? What do you regret?
  • Pray for grace and opportunity to give thanks for them
  • Pray for grace and opportunity to forgive and move forward

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Healing hypocrisy

Readings for this Sunday 22nd August 2010 (proper 16) include:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6; or (Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8)
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17


Religious people can be such gooses
so often we just don't get the sheer joy
of what it means to be alive in God
and what a great gift faith is
so we are often cast as hypocrites
and self-righteous know-it-alls
and, indeed, with some justification!

We have in these readings a very strong healing story perhaps one of the strongest
13:10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."

13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."

13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?

13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"

13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

It is not difficult to understand what is going on here, though it is deceptively simple.
My initial reaction to this story was to wonder where I have been chronically crippled
Where have I carried a wound for 18 years or more?
I can find a couple of places
and I know that although there is a certain sense of self-indulgence in chronic oppression, possession, depression...however we choose to name it
that is, we learn to live with it
and in a way perhaps we are frightened to live without it---
we also want to be free of it.
More than that
need to be free of it.

Liberation on this sort of scale for human beings
is in the realm of desperation and fundamental hope.
When it is all said and done
we know where we need to be fixed
and we know when we want it....NOW!

It is unimaginable that Jesus would have said to this desperate woman
"Come back when the Office is open tomorrow, I'm at Church today!"
To be sure
we say this sort of thing
But this is not how we imagine Jesus reacting.

Where is Jesus calling us to act, and calling us now?
Where do we hold back, for what ever pious reason, when Jesus is inviting us forward?

  • Ask the Spirit to show you where you need to be healed
  • Invite the Spirit to allow you to open your life and trust the healing that God wants to give.
  • Pray for that healing to happen

Monday, August 09, 2010

The God-Bearer

What are we to say about Mary the mother of Jesus that has not already been said.
In a very real sense the problem is that too much has been said, often in a confused way, not only overstating the role of Mary but also making inappropriate claims

This Sunday 15th August is the Feast of Mary the Mother of Jesus and readings are:Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Luke 1:46-55, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:1-7
There are a number of these exotic claims, (too many to go into in a short homily), and many of them were highlighted and discounted at the time of the Reformation.
She is not for example...the 4th member of the Trinity!
Nor is she the female aspect of the Godhead.
Mary only has a place by virtue of the fact that God chose her to bear the Son.
She is the means by which God connects directly to humanity!
The place where God and Humanity meet.
The Orthodox have traditionally used the expression...Theotokos...God bearer ...
sometimes crudely called by the Westrern Church....Mother of God...which tends to distort our thinking some what.
What is important about Mary is not how she tends to have been deified
but rather that her body is the meeting place of God with humanity.
She is fully human, anything less would make the central Christian truth
that The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us (John 1:14) into a crass fairy story.
Thus we see in Mary not a super-hero, but rather a human hero
who responds to God by saying "Yes, I will do what you ask me to do!"
She is not overwhelmed by God and forced to do something against her will
In words that many Christians make their own every day
Mary's response, rather, is to say to God a big YES!
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).
Also of interest

As we encounter Mary elsewhere in the Gospels we see a series of interesting encounters.
What seems to be interesting about these is their very ordinariness!
As with almost everything in the Bible we sometimes lose sight of the fact about just how ordinary some of the sotories are
The Loss of Jesus
Luke 2:41-52. Mary and Joseph lose Jesus when they take a trip to Jerusalem. Anyone who has lost a child know how awful this can be for all concerned, parents and children!
At a wedding
John:2-10. At a wedding Jesus's mother tries to get him to help her sort out a catering problem!
But who is my mother?
Mark 3:31-35, Mtw 12:46-50 Jesus brings her family to see Jesus and he rather dismisses them. Is she trying to warn him to be more cautious or he'll get his head chopped off
Her station keeping
In John's account of the Passion (and the tradition of the Church) Mary is placed at the Cross. No more awful image is there than Michelangelo's Pieta; the young woman holding her dead son.
It is perhaps the greatest human tragedy, that many parents have shared...having to be present at the funeral of their child
Pentecost Finally we see that Luke places Mary with the disciples and the early community of the believers (Acts 1:14, 2:1-42)
I draw all these to our attention because they show to us a very ordinary Mary and jesus relationship
The incarnation is worked out not in the heavens, but in the midst of life. It is a child getting lost, catering, thoughtless comments, human tragedy which are the groundswell of what God is doing.
Remember what the 'angels' say to the disciples as they stand gazing into the heaven after the Ascension (Acts 1:11)..."Why are you gazing into heaven?" or as they gaze into the empty tomb (Luke 24:5)..."Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
Mary's witness seems to be telling us that God will be worked out
in our human life.
The kingdom of God is amongst us.
This week
  • What are we dealing with in our daily life at the moment?
  • What might god be drawing out in me through my encounter in my ordinary day to day encounters with other people, with human issues and thereby with God?
  • What is God's invitation to me today?
  • Can I say "Here am I be it unto me according to your word!"

The icon pictured at the head of this entry is "The Miraculous Icon of Coromandel" it was painted by children of the parish under the guidance of local artist Jenny Poole. It displays the nativity of Jesus and we display it during Advent at St John's Church each year.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Faith is for now!

Will we get to a point when we don't have to rely on faith any more?

Yes, but it is not now!
St Paul tells us that there are three great things(1)-Faith Hope and Love
and the greatest of these is love
And the hymn writer (2) reminds us
Faith will vanish into sight;
hope be emptied in delight;
love in heaven will shine more bight;
therefore give us love.

Readings for Proper 14 -Year C - 8th August 2010...11th Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

When all things are brought to completion, as God intends
there will be no need to have faith
because we will know
We will see what we have always hoped for
and we will no longer have to have faith
because we will know.

But we are not at that point
so the way we operate is as a person of faith
and we get a definition of that today in Hebrews 11

To illustrate that the writer tells us the story of Abraham
and Sarah
who received the promise of God
That they would be the ancestors of a great people…
they had no evidence of this
indeed rather the contrary, they were both old
and it seemed unlikely.
So the challenge of faith for them

was to believe
rather than to know or to prove
Faith, is assurance without fact
Being convinced of what we are promised even though we don’t have the evidence.
In fact it is the way that the life of God operates.
The criticism that faith is ‘unscientific’ is true
--it is not meant to be
we have faith where we cannot prove.
If we can prove, or see
then why do we need to have faith.
This is not to say that because we do not have evidence
then we are talking nonsense
or we are lying
we are saying we are not in the scientific realm at all
we are in the life of faith.
And we assert that the life of God
is about faith
not of proof.

This should not be a surprise to us
there are a lot of things that are about faith
rather than fact
and most of them are pretty important.
Chief amongst these is love
Love is not about evidence, facts and measurements
---we don’t say if there are three out of five characteristics (faithfulness, children, laughter, sharing pain, cooperation) and/or
--if a relationship has lasted longer than 15 months and/or
--if after three break ups the couple are still together
then they are in love

that would be absurd
The substance is actually not measurable
and is at least as much about what we can’t count
as what we can count.
Our life in God falls in this same sort of area.
More than this, we would say
this is what makes this relationship so powerful;
So the example of Abraham tells us about keywords:
Like trust, promise, hope, vision and aspiration.
The journey of faith is about implementing
these realities.
Indeed these realities cannot be manufactured
(we can’t go to the shop and buy them!)
it is only by a journey of faith
that they can be realised in our lives.

We see this journey chiefly in Jesus
It is the journey that will confront everything that destroys us
and will give us the power to be born anew and to come through the experience of death
not just at life’s end
but in every aspect of our life.
So faith is a pretty important journey!!

Is it a journey you are prepared to make?
Where is God inviting you to step out beyond the bounds of certainty
and walk in faith?
It is not an easy decision
but it is the decision that is set before us.
Will we walk by faith and live?
Or will we stumble by our own limited sight
and die?
Where is God inviting you to step out beyond the bounds of certainty
and walk in faith?
1. 1 Corinthians 13
2. Bishop Christopher Wordsworth 1862 - Gracious Spirit Holy Ghost