Sunday, January 30, 2011

God's kindness.

Romans 2:1-16-A Sermon preached at Evensong Sunday 30th January 2011

Do you not realise that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans2:4)
As we come to the end of a Sunday and worship quietly
quite often we are invited to reflect
on that which separates us from God
that which is less than we want it to be
that which we want to put right.
In order that we might orient ourselves to live well
to live properly.

St Paul reminds us that God desire for us
is not one of punishment
but one of kindness, forbearance and patience
So we do not come with a sense of fear and foreboding
but rather one of confidence that, as Paul says elsewhere,
everything works together for good.

God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.
God's kindness invites us to live our lives differently.

So tonight:
1. Take time to bring to God any things for which you know you need forgiveness
And also to pray for insight into other areas where we may need forgiveness
but have perhaps forgotten or suppressed.
Perhaps we need to pray for insight and courage to bring our own sinfulness
to God for healing, wholeness, forgiveness!

2. We are also reminded from a number of parables which Jesus tells
that God's kindness and generosity to us
should also result in a similar generosity on our behalf.
We should forgive as we have been forgiven.
Where do you need to be forgiving?
Where has your heart been hardened towards another
and you have refused to forgive

Do you not realise that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance

Repentance means that we should live differently
Imagine if we went to God and asked for forgiveness
And God said NO!
But that is not what happens
We come always expecting forgiveness
and God always forgives us.

So it should be for us
Never refusing to forgive
those who seek our forgiveness.

As we sit for a few moments
We pray for God to forgive us
and know that there is nothing
that God cannot, does not and will not forgive.

Even as God is kind to us
so let us also pray for grace to be forgiving.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Living life

The funeral of John Bailey, 24/1/2011: John 14:1-6, Romans 8:35-39, Psalm 20

John seems to have faced death

in much the same way as he faced life

with a sense of resignation

not sadness, or disappointment

but a commitment to live as best he could

Amidst all this he seems to have had a straightforward faith

Which is echoed in the readings:

Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God

and that in following Jesus as best we can we will know the Way, the Truth and indeed the Life

This is a mystery that challenges us all

and indeed invites us to enter in to what God is offering.

John knew, I think, that this invitation

to live life involved

Forgiveness of others and being prepared to admit the need of forgiveness for himself.

Not to seek reward for good behaviour

but to continue to live…as best you can

This seemed to come out of a confidence

in God

and a commitment. to take that relationship seriously.

As each of us stands before John’s dead body today

We are challenged to make the same journey

To recognise that nothing separates us from God and that Jesus offers to us the Way to true life.

To seek forgiveness for ourselves

and to extend that to others

And to trust ourselves to Go, in life as in death.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Manifesting the manifesto

The readings for this Sunday 30th January, the 4th Sunday after Epiphany are from Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-12

A manifesto is a grand idea

A statement of beliefs and principles

which undergird what we are trying to do.

One such is alongside

it is a conservationist manifesto

And it's about repairing instead of throwing away.

It has a number of interesting points, 11 in all

2. Things should be designed so that they can be repaired

10. Repairing is about independence

What we have this morning is three manifesto like readings and a psalm manifesto

Micah says

What does the Lord require of you:

but to do justice, and to love kindness

and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

This is a powerful manifesto.

If you want to know what God's person does

it is not about being smart, powerful, rich or succesful

It is to be an agent of justice,

to live life with kindness

and to always walk remembering that we are creaturesnot the creator

Justice, kindness and humility....if you want three buzz words to check

the quality of your actions then they work

Is what I am doing just?

Is it kind?

Does it reflect my ultimate submission to God?

Paul reminds his fellow Christians in Corinth

with this manifesto:

We proclaim Christ crucified

God's way is not the way of the world he says God chose what is foolish to shame the strong

and the source of your life is Christ Jesus

an important manifesto. The Cross, the strength of God and Jesus


In the passage so often seen as Jesus's manifesto...the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)

Jesus points us to various places where we might find God's holiness and transformation of our lives

Places where we might look to see the work of God

and, it needs to be remarked,

places where we might often miss the powerful presence.

Not in the life of the expert: but those who are poor in spirit

Not with the proud and the successful, but the meek and lowly

Where we mourn

where we hunger and thirst for what is right

where peace is being proclaimed and worked at

the need for purity of heart

at places where good is being tested, and even persecuted

and never to forget

that it is when we are being ridiculed, picked on and victimised

for doing what is right that we are blessed.

So there is a comprehensive manifesto to follow

if that's what engages us

The Comprehensive Manifesto

*Justice, kindness and mercy

*The Cross, God's wisdom, focus on Jesus

* poverty of spirit, comfort in the face of death, humility and meekness, the thirst for what is right, mercy, purity of heart, peace making, fighting for what is right, and being prepared to suffer for what is right

It rather makes our minds reel

but let it not do that

let us see it as the standard that we hold

to keep ourselves connected to Christ.


Perhaps take one of those items from the manifesto

and ask yourself

What does this mean for me?

What can I do this week to deliberately implement the Christian manifesto?

And then

Do it!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Readings for Sunday 23rd January 2011 the Third Sunday after Epiphany (Year A) can be taken from Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, & Matthew 4:12-25
The early disciples got a curious glimpse of something different:
what it might be like to follow Jesus.
For two thousand years people have got a glimpse of the same thing.
For some it has been very clear
for some it has been a gradual realisation
The question we ask ourselves today is what makes me a disciple of Jesus?
Why do I follow, what do I seek to be and do?
You may remember that last week's question was: What are you looking for?
This is what Jesus asks those who pursue him.
The two questions are not unrelated
But the mature realisation of the disciple is
that it is not a job description
rather it is an invitation to a relationship
This is not unlike a marriage
I could be tempted when preparing a couple to say
"This what a husband does" and "This is what a wife does"
as if it were some sort of job description
(this is, incidentally, why some people get Paul's teaching about marriage all skew-whiff,
they mistake his comments about the nature of mutual relationship as a role descriptor for spouses!)
in reality what is important is not the job that we do as a spouse or as a disciple
but the sort of relationship we have.
With each other, and with God

This week
  • You might reflect whether the idea of having a relationship with Jesus is one that works for you
  • How might you deepen that relationship, or (perhaps) discover what it means?
  • Pray for yourself and your friends that you may have beeter relationships.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do we want to know?

This is a reflection on a week of great floods in Australia and will be the substance of my Sunday sermon. A reflection on the Lectionary readings for this Sunday, 16th January 2011 is below..What are you looking for?

As I began to think about what we want to know at a time of great human catastrophe
I started to draw a mind map (above)
to give some framework to what I might even begin to say
it quickly became apparent that we have a lot of questions
and all sorts of things are flying around our minds
at this time.
So I won't even attempt to address all the questions.

Simple answers to difficult questions
There are many difficult questions aren't there?
Why do some people survive and other people die?
Why does a once-in-a-100 year flood happen two years in a row?
Where, we as people of faith might ask, is God in all this?

One of the problems is that these questions are difficult questions
so we wouldn't and shouldn't expect that the answers are any less difficult.
Indeed, in the book of Job, where this whole question is teased out
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Part of the answer that is given there
is that we cannot fathom the complexity of such situations
and that we do not know the mind of God.

This does not mean that we should not seek understanding
but we should proceed with caution
and with the humility
that we may not comprehend everything
and indeed we will never know all the answers.

Important versus impotent
I wrote also to someone who is involved in the CFS
that I spent my wakeful night hours praying for this disaster
and often as I have thought of this young man
I pray for him when he is out fighting fires.
I also made the observation:
that this often seem impotent
Though I am a firm believer in prayer
it doesn't often seem to do what we want.
(Often we want far less than God wants to give)
But I also observed that feeling powerless, impotent
is an important understanding about how people must be feeling at this time.
And maybe prayer is not so much an exercise in
getting God to do our bidding and fix things up
as it is a statement of solidarity
with those for whom we pray.
Be they the sick, or the needy
or even those who celebrate and when we give thanks
Prayer opens up a way to stand alongside others
and this, it would seem to me,
is probably the most important thing we can do.
As we look at what God is doing in Jesus
when he dies on the Cross
he does not take suffering away
so much as stand alongside us
in solidarity.

When we are praying for others
we need also to recognise this solidarity is an important stance
and so alongside the important prayers we offer
there is another question to answer
and how might I act in solidarity with my neighbour

Most of us will struggle with that one.
We will often know that solidarity
is about giving of ourselves
Jesus gives himself
That may mean time, energy, an ear
Sometimes all we can do is give money.
I urge you to be generous.
In the weeks to come there will also be the need for us as the Church
to think about how we can help our sister churches in these affected areas.
We don't need to solve that today
but I flag it for the future.

This is an important and sad time for our nation.
There are no simple answers to the difficult questions
There is a call to stand in solidarity with those those in need
-- through prayer
-- through practical action
There is a call to be generous.

May we respond well to these challenges.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What are you looking for

Readings for Sunday 16th January 2011 the Second Sunday after Epiphany (Year A) can be taken from Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, & John 1:29-42
In these weeks after Christmas and Epiphany we are invited to explore how Jesus is understood and made known to people.
This is what the word "epiphany" means.
So we have seen Jesus, as the baby born in Bethlehem who is not just a fairy tale for the Jews, but also the fulfilment of the hopes for the world.
The Wise Men who initiate the season are the signs of the wider world, and that this revelation of God is for all people.
Last week as we thought of Jesus's baptism, we were introduced to the idea that Jesus is the Beloved of God, here for a purpose.
A purpose that is full of hope and expectation.
Today we hear not only about who Jesus is, but about who we are.
And we are invited to understand that who we are is, of course, tied up with who Jesus is
and who God says we are and he wants us to be.
So picking up (not quite at random) we are told
You are my servant in whom I will be glorified and
that the Lord formed us in the womb, to bring the faithful back to him
and we hear Paul speaking to the Church in Corinth and also to us
we are made holy in Jesus we are called to be saints
we are not lacking in any spiritual gift and
the Lord will strengthen you to the end
This is powerful and hopeful language
and we should take a while to breathe it in.
But it as we look to what John says about Jesus
that we are given an insight into how to explore this in our own life. John tells them that
Jesus is "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world",
and also that he is the one who will baptise people not just with water but also with the Holy Spirit.
We can't imagine that the early disciples were able to put all this together like some elaborate spiritual jigsaw
which as long as they found the pieces and had enough time would ultimately become clear.
It is enough however for people to be entranced
and so they go looking for Jesus and try to see what he is going to do.
Now this is a pattern of our life and indeed of most people
they are captivated by Jesus.
They do indeed see in the stable, under the light of the star,
on Palm Sunday,
in the miracles,
on the Cross
and at the Garden of Gethsemane
something which they do not quite understand
but which, nevertheless, captivates them.
It grabs our attention. and for a brief moment we run after this hope and this promise.
Jesus says to us what he said to those first searchers .....What are you looking for? This is a telling little remark
it says apart from anything else
that we have to do some digging for ourselves,
even though we are often content to do nothing
and then wonder why the holy God seems silent or distant.
What are you looking for?
Take some time to think about this question.
It may be that you need to think about the question behind the question
I just want a quiet life...but what does a quiet life mean...a quiet life means a life without worry...but what worries are of concern to you....I want my children to be happy...what would their happiness look like
So you see what one such chain might look like.
The initial attraction that we (or anyone else) might feel towards Jesus
invites us to dig!
What are you looking for?
It is worth spending the time to identify what we really want
and asking Jesus to speak into that situation.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Baptism of Jesus

Sunday 13th January ...The Baptism of Jesus Readings for today include: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew3:13-17 and Matthew's account in 3:13-17 is below

Matthew 3:13-17 ...

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

Much (too much seems to me) is made of Jesus's Baptism by John the Baptist.
The point that is usually made is that:
  • Jesus did not need to be baptised but he obediently responded and expressed a certain humility in so doing
  • It initiated the start of his ministry and public recognition of who he is begins to unfold
These points are reasonable , but, maybe, too subtle and/or theological

Baptisms are rich occasions, they mean a lot to people
and they are often multi-complex in meaning.
They do not just have to be one thing or the other.
At the very least we see here Jesus making a deliberate act of openness to God
an act which we are invited to share in.
There is a recognition that however he conducts himself
he needs to do it in accordance with the way the Father wants things done
and so we rejoice when we see this happening.

As we watch Jesus being baptised, however,
this story impacts upon us
and the same journey/opportunity
is set before you and me.
  • To allow our lives to be deliberately open to God
  • and to commit ourselves to walking in the way of God
I often am reminded of the verses of the daily invitatory Psalm, often called Venite after its Latin title.
In the latter part of that psalm God speaks to the singer or perhaps we might say pray-er
If today you hear God's voice
do not harden your heart
as in the Provocation and the day of Temptation in the wilderness
when your ancestors tempted me, put me to the test
even though they had seen everything I did.
Forty years long I was grieved with generation and said
"It is a people who err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways"
Unto whom I swear, in my anger
They shall not enter into into my rest.
from Psalm 95

This is not a threat, it is the way things are.
We are tempted to ignore God, and even though we see what God is doing
yet often we still go our own way.

The call to Baptism
is the call to do what God wants
and to commit our lives to that cause
If today we hear his voice
we pray that we harden not our hearts