Sunday, February 27, 2011

Transcending the myth

SUNDAY MARCH 6TH 2011 is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany this year and a selection of readings are :Exodus 24:12-18;Psalm 2orPsalm 99;II Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
On this last Sunday before Lent
we are directed to the story of the Transfiguration (here)
St Peter in his wonderful exposition of this event (which we also read today)
reminds us that this is not 'a cleverly devised myth'
Now this bears thinking about because it has a lot of mythical qualities
...flashing lights, supernatural figures, voices booming from heaven, mystery clouds ..
and so on
What Peter says is that this is his experience of who Jesus is.
And this is a reflection that we might be invited to make today
as we come to the end of this Epiphany season
Who is Jesus for me?
This, on one level, is a straight forward question
on another it takes us into this realm of uncertainty and the supernatural.
At the very least, this story of the Transfiguration
helps us to realise that God transcends the natural world and the supernatural.
Indeed this is really the whole point of understanding who Jesus is...
The Word made flesh
The reality of God in human form.
So we might usefully cast our eyes around our day to day life
and ask where we encounter Jesus
where are we aware of the dynamic presence of God acting in our life
in the ordinariness of our life.

Who is Jesus for me? - Some reflections
  • Take time to be aware of God's sustaining presence
  • Where have I been aware of God with me today?
  • What does God could cause me to do, be and think today?
  • Is there an invitation to live my life in a way different from that which I often choose?
  • Give thanks to God for insight and pray for grace to be faithful
  • GLORY TO GOD: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; as in the beginning so now and for ever. AMEN

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Both ends of the stick

Today in the parish we are having two celebrations. At different ends of the spectrum of Christian experience.
We are interring the ashes of a beloved parishioner Molly who has died after a long and faithful Christian life
and we are baptising Maile.
These might seem, to some, to be at odds with each other
But because they both speak of the Christian call
one at the beginning of a Christian life
and one at the end
they reflect each other
So, at the heart of what we hear this morning
is not a warning but a truth
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other
This, as I say, is not a threat
it is a truth.
If we are to give ourselves to Jesus
then it is all or nothing.
Molly knew this, more and more throughout her life
and also discovered that not only was this "work"
but also a joy
The greatest joy that we can know.
The promises of the gospel we hear this morning
is that if we enter into this mystery
then we also come to know
that this is not a slog
this is something that God enables in our life.

We open ourselves to the life of God
and God responds with faithfulness
and abundant life.

At the other end of the scale
the parents and godparents
are being asked to initiate this journey
in Maile's life
Their role is principally by their own example
to help her understand the truth of the gospel.
It is important to hear the particular emphasis of the gospel today
---as we try to share the gospel with each other
we are not being invited to to teach them how to be clever
or even prudent, or wise---
But rather to have faith in God

We sometimes get this wrong
we think at best that being a Christian is about common sense
when it is about trusting God.
We think it's about developing good habits, saving, planning, discipline
...and it's not that these things are not involved
It is rather that faith in God is our prime concern
So we all ask ourselves at such a time:
(and chiefly those who make the baptismal promises)
How do I help this person to have faith in God?

We have the example of one faithful person as well today, Molly.
As we watch (so often) life stripped away
or as we witness as we have this week
lives cut short
we actually are reminded that
when things are cut back, when they dwindle
when we are pushed for what is important is not how rich we are, it is not how well we play sport
or how good we have been at work
BUT rather how have we opened ourself to the mystery of God's life.

This is not 'common sense' is the life of faith
not a contradiction but a deeper profounder approach to life.
Turning to Christ, repenting of sin, rejecting selfishness and renouncing evil

All of these are at the heart of what one life has been about
and what another life is to be about.

Jesus says what energises your life, what we are to strive for is this:
Strive first for the kingdom of God and a right relationship with God
and these other things will be given to you

The Memorial Garden at St John's Coromandel Valley

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oh be good, for goodness sake!

    The focus this week shifts a little
although we are still emphasising that it is not just sufficient to
say the right thing
but also to do it
last week's emphasis
was more on not doing the wrong thing
But today we are exhorted to do the right thing
Both, of course, are necessary
Jesus uses extreme examples (hyperbole)
this grabs our attention
and indeed they contain some of his most memorable ideas
That is part of the purpose of hyperbole
-to grab our attention-

If anyone strikes you, then turn the other cheek!

If someone wants your jumper, give them your coat too!

To someone who make you do something you don't want, do more than they ask!

And so it goes on
This week therefore we are being invited to stretch ourselves in doing good.
You might immediately think of a situation where this applies, and so you have the opportunity to respond.
But if you need more convincing then maybe we need to go back to first principles (which is sort of what we have been doing over the last few weeks).
Jesus is inviting us not just to keep the rules, or not just to not break the rules
but to recognise that this discipleship is going to be about deciding at the very core of our being that we are going to live our life...not out of the book
but according to the principles.
This is probably harder, because it means we have to actually think about what we do. We have to do more than just accidently be Christian
It is about commitment.

So THIS WEEK..there may be some obvious place where we can go the extra mile, dig a little deeper, act more out of principle than out of duty
or we may have to grapple with this a little deeper. To talk with Jesus about what this will mean.
This is not about punishment, it is not about making life hard. It is about acting out of the heart, rather than the head.
About living the Gospel, rather than keeping the rules.
Find one thing to do, and do it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Choose life

Readings for the 6th Sunday after the Epiphany can include
  • Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (Australian lectionary uses Deuteronomy 10) or Sirach 15:15-20
  • Psalm 119:1-8 •
  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 •
  • Matthew 5:21-37
  • What are we to make of this idea

    that even thinking about sin

    might be as bad

    as sin itself?

    What Jesus seems to be getting at

    in these little sayings:

    Don’t just not be angry

    Actually do something about it

    Don’t just not commit adultery

    deal with your inward thoughts

    Recognise that you make some serious commitments

    and that you need to stick to them

    And even…don’t swear an oath

    but let your word be of such quality

    that it shouldn’t be necessary

    to have legal compulsion to tell the truth.

    This is the point at which, as the popular saying goes,

    the rubber hits the road

    or where we not only say the right thing

    but we do the right thing.

    Is this what people think of us?

    Is this, indeed, what we think of ourselves?

    or are we two-faced?

    We often can rationalize this behaviour

    (We don’t want to hurt people

    we want to avoid trouble…so on)

    But what we hear this morning

    is rather consistent

    with what we have been receiving

    from this section of Jesus’s teaching that we call the The Sermon on the Mount

    Your faith should be tasty…like salt

    and it should shine out like a light.

    Now we hear..

    Don’t just say things

    but actually them!

    And be aware of how you think!

    Because your thoughts are probably a tell-tale of what’s really going on

    Work for this week

    What’s going on in your life?

    In particular those secret places

    where perhaps we are not up-front with others (or even ourselves)

    The word of warning that we are getting here

    is that even though we may be duplicitous

    with others

    and even with ourselves

    that it doesn’t actually deceive God

    and doesn’t often or actually do what we think.

    Avoiding conflict doesn’t resolve it!

    Putting on a masquerade

    for the sake of public appearances

    doesn’t actually make that come true.

    Are we thus going to follow our Saviour in deed as well as word?

    It is the image of jesus himself. He not only was a good person but his life was put on the line too!

    I would even suggest that creating and sustaining the charade

    is more damaging in fact than the problems it seeks to solve.

    Avoiding conflict is probably more damaging than confronting it.

    Suppressing our strong sexual feelings, would seem to be more damaging than actually dealing with them.

    When we lose our integrity (our Yes/Yes)

    We have lost something centrally and essentially human.

    This week, let’s pay attention

    to where God is calling us to

    not only say but also to be and do our Christianity

    This may be hard, probably will be

    But we are called not to be wishy washy

    But to be faithful…in word and in deed

    Tuesday, February 08, 2011

    Career defining moment

    On Tuesday 8th February 1981, I was ordained a priest in God's Church in St Peter's Cathedral Adelaide. Thirty years have passed! A few thoughts and some reflections on John 15:16

    As I was driving home the other night
    one of those billboards caught my attention
    it was advertising job-placement programs
    it said "Have you had your career moment defining yet?"
    I immediately thought..this is my theme for the 30th anniversary of my ordination..
    And indeed I well remember that 45 degree day 30 years ago.
    That ordination has affected my life profoundly
    I have tried to be a good priest
    sometimes I have done well
    and sometimes I have failed miserably.
    The world and the church are different places today
    If we think about the change in marriage practice in this time
    then we will see that I am a priest in a different way than I might have imagined in 1981
    The awful scandals that have been uncovered in those 30 years
    mean that I, indeed, do not assume any more that I am held in any sort of regard.
    Throughout all this there have been times
    when I have been asked by all sorts of people...spiritual directors, psychologists, and so on
    how do I feel about being a priest
    And I have been aware that I have been deeply shaken by all this
    but my answer
    when I have touched my inner depths
    is that strangely
    as all the prestige, even glamour, and influence
    have been stripped away.
    As all the old certainties have been stripped away,
    prayer books change
    congregations dwindle
    as a great sense of shame and embarrassment
    have also sat alongside pride and joy
    at being an Anglican answer has been
    Strangely I feel more certain about my vocation
    as all this has been stripped away.
    I can only put this down to the fact that I have had to let go of absolutely everything and realise that being a priest is nothing to do with me
    What ever I think...I know something of the truth of God's holy words
    You did not choose me but I chose you (John 15:16)
    It cannot be any other way.
    This gives me no cause for complacency or arrogance
    but if we can understand the truth
    that it's not about us
    then we might be relieved
    Well any way I am.
    So....was my ordination ...the career defining moment
    Yes and No!
    Yes because I have been privileged to be a priest. And I love this.
    BUT if I hear God saying "You did not choose me"
    then I want to say...God says this to each one of us at Baptism
    that's the point when we are all affirmed as The Chosen Ones

    In our Anglican tradition when a priest is ordained
    She is surrounded by the Bishop and the other members of the priesthood (see the lovely picture above)
    Priests represent the people to God...what a privilege...
    and God to the people...what a greater privilege
    They are here symbolising that God surrounds us
    and we support each other.

    We are God's chosen ones
    each of us baptised into Christ.
    Let this dynamic infuse you
    as it seems to have infused me.
    You did not do this
    I did this.
    And I uphold you.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    Light and salt

    Readings for February 6th, 2011 are those for The 5th Sunday after Epiphany:
  • Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)
  • Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)
  • Matthew 5:13-20
  • When I go to visit my sister it is my job to make the coffee
    (this is largely because I don't believe anyone can make coffee as well as I can!)
    There was of course the unfortunate day when I mistook the salt for the sugar
    and my coffee was undrinkable.
    The whole point about salt is to give flavour
    but to give the right sort of flavour
    in the right sort of place.
    And Jesus makes the same point about light;
    you don't get batteries for your torch
    or a new fixture for your kitchen
    so that you can sit in the dark.

    Taste & Light
    The light that we give at baptism
    is a light to bring us out of darkness
    into God's marvellous light
    - a light which exposes evil
    - a light which shows us the way to go
    - a light which help us show the way to God to others

    I would suggest that this is not just a call to you and me as individuals
    ut also to us as a community
    So we might ask how does our parish, church, family (or wherever we identify our community)
    - expose evil
    - show the way to go
    - help us to show the way to others

    We could suggest:
    that when we are confronting prejudice, when we are standing against dishonesty,
    standing up for the rights of the friendless
    then we are shining the light.

    We should also see that we need to train ourselves in what it means to be a good Christian
    Lent is coming up, and is a good time for us to get back to Christian basics
    Brushing up on prayer, on spiritual discipline
    practising what we preach with more verve.

    AND we should always recognise that the purpose
    is not just for our self edification
    but so that others might be drawn to the light.
    We want the light to be for others as well as for ourselves..

    Not always good at that, it sometimes seem a bit hard
    yet it should be our catchcry.
    The Gospel for others.

    Finally, to all this we add salt..

    I think this suggests that all this should be tasty!
    I sometimes worry that we are very British in our spiritual tastes
    We like it bland with lashings of brown!

    Where, we might ask, is the flavour of our community?
    Can we give ourselves permission to be more adventurous?
    In the words of the musical Godspell
    But if that salt has lost it's flavor
    It ain't got much in its favor
    You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth

    So what can we do to spice up our faith.
    Perhaps this is a challenging question
    but Jesus gives it a priority which makes it important for us.

    Should we be a community:
    • that does hospitality well
    • that prides ourself on caring for families
    • that thinks music should have a high priority
    • that looks to engage the community on controversial issues
    • that looks for way to welcome those who the rest of the church finds difficult
    These are just a few suggestions:

    You gotta stay bright to be the light of the world
    You gotta live right to be the light of the world

    Let's give ourselves permission to be tasty and to be bright