Monday, March 28, 2011

There is none so blind.....

This Fourth Sunday in Lent, April 3, 2011: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 often called Refreshment, Laetare or Mothering Sunday

The demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, often had as their catch-cry
"Silence is consent!"
In the face of injustice, dishonesty, illegality
when confronted with evil
to remain silent is to consent to the evil.
We hear penetrating critique about acting morally such as English philosopher Edmund Burke who said,
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote a reflection on the inevitable decline into the Holocaust

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time
there was no one left to speak up for me.

As we move to Easter we reflect on the Christian life and living out our baptismal promises:

Do you renounce evil?
The first of the two promises: Do you repent of sin?
invites us to step away from the wrong that we have done.
The second: Do you reject selfishness?
invites us to craft our lives
by a spirit of openness and self-giving
unselfishnes, which is counter-cultural
and stands against much of what our greedy world promotes.

The renunciation of evil invites a stronger stand again
not only will we craft our own lives selflessly
but we will stand against evil.
The image Paul uses is to step out of the darkness
and live in the light.
Jesus, in the story of the man born blind,
reminds us that true blindness
is not a disease
but a choice
we choose not to see
we choose not to act
we choose darkness over light.

This choice may be the passive one
of choosing to do nothing
or to remain silent
--Silence is consent--
it is still a choice.
  • You might reflect where you have chosen to be silent
    in the face of injustice, is there some way you can be courageous, more honest more open?
  • Where does God call us to speak out against
    injustice? Why do we choose to ignore obvious evil? What is the consequence of this?
  • Pray for yourself and your friends that you may
    keep your baptismal promise to renounce evil.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What can I give Jesus?

This reflection focuses on the Exodus reading and the John reading the full readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 27 2011. Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42.

There is much water in today’s readings!
The Exodus reading reminds us that once again the people of Israel who have:
• been delivered rejoicing out of Egypt
• been delivered from the Egyptians at the Red Sea
• been delivered from hunger and thiurst in the wilderness
Have once again forgotten that God has acted time and time again to bless them and care for them
and in the face of trial
stand faithless and unbelieveing
crying that God has let them down.

God does heed their cry
by bringing water out of stone
BUT we are told..that God does not look too kindly on this
Having been faithful to the people time and time again
they reciprocate with little faith
indeed quite the reverse.
We are told therefore this placed is called Quarreling and Testing
and time and time again we will be reminded that it shows a faithless heart on behalf of the people.
Though God had continuously delivered them
yet at the slightest little obstacle they chose to act faithlessly.
This pattern…I will not rejoice in God’s goodness
I will only bemoan when things get tough
Betrays a faithless heart on our behalf.
Is this how we treat God?

What can I give Jesus?
In the second story
Jesus meets a woman at a well
In the first moments of this encounter he breaks a range of religious prohibitions: he talks to a woman alone, she is a Samaritan, and he asks her to give him drink which as a Jew he should not receive from a Samaritan.

What we may miss in this story, because so often we are focused on God giving to us
is that Jesus ask the woman to
Give to him
“Give me a drink!”
We don’t often think of Jesus as being in need of anything from us.
So I find myself asking:
If Jesus was going to ask me for something what would it be?
What does Jesus want from you or me?

Let that question be with you during this week.

In the Exodus story we read how the people shut down their relationship with God because they do not give they only take
Here we have Jesus reversing that dynamic
if you give to me then I can give to you.
When the woman responds he is able to say to her:
If you do this simple act of kindness to me
then I can give you the gift of God?
In the old story they are shutting down the relationship with God.
In the new story, Jesus is opening it up.

What can I give Jesus?
We (like the woman) can find all sorts of reasons not to do it
but faith invites us to trust God and then God can respond to our slightly open door

This week
If Jesus was to say “Give me….” what is he asking for, what can I give ?
Will I do it?

Is there one thing I can give to Jesus this week.

I want us to note, too, when she gives to Jesus and allows a certain openness
Then Jesus goes right to a very key question in her life
What’s happening in your marriage?
And he uncovers a whole can of worms that suggests that, maybe, this woman’s needs are not disembodied spirituality…but very much in her human relationships
However we might make it ‘religious’ it is in our life that we might God.
Our throats may be parched, but our real thirst is spiritual,
we are alive both spiritually and physically they are intenconnected
and both thirsts need quenched

Monday, March 21, 2011

Unselfish behaviour

Readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 27 2011. Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. As part of your prepararation for Sunday take one of the reading for each day

We live in a selfish world...this much is self-evident
Some would say that selfishness is a necessary human characteristic
others would say that it is a destructive attribute.
The "necessary human characteristic" argument
says we need to be able to survive
and so we should be able to feel free to assert our own need
and to look after our own interests.

This bland sort of statement is rather deceptive
because what is the problem
with selfishness
is not, so much, the looking after one's own interests
but rather the fact that most selfishness
looks after one's own interests at the expense of other people.
When, at baptism, people are invited to reject selfishness
we are moving beyond the repentance of things we have done wrong
saying sorry, making restitution and so on....
to actually taking positive steps to live our lives in a way
that is counter cultural.

We are being asked to move beyond
the idea that we need to be able to look after our own self-interests in order to survive
to saying that we also choose a way of life
that is more than just pursuit of self-interest.
How, we might ask, are we to do this?

The Baptismal Liturgy for Children addresses this several times
the sponsors/godparents are asked if they are prepared to show those they are sponsoring how to live the unselfish life.
This is an important point to grasp
unselfishness can be taught....or perhaps caught.

We catch it from others who set us the example
of what might be possible if we choose to live our lives differently.
This is clearly demonstrated for Christians on the Cross.
Apart from what ever mystical and theological process may be taking place
there is something being lived out.
It is that we are unselfish when we give, not only of our stuff
but also of our life.

Jesus says, greater love has no one than this
that they lay down their lives for their friend
This is most unusual in our self-oriented world.

A couple of points

The readings point us to a number of interesting points

1. In the confusion that is the time in the wilderness after the flight from Egypt, the people of Israel constantly miss the point of their call.
Why? Because, as in today's reading, they find it very difficult to get beyond their own very narrow selfish interests.

God responds to their needs time and time again
but the more they get the more they want
and the more they seem unresponsive and ungrateful for what has already been done for them.

The writers of the the Torah are setting before us a picture of wayward selfishness
which is at odds with the will fo God.

2. Paul in writing to the Roman Church urges these people on to do better than mere selfish desires.

Look to greater goals and the bigger picture. Understand at the very least that there is a challenge which will improve us as people: Paul outlines (perhaps a little too strictly) a growth process...

we also boast in our sufferings, knowing
that suffering produces endurance,
5:4 and endurance produces character, and
character produces hope,


His argument suggests that unselfishness opens up
a whole new range of possibility.

3. And what of this woman who meets Jesus. This is a most fascinating story.
She wants more out of life...Lord satisfy my deepest thirst

Jesus immediately points her to the area of her life where her own inward looking orientation
has betrayed her deepest integrity.
Your human relationships are up the creek

Who knows quite what a mess this woman who had had five husbands had made of her life, and why?
There is at least the suggestion that unless we are prepared to plummet the darkness of our true desires and not avoid what our lives are saying to us,
in their messiness, selfishness and deep desire
then our deep thirst will not be satisfied.


Where does God invite you to be unselfish?

is there something immediately that you can do to challenge your selfishness, what stops you?

What do you really want? What would satisfy your deepest desires?

What is the mess of your life saying to you about what you really want?

There are lots of reflections to have about "comfort zones", about whether or not we want to change. Spend some time with God talking about this.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How do we know that we are loved?

Readings for The Second Sunday in Lent, 20th March 2011 can be taken from Genesis 12:1-4a Psalm 121 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-17. [ Matthew 17:1-9..(if not used two weeks ago) features in the older lectionary]

During this early part of Lent we focus on the need to REPENT.
Christians talk about this a lot.
Turning away from sin,
asking forgiveness
saying sorry: to God and to those we have sinned against.
It is an important idea.
More than an idea, it is something that needs to happen,
we all know this

We could make many observations
and no doubt will.
I want today, however,
to just put together this idea
with what the Bible readings offer us,
because today the Scriptures are filled with
and we have the most famous bible verse
for Anglicans, and indeed all Christians, which reminds us of this

God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son
so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but have eternal life
John 3:16

These words that we know so well
contain in a nutshell
all that is good, true, hopeful and profound
about what God is doing in our lives and the world.
At the heart of it
we are reminded that our God is the God who
that everything is done out of love, because of love
in order that we might be loved and that we might love better.

Jesus invites Nicodemus to be 'born again from above'.

This process of being
"born again"
is difficult for Nicodemus (and us) to understand.
What is interesting about it
is that although we often see ourselves
as passive receivers of God's grace
of this 'being born again'
[that is, we sit back and
God does it to us]
there is more force in it than that
"You must be born again", says Jesus.
We have to submit to it, to desire it, to want it!
Repentance is like that
it requires that we invite its cooperation
that we want to repent
we want to be born again.

It will not just happen.
we need to invite cooperation
we need to decide that we are going to make this happen.

This is not neat and tidy,
and maybe we would like it to be more so
but that is what sin, repentance, prejudice and reconciliation
are like.
They are not black and white
but grey and less grey,
grey and greyer.

And the mystery of reconciliation, being born again,
is not so much bought and sold
as entered into
and lived out.
It is this that Abram is invited into
when God says:
Set out from your country. to a new land that I will show you
I will bless you , and in you all the earth will be blessed

This great message of hope and promise
is the journey of faith
which we are called to as individuals
but now also as a nation.
But it does not
and will not
just happen.
We have to set out and invite it.
We have to be born again
We have to repent.

This week
  • Where does God call you to make a new beginning
  • -----by rejecting what you have done wrong in the past (repentance)
  • -----by opening yourself to the Spirit of God (being born again)
  • -----by embracing a new spirit in your life (reconciliation)
  • Is there one thing I can do this week to make something happen to unfold God's working in my life?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tis the season to be--well perhaps not jolly!

Readings for the First Sunday in Lent March 13 2011 may be taken from; Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32 ; Romans 5:12-19 Matthew 4:1-11

It is a great treat to have three highly focussed seasons
one after the other
Advent...leading us to Christmas
Christmas-Epiphany...exploring the mystery of the Word made flesh
and now
Lent, causing us to reflect on our lives in a spirit of penitence
as we look to
Holy Week and Easter.

Maybe you don't quite think of it this way.
But let me try and convince you
that what is on offer here is a chance to draw closer to God,
and that drawing close to God
is the best thing for us.
It is not an easy thing, but it is the best!

The readings today are (in a way) introductory to Lent
they set the scene for us.
Genesis reading is part of the way we talk about
the separation of humanity from God.
Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden of Eden!

It is a powerful story which uses legend/myth/poetry/theology
to explore the human condition.
And (for Genesis) the human condition is this:

We find ourselves separated fromGod.
because having been created by God
we chose not to be what God created us to be
rather than being
we wanted to be

This is not a debate about equality/inequality
But rather a statement about the fact that we find oursleves to be fundamentally separated from God.
At the conclusion of the Eden story
we discover that rather than remain in Paradise
we are destined to leave the place God has put us
because we chose to not be what God intended.
This is an important dimension to grasp
while in a sense we are "exiled" from Eden (the place God intends us to be)
we also exiled ourselves
because we wanted to be God
and of course could not live up to this.

The human story from this point onwards
is about how we return to Eden.

The Inner Struggle
The temptations of Jesus point us to the fact
that part of this return to God
is confronting our own inner selves
and turning away from the seductions of untruth
---we will not live by material support (bread) alone
---the magic of the supernatural holds no way forward
---even having all power possible is a dead end

In a way, these tempations

  • materialism
are fundamental human temptations
which every human being will need to confront
in their spiritual journey.

In what ways have I:

  • put my trust in the wrong place, and think that possessions, wealth and material goods are the sole purpose of what life is about
  • surrendered my autonomy to the supernatural, or to a view of God and the universe which is corrupt and untrue. Have I tried to cause God to fit into my narrow conception rather than open myself to the possibilities of what God is offering me?
  • used my power to manipulate others, to abuse and force my will on others

This week

Take time to be quiet with God and to reflect on where you have moved away from God's desire for you to share in abundant life

Look for one thing to do this week which might restore a sense of faithfulness to your call and desire to be God's person in a difficult world

Review this from time to time during the week and have the courage to implement it

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Sunday March 6th is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany and readings can be taken from Exodus 24:12-18, Ps 2 or Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

Not a myth

This story of The Transfiguration is a fascinating one.

And we need to understand its purpose We need to heed the advice

that Peter gives to his readers

which is that this is NOT a myth

This is difficult in a way because it has all sorts of supernatural bells and whistles

But it’s important that we hear Peter saying

We need to look beyond the supernatural.

This is about seeing Jesus for who he is.

It is one of those points when Peter is able to recognize that Jesus is Messiah

The Beloved of God

the one who is able to bring us into God’s very presence and life.

Not religion

This for Peter is an explanation of something he experienced

there are a couple of of things to note.

The first thing we might be tempted to do when we encounter God is to make it into a “religious” experience

Peter wants to set up shrines for Jesus Moses, and Elijah.

While religious sites have their place

Jesus tells them this is not what this about

Peter is adamant this is not about the bells and whitsles of supernatural experience

It is about seeing Jesus as God’s son

Beloved by God

And opening ourselves to God through Jesus.

Relationship with Jesus

We are being invited to not mythologise this opportunity

or perhaps we would say not fantasise.

Or to turn it into some religious experience

But to understand that this about God’s love

for Jesus, the Beloved Son

and for you and me

As Lent looms this is what is being handed to us

Not an opportunity to become more religious

but an invitation to relationship. with Jesus.

Maybe we don’t want this

the real danger about ‘religion’ is that it can actually be used to keep God at a distance.

Peter is adamant

this is not fantasy

Jesus is certain

no shrine or religious formularies

what is on offer is relationship

What might we do during Lent

to respond to this invitation?

The account tells us….This is my Son the Beloved

Listen to him.

If Jesus is speaking to me

what might he be saying?

if I cannot hear

can I spend a little time

trying to pay attention?

Time is of course of the essence

in any relationship.

You don’t strengthen your relationships

by not spending time.

And there are perhaps two warnings here

as Lent approaches.

One is, we can say…that is for somebody else to do

I think that’s wrong

we cannot delegate our responsibility for our individual relationship

we must allow time for Jesus

just as we should allow time

for our other relationships.

Second, let’s not make the mistake

of thinking that increased religious practice is what is being asked for

This is the warning that Jesus is giving the disciples.

So keep it Personal

and keep it Real