Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus meets us

Easter is not just a one day festival
but rather a way of life
The rather good stories that tell how early Christians encountered Jesus after his death
help us to assimilate our own experiences of Jesus.
Take Peter, for example, who stands up boldly and reminds his listeners
"This Jesus who you crucified"...
he might also be saying....
"and who I deserted at his time of need"
...well "This Jesus God has shown to be the Messiah,
the incarnation of God himself."
It is, a reminder of the way we take the revelation of the Godhead for granted
and fail to see
what mind-blowingly transforming stuff we are involved in.
Thomas, too, who is a quintessential figure in the Christian story.
Not with the disciples when Jesus appears
he does not just take at face value
the fact that they have "seen the Lord"
Why, indeed, should he?
There is perhaps a salutary reminder
that sometimes we assume that people will take our witness for granted.
When we tell them what our experience of the Godly encounter is
we should not just assume that is going to be the last word in the debate.
We often mistake what is happening
we do not name it rightly
we may fail to appreciate where the other person is
(all these are warnings for the would-be evangelist)
but more than this we need to appreciate
that conversion is not so much about persuasion
as about openness to the Holy Spirit of God.
The disciples encourage Thomas
to articulate what it would take for him
to be convinced of the truth
of what God is doing in our lives.
What would it take for me to be convinced?
Perhaps more deeply convinced, or more fundamentally convinced,
can you write a short list of the doubts you have
and what God needs to do to allay those doubts.
Thomas did....I need to see and feel the wounds...
to experience the physicality and the aliveness of Jesus.
This confrontation and naming of doubt enabled him to respond well
when the moment came.
This is an important statement about the integrity of God
The God who honours our shortcomings
as well as our insights and our strengths.
Indeed the story seems to suggest
that doubt is not necessarily a "shortcoming"

The experience of resurrection
invites us to explore
both the light and dark places
where God is to be encountered in our faith journey.

What would you name as your doubts?
What would it and does it take to be more firmly and deeply committed?
and can I allow that process to take place in God's good time

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's alarming

what happens at the tomb
is an interesting challenge to the believer
those who go to look for Jesus
flee, in amazement and terror.
They are told by a young man ( who is perhaps an angel)
"Do not be alarmed!"

What ever it is you are seeking
is not here at the tomb, it is elsewhere.

This seems to me (at the very least)
good advice.
We have to move on from the tomb.
We have to get beyond what alarms us.

More than this it is a key part of understanding
what resurrection might be about.

It is certainly about trying to understand
what death is about
and death is often a point where we are
But it's not the only point at which we get alarmed.

We encounter death in our relationships
in our particular world views.

The message of the tomb would seem to be
that we don't deal with death
by standing at the tomb.

As terrifying and amazing as this might be
(and it was for the disciples)
we are called to go elsewhere.
In this story the disciples are told to go back to the place
where they experienced life
It's called Galilee for these disciples
(I'm going there this year)
but it may go by a different name for you and me.

Where are we experiencing the grave at the moment.
Don't be alarmed!
Go back to where you experienced Jesus
to where you knew true inspiration
and that things were right.

He is not at the point
where we buried the body.
He has gone back
to where he gives you life.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

    There are probably two types of errors that you can make about the great mystery of the Resurrection
    One is to think that if we believe hard enough that Christ rose from the dead
    then death will go away
    that we will be spared negative consequences.
    The other is to imagine that it is just a metaphor
    a way of looking at life
    that is symbolic
    but doesn't really have much reality about it.
    If you like it is a sort of fairy story.

There is an element of truth in both of these views,
but they are both false

No one suggests that believing that Jesus rose from the dead
will help us to avoid death.
We would be foolish to think that death is not real
But equally well
it's a mistake to think that the language of resurrection is only symbolical.

If we pay attention to the stories contained in the Gospel
we find there is no sense in which
the early Christians believed that the stories
were only symbolical.
The stories are clear:
Jesus died
and was experienced as alive
after he had died.

It is this that is at the heart of what Christians proclaim.
Jesus is alive, even though he died.

We don't quite know how this happened
we know it did
and that Christians have come to understand
that meeting the risen Jesus
makes a difference to the way
we understand death.

Not avoiding death
not pretending death is metaphorical
but allowing ourselves to be brave enough to enter in.

There we discover
that death
does not destroy us
it does not defeat us
but rather it opens to us
the life of God
our own life
the fulness of life

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let the same mind be in you

Being one with Christ

Some reflections on Philippians 2 and the Litany of Humility

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God,
 did not regard equality with God
 as something to be exploited, 
but emptied himself,
 taking the form of a slave,
 being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 
 he humbled himself
 and became obedient to the point of death—
 even death on a cross. Philippians 2

We can barely begin to imagine what it might be like

to not use all our power

and influence

to get people

to do what we think

is the right thing.

Yet we are told that Jesus


did not use his Godliness

to get people to do what he wanted

He chose rather to stand before them

as himself

and say

Here I am

take me or leave me

as we think today about our human relationships

who is of most concern to us.

Is it our friend, our child

our husband or wife

Our brother or our sister.

Perhaps it is some powerful person

who we think could and should make a difference

Are we disgusted, embarrassed, ashamed


that people haven’t done what we think they should have done?

The critique of this passage is that we have to have the sort of courage

that says

I need to let go

I need to be brave enough

to allow others to be themselves

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...Deliver…

From the desire of being extolled Deliver..

From the desire of being honored .Deliver..

From the desire of being praised .Deliver..

From the desire of being preferred to others. Deliver…

I need to let go

to be brave enough

to allow other to be themselves

and to allow myself to be me.

This Litany of Humility that we might reflect on today

invites us to remember

that the model of Jesus

is to understand that we do not come into our own

by being self-centred

but rather by seeing that

we are at our best when we help others to realize their own potential

As we think about Peter, about Nicodemus

about St Mary Magdalene

we see that Jesus’s concern for them is not that they should become

like him

but that they should become the people God wants them to be

That Peter should be able to accept his own inadequacy

that Mary Magdalene might confront her own immorality

that Nicodemus might move beyond

religious formalism

to true relationship

with God

I need to let go

to be brave enough

to allow others to be themselves

and to not desire that everyone

and everything

might be what I want or think it should be.

From the desire of being consulted .Deliver..

From the desire of being approved ... Deliver..

From the fear of being humiliated ... ... Deliver

From the fear of being despised..... Deliver…

From the fear of suffering rebukes ... Deliver..

I need to let go

to be brave enough

to allow others to be themselves

So much of what I want others

to be

is often about the way I think about myself

When I disapprove of someone else’s behaviour

am I actually seeing in other’s what I dislike about myself

When I feel I am humiliated

am I doing to others what I accuse them of doing to me.

Do I despise in others what I most readily see in myself is less than it should be?

Therefore God also highly exalted him
 and gave him the name
 that is above every name, 
so that at the name of Jesus
 every knee should bend,
 in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue should confess
 that Jesus Christ is Lord,
 to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2

I wonder if we actually appreciate

how important the name of Jesus is

in a world that so often mocks him directly

and indeed that even uses his name as swear word.

Why should we be surprised

that the world continues to do to good people

what it so clearly did to Jesus.

The hatred, bitterness

that so often characterizes anti-Christian sentiment

is also an invitation

to decide that we will not be like that ourselves.

St Paul reminds his fellow Christians

that We have been made for freedom.

Freedom to decide that we will not just respond

but that rather we will


to be different

to act differently.

It requires courage

and may expose us to bitterness

and hatred

but it is, nevertheless, a choice

From the fear of being calumniated ... Deliver

From the fear of being forgotten ... Deliver

From the fear of being ridiculed ... Deliver

From the fear of being wronged ... Deliver From the fear of being suspected ... Deliver

Much of our poor behaviour

is driven by fear

St John tells us that the antidote

to fear

is love.

Perfect love casts out fear

Where ever we feel hated, overlooked

ridiculed, wronged

or picked upon

may we have the courage to pray for love

for the very one who hurts us

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I Jesus, grant…

That, in the opinion of the world, others may, increase and I may decrease Jesus, grant..

That others may be chosen and I set aside Jesus, grant…

That others may be praised and I unnoticed Jesus, grant…

That others may be preferred to me in everything Jesus, grant….

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should Jesus, grant…

Our prayer might be that we might

allow a deep and radical transformation

to take place in our lives

that we will want to love more than be loved

that we will put the needs of others before our own narrow concerns

and that I may do better than seek my own personal glory

In the end

as a person who seeks holiness

my deepest desire should not be that I draw close to God

but that others are drawn into God’s love.

Jesus died…not that he might be good

but that we might know God’s love.