Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Making sense of it all

Readings for the Sunday after the Ascension (Seventh Sunday of Easter) June 5th, 2011. Acts 1:6-14 Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 John 17:1-11

Now this can either be hard or easy!
Because, either the point of the physical removal of Jesus
is an insurmountable obstacle to 21st century rational-scientific minds
or it is as easy as recognising
that in order to mature
we cannot go on having others
doing for us what we need to do for ourselves!
I opt to think, today, about the Ascension
in this latter way!

In the most obvious sense
if God wants mature men and women.
People who will have depth and understanding
then that is not achieved
by always stepping in making up for our inadequacies.
Any parent knows the truth of this.
Indeed anyone in any relationship whatsoever
needs to understand this,
we are not called to step in and make up
for the inadequacies, mistakes and failures
of others.
However well-intentioned,
this breeds immaturity and over-dependence,
rather than freedom, initiative
and sophisticated maturity.

There is a difference between supporting people in difficulty
and in not allowing people the opportunity to make their own mistakes!

The withdrawal of the physical presence of Jesus
rather than being an expression
of God's disappointment and heartbreak with the world
can and should actually be seen
as a statement of faith by God in you and me.
God believes that we have within us
the means to be effective people
God believes that we have within us
the means to be effective church
God believes that we have within us
the capacity to fail and to know that failure is not the end

This is what is going on

Two encouragements
We may feel as though this is too hard sometimes
Can we hear two things today:
That Jesus prays to the Father for our protection.
He is not assuming that it is going to be easy,
indeed the reverse would seem to be the case.
So he prays for our protection.
In the midst of difficulty
our faith requires that we bring that 'big gun' into play.
Let us not forget that God is on our side,
this is not some sort of crude lining up allies
during war
but rather seeking to draw out of you and me
Faith in God.
Perhaps we need to pray that prayer that one of the rulers prays
Lord I DO believe
but also help my unbelief.
feeling undersiege
is not necessarily a sign of spiritual weakness
but rather an invitation
to strengthen our faith
As we rely on faith
we learn to be faithful.

Second, Jesus's key promise
in this time
is that he will not leave us friendless.
He promises the Holy Spirit.
We are not called to do this alone,
but rather to realise that we act out of God's power.
there is something important
about being able to ask for help.
As we seek to move and grow
we pray that God's Holy Spirit,
the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself
will cause us to move as God wants us to
and to understand as God wants us to.

And we discover what the first Christians dicovered
that in acting out of faith
their faith is increased.
In that exercising their God-given independence
they find a new sense of freedom
which opens them up to the gracious life of Spirit of Jesus.

More mysteriously, then, though Jesus is no longer
physically with them
they have a deeper, profounder sense of His abiding love.

May this be ours too

This week
  • Remember to commit yourself deliberately to God's care and protection as you seek to be more faithful
  • Pray deliberately for the Holy Spirit to guide, encourage and lead you

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Making prayer work

Readings for Sunday May 29 2011, Sixth Sunday of Easter Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:8-20, I Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21,

I sometimes jokingly say that we should be careful about what we ask for in our prayers
and particularly when we pray for God to send the Holy Spirit
or to renew us, or something similar.
Because my experience is that that is exactly the sort of prayer---
for the Holy Spirit---
that God is likely to answer!
So, don't pray for renewal unless you want to be renewed.

What might 'renewal' be like?
It seems to me that renewal is likely to be about truth
that when the Spirit of renewal comes
it is going to be the Spirit of Truth.
It will therefore be drawing us towards God and showing us what God is like.
In the process of doing this
one might expect we also discover what we might be like.
This classic sort of movement
leads us to traditionally Christians have said...
the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin.
This is not, I think, some vindictive nasty process
true one.
We will
know and be known.
it is in a sense our life's work:
to understand the truth of what it means
to be made in God's image.
The truth draws us on
to move away from sin
and towards the light.
In this process, too,
we will also uncover the truths of God's world.
The eternal truths can often be spoken with our lips
and may take a little while to appropriate into our lives.
How easily we say "God loves you!" and yet do we believe
that God wants the best for us
and for everyone
and how do we imagine that might work itself otu in our lives.
To me, for example, it means that there is here
a command to ensure that others
are goign to be able to experience God generosity
and share in the bounty of the creation
it will mean, maybe, that I need to work to challenge
my own selfishness and greed
and to stand against the aggressive greed of individuals and institutions
which is the cause of so much poverty.

Truth will mean that I try to conduct myself
with honesty, openness and integrity.
That I value these things about myself
and I treasure the vulnerable gifts that others
may choose to share.

The Spirit will
lead us into truth
implies that this will take time.
And we need patience and diligence.

The way of the Spirit

Monday, May 16, 2011


Fifth Sunday of Easter , May 22 2011, Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 I Peter 2:2-10 John 14:1-14
The story is told of St Christopher
that he searched the world over
for the strongest king to serve
he rejected one after the other
even the devil
and finally he is told to serve God
and to do this by helping people across a dangerous river.
One night a small child comes
and Christopher carries him across the river
he senses the burden getting heavier as he crosses
and it is only as he gets to the other side
that he realises he has been carrying the Christ child.
It is a nice story, and has a good moral.
These days it is regarded as legendary
rather than an account of an actual event.
This does not make it untrue.
It rather points us to the fact
that we are called to serve Christ in the work we do in this world
and that we often don't realise that Christ is there.
It is an Easter encounter
we don't realise at first that Christ is alive and there amongst us.
He surprises us by being in the ordinary place.
The disciples have to learn this.
They are often easily distracted and, well,...just plain 'thick'
Not unlike you and me really!
What is on offer by Jesus is not some fairy tale encounter
nor is it some pious ritual.
It is a glimpse of glory,
it is sharing of the vision of the open heaven and God reigning in power, peace and love.
St Stephen, at his martyrdom, is able to blurt this out.
Things often become very clear to us in the valley of the shadow of death.
For most of the time it is a struggle, like Christopher,
to not insist that God does things in the way that we want them done
and rather to open ourselves to the mystery of what God might be offering us.
Not what we vainly want but what God might be trying to invite us into.
In the halting passage in John 14 again, often read at funerals, Jesus promises a prepared-place.
He is of course speaking imaginally
we are not talking about the Legian Beach Hotel or some Georgian mansion
But rather of the fact that there is a place.
This is a comfort to the dying and the bereaved, I suggest, to know that whether we live or whether we die God has a place for us.
But as we read on we discover that the place is not so much a location as a relationship....
How can we know the way? and Jesus says to you and me
I am the way and the truth and the life
I think once we grasp this we are, indeed, on the way.
This is what Christopher found.
It is not discovery of the answer it is by entering into relationship with Jesus.
This is the relationship which will reveal to us the life of God himself
We Christians believe that this shepherd, this Jesus,
this way, this truth, this life
uniquely draws us into the life of God.
This is not an exclusivist claim it is the promise and hope of relationship.
I will know God, and God will know me.
I will know and be known. It is a glimpse of glory.
This week
  • Where is Jesus telling me about himself?
  • What do I tell Jesus about myself?
  • How does this mutual revelation change us both?
  • How do I change my life to better live that experience
  • What will I do this week as I live out of this relationship
  • all seek resolution in practice

Monday, May 09, 2011

Good Shepherd

Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter May 15, 2011 Acts 2:42-47 ;Psalm 23; I Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

At least Australians, unlike most city dwellers, are probably
quite used to sheep
No image is fonder to traditional Christians than that of Jesus as
the Good Shepherd.
Yet it is a foreign image which bears little relevance to most of us
Even in this country (Australia) the intimacy of the shepherd caring for a small flock of not the way we look after sheep.
They are in hundreds and thousands, largely left to their own devices
until the time comes for them to be killed or shorn.
So we need to look beyond the image and translate it to our modern times.
A couple of pointers
being a sheep is about belonging
It's only as we belong to Christ
that we understand and believe
This would suggest that the Good News is about the decision we make to be Christ's
And not so much about intellectual knowledge.
As important as doctrine and learning are,
life in Christ is actually about being in touch with the person of the Risen Christ
How might we be in touch?

We need to maintain a deep commitment to personal and regular prayer.
We will meet Jesus in so far as we encounter him in the early morning,
and in the evening,
this is a figurative way of looking at prayer of course. but we need to do it

We will meet Jesus in the shared life of the Christian community.
There are no solitary Christians
...we are the Body of Christ, members of one another.
in so far as we struggle with one another (difficult as we are)
we are exploring the depth of relationship in Christ
and coming to know Jesus in depth

The spirit of obedience
Jesus could not be blunter..
We hear his voice, and we do what he tells us.

What, then, is Christ saying to me in my life?
Do I respond by doing what he tells me to do?
What does the life of the Body of Christ say to me
about what Jesus invites me to be and do?
Do I do it?

  • Take some time to reflect on what I hear Jesus saying, through my prayer, through my life, through experience of community
  • What 2 or 3 things do I seem to hear Jesus saying to me about how to faithfully follow
  • What resistance do I have to obedience? What do I need to do about it?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Knowing Jesus

Readings for Easter 3, May 8th 2011 include: Acts 2:36-41, Ps 116, 1Pe 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

What’s happening?

Nearly all of us will have told someone this week

about things that have happened to us.

The Gospel story relates one of these sorts of conversations

In so doing we are reminded some what of the importance of reflecting on our experience

That is, trying to discern how God might be doing in our lives.

Two disciples going down a road

take the opportunity of time together

to talk about recent events.

In so doing, they are joined by a third person

who we later discover is Jesus.

And the result is that they are able to say

“Did not our hearts burn within us?”

As they understood the mystery which was unfolding

they found all sorts of doors and understanding opening up before them.

Then finally they are able to say Easter words that we repeat at each Eucharist

The disciples knew Jesus

in the breaking of the bread

Learning from experience

It’s not really true to say that we learn from experience

(it’s apparent that some people don’t!)

We learn from reflecting on experience

That is we listen to our experience

think about it

and then decide how we need to change and grow

Mere experience alone won’t do it.

So these disciples model for us something important.

They remind us how important it might be to share

what happens to us

and indeed to allow ourselves top be shared with!

This seems important for people in relationships

husbands & wives, parents and children,

friends, colleagues and so on.

Maybe we (as people committed to community) need to particularly look round for those who don’t have people to share stuff with.

The isolated, the lonely

the bereaved, the friendless.

And can we jump to the end of the story

and also realize the importance of what it says about


It is as they sat down to eat and drink

that they came to understand

Let’s not over think the Eucharistic symbolism (it’s certainly there)

but so also is the simple reality

that meals are important times for us.

What does that say about eating in from of the telly,

or fast food?

Do we also need to be mindful of those who habitually live and eat alone?

Learning from Jesus

But as Christians we see something else in this story

our experience comes to life

our understanding takes great leaps forward

when we allow Jesus to speak into it.

I often think my role as a priest is not to dole out advice

but rather to help people let Jesus speak into their lives.

What is Jesus saying to you

about what is on your current plate?

We are so often self-satisfied, or smug

that even though we are people of faith

we don’t let Jesus speak into our lives.

It is potentially the difference between


and “our hearts burning within us”

This week then

Take time (perhaps with someone else) to think about what is going on in your life

Don’t just stick with that

but also ask

“What, Jesus,are you speaking into that situation?”

How might God be inviting me to respond, grow change as I reflect on my experience and hear Jesus speaking?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The disciples know Jesus

A reflection on The Emmaus story, for Sunday 8 May, 2011. The 3rd Sunday of Easter. Luke 24:13-35
The quiet mystery of the story of Emmaus invites us into the mystery of Easter.
'The disciples knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread'
In a journey shrouded in mystery all the way up the road,
when they talk doctrine to Jesus and he quietly shows them what is the mystery that God is unfolding
they fail to recognise
who and what he is.
It is not until they sit quietly at a table
tired, perhaps ready for bed
that they see through the haze
and Jesus is known to them in the breaking of the bed.
As we might give thanks (as we do tonight) for the Holy Communion we received today
so we are reminded of the mystery that Jesus comes to us in the breaking of the bread.
I came across a cryptic little remark the other day
which said
"If you doubt go to Holy Communion!"
It was a little tongue-in-cheek but it has about it
an element fo truth.
The disciples know Jesus
in the breaking of the bread.
It is the steadfast experience of Anglicans,
and I would suspect, but cannot speak for, other Christians
that as we gather to share Bread and Wine in the Eucharist
we encounter Jesus.
So the funny little comment is true.
If you doubt go to to Holy Communion.
There we hear in the Word of God
of the Jesus who gave himself to be broken
and poured out
so that others might live.
This mystery, so common place to all Christians
should not be taken for granted.
As we hear the words
"Take eat this is my body given for you"
"This is the blood of the new covenant which is shed for you"
It is Jesus speaking to our doubt.
But we should not also miss the mudaneness
that is also being spoken about
that it is as we share bread and wine
around our family tables
and commit ourselves
to human relationships
which the dinner table signifies
and conveys
that we are also attesting to the truth
that Jesus is made known to us
not just in the ritual of worship
but also in the ordinariness of human existence.
For Christians, too, there is an imperative
to see that no one goes hungry
either spiritually, or physically
so the sharing of food ---spiritual and physical---
is to go beyond our comfort zone
and reach out to the hungry.
Jesus reminds us Matthew 25:31–46 (NRSV): in the parable of the Sheep and the goats
that we are called to not only pay heed to the theory of the gospel
but also to put it into practice.
“Truly I tell you, just as you give food and drink to one of the least of these you did it to me.”
We know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
So, the risen Jesus is encountered
So, if we doubt worship God in the Holy Communion
and lest we forget, worship God in the reality of our lives
-our families
-and those who God sets before us in need.

New learning

Readings for Sunday May 8 2011, the Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; I Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35 APBA also includes Matthew 28:1-10 in today's alternatives

It took a while for the first Christians to understand just what was going on.
Gradually they began to understand
what it meant to encounter the living Christ.
Gradually they started to piece together
what God might be doing
through the life and death of Jesus.
So we see Peter standing up at Pentecost
and proclaiming (at some risk to his life) that
"We all crucified, this Jesus"
And THIS JESUS is the one who we have all been waiting for
He is both Lord and Messiah.
He is the one who God has anointed
to effect change
fundamental change to the world.
They were on what we call jargonistically
a steep learning curve
Having to learn a lot of new things
and get a lot of changed understandings
in a very short space of time.
Peter's message is perhaps more theological and scriptural
he says
You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

They are rich words
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
Words that speak about a new found freedom
which is at the heart of what resurrection is about.
What we might learn is, I think, that we are called
to grow into this experience of resurrection
and it takes time and reflection.

It is, indeed, as the disciples pay attention to what is going on,
that the mystery begins to be understood.
And they learn
that it is not knowledge that they are to acquire
but a way of life that they are called to adopt.

How might we go about this?
The key belief about the resurrection
is not in some bizarre resuscitation story
but in the reality of Matthew's tradition where we read in the very last verse of his gospel
Jesus says to his disciples: 'And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'
It would be easy to dismiss this
as pious funereal rememberings
in the face of the death of a much-beloved friend and leader
until we also realise that the stories
are narrating the changing experience of the disciples.
We do this through paying attention to the movement of God in our ordinary life
what else can we do?
The disciples realise that Jesus is with them
as they gather for worship,
as they break bread,
in the Eucharist and in their fellowship,
he is also there as they reach out to others
in need both physical and spiritual.
This happens as we, too, pay attention
we see God is with us
and that God's hand touches everything both ordinary and extraordinary
Perhaps each day, a couple of minutes sitting on your bed before you sleep
look back and see where God has been moving.
Maybe too on the weekend,
a quiet moment on Saturday or Sunday
think back through the week gone.
Where can I see God acting,
where have I turned my back?
The disciples discovered as they experienced the risen Christ
their world changed
that is the invitation for you and me too.
Pay attention to it, and join and enjoy the steep learning curve. Where
God who is rich in mercy out of his great love even when we were dead through our sins makes us alive together with Christ.