Tuesday, June 28, 2011

God's promises for today

Readings for this Sunday July 3, 2011, 14th Sunday of the Year, Gen. 24:34-38,42-49,58-67. Ps. 45:10-17 or Song 2:8-13. Rom. 7:15-25a. Matt. 11:16-19,25-30.
A few years ago
I went to see the film "Mongol"
which is about the emergence of Genghis Khan the great conquering ruler of the Mongolians
It is a wonderful, but bloodthirsty film,
the film is held together by the story of the marriage relationship
between Temudgin (who became known as Genghis Khan) and the girl Borte who he chooses as his wife (when he is 12!!)
It is a literary device that we encounter in these reading as we read the beginnings of the story of how Isaac and Rebecca, the second of the line of patriarchs and matriarchs,
meet and begin phase two.
They are (like the Mongolian stories) legendary in scope.
You are left wondering just how it could all come together
in such an ordered and fruitful way.
We see in the narratives, the 'hand of God'
and it is named as such.
It is of course a reflection written after the fact
and we often observe that 20-20 hindsight is a wonderful;
What we do see in hindsight
is that God's care, comfort and guidance
are available when we open ourselves to them.

There is perhaps the hope that
what we come to see clearly looking back
we also begin to appreciate in the present moment
This is about what we might learn and understand
as we mature spiritually
and how we might then live our lives confident
that God supports and sustains us.
Equally well Romans reminds us of the nature of the struggle with sin
that it is serious, hard and needs attention
when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand
Paul says, and today's Gospel reminds us that another spiritual reality is that God is there to be with us when the going gets tough.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
These insights are all reflections on how God deals with us.
As we look back we see with 20-20 hindsight
the truth of God's promises.
Our day to day vision is not always that good,
partly because we don't take time to look.

Each day we are invited to understand more of what God promises us.
And to live out of that promise.

This week
As you look back where have you been aware of God's plan for your lief?
What is God doing for you?
How is the struggle with sin going? Are there particular things you need to address?
Where do you seek God's comfort and support? Are you also being invited to be part of that support for other people?

God of our future, God of our past
give us the eyes of faith to see
that you are dynamic and active in our life
give us wills that trust your promise
and comfort us when we find things difficult.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Balancing act

The Holy Trinity by Azrael Nekhbet

Genesis 22:1-14 Psalm 13 (Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18) Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42 Propers for the Thirteenth Sunday of the Year which is celebrated on 26th June 2011

These readings invite me to a focus .
Or perhaps to focus.
We know that one of the seductive things about sin
is that it presents itself
as an answer.
The sin answer is....if I have piles of stuff then I will be happy
or - If I can only force people to do what I want then everyone will be happy
And Even....if I stick to the rules is a seduction.

The story of Abraham
is that we are not to trust in stuff
or our own view of the world
even (if we can identify the rules) we are not to trust what we take to be the absolutes.

There is only one absolute.
God the LORD
So when I wake in the morning
my prayer should not be :
- give me lots of wealth
- make my enemies do what I want
- or even, let me be good

It should be that I am seeking, always seeking
to be in God's presence
and to allow God to be present in my life.

I will not (even cannot) always understand all that God might be doing
This is what is happening to Abraham.
So I need to focus
not nearly so much
on keeping the rules
or playing what ever games I have invented
as to be making sure I am closely related to God all the time.

This is not always easy.
We may not even want it
But it is the only and the best way to go.

This week
Two things that I can do every day that I believe draws me closer to God....critique this...
is this because I want God to be like this...or is it because I am responding to God's Spirit in me...doing what God wants.-

  • What if we just say...each day I will deliberately commend myself to God...and when I need to make a decision I will try and stop and listen to how God might be speaking to me.

  • Can I also hold one person before God this week? Perhaps even someone difficult.....and carry them in my heart and journey with them, as Abraham does.

We do not need to make up a road for ourself. We need rather to trust the relationship.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Doing the impossible

Genesis 22:1-14 Psalm 13 (Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18) Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42 Propers for the Thirteenth Sunday of the Year which is celebrated on 26th June 2011

Can God do the impossible?
Even more, does God delight in making things more difficult than they already are?
The story of Genesis 22 is a key narrative
in the story of God's relationship with humanity.
Will we trust God
even when it seems
that there is nothing to suggest
that God can be trusted?

Abraham has only one son,
and has been promised
that he will be the father of a great nation
He then comes to the belief
that God wants him to sacrifice his only son
What is going on here?
This story is so dramatic
that we can be easily distracted by its force.
It is about the requirement for God's people
to have faith in God
and God alone.
Abraham has already done that,
he set out from his father's house
in Ur
to follow where ever the Lord would lead him.
It is a paradigm story
of each human being.
Will we go where the Lord chooses to lead us?
or puddle along on the merely meaningless meanders
we mindlessly pursue.

For Abraham the story reveals
he is not now at liberty even to have faith in himself,
or in this great blessing of his son Isaac.
Having put faith in God,
we are not then at liberty to put our faith instead
in the means that God has given us
to fulfill the promise.
This may seem a subtlety,
but it is also a truth.

For example,
God uses our family
our marriage, our children,
our church.
Education, work and country
to provide for us.
But we are not allowed then to put our faith in them.
These are the means
not the ends

....more coming

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy!

Trinity Sunday June 19 2011 Genesis 1:1-2:4a Psalm 8 II Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 in the APBA lectionary Exodus 34:1-8 can also be used

In the embarrassment of riches that this season affords
we move from the great story of Easter, Ascension
and then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
to today being invited to put all this into context
with a focus on the community of God
The community that we call
the Trinity.
In an idea that I quite like, Archbishop
William Temple
says that we
need the doctrine of the Holy Trinity
it helps us not fall into the trap of having an idea of God
that is too small.
Temple also says, reminding us that The Trinity is about the worship of God,
Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.

It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose.

And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.

from his Readings in St John's Gospel

While we often think that this doctrine is hard to understand
At the heart of it is the idea that God is
that love is about
and that God is constantly seeking to embrace us
and bring us into
this community of love
Temple, a most striking figure of the 20th Century search,
reminds us that love in this community will be about justice
for all humanity
and of creating a society which cares for the most vulnerable

So the language that is used to talk about God
is relational
We talk (after St Augustine) of a Father, a Son
and of a Spirit which flows out from them
their relationship being so profound
that the Spirit issues as a different persona
empowering us and always seeking to draw us into the circle of life
(the circle, or three interlocking circles is often used to symbolise the Trinity)
This idea is not without difficulty
but it does serve to give us the sense
that God is relational
that God is community
that God is love.

It is the same God who is the Father of Jesus
who declares himself to be our Father
It is the same God who is the Son of the Father
who says to us you too are the sons and daughters of my Father
you are my sisters and brothers
It is the same God who is the Holy Spirit
who says my love for you is so real
that I am always drawing you into community with me.

God is calling to be part of the same community
That Father-Son and -Spirit share
It is not a closed shop
Our fulness of life
comes from being in communion with God.
God is sharing his life with us
God is sharing his love with us.

Does this make a difference?
The Trinity initiates us into the idea
that God is actually in relationship with us
that God loves us
and that we are invited into community with God.
When Jesus speaks to his disciples (as we read today)
and suggests that they should spread the Good News
he is saying that all people can be drawn into the life of God
and this will liberate and enliven them
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

invitation is to be drawn into the life of God
responsibility is to live in the Spirit of God's life
and the
promise is that God will be with us for ever

We might go on to say that the expectation is that this will change our life
We are after all being drawn into the circle if God's life
So transforming is this experience
that we will want to share it with others.

This is NOT some difficult doctrine
this is the centre of our faith experience

If you want your life changed, enriched, transformed
then it is done by allowing yourself to become a daughter, a son
a sister and a brother
In relationship with God.
Our Christian understanding is that the Trinity is always
seeking to draw us into closer and more personal relationship.
This is perhaps rather different from Judaism and Islam.

This week
  1. Pray each day to be aware that God wants me to be drawn into the community of love and service which is the Holy Trinity
  2. Dedicate yourself each day to seek to more fervently to be close to God
  3. Is there one person who you can tell this week that God desires them to be close to their life also? Why not tell them or discuss this with them?
O Holy Trinity
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Your love for me overflows
and draws me in
I seek to be in the circle of love
may I share this love with others too.
O Gracious Holy Trinity

Monday, June 06, 2011

Moving on up! Life in the Spirit

Readings for Whitsunday or Pentecost, June 12, 2011; Numbers 11:24-30; *Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34,I Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23

Anglicans like candles!
In fact people like candles;
they are such a warm symbol
and so multi-layered in imaginal links
that we readily warm to them.

At Easter the principal symbol in many Churches
is the Paschal or Easter candle
which is marked in various ways at the Great Vigil.
With Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) , the number of the year, the sign of the cross,
and often including five nails.
It burns for the great 50 days which conclude today with today's feast of Pentecost
when we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples

What, then, to do with with this very rich symbolic candle at the end of this season?
Well of course the logical thing to do is extinguish it!
though we do not want to give the impression that everything is now over and done with,
because of course it isn't!
In a way it has only just begun.

So in our churches today as the large candle is extinguished
individual worshipers are invited to light a personal candle of their own.
The simple idea is that the Easter Commission
to proclaim the risen Christ
is deliberately transmitted
to each individual as part of their baptismal responsibility.
This is, indeed, the movement that we trace in the readings today.
God pours out the Holy Spirit to renew the world
and to encourage and bless the community of faith
in order that they may bring the hope of Christ to the world.
The way this Spirit works is that it is given to individuals
whether it be (as in Numbers) the elders of the Church
or as in Acts and I Corinthians on the individual baptised;

We are invited to appreciate that the gift of the Spirit
apart from being a numinous spiritual blessing
to the world or community of faith in general
is also, in practice, worked out
in the individual giftedness of each of the baptised.

So, St Paul's idea is that
the Holy Spirit gives to each of the baptised an outpouring of the Spirit
which manifests itself in particular gifts
He cites a number of gifts..teaching, hospitality, prophecy, prayer, deep faith
and so on (some number these as many as 75 specific gifts)
His implication is that every baptised Christian
is gifted in some way
and that we are to use those gifts
for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.

That is, the presence of the risen Christ
is committed to you and me
and we are gifted by the Holy Spirit
to carry on Christ's work.

We are not expected to pass an exam
or do a whole pile of learning
in order to do this work
we are rather required to use the gift that has been given.

This may cause us to think about
how the Spirit has lit our personal candle!!!

Far from the work being over when Easter is finished
and we extinguish the candle
it is not so much over as transferred
to each of us individually.

So what we might ask ask,
is my particular gift?
and how am I to use it to further the kingdom of God?

We are given gifts, our candle is lit,
not to hide (Jesus uses this sort of image)
but for a purpose.
We do not have to get a qualification
it is more that we need to take the gift out of the box and use it.

So there are two questions for each of us
the second more important than the first,
First, what is my gift
and the second important question how might I use it?
The kingdom is weakened in so far
as we hide our light
or ignore it.
Our gift, be it prayer, teaching, almsgiving, hospitality
or what ever is to be used.

Paul is clear that not everyone has the same gift
we are not all teachers or prophets,
but we are all gifted as individuals and as community
with all the gifts necessary to do what God wants us to do
and to be what God wants us to be.

This week
  • Give thanks to God for the Easter mystery, and the promise that Christ has given to be with us always
  • Ask the Spirit to show you how you ahve been gifted by God, and what you are to do with that gift?
  • Pray for imagination, opportunity and courage to use the giftedness that God has given me.
We pray, this today and every day:
Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me
Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us