Sunday, July 31, 2011

Surrendering and Committing -St Ignatius of Loyola

I often say to people
I am not “a gardener”
I am a person who “would like to be a gardener”
It’s not that I don’t like gardening
or that I think gardening is a waste of time
It is, I suspect, that I lack the commitment
and also that I have never been able to give it priority.
Ignatius Loyola was born at the end of the 15th century

and after a career as a successful soldier
he gave it up for the usual reasons
he had just been blown up by a cannon!
Reassessing his life
he decided to commit himself completely
to gathering a small band of followers
to pursuing the teachings of Jesus.

It is this single-minded commitment which has characterized his ways of doing things
And you would have to say that he has been spectacularly successful
Whether it is learning how to pray
or serving the poor
or seeking excellence as a scientist
a doctor, a teacher
even as a winemaker (in our own state)
His teaching has emphasized single-minded pursuit of the top priority of life
For Christians we call that God
But I wonder if those of us who do not name it as God can also understand what he is saying.

One of the most important things he says is

There are very few people who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.

It is this we witness Joshua talking about
when we hear him challenge
his fellow Israelites
“As for me and my family we will follow God”
The people glibly chant back that they will do likewise.
“Don’t say it, “ Joshua says, “if you don’t mean it! It will require full commitment!”
We are reminded
no matter where we might like to commit ourselves, whether it be the garden
to work, to family, to research
or to God.
There is a cost
and unless we are really committed
we should wonder if it’s worth the effort

Peter managed a moment of abandonment 
as he got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water.
Whether we are religious or not,
I suspect this story speaks to all of us
there are times 
when we have walked on water.
The point of the story
is about the sort of defeat 
that so often grips us.

Ignatius drilled this into his brothers.
If you abandon yourselves
Let go of your insatiable need to control everything
to your ultimate goal,
to your deepest desire
to what we Christians call
Then few of us realise
what we could be like
and do
Without second-guessing.

This week 
·       What is it you earnestly desire? 
·       What is to stop you (other than yourself) from abandoning yourself to it? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gracious feeding in a world of hunger

Readings for Sunday July 31 2011, 7th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) include Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 15 ; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21  

Most Australians do not even know 
the possibility of starvation 
We feel confident that someone will come to our aid, 
even if we have no food, no money, 
or no means to address these sort of problems. 
There are, of course, people elsewhere in the world 
who do face this sort of awful issue, 
and who will die because of lack of food. 
So we (the non starving) need to try and hear 
the story of the feeding of the 5000 
with something of the urgency for our lives, 
that food is for the starving.
All people hunger, 
but not necessarily for food. 
Some need self-assurance, 
others need healing 
all need love 
If we take this story 
and listen to it in this way
then we can hear some simple principles. 

Sit down and take time to address the situation 
The first step is to actually open yourself to the possibility of God’s aid 

Where are the ‘five loaves and the fish” 
We think we have nothing. 
but we almost always have the beginnings 

Where does God show us we can begin 
Allow ourselves to trust God 
and receive what God can do with the small beginning 
Our consumerist world says 
we want everything 
and we want it NOW! 

Can we trust God to give us all that we want, and more 
from (what we perceive) is the little that we have? 
But which in reality is an abundance

This week 
Where is God inviting me to feed on his abundant spiritual food? 
Where do I feel spiritual hunger? 
What do I bring to the table? 
Pray for grace to give God the opportunity to feed me with what I already possess, 
and to open myself to the possibility of life.

Lord, feed me with everything I need 
Give me grace to trust your generous hand

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Sunday July 24, 2011. 6th Sunday after Pentecost. 17th Sunday of the Year, Gen. 29:15-28. Ps. 128 or 105:1-11,45a-b. Rom. 8:26-39. Matt. 13:31-33,44-52.
There is a wide range of variation for the lectionary readings today depending on whose version of the Revised Common Lectionary you use. (see here for example)

We continue our Theme for this Mission Month

Anyone who has participated in planning discussions
either about their own life and future
or about new directions for a group such as an organisation, company or church
will know that you get to a point
where you almost always
begin to feel that you are drowning
under the weight of ideas.

The problem about future decisions
more often seems to be
choosing what to do
rather than not having any ideas
at all

It is into this sort of scenario that Jesus speaks the story about the merchant who finds a pearl of great value
It is a once in a lifetime opportunity
and he knows that he needs to take the opportunity now
or risk losing it.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like this.

We see an example of Jacob having a very straightforward understanding
of what God's kingdom might be like in his life.
A good marriage...he has spied his pearl of great price
in the woman Rachel
and we note from this story
That this pearl does not just fall into his lap
but requires his work
and his commitment.

Maybe this is a point at which we often fall down.
Even though we may be sure of what it is that God wants
we need to not just assume that it will fall into our lap
and that we need to do nothing.
Jacob's story reminds us also
that things may not always go according to plan
but it is the singleminded resolve
which becomes a dynamic.

While we can often see a range of good things
the kingdom of heaven requires that we make some evaluation
of what it is we must ultimately pursue..

How does this translate into action?
Whether as a community
or as individuals
at some point we need to think carefully
about what it is that we have to pursue
as our number one priority.
There is no shortage of ideas
but we do have limited resources
and limited time
we may also have limited opportunity.

Mission will require that we are focussed
and have decided what our priority is.
What is Number One on our list.

One of the reasons, I suspect,
that we are dissipated
is because we don't do the work required to make this sort of choice.
Preferring rather to puddle along
and perhaps hope that issues might disappear and problems go away.

The second little story
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad
reminds us that we actually need to do some sifting;
at the very least it is separating
the good from the bad
and worthwhile from the worthless


What are my life's priorities? When I have to make choices what are the principles that I use about what is important?

Does this give me some insight into choices I am presently faced with?

How does this same type of process speak to the Church today? Where does the Spirit invite us put our energies.

LORD, there is no shortage of ideas 
but sometimes I need to choose.
Help me to choose according to your will and your way. 
Show me the right priorities. 
Today and every day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Mission

During this month we are exploring the theme of "Mission". Readings for Sunday Jul 17, 2011, 16th Sunday of the Year, Gen. 28:10-19a. Ps. 139:1-12,23-24. Rom. 8:12-25. Matt. 13:24-30,36-43.  

There is no doubt that Christianity is missionary by orientation. Though what this might mean can vary significantly
We have had A. talking to us a couple of weeks ago about responding to God's call to go with his wife and children to live in a non-Christian country
And then L. spoke to us last week about the mission perspective
from the point of view of our church's 
large social welfare agency --Anglicare SA--
There is a real sense in which everything we do is part of the mission.
Last week we were reminded of Jesus's great commission

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.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.’ (Mtw 28:18-20)

These were the last words Jesus is recorded as speaking to his disciples in Matthew's gospel
What ever else Christianity might be it is an invitation to go and do
Whether it be to share the gospel with others
or to reach out to people in need?

The answer is littered through the readings this morning
In that wonderful story of the naming of Beth-el (which means 'house of God')
Jacob has a mystical experience.
His encounter with God takes on an almost modern experience
as he says
"How awesome is this place!!!
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!"
I guess, in many senses, this has been the undergirding 
motivation for mission
People encounter God, and think this ought to be shared.


First there is indeed the mission 
Of telling other people 
About Jesus
St Paul reminds his fellow Christians
Of the question
'how is one to hear, if there is none to tell'
The thing that worries me most 
About our comfortable western Christianity 
Is that we actually are pretty self-centered 
We are not much interested 
In what other people need
As long as we are not inconvenienced ourselves

This is a far-cry from Jacob's insight
This is totally
And at least wanting to bring his family into this experience too. 
We seem to have lost something  of the desire to want for others
what we already have for ourselves

So we need to do some serious challenging of ourselves
and our community of Christian people
about what we are doing to speak the Awesome News
to those who not only have moved out of the Christian faith
but to the more than 66% of people in this country
who have never been in it

Second, we were reminded last week
about the other dimension of mission.
That is to respond as Christ to others 
...that is with love and forgiveness..
reaching out to the brokenness
of other people
and to respond to Christ in others
....that is inasmuch as we tend to the brokenness
and need of other people
we are responding to Christ himself

So, again, we need to do some serious challenging of ourselves
and our community of Christian people
about what we are doing to respond 

This week

  • Is there someone with whom I can share the Good News in a non-threatening, encouraging way?

  • Is there someone who has a need that I can/should respond to ?

  • Pray for grace and insight to be "on mission"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The greatness of God

Readings for Sunday Jul 17, 2011, 16th Sunday of the Year, Gen. 28:10-19a. Ps. 139:1-12,23-24. Rom. 8:12-25. Matt. 13:24-30,36-43.  

In the way of things 
it is a great privilege to be able to share Christian worship with other Anglicans
particularly when overseas
I have on a couple of occasions  
been privileged to worship at St Andrew's Singapore. 
A few years agoI was reminded how precious a thing Communion is. 
Being an Anglican it is often taken for granted, 
(There is a sense in which Anglicans have not taken Communion seriously in latter years
The Anglican Communion which once seemed so important
seems to have been dismissed out of hand by so many in latter years....but that's a blog for another occasion
Any way, back to St Andrew's......when the 75 year old sidesman 
found out I was a priest 
he enthusiastically encouraged me to "come and take Communion with us". 
I did...and encountered the presence of the risen Jesus. 
As is so often our joy and privilege when we break bread and drink wine
as the Lord commanded us
At the end of the service, 
the packed cathedral sang that curious song 
(sung by the King here
How great thou art! 
I collected pamphlets 
about 8 weeks of thematic common teaching on Prayer ...I read them but have not tried to implement their program
And I felt encouraged. 
As we rejoice during this season in the common call to faith. 
Pray that we may keep our eyes fixed on the greatness of our God.

Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee O Lord my God how great thou art

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Life vs death

Readings for Sunday Jul 10,2011. 15th Sunday of the Year, Pentecost 4. Gen. 25:19-34. Ps. 119:105-112. Rom. 8:1-11. Matt. 13:1-9,18-23.
The focus chapter of the letter to the Romans is chapter 8, which we begin reading today
I suppose it is possible to read it in a very negative light
but essentially it speaks of the incredible force of the reconciling power of the Spirit of God
moving in our lives. St Paul writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

This is dynamic stuff.
The idea is reinforced in the Gospel where we read the familiar parable of the sower.
The idea in that parable is that
where God's will is allowed to take root and flourish
then there is potential for God
to bring about amazing fruitfulness.
What Paul says in theological-legal language in Romans 8
Jesus affirms in imaginal language
where the homely image of seed bearing fruit readily takes our fancy.
If God's Spirit can give life where there is death
it will also bring forth life to our human mortality.

This weeks thoughts and reflection

Where is Christ inviting real growth in my life?
Where are seeds being sown to allow new growth?
Where can I put aside the dying and deathly side and embrace the realities of the God who wants me to grow, to live, to bear fruit.