Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trusting and hoping

Readings for Sunday 4 the December 2011 -  Advent 2 can include Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85, 2 Peter 3:8-15; Mark 1:1-8

I trust that you are all making progress with your Christmas presents.
I once put to my children
an idea that comes out of such agencies as  
the Christmas Bowl
Let's give each other presents of about $5-$10
and then each give $20 to another cause.
They looked aghast...well if not aghast then askance!
Another hair-brained, unrealistic idea of that priest
we are (un)fortunate enough to have as a father.
The youngest one got it...
...enraptured with caring for a girl in Tanzania
through a school project
it is easy to get her to understand
that $10 spent on her

what might otherwise be ---another Barby, a fluffy pen, cheeky knickers....or whatever
is here today and gone tomorrow!

But for the little Tanzanian girl
it can do so much more.
She was taken by the notion
that in Africa the wealthy send their children
to Europe as soon as they can
and so there is a "brain drain"
(I am impressed that a 12 year old
can get this quite difficult concept.)

Understanding that by supporting strong education
in Tanzania
then most people will stay if they can.

And thus halt the brain drain
This stuff is fairly self-evident
if and when you think about it!
Comfort and Trust
Today we are invited 

to reflect on the theme of Trust.
There is presented for us
an image of a God who we can trust
Amidst all our troubles and difficulties
and no one escapes this...
we trust that God will care for us and sustain us.
The readings tell us that God will
Bring us back...we can trust God to restore us
that God is ...
patient with us
we often think God is slow
but God is  actually patient
That God 
will empower us with the Holy Spirit
Even John the Baptist says, " Don't be like me!"
rather open yourself to the one who comes after
and he will pour out his Holy Spirit on you..

These are promises in which we are invited to trust.

  • God cares for us
  • God is patient with us
  • God empowers us

In our life
I hope that you might see here
that what is being offered is a chance to be real and genuine.
It is not unlike 

getting the Christmas present idea right.
There is nothing wrong with presents
there is an issue about proportion, 

and about what is important.
We can trust God to give us the right gifts,
but can we trust ourselves!
Can the world trust us to deliver
on God's behalf?
or have we been distracted by the trivial, the unimportant?

God cares for us and brings us home how do we care for others
and restore them
How do we act as agents of reconciliation
and bringers of peace?

God is patient with us have we given up on people,
have we stopped talking to someone who has hurt us
or have we settled for second-best in our relationships

God empowers us has our relationship with God
gone stale
do we allow ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit
do we pray with vigour and with power
We can trust God
and we need to be trusted as God agents.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Looking forward

Readings for the First Sunday in Advent , November 27 2011. These can include:  Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37

Some Christians are fascinated by the so-called
Second Coming of Christ.
This doesn't surprise me
and in a way it is good to keep one's eye on the ball
.....or perhaps to realise that the ball is still in play....

God's work is not yet finished.
And though we see and understand
that everything that is necessary to be done,
in order to reconcile
humanity and God,
has been done
by Jesus on the Cross
and through his resurrection
And God continues to pour out the Spirit so that this work of salvation
may be taken up by us
and that we may live the new life,
yet there is also a sense that this is not all complete;

it has to be worked through and made real.

A weak analogy is that it is like a house that has been built
at great expense and with great care.
It is the house of the future.
Indeed one of my friends was telling me only the other day
about such a house that she is building in the next couple of years.
It will replace an old house
and will be designed to cope with all sorts of modern needs,
not the least of which is that she is older
and her lifestyle has changed.
It will no doubt be executed
and there will be a day when we will be able to say
...this house is complete....
and yet in a real sense it is only the beginning
....the ball is still in play...
the house has yet to be lived in
and that will open it up
to a whole new range of possibilities.
As yet undreamt of.
As yet unrealised.

The coming of the kingdom
When Jesus talks about the coming of the kingdom
he talks about it in range of ways.
At times it is as if the kingdom is something that will be instituted
at the end of time
and yet he also says "the kingdom of God is amongst you"
He can also tell his disciples to pray
"your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven"
While the house has been built
it is yet to be experienced
and lived in
...the ball is still in play.....
we need to keep our eye on the ball.
Advent and Christmas don't so much point us to the second coming
but rather warn us that we should be alert, and awake
to the possibility of Christ's kingdom here on earth.

We have the heavenly image, the ideal if you like,
of what it might be like when the heavenly kingdom is realised
and Christ will come with shouts of acclamation.
But are we also alert to the signs of the kingdom
that are in our midst.
Are we sufficiently awake to see that there are opportunities
to proclaim the kingdom
right where we are today?

Small possibilities
I am reminded of a wonderful poem
that our life is worked out in the small stuff rather than the big stuff


I keep my answers small and keep them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bulwark to my fear.

The huge abstractions I keep from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.

But the big answers clamoured to be moved
Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.

Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, I still hear
Big answers striving for their overthrow

And all the great conclusions coming near.

Elizabeth Jennings
This kingdom that we are called to experience
is at least as much in the small answers
for us
as it is in the big stuff.
In a real sense, sometimes the "big stuff"
threatens the small things
and yet, for most of us, for most of the time
it is the small answers
that are the authentic ones.

The kingdom of God is close at hand.
It will be in our care for our children
and the care that we take in our relationships
the gentleness and the kindness
the generosity of spirit
and the day to day forgiveness
that God's kingdom will be known
on earth as it is in heaven.
We need at the very least to pay attention
and be awake for the coming of the kingdom.

Let us not be too distracted
looking for the stars
that begin to fall
(which Jesus tells us is not something that should essentially concern us)
but rather pay attention to our own little patch of earth.
And live in the house in which we find ourselves;
it is at least
in paying attention to the process of living that we
may discover the purpose and meaning
of this place where we dwell
and that God's kingdom
is in our midst.
This is our Advent Work!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Reign of Christ---give us a break

As time goes on I become increasingly more republican!
So, the feast of Christ the King, (strangely promoted, perhaps even invented, in that most republican of countries, the USA.)
rather goes against the grain
But it has important themes for us to attend to
Even if we do have demythologise the language of monarchy!!
We get the idea...Christ is to us 
like the King is to his subjects
We need to not see this in a brutal way
but rather to embrace the idea
that we are the willing/contented subjects
of King Jesus.
The Lord of the Cross.
We probably only need
to consider the Gospel (here)
which is pretty direct.
"In so far as you cared for the needy
you are caring for me!"
and then the converse
(perhaps more chastening)
"Ignore the needy,
and you ignore me"
More specific
We are directed to the hungry
the thirsty
the stranger
the naked
the sick
the prisoner.
This list might seem almost arbitrary
but it bears some consideration.

THE HUNGRY...there are indeed people who just don't have food
How can we respond to them
Is it through Anglicare, or World Vision
or simply by bringing food to church each Sunday for St Mary Magdalene's and Beacon
THE THIRSTY...thirst is is often an allegory for those 
who have deep spiritual thirst
Are you attending to your own spiritual thirst?
Are you helping those who come to find an answer to their deep spiritual questions ( why is this happening to me?, Where is God? I feel purposeless!)  Do we take these questions seriously?
Do we miss the miss "the stranger" in our midst?
Those who are lonely, those who have no friends
those who need to be connected to other people?
It would be easy to think of the naked ...sexually
But I suspect there is something more important here.
Those who have absolutely no protection
against the the pressures of the world
(just as the naked have no clothes).
Can you think of anyone who is so vulnerable?
Christians have deep concern for the sick
I want them to be well
and I want to pray really hard for them.
This is the work of the kingdom
Fervent prayer and care for the sick
It is perhaps the prisoner who interests me
We are, I think, talking about those who are
actually in jail
But also those who are in jails of their own making
or who have been trapped by circumstances
..the jails of addiction, poverty, or accident
We don't have to think terribly figuratively 
to realise that many of the world's people
live in jails that are not actually prisons

What then we hear is the simple message of Christ the King
Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty,
welcome the stranger,
clothe the naked,
release the prisoner.
Easy said
our faith commitment .....
...attend to this important stuff

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Under the bed

    Readings for Sunday November 13 (Proper 28-Pentecost 22): First reading and Psalm:Judges 4:1-7: Psalm 123: Second reading:1 Thessalonians 5:1-1: Gospel:Matthew 25:14-30

    The Gospel reading today seems a little culturally curious
    It has hard words which are perhaps a little too redolent of the harsh times in which we live :
    "Those who have nothing will even have what they do have taken from them!"
    How, might we ask, can we take from people who have nothing?
    There are a couple of interesting points:
    This is a parable about life in God's kingdom. 
    The image/idea is that God has equipped us to live life
    and we are to get on with it.
    There is a sense in which we have been left to get on with it.
    (This of course is only an image and we are not left alone)
    But following the image
    we see that some of us have 5 talents, some 2 talents
    and some (probably most of us) have 1

    The word talent here is a unit of money
    rather than the way we often use it
    to describe our personbal giftedness
    As in Australia's Got Talent!
    Why is this so? isn't it rather unjust?
    No, I don't think so.
    It's rather sort of how things are.
    Some seem to have a lot of resources
    some a modest amount
    and some only a bit.
    There is a point here: No one has no resources
    We should remember this.
    We sometimes think, that we are without any capabilities,
    resources or gifts.
    In terms of this parable
    God has equipped every baptised person
    (with the Holy Spirit)
    to enable us to communicate/be Christ to the world.

    THIS WEEK Consciously ask what am I to do?
    What can I do? For Christ, to be Christ, to share Christ
    (If we are tempted to think nothing then think again!)

    Developing this a little further...
    The condemnation that is reserved in this parable
    for the person who has only one talent
    and then takes it and hides it under the bed
    is this
    There is essentially only one failing
    about what we do with our giftedness
    and that is not that we are not as gifted as Mother Teresa,
    It is not that we should have been a missionary, or a nurse,
    a priest or a doctor.
    It is not that we can look at someone else and see they are so much better than we are, musical, practical, influential
    .....that is sort of how things are
    Perhaps we will leave easier and better lives if we just accept that.
    But the failing is, that in recognising that some are more gifted than we are,
    we make the mistake of thinking either

    • that we are not gifted at all or
    • that we should leave it up to others

    Each of us is called to use our talents
    whether great or small

    So, this week, the question is not:
    Why am I not as holy as someone else? Or why am I not as gifted?
    BUT what can I do with what I have been given?
    Hiding our talents under the bed is not an option.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2011

    Did you hear the one about?

    Readings for Sunday 6 November 2011, 21st Sunday after Pentecost --thoughts about Joshua 24, 1 Thess 4:13-18, Matt 25:1-13
    We are now moving on
    These last few weeks are called in the Church of England, our sister church,
    Kingdom season
    I think this is a very useful reminder
    that what we are about
    is God's work
    is establishing the kingdom.
    we are not just meandering around
    God is working a purpose out as year succeeds to year.
    And that purpose is the kingdom which proclaims
    Good News
    to the poor 
    the imprisoned
    those in need of healing
    the blind 
    the crippled.
    As years go on I realise that these 'categories' 
    are both figurative and actual
    ...there are many imprisoned who are not in gaol...
    but that should not let us escape the reality
    that there are people actually in gaols!

    So any way the Gospel reading !!!!

    It almost reads like a joke
    Did you hear the one about the bridesmaids 
    who got locked out of the reception?
    You know they  spent the best part of the last two years 
    preparing for this wedding
    and then  they got locked out of the reception venue!!!!

    The point?
    Don't forget what's important
    For the Christian...
    You know the Anglican Covenant discussion
    may be important
    but there are people in jail!

    For the Australian
    The political fascination
    of parties that hate each other
    ...there are people flooding to our shores 
    whose lives have been devastated
    by greed, rape, poverty
    for God's sake!!!!
    And I use that expression advisedly