Monday, January 30, 2012

Been there done that!

Readings for reflection for Sunday February 5th 2012: Epiphany 5 - Isa 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11; 1Cor 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

I always find Jesus' encounter with Peter's mother-in-law 

a bit shocking.
How men so often presume 

on the generosity of women,
not even recognising 

that they are not well,
and just assuming 

that they do what they are told.
They have obviously never lived 

with the 4 sisters, 
or the 3 daughters
that I have been blessed with

in my gifted life.
None of whom have done what they are told!!!

But I think there are 
some points in this story
that we overlook:
Jesus heals

 so that we might live our lives 
with better quality
not so that we might continue to moan 

about being sick.
We are healed 

so that we can continue living
and so 
we should not be surprised
when a sick woman gets healed
and gets on with her life!

Nor do I think 

that we should overlook that 
Jesus heals 
even when the sickness 
seems to us
to be minor.
I never understand people who say
"Don't pray for me, 

there are others who are more needy"
As if there is only so much to go round.
This story 

at least 
might tell us that
God's concern 
is not just with 99% sickness
and maybe 

we should be more faithful 
in bringing 
even small matters
to God 

for healing.
THIS WEEKIs there somewhere 

we have been healed, forgiven, 
where we haven't actually 
appropriated that gift? 
Have we chosen to remain sick 
when we are actually healed?We don't need to play games, but nor do we need to lack faith.

Are there some areas of our life 

that we think are not important enough 
for God's care?
Do we maybe even consider 

that we are not important enough 
for God's grace?Pray to trust God in all things great and small! 

O come let us sing!

I am going to prepare a series of reflections on some Psalms.  Particularly for the season of Lent and Easter. 
These might be released electronically and/or in pamphlet/booklet form in the next few weeks.
These could be particularly useful for reflection and devotion during Lent and Easter
My question?
What Psalms would you find it helpful to be discussed
I begin from a very simple place...thinking that Psalm 23, Psalm 22, Psalm 150...would be featured. What other Psalms would be helpful...either comment on this post or email me at

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jesus has authority

The readings for Sunday January 29th 2012: Epiphany 4 - Deuteronomy 18:15-20; PSALM 111; 1 COR 8:1-13; MARK 1:21-28

In this first chapter of Mark we are gradually brought into the process of understanding who Jesus is.
We have seen how individual disciples
are called to follow him
and now we have declared about him
that he has Authority.
The authority is no less than that of the authority of God.
This is why he is so important
he puts us into touch with the reality of God.
If we want to know God’s will,
if we want to understand God
then we look to Jesus.

The problem of authority is not without issue
Moses tells the people how to discern whether a person speaking in God’s name is an authentic prophet:

His principle is “If prophecy comes true then it is vindicated!”
This may raise more questions than it answers
Paul also tells people that they need to exercise discernment about what they believe and practice
While there are no longer “rules” not everything is necessarily helpful.
He tells people to be sensitive to other people’s weaknesses.

What Mark’s statement is about this is...that we have a new seat of authority
Jesus….the signs and wonders that he does, and principally his resurrection, validate his authority.

How then can we be in touch with Jesus?
It is simple and it is hard!
Simple because it is the straightforward job of just doing it: through, prayer, scripture, worship, talking with Jesus. By serving Jesus in others.
It is simple basic Christian stuff

But hard because we are also a bit deceptive about this sort of stuff
and it requires
honesty, openness and integrity
It is interesting to note that this does not always go down well.
And we ourselves can be slow to respond
or even just plain wilful.
This week:

  • What is Jesus saying to me about my life?
  • How can I better respond?
  • Can I pray deliberately each day to pay attention to God’s will for my life and to respond to that

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Returning to God

Reading for Sunday 22nd January 2012 are for the 3rd Sunday in Epiphany and can be taken from: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; and Mark 1:14-20

Unfortunately most of us know only one thing about the prophet Jonah
and that is that he was swallowed by a big fish!
It is of course a compelling story, but what is it actually about.
Most of us don’t know that Jonah was actually running away from God
nor that God had asked him to go to the roughest toughest place in the world and tell the people to repent
(no wonder he ran away)

When he finally yields to God’s will
he gets annoyed with God
because God accepts the repentance of the Ninevehites
and doesn’t just blast them out of the water!
This repentance is a call to change our ways
As we continue to focus on the call of Jesus
are we like Jonah and running hell for leather in the other direction?
and/or are we also angry that some people seem to get closer to God than we do? Particularly angry that so often it seems they are the ones who don’t deserve it.

The Call to Repent is genuine
This call that we hear to get serious is a genuine one
God is not playing games with us
but are WE playing games with God
The time is short
people need to be healed
Sinners need forgiveness
It is not a call to wait until it is convenient
It is a call to act now.
So we see:
these disciples drop everything and act
those who, like Jonah, run away are pursued by a devouring spirit. The sources of discomfort and disease may well be our own wilfulness

Where am I being invited to act, and to act now?
Where am I running scared?
Where am I resentful of God’s grace to others?

The call to repent is a genuine one
It is not only to other people via my mouth (it may be)
It is also to you
And yes, the time is short
...the time to act is now….

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who's that?

Readings for Sunday January 15 2011...The 2nd Sunday after Epiphany include I Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20), Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18;I Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
I find the story of Nathanael (or Bartholomew as he seems to be known elsewhere) in the first chapter of John 
to be strangely intriguing.
John is still setting up for us 
the thrust of his gospel
and thus having declared 
that this is the Word made Flesh
the Lamb of God, 
the Messiah
people are drawn into the circle of faith
Simon Peter and Andrew respond readily and quickly, 
Philip is not far behind
but not so easily convinced...
his natural instinct is to be dismissive...he has perhaps (like us)
heard all this before.
Philip says to him...Why don’t you just come and check it out!
Because Nathanael does in fact then respond and decide 
to adopt this open attitude
he is able to hear Jesus.
Jesus speaks to him in a fairly low key sort of way
….here is someone who calls a spade a spade….
and Nathanael, I think, likes being taken seriously
and finds this Jesus engaging,
and so follows.
A lesson for us
the two dimensions that I think we can well pay attention to are:
not taking the call of God for granted or just hoping it might go away (this is echoed in the Samuel story)
this is often the way we deal with our religious conviction
...let’s not take it terribly seriously…..
I suspect that this is the cause of great spiritual weakness in the church today
Nathanael’s stance (and indeed Samuel’s) is
give God the opportunity
and God will do what is necessary
....but we need to give God the opportunity.....

The second thing that we can note is 
that another person encourages a positive attitude
Philip is a source of encouragement to Nathanael (as Eli is to Samuel)
Without that comment...Come and See... or Go back and listen again...
would Nathanael or Samuel have taken the final step

Is there someone who we have to support in a similar way?
Can we ask God to show us that this week, 
and also to give us the faith and the courage to be quietly and gently supportive?

  • Are we prepared to look again at what God is seeking of us?
  • is there someone I need to encourage?
The Illustration is Open Voyage by Michel Rauscher

Saturday, January 07, 2012

My Son the beloved

Readings for Sunday January 8, 2012...The Sunday after Epiphany include Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11- often called the Baptism of Jesus

In these weeks after the feast of the Epiphany (January 6th...or Twelfth Night) 

we focus on how Christ is made known 
beyond the bounds of the inner circle of God's revelation.
It begins on January 6th 

when the Christmas story is expanded 
by the arrival of the Wise Men
this is to show us 

('epiphany' means to manifest or to show forth)
that this Christ, 

is not just for the narrow concerns 
of a little group of people
in a strip of Mediterranean Land 

--which has been and is presently much-troubled--
but for the whole world.
The Wise Men are presented in Matthew 

as the fulfillment of prophecy
that shows God will be made known 

through this Messiah
to all peoples 

As the story moves 

on we see one of the incidents 
in which the identity of Jesus is declared
...the event is his baptism by John

which Mark offers as the beginning of the Good News..
What is interesting to us 

is what this baptism confers
It is an understanding that 

as God speaks into the situation
this is what he says
"You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased"
These words will be spoken again 

at the Transfiguration
when the disciples recognise Jesus
for who he really is.
And because the climax of Mark's Gospel 

is the Crucifixion
we are invited to see
that these are words that are spoken at that time, 

this time by the centurion who says for all to hear
"Truly this man was God's Son"

are indeed insightful and true

Because in Mark's Gospel we are being invited to share
in this journey
These are words that we might see
are being spoken to us
"This is my Son, the Beloved"
"You are my daughter, and I love you"
I find these words deeply assuring
and perhaps we need to hear God 

saying this to you and me 
often and deeply 

during this Epiphany season.
--You are my son, and you are my daughter--
and I love you!

This is not the message of idle comfort,
rather it will lead us, like Jesus,
to the Cross.
Our faith tells us
that the Cross, 

though it looks like death,
is the way to fullness of life.

  • Allow God to assure you of his love for you, and to confute everything that says anything less than ...I love you, and I am well pleased
  • Pray for Grace to respond to that love, and to open yourself to the power fo the Holy Spirit
  • Pray for Courage to embrace the Cross

Monday, January 02, 2012

Christ in the world - Christ in our lives

In this season we have "Twelfth Night!" know the twelve days of Christmas!...which is January 6th we call this day "Epiphany"
Some readings for this season include Isa 60:1-6, Ps 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matt 2:1-12.
I like to burn incense on this day because incense reminds us that, apart from everything else, Jesus is the object of our prayer.
And the smoke of incense is meant to remind us of the holiness of Jesus,
and that Jesus is the source,
the motivation and the mediation of our prayers to our loving Father.

In the Christmas story
Epiphany celebrates the coming of the Magi, the Three Wise Men as we often call them.
In our church  (All Hallows Blackwood) they have been walking round the church(!) since Christmas Eve
.....see the picture above.
They were probably not there at Bethlehem
(this may seem, but is not, controversial. They were coming  from a far off land)
Thematically this event expresses the Christian Gospel moving outside the narrow confines of Israel

to all the people of the world.
So we think about God being made known (epiphanised) to all people.
This is in fact what the word "epiphany" means.
--demonstrating, showing forth, exposing,----
This is a most important theme.
Christ is for the world
not just the temple or the Church.

I often say my job as a pries is

to stand aside

so that people can see Jesus

And, indeed, I think that despite all the Church troubles in recent times it is the Church that people don't like not Jesus.

Where is Jesus in your life?
Where do you need him
Where could he fit?
Where is he reaching out to you?
Where  does Jesus meet us
Typically the words that trigger off responses
to these questions...are love, forgiveness, healing and intimacy
You don't have to be genius to realise that we all crave these things.
I try to bring people to Jesus so that we may know his love, care, forgiveness and healing.
You may wish to pray for yourself that you might know his real presence
touching those places where you are most in need.
Lord Jesus, come into my life today
that I may know your closeness, your care,
your healing and your forgiveness
Lord Jesus, make yourself know to me today. Amen