Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Important Journey

Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion

This week is Palm Sunday , April 1 2012 
While  there are many readings on which we could focus if you want just one then  look particularly at Mark 15
As Holy Week begins our hearts turn to the Cross
We have made a pilgrimage this Lent
as we have worked through the Gospels 

The flow of the Gospel we look at this year (Mark) is unremitting
  • God's kingdom is here and now
  • We are challenged to identify completely with Jesus
  • We come to understand that in discovering who Jesus really is for us, we also discover who we really are
  • It is in listening to his call, and trying to respond that we open ourselves to God's transforming power
  • This journey requires, work, commitment, seriousness
Here, now on the Cross 
we see the climax of all this challenge
Jesus says to us:
I am an invitation to all people
to submit to the will of God
Knowing that there is no assurance of
  • what the circumstances might be
  • the troubles are that might emerge
  • Indeed, we recognise that it might be quite hard.
  • Perhaps even dangerous, 
  • certainly profoundly challenging
We trust that in the working out of this
All will be well....
not all will be EASY
and that the fundamental reality of life
is that in knowing Jesus 
we encounter God
  • Listen to him
  • Take up your Cross
  • One thing more.... you need to yield to God
It is not that we are rewarded for being good or compliant
It is that at this place...called
destiny. meaning, purpose and truth
are revealed

    • THIS WEEK 
      May this week be full of meaning Lord
      May I commit myself more fervently
      May I love you more

Loving Passionately

The readings for this Sunday, Palm Sunday can be taken from Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 118, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 11:1-11,  also Psalm 31 and Mark's account of Jesus's death in Mark 14 & 15

This week before Easter is called Holy Week. Traditional worship tends to do two things. It has elements of reenactment about it. So worship begins on Sunday with a re-eneactment of Jesus final entry into Jerusalem. I will be very conscious this year of my Anglican sisters and brothers in Jerusalem walking down a road I walked late last year which marks this journey. A very steep hill, and a great sense of excitement as we walk the glory road.
We also tell the great stories, principally the Passion stories. The stories of Jesus death and then of his resurrection. We don't need to do it all at once. Perhaps do a little each day as we join Jesus.

The mood of Lent has changed 
from penitence and discipline
towards the Cross and Passion.

There is much in our lives
certainly in mine  at this time
that reveals the key insight 
I have consistently had about Passiontide
and that is
That Passion is about love and 
that passion is about suffering

This is quite profound.
though not immediately obvious
the truth is (for all of us)
that if we want to love better
then we need to be able to embrace suffering.

There will not be love without suffering.

As we look at the cross 
as the truest example of what love might mean
nothing could be more obvious
Love means suffering.

Let us not make the mistake
that in order to love more
then we need to engender suffering.
There is enough suffering already!!

But we do need
to not avoid the reality 
that true relationships
will not just be plain sailing.
They will have their fair share of suffering.
Most of us implicitly understand that.
Christ suffers in our humanity
we grow in God's humility.

There is much about this 
that is mysterious.
but let us not try 
to create a love that is pain-free
but rather to recognise 
that suffering is its own opportrunity
to garner God's love.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And loving it - all day long

During Lent & Easter we will be paying attention to some of the Psalms. Today, (March 25, Lent 5) we look at part of Psalm 119. Verses 9-16 and also some thought on the Gospel which is John 12:20-33

I am always struck by the little passage in John 12 where those disciples are asked by some outsider to let them see Jesus!
It is, in a way, what every Christian is asked ever day of their life
To let people see Jesus
in the quality of their words and  thoughts
and the integrity of their actions.

This indeed is what this great long Psalm is about. It is 176 verses long
[Immediately we suspect something suspicious
because 176 is divisible by 22
and we remember that’s how many letters there are in the Hebrew alphabet
so, yes, it’s a beautiful acrostic poem
each of the eight lines of each section begins with the same letter.
This is section 2 and begins with the letter B or Beth]

And it says this (22 times over)

  • Live according to God’s way
  • keep the rules
  • treasure the gift you have been given
  • and do what is right
  • not what is wrong
  • Let every day be a day that I seek to do this better.
  • Let me speak it
  • let me learn to love it
  • to not be distracted by materialism
  • and to ‘meditate on it’
  • keep my ‘eyes fixed on it’
  • and to keep at it

This seems pretty important stuff!

Live it and breathe it.

I think this passage in John 12 is reminding us of that too.
As Christians people are saying to us
"We want to see Jesus"

What does this mean?
I don’t think it means that we should be able to explain the Creeds
or the nuances of esoteric doctrine
It does mean that they should see in us
people who take the life and teaching of Jesus seriously
Can this be said of you and me?

Do we forgive, as God forgives?
Heaven knows we pray that often enough
"Forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us!"
Do we love those who no one else loves?
or are we only interested in loving the lovely?

Is our life given to truth telling
and confronting religious hypocrisy

All sounds a bit too hard

Lent at the very least reminds us that we have a serious job to do.
People want to see Jesus.
And they are asking you and me what that means.

James Mays says about this Psalm. It is about two things.
Hearing the word of God and doing it, following its commands, its laws and its way of life.
and Faith
learning more about God, 
and what it means to trust God.
And he says this constant recurring theme is this….
God calls for both obedience and faith and faith that obeys, and obedience that believes

I worry that sometimes I, we, are neither obedient nor faithful.
And we wonder why people don’t see Jesus!

Neither of these ways is easy, they go against popular mood.

Jesus goes on to tell the new seekers
that life is about service
that great love is about laying down your life
it’s like being buried and then being born again
This is both a metaphor and a truth

Even Jesus wants this to pass!

Live the law
Do what it says
Live the law
Believe what it says.

Psalm 119: 8-16…
How can the  young  keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word. 
With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments. 

I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you. 

Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes. 

With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth. 

I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches. 

I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways. 

I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word. 

Take time this week
                If asked about Jesus what would you say he tells you to be?
                What does he ask you to do
                Is there someone he wants you to forgive?

What are the promises of God?
                What should I pray for this week?  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Show us Jesus

Readings for Lent 5: Jer 31:31-34, Psalm 119:9-16; Heb 5:5-14 ; John 12:20-33 Sunday Sunday March 25th

A good question for us to reflect on is:
What would we tell the person who knows nothing about Christianity if they said to us:
Tell us about this Jesus.

This is rather what happens to some disciples when, we are told,
"some Greeks come to Phillip and say "Sir we would see Jesus!""
For some reason this doesn't seem to be straight forward for them, 
we read,
"Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus"
there is a bit of buck passing going on
which is all too rerminiscent of what happens in churches! (and probably all institutions)

It is often not straightforward for us either.
we often have ways and means for passing the buck on to someone else.
Why is this so?
Why do we imagine that we have nothing to say?

We would see Jesus
It is Teresa of Avila who is credited with reminding us
that because we now live in the era of the Risen and the Ascended Christ that:

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours
This is the way our God has chosen to be

Our lives are the vehicle Christ uses to make himself known
We should not delude ourselves into thinking
that some how Christ is only made known
by miraculous appearances or the like
It will be the acts of ministry that we do
the way we conduct ourselves
that show people what Jesus is like.
This is pretty scary stuff for us
because we are only too well aware 
of how we let Christ down in this regard.

Let's be clear
We do not have to model 
or provide a perfect enactment of Christ
we have to be able 
to live our life
in accord with the Spirit of Christ
allowing Christ to be in us and work through us.
We can trust Christ 
to make himself known
as he will
we need to not be 
a barrier or a wall
through which expereience of Christ 
is blocked or obscured

Our words
We are rather fixated on words
and it is important that what we say is Christian.
Can we show people Jesus by what we say?
When asked simple (yet deep) questions
such as .....
what happens to us when we die?
Why does God allow one person to suffer and not another?
Does what we say 
point to Jesus, and make sense?
So often we drop the ball here
when the challenge is 
to help people take the next step.

I rather wonder if this is what Phillip was doing 
in this little encounter:
"Sir we would see Jesus"

(AAgh this is too hard for me...what should I do...I know, I'll pass the buck)

Do you take steps to deepen your own faith? 
To reflect on perplexing questions?
To educate yourself?

Our relationships
When we look at the language about Jesus
about why people come to him
about the needs that Jesus
is asked to address.
We note that this is the language of relationship 
and reconciliation
it is about love and forgiveness,
it is about acceptance 
and sharing the burdens of others.
This is the stuff that happens when we engage in relationship
with other people.
When people would see Jesus, 
they would look at how we conduct ourselves.
So often we talk about Jesus
but it doesn't seem to penetrate the reality of our lives.
Jesus will be most evident 
close-up in our lives
so often we want to distance ourselves 
from this reality.
Our experience of Jesus
is maybe too cool and rational
rather than alive and passionate.

Ahh! there is that word which characterises this season.
We use it to refer to the suffering of Jesus.
We would see Jesus.
And we see him in the midst of suffering
That is what the Latin word means.
Popular usage so often links "passion" 
to the heights and depths of physical love.
This reminds us 
that what we see 
when we see Jesus
is a love that suffers
a love that is so identified 
with the object of love
that it will suffer.

Pray in this holy passion time
that we all may be the ears, hands and hearts of Jesus.
That our lives 
may show Jesus in the living
that our words 
may declare him in our speaking
and that with passion 
we may declare his love
as we embrace the suffering others 
who God has given us to love and care for