Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Want to want to!

Readings for this Sunday, 1st July 2012,  (Pentecost 5) include 2Samuel 1:1, 17-27 (David laments for Jonathan and Saul) ; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Mark 5:21-43 & Psalm 130  (Proper 13)
The well loved hymn "Men go to God" which is a poetic rendering of a prayer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
reminds us that in our deepest needs we do indeed go to God
(Not only "men" but all people too!)
"We go to God when we are sorely placed"

The readings this week explore some situations
where some people go to God.
The Psalm perhaps sums this up
         "Out of the depths I call to you"
While we might fly to God in time of trouble
this is to narrow a way to interpret this psalm
because we are "deep" not only at the points where things are black and at their worst;
we are also deep where we soar
where we are deeply in love
and where we are functioning at our best.
It reminds us, I suggest,
that when we are in touch with God
we are responding out of depth
and not out of shallowness.

So much of what we experience these days is really shallow.
I cite Big Brother  and similar programs endlessly in this regard.
While we are titillated by this sort of rubbish
have you ever wondered why it also leaves you feeling empty and bored
rather than satisfied.
It is shallow, and meant to be so!!
It is interesting that it is called Reality TV
It is anything but real.

We are at our most real
when we are in touch with God
and we speak to God our of the depth.
The readings point us to some real life situations which are "deep" rather than shallow.

Saul and Jonathan
David's relationship with these two men is formative in his life.
Saul is one of those who comes to understand early on that David is chosen by God
and yet he also has difficulty dealing with how God will choose David over himself.
It is the stuff of human ambition and power struggle
which is critical for any human leader to understand.
At the same time Jonathan, Saul's son, is David's closest friend.
[I am not amongst those who want to see this is as a same-sex relationship.
I think rather we see the deepest type of friendship that people experience
(we should not cloud the issue with spurious exegesis to further our particular cause)]

David knows life in the midst of death
and he knows the reality of God's power
in the difficulties of deep relationship

In this classic passage
Paul speak about generosity.
Now he shares with them what we all know
that there is "generosity" and there is "generosity"!
So he is able to say certain cryptic words to them

"it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something"
At least one of the things he is saying here is
that is we are to understand the depth of giving
we not only have to give
but to desire to do it.
This is an important reflection
for those of us who have a strong sense of duty
we have to do better than just respond to God's wishes
because we feel we ought to
We also need to want to do so.
Maybe we don't get this.
It is I think a question of opening ourself up to the grace of God
to deepen our motivation
Not only are we to respond to God's command
but also to want to respond.
If we are not quite there.
then pray for the grace to want to.

Archbishop Michael Ramsay is often quoted as saying
that we need to deepen our motivation to love God.
We usually find it difficult to say "We love God"
and maybe the most we can say is "We want to love God"
Maybe even, Ramsay reflects,
we can only say "We want to want to love !"
His point is a good one.
If we are love God, out of the depths
then often we will need to do some digging!


Many people, of course plunge the depths
when they, or someone close to them is sick.
The two stories in Mark 5: 21-43 have important insight into how encounter with Jesus
deepens our life
and how this experience of depth 

is an ultimate source of healing.
The Jairus story tells us how we can listen to God in time of death
rather than the pious advice of others
The words that the "well meaning" speak to him
    "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"
Have perhaps a truer ring than we care to admit.
They are the hopeless words 

we often speak faithlessly
into situations of death.
The deep words of Jesus
seem almost fanciful

....this child is not dead she is sleeping
but the real depth is .....Do not fear, only believe
Likewise we hear the disciples being very dismissive even of Jesus
his words "Who touched me?" 

speak to me as a pastor 
of how often I don't see
those who come looking for Jesus.
I, like them, have lots of excuses
it isn't possible to know about specific needs for depth
and yet Jesus knows
and the woman knows.


This stuff only begins to point us towards the depth of God.
We are reminded, (almost with a sledgehammer!) 
that it is in depth we will find God
and that in finding God
we will be found.
We may only want to want to want to find God; 
but even that is enough.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wake up!

If you are celebrating  the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost then there are some great readings (Proper 12) These include 1 Sam 17:1-49 (The story of David and Goliath) and/or 1 Sam 17:57-18:5. 10-16; Psalm 133, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; and one of my favourite passages  Mark 4:35-41 (awaking the sleeping Jesus

I always think when I read this story in Mark  4 of Jesus calming the storm
that my life almost always feels like a boat that is about to be swamped!
It is an image the Mark uses deliberately, I think, to speak to us about the nature of our lives.
The feeling of being swamped is ever with us.
What this story reminds us of too
is that Jesus is also always with usThis is his resurrection promise
-I will be with you always-
but we treat him as though he is asleep
it's often more convenient for us that way!!
The gist of the story is straightforward
we awake the sleeping Jesus and he can deal with the situation,
but there is more here than that.
He actually rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith.
Is he telling them here
that they should trust their own faith?
like David or like Paul,
and not simply drop their bundle and say to God ...Here you sort it all out!
This is often the way we treat God.
Let him sleep until we get into trouble!
then wake him up and drop the problem in his lap.
The rebuke that Jesus utters is about God expecting more of us than this.
We are to be people of faith
and to use that faith not let God's grace be in vain...
but rather act out a life of faith.
It is Jesus's promise to us
not that he will make all our problems disappear
but rather that we will be able to live our life in God's power
to do what God wants us to do
and to be faithful.
So it's not that Jesus can't meet our needs
it's that we also need to recognise that our needs can be met
by what God has given to us.
God does not expect us 
to allow ourselves to be overpowered 
by the divine majesty
but rather to cooperate.
This is what David did
this is what Paul did.
It is the way that Jesus shows us.

ConclusionI hope that we see that 
these stories move us on.
From a dependent immature faith
to one that acts powerfully in accord with God's will.
Our brashness, like David's, needs to be tested
we should not just presume on God's mercy.
But let's not waste what God has already done for us.
And being conscious of Jesus 
ever with us
we also are called to act as he acts.
This is powerful and important stuff 
that we are called to. 
Let this be the character of your life
and of mine.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy birthday to John

 Readings for Sunday 24th June...the Birthday of St John the Baptist are Isaiah 49:1-6, Psalm 139:1-11; Acts 13:16-26; Luke 1-57-66,80
Last week (June 17) I put in our parish daily prayer roster that we were celebrating the Nativity of the Rector.
That's me! A few people picked it up
This Sunday you may wonder why we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist
Only a few people get their birthdays celebrated in the life of the Church
There is of course the Eternal Word who the world goes crazy about on December 25 (but doesn't seem to bother about otherwise)
And of course his mother, The God Bearer  iconically pictured here. There are good stories about Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Moses, Samuel...both Isaiah & Jeremiah and the Psalms talk about how God knows us in the womb (and before...a mind-blowing concept in and of itself)
And we all know stories of births in our families,
I delight in the births of Harry, Ruby and Maddy who have all added to our extended family in the last few months (I remember being deeply shocked (perhaps not the right word) at our family Christmas party last year when I realised that our already great number would be increased by 3 newbies in the next year
And the birth of each of my three children is as clear to me today as it was on the day of their birth
What John the Baptist speaks to us about is that God's plan
goes beyond our imaginings
that our vision is often limited
and that, often in retrospect,
we can see the hand of God
working out its purpose
and inviting us to share
in the mystery of life and faith.

This of course is a very orthodox way
of thinking  about
God and Life.

There is, I suspect, more to be encountered here
We seem to get more energised
and understand more clearly
when we think about children, newborns

We recognise potential, hope, struggle, growth
maturity, boldness, career, vision
These are big words.

And in John the Baptist we get it very clearly.
This is a child of very deep longing
He is not "the one" but nevertheless
his role is critical
God know and sustains him from before the time of his birth

How might this be speaking to us?
What is our deep longing?  (This is an, perhaps the,  important question)
Because it is what we really long for that drives us.
God understands that our role is critical. Do we?
What ever we may think about the smallness of our life
are we able to see as God sees
and to value what God values?
Can we believe that God knows
us deeply, and has always known us this way
and will always know us this way?
What is it to be known by God?

Try and get in touch with what's going on inside...give yourself ten quiet minutes each day
What is my role?  Have I allowed myself to think I am unimportant or irrelevant? How do we imagine God sees us?
Reflect on your life? How has God's hand been evident since before my birth and beyond 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Walking by faith

Readings for Sunday 17th June 2012 (Proper 11) The Third Sunday after Pentecost can include 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17*, Mark 4:26-34

Although it would be easy to think that ‘applying the Gospel’ is just common sense; we are reminded this week that we do not always see things in the way that God sees them
God looks on each human being with love and affirmation
there is nothing about me or you that God 
     does not,
     and will not love

that does not mean that God validates everything we do
in fact we are rather told that it is the other way around
We need to try and see as God sees
rather than to bludgeon God
into seeing things the way we do.
Perhaps our prayer
and spiritual effort
is better spent
trying to hear what God is inviting us to be and do
than in trying
to manipulate God
to do what we want.
St Paul says of this journey
we are called to walk by faith
That is to discern God’s will for us and to do that.
A little sign of this is given when Samuel is discerning who will succeed Saul as king, and he is reminded that so often we look at fairly arbitrary human characteristics
Popularity, success, physical stature
even age and experience
(this is the way of the world)
but Samuel is reminded to look at the heart.
Jesus uses the image of the seed
growing secretly and surprisingly
to remind us that it is
God who guides growth
and development.
and fruitfulness is often surprising
and different from what we expect

As we look at the week ahead
can we pray for openness to God’s purpose
Pray for insight to see
where we are trying to manipulate God
instead of being open to the Spirit.

Lord of the hearts
fill me with your love 
this and every day
that I may be open 
and ready to respond to your gracious spirit
and that I may be fruitful

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Blessed be God for ever

In this week after Trinity we reflect and give thanks for the sacrament of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi) Readings can include  Exodus 24:3-8, Psalm 116, 1 Corinthians 10:14-21, Mark 14:12-26

When the power goes out for a couple of hours ( as it did in our street a few weeks ago)
you suddenly find all sorts of things don't happen
No light, no hot water, you can't cook
how on earth do keep yourself entertained without TV
and keep in touch without the computer.
We are suddenly confronted about how much we take for granted
The sacrament of Holy Communion may have something of this character
Are we taking it for granted?
Have we forgotten how much it gives to us? Do we even recall what's going on?

The Real Presence
Traditionally we have talked about Jesus being 'really present'
in this sacrament
It seems to me that this idea is an important statement of what Christian life is all about
In the last few weeks (Lent to Pentecost) we see the mystery of Jesus's life played out
and Jesus makes certain promises about his presence
Chief amongst these is the promise to be with us when we are together
'For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ (Matt 18:20)
Now I don't really care how Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics or Orthodox
explain what's going on in the Eucharist
I think we would all say ----that Jesus is there in our midst
(I don't imagine that Richard Dawkins gets this...but hope he might one day!!)
And the sacrament is the assertion of the statement Jesus makes ten chapters later
'And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'    (Matt 28:20)
This is said just immediately before the physical presence of Jesus is removed ( see the homilies in the last few weeks (here , here, here and here for what this might be about)

The Real Absence
Because of course what this sacrament also proclaims
is that Jesus is absent
we rely on the tokens of bread and wine
precisely because the physical presence of Jesus
is no longer with us.
This is deliberate.
Because what this sacrament also proclaims
is that we are the Body of Christ
for the World
for the Church
for others

So the sacrament is reminding us
that not only does Jesus become Bread and Wine
but Jesus becomes you and me!

What does Jesus say?
We know the story of Jesus well!!
What do we hear him say and see him do?
For me, it is the proclamation of forgiveness
it is is the assertion that God loves me, indeed
that God loves everyone!!!
He is not out to get us
he wants us to have eternal life
he wants us to know that we don't have to compensate
for our human inadequacy
he wants us to love and be loved.
Of course most of us
are also entranced by the Jesus
who reaches out, forgives, touches and heals

Let me reassert then what this sacrament of the real absence
is saying to you and me
It is not saying that Jesus is not with us (quite the reverse)
but that WE are the Body of Christ

Each time we receive the Holy Communion
we are being reminded, reassured
that forgiveness, eternal life, healing
is committed to you and me
WE are the Body of Christ

I suspect it is really important
that we are reminded of this day by day
and week by week

Where am I being asked to speak God's forgiveness into the life of someone? (Do I need to say sorry? Do I need to forgive?)
Where am I being invited to help a greater vision of what God might be doing in someone's life? Can I offer encouragement, pray, offer solidarity?
Where can I be an agent of am I send me!

This is really important
Important that we not take it for granted!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Dying you destroyed our death

Joan Coleman 1918-2012

Joan, who was a long term parishioner, friend, mother and grandmother lived for over 60 years in this parish

There are a lot of things 
To say about people at a funeral
Much we could and have said about Joan 
One thing I do know about Joan 
Is that she was profoundly faithful
Deeply in love 
In so many ways
And capable of persistence
And endurance
As a person
As a wife 
As a mother and grandmother
As a Christian
.....that is a pretty impressive life.
You would not look at her 
In the last few years 
And easily see any of that
Thank God 
That most of us will have much better memories of her than that
In the Christian tradition
We Believe that God continues 
To sustain and uphold
Each one of us after we die
As he has in this life, so the next
Quite how that happens, and what it means
Joan knows today and we have yet to find out
I have had a strong sense of Joan's continuing life
Since she died
I have faith that she is close to God
One really important thing I know about Joan
Is that she was a good pray-ER
A priest looks for such people in the parish
Remember that about her
That she has prayed vigorously for you and me
Whether we believe or not
She prayed for us.
Remember also that the Christian tradition has it
That the saints, and I count Joan amongst their number,
Continue to pray after death.
They of course are still alive in God
Indeed we might say they are close to God
So in a sense this could be her most productive time yet.
Do not hesitate to ask your mother, grandmother, friend
To pray with you.
She was good at it
And she is now closer to God...which is saying something
May Joan not so much rest in peace
But enjoy this eternal nearness to God 
Which all her life she has longed for