Saturday, September 29, 2012

Believing when you don't believe

Believe it or not
I know that some of us here tonight
find the experience of Church 
really difficult.
Let me tell you 
there are times when I  myself find it really hard.
You only have to sit there
and can shut off if you want
But I have to stand up here
and try and make some sense of it.
Some days I feel tired, and/or depressed
some weeks I just think
life has been 'too hard this week'
What ever it is I believe
doesn’t seem to be working this week.
What ever I once seemed to know
from my childhood, youth and ministry
from last year, yesterday
Some days it seems different

As a friend and minister of Jesus
I need to tell all of us
believers or not
don’t make the mistake 
of thinking that the Church is Jesus.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking
that it is the Church that is important.
Because one of the things that I DO know
is that it  is Jesus that is important

So tonight I want us to think about Jesus!

I thought we could do this by thinking about the prayer Anima Christi...or Soul of Christ...we will sing it in a few moments

Remember that this prayer is the language of the 14th or 15th century
so, in a way, it needs to be translated...
the language is not quite the same
and our hard hearts 
may not hear the powerful poetry
as we say 
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
do we hear the power of  this language
the water that issues from the wounds of the dying Christ
Let me enter the experience of death.

May the experience of Jesus make me drunk
Blood of Christ, inebriate me

May the food that Christ feeds me 
transform my body
Body of Christ, save me

now what does this mean?
What ever else the experience of  Jesus means
It does not mean Church!
It does not mean doctrine!
By and large  it does NOT mean all those things which turn us off Christianity.
The key things that Jesus is on about are simple
Forgiveness...without end
Acceptance and openness....
As we hear the Anima Christi
try and decode it
to hear how it might speak to you.
Soul of Christ Sanctify me
...what do I want my soul  to be like
Within thy wounds hide me
...what woundedeness of society, friendship and life
 has impacted me and drives my life
That with thy Saints I may praise thee
who are  the Saints  the community of good people
who are supporting and calling you to live better  lives

Can I, as an Evangelist, one who calls you to Christ
also at least name the possibility
that meaning, purpose, sense...what ever
that that is what is called Jesus
and invite us all
(however tentatively) 
to come to Jesus tonight

Soul of Christ, sanctify me

Body of Christ, save me

Blood of Christ, inebriate me

Water from the side of Christ, wash me

Passion of Christ, strengthen me

O good Jesus, hear me

Within Thy wounds hide me

Let me not to be separated from Thee

From the malicious enemy defend me 

In the hour of my death call me

And bid me come unto Thee

That with thy Saints I may praise Thee

Forever and ever

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pray as if everything depends on it

The Church, these days, takes very seriously the need to pray
for those who are sick
This is certainly about those are seriously ill
it is also about how we attend to our own needs
and realise health 
both spiritual and physical and psychological
for ourselves and our community

Sunday 30th September 2012 . Readings for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (proper 26)

Some of the readings for today include: Esther 7:1-6,9-10;9:20-22;Psalm 124; James 5:12-20; Mark 9:38-50

There is no doubt that we will look back at the last century and see that a most significant part of ministry has been a more dynamic approach to praying with and for those who are sick
With this, I think, has gone an increased expectation that healing will occur.
Before that it was no doubt the case prayer for healing had about it
a certain sense of resignation to fate or perhaps "God's will" or to "the inevitable"
So we can give thanks that there has been a recapturing of "the prayer of faith" that we read about in the letter of James
We can give thanks that the church is more fervent in believing
the promise of Jesus that his disciples will do what he can do and this includes healing.
This last century of course has also seen wonderful advancement in modern medicine
which itself is more optimistic
and, dare we say it, successful
The two things go hand in hand
and this is an important insight into how God works in our world
God is not "above and beyond" our experience
but "with and in"
It is instructive to talk to Christian doctors
they are under no illusions about how their pragmatic ministry is undergirded
not only by the natural ministry of health science
but also by the supernatural support of the angels.
Chaplains and other ministers in hospitals, too,
see themselves not apart or spiritually superior from the scientific care of people
but an integrated part oif a healing whole.
Health, you see, is a community pursuit
it is complex and comprehensive
and goes awry when it is dragged to one pole of experience or another
be that either the coldly clinical or the widly supernatural
A couple of points
The key insight for this period as we reflect on our life together is that
wholeness and health are not (only or even) individual pursuits they are community issues.
This has two facets
One is that it is the responsibility of the community to care for the well being of individuals
and the second is that the individual's health affects the body as a whole.
James, in his oft quoted passage says how when we are sick we should call for the elders to pray and lay hands on us and anoint us.
It has been my joy to do this many times
sometimes I am a bit sad when people keep their sickness to themselves
I suggest it is as silly as not going to the doctor.
Also our key insight is that health is both individual and communal
and bringing in the community is an important spiritual dynamic.
James reminds us, too, that we need to confess our sins to one another.
This is not easy.
Again it reminds us that sin is not a private affair,
even if we are the only one who might be hurt or betrayed
the damage done is both individual and communal.
I am not here suggesting the sort of public exposure of sin
and humiliation of indviduals that is the caricature of some Christian communities;
but rather to see that when one hurts we all hurt
and that the road to reconciliation
may well not be the road of trying to hide
but of trying to allow ourselves to be helped to know healing and forgiveness.
The gospel reminds us that we need to take sin seriously
as it potentially destroys us.,
If your eye offend pluck it out is the hyperbole which our Lord uses
we neglect sin at our peril. ]
We who are the body of Christ
are called to be just that a BODY.
Our healing our forgiveness is not just individual it is also corporate.
What might God be saying to me today about that insight?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The greatest?

Reading for Sunday 23rd September 2012, Pentecost 17 can include Proverbs 31:10-31, Psalm 1, James 3*, and Mark 9:30-37 (Proper 25)
Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, projected his profile into the public arena
saying "I am the greatest!"
This was, of course, a marketing or motivational ploy
and it worked quite well.
Now something of a shadow of his former self
we see that the sort of 'greatness'
he espoused
is not eternal, or particularly long-lived.
This is one of life's lessons!
Jesus's teaching about greatness
is that we need to be careful
about what we wish for
True greatness requires
radical servant-hood.
The true leader is called to put their life
at the disposal of those they seek to lead.
This might explain why so many would-be leaders
fall foul of their own ambitions.
There was a sense, that when Ali put himself out there
as The Greatest
that we were all really waiting for him to be defeated
We see it every day
with our political leaders
with the sports stars
and those who have their 15 minutes of fame


  • Where are we being invited to understand our leadership of others some what better?
  • Are there places where we have lost sight of how we can better serve those who we seek to lead?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the death of Vicki

( on the death of my friend Vicki Langmaid...a 'bit of a homily' and a poem written in the depths of Central Australia)
Now Malcolm's a nice chap,
but even he would admit
that Vicki is a lot more likeable than he is!

She said to me, more than once,
"I wish I had more Malcolm!"
And I would wonder and think...
You probably do!
She was ever conscious
that she came to the Christian faith
as an adult.
Yet it was all there
as far as I could see.
She understood
what we have been talking about
in this parish for the last few months
that we are to become and be
and indeed realise that we already are
The Body of Christ
for others..
The life that expresses love
that engenders forgiveness
that brings healing and wholeness .
Joy and peace.

Does this sound like anyone we know?

As we come to share in this sacrament
Bread and Wine
the tokens of Christ's Body and Blood
we remember that this is not a fading memory
of some Jewish guy 2000 years ago
but about the way we live our lives.
We are the Body of Christ
and those of you who are not
You can be!!!

Vicki was and is

...and so in the depths of Central Australia in the last few days
I penned this little poem about this woman
proud to call my friend, sad that she has died
really sad!
But she lives in Christ.
Can we be tantalised to grow into an understanding
of what this might mean 
for you and me?

On the death of Vicki!
This woman.
This wife
this mother
this sister
this grandmother
this friend is dead
The Body of Christ
which she humbly owned
for but a few years is dead
Taken down from the cross
and laid in a tomb
Christ lies dead.
The Body of Christ
which she, emboldened by challenge,
renewed by a life well-lived
so well lived!
Interesting and interested (one said)
Vigour, fire,
twinkle in the eyes
steely silver hair
embodied humbly, albeit,
but well.
Now this we know!
that the Body of Christ
is resurrected
it is alive.
That even though we die
yet we shall live.
Not in fading memory!
Behold I tell you this mystery
we shall not all die
we shall live
Not just, I say again, in fading memory
sweet as it is
but flawed by time,
but in the certainty
that we are,
she is, already,
the Body of Christ.
And that body
though dead
is alive
in Christ
in God
in her.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

What do you make of me

Readings for Sunday 16 September, Pentecost 16, Proper 24 can include Proverbs 1:20-33, Psalm 19, James 2: 18-26, Mark 8:27-38

One of the great questions of philosophy is: 
What makes humans different from other animals?
There is any range of answers 
(some of them are bizarrely crass)
but one could be that we 
need to keep asking ourselves penetrating questions.

One question we have been asking out of the readings for the last few weeks is
"What do I really want?"
This is not to say that if we want something hard enough 
then God will capitulate
and give it to us....
but rather we need to have a certain degree of rigour about our inward looking
that demands of us something other than superficiality.
So what do I really want,
may be treated superficially,
or we may realise
that it is at the point of my deepest longing
that I am met by God.
There are many images of this in the lives of the people of faith.
God is already coming out to meet us.

A similar question 
is the one which Jesus asks his disciples in the Gospel passage we read today:
Who do people say that I am? and Who do you say that I am?
Again, it would be easy to be superficial...the great teacher, the healer,
a romantic historical figure, a hero....
but we are being invited, I suggest,
to get in touch with the source of abundant life,
we are being invited to encounter God.

You are the Messiah 
-There is a real sense in which we see in this passage
that understanding who Jesus is, is not an act of "knowing" at all
but an act of inspiration or revelation.Our Anglican formularies, consistent with received Christian wisdom,
understand this to be so...many of our prayers say things like...without you we are not able to receive you...send your Holy Spirit that we may know.
If this is so....then a good part of our prayer needs to go towards praying that we may be open
to receive what God has to offer.

The Son of Man must undergo suffering
the way of faith is not an easy one.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer one of the 20th century martyrs says that there is no such thing as "cheap grace" (see some thoughts about DB here)
the paradox of Christian faith is that grace, life in God, abundant or eternal life,
however we describe it
is the free gift of God and yet
it comes at great cost
This is a paradox, rather than a contradiction,
and it draws out of us profound feelings.
One image Jesus uses is that of the extremely valuable treasure

Matt 13:45,46 "Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, goes out and sells everything in order to buy it."

Once we realise what Jesus is offering us
we will devote ourselves to its pursuit.
....Theoretically and logically...
but when Jesus spells out very clearly
the cost that he will pay
...his own life, reputation, and relationships....
Peter rebukes Jesus and then we read....
Jesus rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
It reminds us that we are indeed 
capable of getting things right,
but then we often let them slip away.
Peter, like me I often think, 
is a maelstrom of this sort of toing and froing.
No sooner do we get it than we reneg
it is clear 
and then we put our foot in it.

So if we are praying this sort of stuff through we pray:
May we receive the clear understanding of who you are.May we be brave enough to accept the consequences,and be courageous enough to trust God rather ourselves

The ominous warning
It is not that we, like some suicidal bomber,
are to bring on our own demise
particularly not with the arrogance of hastening the kingdom.

Nor that we can avoid suffering.
There is indeed something of the reality here that
the embrace of suffering is part of what life in Christ is about.
But it is not the purpose of life in Christ
It is a consequence that we accept....we sell everything in order to be able to purchase the pearl.

This requires some sort of courage.
Fortunately God supplies that.
Are we open to allow God to be our supplier!!


  • Pray for grace to be courageous and faithful
  • Look for opportunities to confess the truth of who Jesus is
  • Seek forgiveness when we close ourselves to the difficulty of the call and re-establish a commitment to give everything for the Gospel.
  • Above all try!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Eternal struggles

Readings for Sunday 9th September (Proper 23 Pentecost 15) might include Proverbs 22, Psalm 125, James 2:1-17*, Mark 7:24-37

It may help us at this time 
to realise that the woman we read about in these readings , (The "Syro Phoenician Woman" )
lived in that coastal region to the north of the modern state of Israel 
and west of modern Syria 
that has often been under the pall of the war.
Bearing in mind that many of those peoples who live there today 
trace their antecedents back well over the 2000 years of the common era (CE), 
it is conceivable that her living descendants are caught up in today's conflicts.
And the readings reminds us that 
tension between different ethnic groups was there at the time of Christ, as it is there today. 
It is a sadness but a truth.
They remind us, too, 
that we fickle humans are open to prejudice of all sorts, 
economic, gender-based, class oriented, 
religious and of course the stupidity of racial prejudice
Even Jesus is caught up in it. 
"It is not fair, " he says of this woman's daughter, 
"that I should take the food that is meant for the Jews and feed it to the dogs!"
None of us would take too kindly to our children being referred to as dogs. 
(let alone that some commentators suggest this word "dogs" is slang parlance for prostitutes)
he is no doubt using a common idiom. 
Speaking as he had been brought up to speak of his near neighbours.
We fall easily into that trap ourselves 
when we talk of Indonesians, Aborigines, even (perhaps in an earlier era) Poms!!

The common bondThere is, however, a resilience about this woman 
(which we see in the people of today)
that causes her to persist with Jesus, and her persistence is rewarded.
Coupled with this 
we read a story about another persistent man, who was deaf. 
And who, like many of the profoundly deaf, had a speech impediment.
Such people, too, have a resilience which is at times admirable 
and also a little intimidating
stemming, on their part, from years of prejudice against them 
and misunderstanding 
with which they have had to deal.
What we see in these two stories is the invitation to transcend our prejudice
and to put our trust in Jesus.
To take the next step of faith and move forward.
Sometimes this will take us quite out of our comfort zone.
Other times it will just be one more step along the road we go!

The woman has to wrestle with Jesus.

Is he trying to establish just how determined she is?

Is he forcing her to get to the root of what she really wants?

Spiritual Directors and the works of the saints will tell us 
this is a key understanding
in our journey of faith,
understanding what really makes us tick,
establishing what it is that we really want.
For this woman she really has to fight for her daughter,
for this man he has to be prepared to sit quietly with Jesus
and put aside his anxiety.

I ask myself...what is it that I really want?
Am I so clouded in my vision (prejudice)
that I fail to see what I really want.
Am I so frightened by life, by failure, 
by weakness, by depression, 
by name it, it's there...
that I find it impossible to trust
even God.

The stories remind us 
that this would seem the way to go.
Indeed the only way to go!
Not the way of putting your trust in human vanity
of being impressed by wealth or human achievement
as we so easily are,
but rather by taking the next step along the road with Christ.

For this woman 
it is quite a vigorous struggle with Jesus.
For this man 
it is being taken to one side.
What will it be for me or for you this week?

This weekAllow God the opportunity that we so often deny
to let us take the next small step.
What prejudices are guiding our thinking at this stage in our life I frightened of the future I dictated to by the past I fail to see the goodness in some people because of my bias or narrowness I closed to God because I like the easy life...

God does not demand that our life be turned upside down 
every moment of every day
some days will be rough
most days we are just to keep on moving on.
Not, mind you, standing still.
Maybe just the next small step.

For you prayers:
In the time of quiet, perhaps early in the day