Sunday, December 29, 2013

I have searched you out

The funeral of our beloved friend Nancy Rovira Psalm 139:1-18, John 14:1-7
She was a gorgeous person
both physically
and to so many of us
her gift to us
was just
…well, the way she gave herself
Unconditionally, unremittingly
with wisdom, grace and kindness.
Lest I do
what we often do at funerals
and paint her as Saint Nancy
I do recall one incident
where she actually got cross with someone
and told them
"Enough is enough!"
But only one!
And she did not do it lightly, or selfishly
but in a considered way after much thought.
She was for me ( and I know for many others)
a great Counsellor,
the person who I turned to, to pray for the core stuff of my ministry,
I will miss this.
But know she prays for me still.
Nancy's faith story is a wonderful one.
A person who came to faith in later life
and came to know Jesus so powerfully
that everything she did was coloured
by her relationship with Jesus.
She did everything she could to help people find that same relationship.
The God who she knew and felt
had 'searched her out and known her' (Psalm 139:1)

She would rejoice that her life was transformed.
She acquired a new confidence in Christ
She had no desire to flee
So delighted was she that she had been found.

It would be remiss of me today not to remind each one of us
that what Nancy found
is available for each of us.
Jesus stands waiting for you.
As he stood waiting for Nancy.
Saying…I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

Is he speaking to you today
can you have courage, as Nancy did,
to say…I will follow your Way,
I will know your Truth,
and I will live your Life.

It transformed Nancy.
It made her a gift
for you and for me.
She in her death is reminding us
of the gift that Christ is offering
each one of us.
To be the Way
the Truth
and the Life
for us, as he was for Nancy.

Snap out of it

Readings for Evensong of the 1st Sunday of Christmas  can be Isaiah 63:9-14, John 3:16-21
Sunday 29th December 2013

We have to snap out of it!
Most of us tell ourselves this some times
or get told it
from time to time.
I am not always convinced this is good advice!
Christmas is difficult enough
without having to deal with family conflict
and sickness.
Financial troubles, and any myriad of other things.
I don't think this is the Christmas message.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us (Is 63:9) "It was not a messenger or an angel, but God's presence that saved them.
In his love and pity God redeemed them, he lifted them (us) up all the days and carried us all the days of old"
This is not a brutal command  to 'snap out of it'
But an invitation
to relate to God.
It's a different dynamic
The solution to our woes
lies not in what we do
But in relating to God.

Lest we are fearful
Holy John, our patron saint, reminds us
that God is not out to get us!
He does not want to us to perish but to live

That God want us to live in light,
to understand what is going on,
and not in darkness
as though some how we are excluded
from God.

Maybe we should just snap out of it!

Thank goodness that God got there before we did!
And does not say "shape up or ship out!"
But, God says, I am prepared for you!
Believe!  Walk into the light already lit for you!
And live a new life

This is of course the $64000 question.
I am inclined to think we make this harder than it needs to be.
We, of course, need to pay some attention
to what, and how,  God might be speaking to us.
What is God saying to us tonight?
About….our sadness, our grief, our troubles
Can we hear the Isaiah message……
…it is not magic tricks…angels or wizards
Can we get into God's presence
…maybe by being in a holy place,
certainly by being quiet
It will be in the God-given opportunity
that comes when someone dies
and we talk more carefully
and intimately
about life
and meaning.
It is rather fleeting,
you need to treasure it.

And if we ask ourselves:
What, God, are you saying to me…. can we hear the still small voice?
The great (albeit difficult) thing about crisis, grief, trouble
…is that we are very exposed and open.
We are receptive.

The Psalmist says: "If today you hear his voice
do not harden your heart"
What IS God saying to my hard heart?

It is about life, rather than death.
About light rather than darkness
About truth rather than lies.

What IS God saying to me tonight?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dream a little dream!

Readings for the First Sunday after Christmas 29th December 2013 Isaiah 63:7-9 Psalm 148 Hebrews 2:10-18,Matthew 2:13-23
Dreams feature prominently in Matthew's account of the Christmas story. I occasionally go back through my daily jottings and find dreams that I am amazed by
I wonder how I had such perspicacity 
such insight
and then I am chastened by the fact that I have not taken any notice at all of my dreams.
Herr Doktor Jung was correct! We should take more notice of what wqe are dreaming.
Both in our sleep and
in our lives!
They are not all, or even usually, the sort of dreams which reveal to us exactly what to do
though we're often super-fascinated by that sort of dream.
If we look at Joseph's dreams carefully
they are often and mainly the sort of dream which is rather a considered reflection.
On finding out Mary is pregnant
he is at first minded to send her away
After a dream and a time of reflection
he finds a different alternative..
Likewise the Wise Men dream up a different alternative
to the plans of Herod,
and we read 
as Joseph becomes more experienced 
in the ways of dreams and angels
that he is able to protect his family
and then bring them back to safety.

It is opening ourselves to the inner, more reflective, workings
of our psyche and our lives
that gives us added dimension.
We do not want to make too much of this.
But we also do not want to make too little.

This week
Take time to give serious thoughts 

a second visit
Perhaps pay attention to your dreams
Open your ears to you inner-most self
and the voice of the Spirit within.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Positively the last

There is so much to write about Christmas….this is positively the last…this year

Christmas is a quite difficult time for us to interpret
I suspect we make it more difficult than it needs to be.
St John says in the introduction to his Gospel.
“The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us!”
He is, of course, talking about Jesus.
Simply saying that if we want to know what God is like then you can know this
Because there is a man, Jesus, who is fully God.
If you want to know what God is like
look at Jesus.
It is important to LOOK AT JESUS
and not merely (or poorly) project our poverty of insight and prejudices on to him.
We need to be like Jesus 
not to make Jesus like us
(this is the Westboro Baptist Heresy!)
what does the witness of the scripture say
...Forgive...Love...Unconditional Acceptance
And lest we forget
it says it again
Forgive again and again,
love the unlovely
care for the weak and the poor
stand against tyranny and injustice
(this is the witness of Jesus at the Cross)

We are sorely tempted
to make Jesus like us
rather than to heed the call to be like him.
The Word was made flesh
Not so that God might be dragged down to our level
But rather that we might
be what God intends us to be
the image of his glory.
We make this difficult because it is challenging.

Are we up for the challenge?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Have you seen the star?

I must admit I normally look to the heavens more at Easter than at Christmas.
Noticing that the feast of Passover is associated with the Full Moon I usually thrill to see it brightly shining
Of course the Star of Bethlehem features prominently in the Christmas story.
It is a story about how God gets our attention.
When you stop and think about it, God is probably trying to attract our attention quite a lot.
Moses at the Burning Bush
various miraculous stories
and of course our own stories
of life
and death 
(I have had too much death this year)

What, we might ask, is God saying to me?
If Jesus was sitting next to me now
what would he be talking about,
what, indeed, do I want to talk to Jesus about?

Is it the sadness I feel about the course of my life?
Is it about the guilt I feel about the things I have done wrong? The people I have hurt, the poor choices I have made? 
What do we imagine Jesus might say?
Let’s not cheapen this by suggesting that he will just say “Well it doesn’t matter what you like!”

Now that he has got my attention 
with a star, a burning bush, a crisis, an angel or what ever
what is God saying to me?
Almost certainly he will not be saying MORE RELIGIOUS
and is probably saying FORGIVE and SEEK FORGIVENESS
He is definitely saying ...stop being so selfish and LOOK OUT FOR THE POOR
He is certainly saying 
“Look where the star is pointing!”
and the star is pointing to our own back door!

Can we find one thing this Christmas which enables us to simply be more loving!

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?
I am fascinated by these shepherds. We tend to think of them as men. They were, of course, “lads” who were cheap labour.
They had no doubt snuck booze up the hill, and so it was not surprising that they saw things!
They were having a hoot! As lads do! No responsibility and too much to drink.
In the boredom of the hillside, perhaps one of them sees some activity in the stable down the way. And ‘being lads' ; with nothing else to do. Off they go to have a look.
Who knows what they saw there, or what they thought they saw. Faith tells us that they had an encounter with God. 
Are we some times so busy looking for God in the holy places that we actually fail to see that he is already there in the places where we live?
He is there when we go because we are bored, or we haven’t anything better to do.
God is already there....the spiritual teachers remind us that God has already prepared a  place for us. Though we think we have deigned to honour God with our presence, God actually invites us to live our life not out of some perverted  holy paradigm which has no connection with reality, but where he has already prepared a place for us.
It is as real as the boredom and the curiosity that we experience every day.
God saying to us “What are you looking at?”
What am I looking at? What do I want from God?

These shepherds, they got it for a moment. And their hearts soared

Glory to God in the highest!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Give me a sign

Give me a sign
This is the last Sunday before Christmas. 
We begin with the prophet Isiaaih telling the wicked King Ahaz to ask God for a sign.
But Ahaz says he has no need of a sign.
The reason for this is that for if for a moment Ahaz takes notice of God, 
then his own evil will be exposed
Isaiah nevertheless tells him:
There is a sign anyway.
It is that a woman will conceive and bear a child.
As signs go it is not so remarkable,
it is, after all, an every day occurrence.
(Though if you have had a recent birth in your family or community,
as we have been blessed with in our parish
then you know it is the greatest thing that happens)
If for a a moment we acknowledge that God 
might have something to say
then we have a decision.
And Ahaz, perhaps like most of the world,
has decided:
I am not going to do what God wants
I will do what I want!
So he says:
I don’t want a sign
and he, evil man that he is, 
is even pious and pretentious about it.
“Far be it from me to demand a sign
Because of course
if God gives a sign
then either Ahaz has to  stop his wickedness
or reject God.
So Isiaiah says: 
The sign is this, whether we like it or not, 
God is with us....Immanuel
and we see it in the birth of of a baby

There is a contrast with Joseph
He is deeply confronted 
his fiancee is pregnant
and he is not the father!
The strict interpretation of the Law required that Mary should be stoned
but Joseph is not going to be in that.
No doubt a social convention had arisen
that she be sent away 
(not dissimilar to what has often happened in our own society)
[we have already forgotten in our dissolute age what havoc this caused in the lives of ordinary folk]
So Joseph decides to follow social convention
which avoids the stupidity and harshness of legalism.
BUT, and this is a big but!!!
he is chastened by the Spirit of God 
who tells him both ignore the law and social convention.
This is an Immanuel story
-God is with us-
Not in selfish ambition, not even in social conformity ( so beloved of we conservatives)
but in hearing what God might be saying to us through trouble and strife
The sort of ordinary stuff
that surrounds the birth of a child.

We read that Joseph pays attention to God’s voice;
the way of speaking is to talk about ‘an angel speaking
not our usual way of expressing it.
The Advent-Christmas story is that God is with us.
And that we live life properly by heeding what God is saying
this will almost certainly confront our own corruption and deceitful plans
it will even require us to stand against 
inadequate social convention.
I wonder where this connects with my life
and yours this Christmas.

It is not necessarily about ‘great decisions’
it is about the ordinary stuff of life...the birth of a child.....
Extraordinary in its own way.
How is God asking me to be faithful
to my own life?
and the promise God makes to me?

And will I make that journey?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God quite likes us!

Reading for Sunday 22nd  December 2013: Advent 4 (also known as O king of the nations-O Rex Gentium) Isaiah 7:10-16 Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 Romans 1:1-7 Matthew 1:18-25
I like young kids
It is perhaps a politically incorrect thing to say.
I am now the oldest male in my generation of my family
So when we gather at Christmas and other times
that I have become a patriarch!
Each of these last few days has a special title
or antiphon which is sung.
The one we know best is ...O Emmanuel! God with us
But today is called O King of the Nations (O Rex Gentium)
It sings of how Jesus has his foundation and roots
deep within the human family.
It does not just hope that there will be local peace
but that there will be world, peace.
This is my hope too!
Peace in Syria, in Outback Australia, in Afghanistan…you name it
I want peace between Moslem and Christian and Jew
Between Hindu, Buddhist and communist

But let me go back to O Emmanuel-God with us
A few years ago I had a wonderful encounter with a class
of 5-7 year olds from St Peter's School, Blackwood
as we sat in the church
and talked about what we could see.
Chief amongst these things was a bird which had flown into the church.
We had a most alive conversation about what you do when a bird flies into your house!
One little girl told me "I can speak to birds"
and after they had left she offered to stay and tell the bird to leave.

There is something alive and fresh about these naive conversations
So it is not surprsing to encounter at the heart of the discourses
about God's salvation of the world
That the prophet Isaiah should remind us that the surest sign
that God is with us -Emmanuel-
(this is the word of Christmas)
and the sign is: that a woman will bear a child.

Not the most spectacular of signs
not a volcano, a burning bush, or an ark or a transfiguration
But perhaps the most alive sign
a human being has
is the birth of a child

The Christmas Bowl reminds us that
the aid that we give to communities overseas
will secure the future of children
pure water, economic security
is about the world we need to establish for children

We are challenged by Anglicare
and our own local Beacon
to offer small offerings of food
and gifts
for people right in our midst
who are at risk.
God's work...the Emmanuel work..
of Christmas,
will be about the realities of our life.
These realities are most sharply focussed
through the lens of our children.

The surest sign that God is with us
is that a young woman will give birth.
How does this speak to your life?
What have you made of Christmas so far....
do you hear the voice of the child speaking to you?
What is he saying?
What does she tell you
about the birdsong that she can utter?
About the dreams that they hold
about what we need to do
to nurture them
and create a world fit for children.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
Isaiah had prophesied:
  • "For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
  • "He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." Isaiah 2:4

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thanksgiving for a life- Tom Strange

Tom Strange died last week at the age of 95.
He did not "pass away"
He died.
he, and his wife Mary, were one of the few couples
who regularly worshipped in both churches
of the parish
and he was one of the people
who was there week by week
who came to parish functions
staffed the parish office and did all sorts of other things in life and in the community.
He always had a good book
sometimes history, sometimes a novel,
sometimes science.
I shared with the family that I quickly learned to allow Tom half an hour
every week when I saw him in the office
to discuss what ever esoteric subject he was exploring.
That's why I chose the story about Joshua at the battle of Jericho
(Joshua 6) as one of our readings
We certainly had at least one conversation about this curious story
and he had read at least one archaeological account of this very bizarre event
about the walls falling down.
He enjoyed grappling with tricky questions

No subject too large, no subject too small!
Part of the sadness of Tom's last few years
has been the loss of this enthusiastic ability
to engage with the diversity of life.
When I saw him two weeks ago
his recognition of me was slight
but, I thought, there.
It was more than I had seen on the few occasions of the last 18 months.
Tom in earlier years, would engage with some of the difficult questions that this presents.
How can a life lived so fully, dwindle so much?
What sort of God would allow this to happen?
How can we who watched this, bear the pain?
How will I cope if this happens to me?
There are not simple answers, indeed there may not be answers at all.
In the Gospel reading we are told that life is not only about answers
It is about encountering Jesus.
This is not about avoiding pain;
indeed the crucified Jesus
demonstrates this dramatically.
It is finding in Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
We only ever do this partially
(fortunately…he is always finding us)
always drawing us
already gone to prepare a place for us.
We celebrate Communion, remembering Jesus is with us,
this Tom has done many times before,
it faith that God sustains and upholds.
And that in death as in life
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The answer to these difficult questions
is not in our clever thoughts
our having worked it out
but in relationship.
It is there for you and me today.
We pray in faith that Tom
knows the delight of the clear unobscured presence
and more that in this Christmas season
we might find the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Truly magnificent

Readings for this Sunday, 15th December 2013 Advent 3. Isaiah 35:1-10, Magnificat Luke 1:47-55; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
The prophet Isaiah says...Thus says the Lord
My ways are not your ways, and your ways are not my ways. (Is 55:8-10)This theme is particularly apparent in the great seasons like Advent.
God does not do things in the way that we seem to think
they should be done
The king is not only not born in a palace
he is also conceived out of wedlock
and his mother is in danger of nto actually being able to marry at all
and provide the necessary security for her son.
It almost seems a rule
that what ever way we expect things to be done
God's way will be differentThis is not because of some sort of perversity
on the part of God
who is just being contrary.
It is rather a fundamental statement
about how poorly we succeed
at understanding the will of God.
MagnificatSo it is hardly surprising that the words we hear
being spoken
are challenging
our very established and unimaginative ways of thinking
about life and about God.
This may often escape our attention
as we hear words that we have heard many times before.
Such are those words (well-known to Anglicans)
we hear spoken by Mary
as she commits herself to cooperate with the the will of God.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
There are a few shocks in the song that she sings
....from this day all generations will call me blessed.
Women are often perceived by society
as secondary people
this much is known to us
Not so so in God's world.
God says to each woman you are holy!
If I say nothing else to each of you here today
it is that
But can we also say
that God does not make the sort of judgment on the umnarried pregnant girl
that we so often rush to make!
...this day God says to women, and to those with child
You are blessed.

My ways, are not your ways
If we think that pride, arrogance and self-promotion
are the way to go
then Mary's song reminds us that
God is on the side of the humble and meek
he has an option for the poor
and we who are rich need to be particularly cautious.
The world's ways are about reputation, power and influence
God's are about humility, compassion and concern.

The world is totally seduced by greed
and the need to be rich
But God's promise is to stand alongisde those who are poor.

Great encouragementWe need to hear these words for what they are.
Great encouragement.
They are revealing to us truths that the world does not readily appreciate.

John says to the people who went out to see him.
Did you come out into the desert execyting to be told that you had got it right

What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.

No he says, you went out looking for God.
You come to church (presumably)
Or you read these words
Not to be told that you have got it right
But to be confronted by God
to hear what God says to your heart.
He ways are not yours
You need some education in my will.
Those who you tend to reject...the poor, women, the illegitimate
They are the ones I take and bless.
My understanding rather turns the world upside down.

Many heard John and Jesus
and turned away
because they did not want hear the message
that confronted their lifestyle.
Others found that their life was transformed.

Which are you?

This week

  • Pray for insight to seeGod where God is least likely to be found
  • Ask the Spirit to show you where you need to change and affirm God in the unexpected place.
We praise you Lord
as we see you confront our popular misconceptions.
As you turn aside from injustice and greed and 
bless the cause of the powerless and poor.
Give us the courage of Christmas to do that too.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Call to Repentance

The Call to Repentance
Advent is full of themes, and full of people

Today it is Repentance...turning back to God....
And John the Baptist who in the prophetic tradition calls God’s people to come back.
God wants me, and you, to be close!

I am convinced that God wants more for us than we want for ourselves.
That is why Jesus calls people to repent and to know forgiveness.
He does not want us to live in the pig-sty (no disrespect to the noble pig!
that so often we prefer to stay in.
That is why Jesus wants us to be free from sin
and why the call to repent (to turn back to God) 
is so prominent in Christian teaching.
God, loves us so much
that he will not settle for less than enough!
We will but God won’t.

We sometimes get a distorted view about sin.
A corrupt church (both Protestant and Catholic) has convinced us that God just wants to punish us:
Punish us ---for greedfor hurting othersfor adulteryfor selfishnessfor liesfor .....well for what ever we can dream up
The truth is that God loves us so much (John 3:16) 
that he wants nothing of the sort
He wants us to be free
St Augustine says that sin is its own punishment......this means those awful things we feel...or that we try to hide....that make our lives intolerable
Well all that is the effect of sin
our own sin punishes us!!!

Big news
God does not want to punish us
God wants us to be free.
St Paul tells the Christians in Galatia
“You have been set free for freedom!!”
God does not want us to feel guilty.
The call to saying I am not finished with you yet
If you still feel guilty...for lies, for theft, for betrayal......
Come now...and ask God to let you know: you are forgiven!

I remember the great Methodist preacher Jo Blinco reminding us about those crippled prots who couldn’t come to Communion because they were ‘too sinful’.
"This Sacrament is for the sinner!"
Jesus is for the sinner...the strumpet.
For you, for me.

Bonhoeffer reminds us that sin thrives through lies
And to be wary 
that when we are alone 
we deceive ourselves about what God does and doesn’t want

I am sure that what God doesn’t want
is for me to be either/or an emotional and/or spiritual cripple
It is for FREEDOM that we have been set free
(Galatians 5:1)
Do we actually want to be free!
Free from the sin that has become so comfortable
from which we have excused ourselves

Bonhoeffer, who is a rigorous task master,  doesn’t let us off quite so easily
He says this loneliness is confronted by telling your sins to another (confession) we want to live in the light or the darkness.
Bonhoeffer, the martyr, was quite clear
the surest way of defeating the evil
of secret sin
is to confess your sins one to another (James 5:16)
He is talking both about the practice of Confession (interesting for a Confessing Evanglical)
...and Christians supporting each other 
(perhaps) in less formal ways. 
We are slippery, but less so if we hold each other to account.
God wants more for us than we want for ourselves!

Each day........Where am I choosing to be less than God thinks I can be?
My life...Christmas is a very important time, and can be confronting. Can I ask for forgiveness 
for hurts from the past, by me, and to me
Do I really want the sort of radical freedom that God wants for me?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Strumpets ahoy!

What’s a ‘Strumpet?

I did wonder how long it would be before people realised that my weekly preaching notes had become The ‘Strumpet.  It was one of those things I did when I was wondering if anyone actually read them! 
Six weeks later one person asked me “What does preaching have to do with prostitutes?”
And attempted to take me to task.
I would have thought the answer to the question was pretty obvious “The Gospel is probably more about prostitutes than about ninety nine righteous people “ (Luke 15:7)
My churchwarden did note that she thought it was short for Stephen’s Trumpet. And so, lest I offend tender consciences, it has become!
The ambiguity of it all is something that has impinged on my life over the last decade at least.

I decided at one study group when we were talking about healing that I, like many others, had been subject to depression. I was rather shocked by how that seemed to unlock a huge sigh of relief, from others who who had felt as I so often had that being sick was some how a weakness. There are other things too. So I am blowing my trumpet a little bit louder! 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Peas on earth

Already we are belting through Advent on Sunday December 8 (also the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception…..not easy for Anglican!) But here for Advent 2 Isaiah 11:1-10, Ps 72: 1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12
One of the great themes of Christmas and Advent is the reign of peace that is to be ushered in by this new king
Peace is not a difficult concept to grasp though we need to be careful to do it justice
In the Hebrew Scriptures the word we use is "shalom"
it speaks of a peace which is not just the absence of war
but a time of harmony, justice and prosperity
for all people
We would hardly say that we live in a time of peace
because if harmony, justice and prosperity are the measures
then none of these seem to fully exist at this point in history.
At most what we seem to be able to achieve
is a closed world in which we shut ourselves in.
But this shallow view of peace
is not the shalom
that is being talked about here.
It is not the peace with which we greet each other when we say
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
Peace at all times and in all ways
A couple of ideas that may help us think of peace-shalom
Because we are overwhelmed by how to bring about peace in Afghanistan or Iraq or Pakistan
we seem to think that we cannot do anything at all, ever.
But of course the very fact that biblical peace is about how life is lived
must bear fruit in the way we actually live.
As the song puts it
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me
It is easy to invite someone else to do the hard yards;
but the call of the gospel
first by John the Baptist and then by Jesus himself
is to lay into it ourselves.
We are to be righteous, holy and active in living our life.
And not leave it up to someone else.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me
How to begin
Paul talks in Ephesians (picking up Isaiah) about
peace to those who are far off
and peace to those are near
most of us will need to focus on the near rather than the far.
It is those who are near who affect our shalom.
Yes we need to forgive and seek to be forgiven
in Advent in order that there may be genuine peace!
Do not let this week go without paying some attention to that!
But we also thought last week about one of the major contributing factors
to the lack of peace
and that is poverty.
It is often noted
that what underlies the East-West bitterness
is not so much the Muslim-Christian-Hindu-Jewish-Buddhist division
but the rich-poor divide
Iran and Iraq and anti-Western hatreds are fuelled by the great inequalities
We HAVE and they HAVE-NOT.
If we threw the energies and money into addressing inequalities
rather than in waging war at the cost of billions upon billions of dollars,
if we took seriously the addressing of poverty;
then the fomenting of hatred becomes harder
because most people long
not for domination
but that there may be peace on earth.
So we are invited to give some of what we HAVE
which seems like little
and place it in the Christmas Bowl
or wherever we want to help
We can lament that governments can give millions and billions
(and maybe we need to be articulating this more strongly
and advocating for more overseas aid)
and we only give tens and hundreds but we hear that refrain
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
We are called to be signs and sacraments of what God wants to happen.
We are struck as we read of the John the Baptist in Matthew that he is strident
he says Do this!
the Lord requires that an axe be laid into the situation
that we not just water it
but allow the Spirit to consume it like a ferocious fire.
Wherever else we can strive for peace,
we should!
Do not be seduced by the shallow Christmas
but hear the call for real and genuine peace.
It has some sense of rigour about it.
We should look both close and far off
but let us hear that song....
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.