Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The greatest of the gifts

St Paul tells us that the greatest gift is love. But it is not an airy fairy sort of love.
It is a love which is immensely practical .
Reading s for Sunday 3rd February 2013– the gift of love
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Cor 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30 

The Christian message is not particularly difficult to understand
it is that God loves us
and that God want us to love each other
We do however seem to be resistant
to the implementation of this simple and straightforward message
There is a warning early on in Jesus’ ministry
that the Gospel message may be heard
but it will not always be received.
Even by those, like our friends, and people who know us
you might think would be the first to take up the precepts.

Growing into maturity
St Paul reminds us that the message of love
whilst being rich and poetic
is also immensely practical
It is about patience, kindness, goodness
working against irritability, resentments, rudeness and arrogance
This may be what some people find difficult to take
It is easy to dismiss an airy-fairy gospel (so heavenly that it is no earthly use)
not so easy to dismiss something that really connects with out day to day life


Take a little time to ask God where you have heard the message but not been
terribly interested in responding, where you have even been resistant to any
sense of the Gospel requiring a response

Is there somewhere where God is
asking me to implement the Gospel practically?? Do I need to be kind, patient,
forgiving, open?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What's your job?

January 27th 2013.   The Third Sunday after Epiphany. Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 I Corinthians 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21 
Here's a tricky statement:not one of us is not gifted.
That is: 
All of us are gifted by God the Holy Spirit
There is an inference in Luke 4 (and beyond)
that God might actually have something in store for us
We read how Jesus is revealed not just as a nice chap
but who we are invite us to understand as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
The Lord is planning to use him, because the Lord God
has given him the Holy Spirit
and that Spirit is there for purpose
not just for decoration!
Now is the time
and the Lord is beginning a “new thing”.

We too are given the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminds us (1 Cor 12)
that we are not all called to be bishops, teachers, or apostles
healers or prophets.

What do you think you might be called to be and do
Two clues: Not all are called to be the Bishop, or the organist
or the healer
Second clue: We are all called to be and do something
There is no free lunch or free ride..

This implies so much for us.
Don't do or dumb yourslef down.
Perhaps others see in us what we do not see ourselves.

But not one of us is not gifted.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Free drinks and bad catering

Readings this week (SundayJanuary 20 2013 are for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-5 Psalm 36:5-10 I Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11 

No miracle attracts attention like 

the turning of water into wine. 
It is the butt of all the jokes 
that cynics and non-Christians throw at believers in Jesus.
Be that as it may,
It is also profoundly misunderstood.

We are fixated 
on getting our water turned into wine
whereas it seems the holy God
might be intent on something else.

A couple of points
Jesus is with us in the ordinary.
Although we think this story 
is about a magic trick of changing water into wine
it speaks volumes more
it is not the extraordinary
that is the key
but the ordinary.

Here we have Jesus at an ordinary,
albeit special, event
a marriage
and being bothered about an ordinary,
albeit serious, problem
the wine has run out!

If we hear nothing else in this story
we need to recognise that it is about how Jesus
lives with us in the ordinary world.

The world of weddings and bad catering!

We often confine God to "religious" areas
but this story, like much of John's Gospel,
reminds us that Jesus 
does not take us out of the ordinary
but rather transforms it.

Or perhaps to allow ourselves 
to be transformed by the ordinary
or to be the agents
of that transformation

One of the keys to enabling this transformation to happen
is to hear the words of Mary to his disciples

Do what ever he tells you!"

So two key principles so far in this story are:

  • allow Jesus into the ordinary
  • and listen to what he is telling you to do and do it.

This simple advice stands us in good stead.
It requires simply that we open our ordinary life to God
And that we listen to what God is saying
We are not always good at this.

In fact so intent are we in looking out
for the tricky stuff
that we often miss the change 
that is right under our noses
  • the deepening of relationships
  • the opening of our hearts
Take time each day 
to look at 
ordinary life, at work, at school
at home
with our family, 
in our duties,
in our recreation

Jesus does not cane the wedding guests!

He does not say "You are a mob of drunks! and it serves you right."
but rather

      I have come that you might have life
      and have it more abundantly.

This is one of the great themes of John's Gospel.
This is no story of wayward drunkenness
or a cheap party trick
but an invitation
to give every aspect of our life to God
and live it
with the abundance
he desires for us.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Picturing God

Today, January 13, 2013, is often called the Baptism of the Lord (First Sunday after the Epiphany)
Readings suggested for today are: 
Isaiah 43:1-7 Psalm 29 Acts 8:14-17 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22I

If you were to draw a picture of God
what would you draw?
Some of our fellow monotheists (that is believers in one God)...the Jews and the Moslems
find this idea of representing God
to be so slippery an idea
that they forbid it all together.
If you go into a mosque or a synagogue
although you will find elaborate decoration
(Islamic art represents some of the highest forms of decorative art the world has ever seen)

you will find no human form, or even animal form represented
we call this idolatry.

We are profoundly aware that any attempt to represent God will fall far short.
Any picture we draw will be some how inadequate
and contentious.
It will cause offence because of this.

This is of course true not only of visual artbut also of the written word.
We only have to start talking about our experience of God
to realise that the words fail us.
It is easy and tempting to be simplistic and paint or write about God.
But we should always be aware that our words will fail

and our pictures will be inadequate
they are only like a calculus 

which draws close to the ultimate expression
but they never quite get there.

I don't think this should prevent us from trying
but there is a serious warning here.
The warning is not about what might happen to us 

if we should somehow stumble across the face of God
The warning is about making God in our own image.
Some current reflections about this include:

==>We need to recognise that language is only an approximation of our understanding about God
when we call God HE and even FATHER
we are using the approximations of finite language
to describe the infinite.
God is not a man, nor even a superman!
God is not male or female at all.
We use our limited language
to try and express what we cannot fully understand.
Some of us think this doesn't matter,
but others of us find this deeply alienating.

==>We do need to respect other people
and not just brush their reservations aside.
What this reminds us of is that one of the attitudes that we have to adopt towards God
is one of openness.
recognising that we are limited 

and God is infinite.
This should warn us against being dogmatic about what God is like

let US not pretend that WE
with our limited understandings can ever understand
God in entirety.

We are  challenged  to always be open to the fact that God presents to you and me

something that is other than ourselves
These are some more intellectual reflections for us in this Epiphany season
when we focus on how God is made known to us.

==>But we need also to be in touch with the emotional and spiritual understandings,
which is perhaps more where you and I are situated;
in the realm of EXPERIENCE.

The same warnings apply;
we need to be critical of our experience
and recognise that ours is not the only experience.
Nor do we always understand it properly.
When, for example, we are sad when someone dies
we could suggest that that is because "God has let us down"
or even that "God doesn't work"
if we are more open and positive we might say "We do not understand God's will".

You don't have to think very hard to realise that all of these statements are not complete.
They do express something, but they are attempting to express the unknowable.

St Paul reminds us in that famous we only see through a glass dimly,
but then we shall see face to face, with understanding.

So again we need to be cautious to not jump too quickly
and say God is like this or God is like that.

We want it to be simple, but it is not.
We want, all the time to be able to define God.
But in so doing all we succeed in doing is limiting our understanding.

Now we see only dimly.
What is God inviting us to understand:

By being born as a baby?
By dying as a man?
By being really present in this sacrament?
By sometimes seeming totally absent?
By saying that we are made in God's image-male and female?

As we look for understanding
What does God also invite us to do and be in our lives?
These are Epiphany questions,
we get the answers wrong if we think they are easy.

We become idolaters, when we mistake the wrong answers for the truth.

Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will open our hearts to see and believe
the truth of God
and to live with the courage that we do not and cannot know everything

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Whom do you seek and What do you bring?

Readings for the Epiphany Sunday 6th January 2013 might include

  • Isaiah 60:1-6  • 
  • Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14  • 
  • Ephesians 3:1-12  • 
  • Matthew 2:1-12

  • We all have a very clear picture of those who came looking for the infant Jesus
    There were of course the shepherds
    and today we think about the Wise Men.
    They widen the story 
    Not just those who happen to be around
    like the shepherd, working nearby,
    but strangers from far away.
    By extension we are invited to think......
    Those who are outside the usual sphere 
    like you and me.

    It is a simple idea that Matthew is presenting us with
    not just the cultic Messiah 
    of a small group of Jews
    but the very reality of the universal God.

    I suspect the Wise Men didn't quite know what they were looking for
    nor what they would find
    and we don't really know what they made of it all.

    Like you and me!

    So the Epiphany question for us is
    What are we looking for?
    Do we recognise it when we see it?
    And What do we make of it.

    What are we looking for?
    This is a place to begin.
    What do you want God to do and be for you?
    It would be interesting to go home and write a list
    ...fame, fortune, success..perhaps
    happiness, security, 
    maybe freedom and justice.
    Healing, wholeness...

    Take some time to think about it this week

    Do we recognise it when we see it?

    Take some time to think about it this week
    The Kings come...expecting to find something 
    that fits in with their own idea of kingship
    ...they almost miss it
    Do we miss God in our midst?
    In the day to day encounters that we have with each other,
    in our ordinary lives.

    If we ask ourselves questions like 
    Where do I feel most alive?
    What am I most grateful for?

    Perhaps there we will begin to find
    as new parents do with their child
    what we are seeking

    Where am I alive?
    What fills me with deepest thanks?

    What do we make of it.

    We do not know what the Wise Men made of this encounter
    they go on their way
    We do know that countless others
    have accepted the offer of God 
    to live life differently
    with love and forgiveness
    with hope and joy
    with openness to the Holy Spirit.

    Can we, 
    will we
    open ourselves to the transformation
    that is made manifest to us
    at this time.

    Jesus, with us.
    Our Immanuel---God with us.

    Friday, January 04, 2013

    Walking down the road

    Lord God, we have seen
    the star of your glory
    rising in splendour:may the brightness of your  Wordpierce the  darkness of night and
    signal the dawn of justice and peace,We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
    in the splendour of eternal light,God for ever and ever.  Amen.
    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

    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 priest 
    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 todaythat I may know your closeness, your care,your healing and your forgivenessLord Jesus, make yourself know to me today. Amen