Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let's get on with it

It is easy to be wishy washy in the 21st century, but Lent reminds us that life is hard and we need to take it seriously
Part of that is dealing with our own sin and inadequacy
Readings for Lent 3, Sunday 3 March include the following 
Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9
Australian readings swap last week and this week's Gospel

In this season we have something of a focus on the need for repentance
"Oh", said my colleague, "are you going to preach about sin again."
"No," I said, "I am going to preach about repentance.!"

The subtlety may escape us but repentance is not only about sin.
Repentance is about lifestyle.
It is about how we choose to live our life,
and the way we choose to live our life is about more than saying sorry for the things we have stuffed up.
The Gospel reading reminds us of this:
First it breaks the connection that we often make between disaster and sin.
In modern terms we might ask: Do those who get blown up by terrorist bombers
get caught in that position because they have been particularly sinful?
Do those who suffer the consequences of earthquake do so because they have done something wrong?
The answer to these questions seems obvious to us when put like this.
These things happen!
There is not necessarily a particular cause or connexion.
BUT, says Jesus, that is not to say that we should therefore not care about how we live our life.
These events are not punishments
but they do help us to call to mind
that life is fragile
and that we need to live our life as though it might end today.
Bceause indeed it might!

Tragedy is not a punishment.
But the call to repentance is constant.

The call to repentance
And what exactly is that call?
We could suggest it has two parts:
a positive and a negative.
Paul reminds us that there are indeed things we do wrong,
some of those (and I stress only some) are sexual immorality,
testing God...we might call that using the certainty of God's grace and forgiveness
as an excuse to sin
....Ah well God will forgive us us any way
This is classically called the sin of presumption,
But there are many other things we know about too:
if we were to list sins that people commit
we could easily get a Top 10!

So Yes! repentance is about saying 
No to these things,
but it is more than this too!
It is saying No!, seeking forgiveness, and choosing to live life in a different way.
I am not only going to try and control my anger
I am also going to try and nurture patience!
I am not only going to refrain from immorality
I am going to work towards developing faithfulness and maturity in my relationships.

We dig ourselves into difficult places
and we can start to die
or become unfruitful
The gardening image of the fig tree says this
certainly dig out the rubbish
but you also need to ruffle up the soil
add a bit of fertiliser
So our life of repentance is like that.
Certainly get rid of that rubbish
Confession, apology,
seeking forgiveness, making amends
these are some of the things we might do
we need also to ruffle and fertilise

how do I deal with my anger, my greed, my tendency to be judgmental
my selfishness?

Can I think, pray, read discuss with friends how to attack these questions?
are there positive things I can do
that will enable deepening
a chance to be more fruitful.

My repentance will not just be about saying sorry
as important as that is
I need also to make decisions
about how I live my life.

Certainly look at those things we need to stop doing
Certainly look at those hurts we need to make amends for
But also look at those good things we could do...encouragement, being patient,
telling truth, helping the poor

One coin two sides.

Monday, February 18, 2013

When loyalties divide

This Sunday 24th February is the Second Sunday of Lent with readings as follows:
In short the readings this week remind us that we have an identity in Christ, and Christ alone.
That this identity draws out of us a responsibility to be "ambassadors" for Christ.
And the consequences of this commitment will not be trivial, but in reality will demand the totality of our life!

The Gospel holds a number of contrasting images for us
There is chief amongst these Herod the fox
and Jesus the mother hen caring for her chickens.
In the midst of this is an ever-puzzled group of Pharisees
who tell Jesus to get out of Jerusalem
because they can see that all is potentially going to go pear-shaped.
We who know the story know how it plays itself out.

In the end, Jesus stands alone
the one who would protect is ravaged by the fox
and the religious figures stand by
not only powerless
but also sucked into the destruction
that is brought on the innocent victim.

If we understand nothing else in this narrative
it is that this is what the Christian life is about.

We seek to be Christians, people of faith,
in a world that is essentially hostile to Christian goals.
We might expect to have support from our fellow-religionists
but don't be surprised if this turns around and bites us
and becomes part of the problem.
Even worse, we ourselves may be part of the problem.
We may be the Pharisees.

The State
We live in a generally benevolent country.
It is not a Christian country.
The economic goals that we so often espouse
...goals in which the rich are applauded and get richer
in which we blame the weakest in our society for their own failing
or where selfishness and greed are rewarded.
This would not what we as Christians believe society should be like I suggest.
We are often short-sighted and self-interested as a nation
looking after ourselves and seeking only to increase our power, wealth and influence
...the present power debate highlights a number of aspects of this
We often hear articulated lack of care for the environment
or a view point that says: It's OK if someone else is the Bunny and not me.
It is the language of the fox.

Our fellow religionists
The narrative of the way Jesus is dealt with
also reminds us that it is often those from whom we should expect more
who are the worst proponents.
It is often the Religious who are narrow, and judgmental
who far from caring for the weak
are seeking to preserve their own power and influence.
We need to take note.
Because it is a warning of what you and I may be like.
There, as the saying goes,but for the grace of God go I.

Where to from here?
There is then a series of cautions about the way we follow Christ.
And indeed to remember that that is what we do.
We need to be sure what it is that Christ wants us to be and do
and that we have the realistic expectation
that the State is sometimes, even often, at odds with the gospel.
This does not demand radical confrontation
or civil disobedience
Though at times we will need to be sure about what is God's will
and what is the fox.

The key will come from being faithful to Jesus
and hearing his call on our life
and responding to that.


For our meditation and reflection we ask:

What are the key principles that are involved with me living my life as a follower of Jesus?
How do I put these into practice?
Are there places where this conflicts with other view?
How doI reconcile them?
What am I being called to do in being faithful to Jesus rather than the fox or the religion?

JESUS, you are for us the Way, the Truth and the Life

Grant me the eyes to see
and the heart to know
and the courage to live

What is truly your will for me

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What do we want? ..when do we want it??

First Sunday in Lent
February 17, 2013  Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13
Two reflections for the first week of Lent
The readings this week are pretty challenging
this is because we begin the season called Lentwhich is perhaps the most rigorous of the Church's year.
It is a time of fasting, prayer, self denial and giving.
We are invited to use these six weeks to take our Christian call
seriously, urgently, with some flair and some gusto.
Temptation is a fact of life.

What this story reminds us more than anything
is that temptation is part of the human condition.
We know this because Jesus is tempted
and Jesus show for us what the true human life is like.
Which is interesting because we are reminded that the life of Jesus
is about being tempted...but not sinning

So we might observe:
1. Temptation is not wrongWe sometimes make the mistake of confusing temptation with sin.
We think that because we feel tempted
that some how we have sinned.
This is not logical and is not true.

2. Sin might happen when we yield to temptationIt is not the feeling angry, or jealous or attracted to someone
that is sin
It is what we choose to do with it.
We punch someone in the face, or we steal someone's money
or we commit adultery

3. Temptation comes in different shapes and sizes
We see some of the more obvious temptations
in this story...appetites, power, lusting for attention
They are not the only temptations
but they are pretty pervasive.

The Prayer Book reminds us in one of the Collects
"O God who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves"
It seems a strange thing to say in the world of omni-competent human beings
The way out of temptation
is not will-power so much
as relying on God

We will all be tempted
We will all most certainly give in to temptation
We do all need to repent of sin (let's not excuse it by saying's only human nature)
We need to rely on God to strengthen and uphold us.

Being tempted this week
pray for the Holy Spirit of God
to guard and protect you
to strengthen your will
and to enable you to be truly human
like Christ.

Temptation, Lie and Truth

Jesus highlights for us where the sources of temptation might be
and how we might be tempted and
how we might repsond

First, we are tempted by our appetites
It is good to realise that we have appetites
and that these are sources of demand.
Appetites are insistent
often insatiable
and the mistake we make is in thinking that if we satisfy our appetites
then all will be well.
We can name many appetites :hunger, thirst, sex, craving affection
and so on on
THE TEMPTATION: If you satisfy the appetite then all will be well
THE LIE: We are essentially incapable of being satisfied and will always want moreTHE TRUTH: There are deeper and more important things that we need to pay attention to.
The truth of this is evident to us, in the end we will not be satisfied by our appetites alone
One does not live by bread alone

Second, there are competing kingdoms
and we can give our lives completely to one or more of these.
But our ways are not God's ways, necessarily or at all,
We see this perhpas when we look at the sort of politicial world that we are intent on making
They are real enough but we canb see much in our society that is not God's plan
THE TEMPTATION: Power and authority in this world is a seductive temptation
THE LIE: The more power we have the more liek God we will be
THE TRUTH: We have no business doing anything other than God's will

Third, we can have a false view of God
we can even use the scriptures to back up our curious theories.
The fairy tale God who flies angels in and out to offer special protections
to those of us who think of ourselves as chosen
is a deeply false view of God
that often totally dominates our thinking.
It is not relationship with the God of love
it is rather the wishful thinking of the God of magic
THE TEMPTATION: To try and make God what we want God to be rather than to allow ourselves to be drawn into the difficult mystery of the crucified God
THE LIE: even allows us to quote scripture to support our inadequate case
but it is a testing line which we cross at our peril
THE TRUTH: We are called to dwell in God, not to test God's graciousness with our narrow and selfish version of what we would like the Gospel to be.

Temptation is at once easy to understand.
Yet it is also slippery and profound.
We are seduced into something far deeper than we imagine.

As we are tempted (for we surely will be)Pray and look for grace to better understand what is being asked of us.How does feeling the demand of appetite,or the urge to be in control,or the need to make God into something unreal...when I feel this how might I respond more faithfully.Can I seek God real will for me,and respond to that.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Let's get on with life

Transfiguration Sunday-The Last Sunday after the Epiphany February 10th 2013
It is not always the case but this week it is.
When you type in the word Transfiguration into Google 
you invariably get a religious style image.
With most words, like blessed, or happy (last week) you get a variety of ideas. 
But Transfiguration seems to engender the sort of narrowly religious idea.
Life would of course be quite boring without transfiguration, 
so we should not dismiss these experiences. 
I always point to the the birth of my first child as being such an experience, 
many men...even rough, shallow guys...attest to this.
There is a sense of the overwhelming awareness of "other", 
of change, of awe....all the things indeed we read about in this story...
so we should be thankful for these events 
as well as trying to underestand them.
There is also a straight forward point made in this story, 
and in many of the hymns and songs about this event...
while we are transformed ourselves 
by these powerful experience we have to move on from them.
"No," says Jesus to the apostles, "you may not build shrines here" 
His inference being that you must move back to ordinary life 
and allow this event to change and transfigure that
'Tis good, Lord, to be here.
yet we may not remain;
but since thou bidst us leave the mount,
come with us to the plain.

It is good to know and experience the supernatural presence of God. 
But this is the end what life is about. 
At the best we are to ask ourselves 
how these powerful experiences inform and change our life.
It's all well and good to feel powerful change 
when your child is born, but how does this affect 
how you live your life.?
What is the point of continuing as is..after you have had a revelation?

If when our parent or spouse or child dies 
we experience the wonder of the grief process
and we find that our understanding of death, pain and resurrection is deepened
What difference does this make to the way we live our life?

You see we are tempted to allow Transfiguration 
to only be a religious experience
the invitation
 that God is offering 
is for us to look through and beyond these experiences
and allow them to change how we live.

As we see God more clearly in glory
as we hear him speak
what is he inviting us to do with that.

Gather a sense of those powerful moments of your life when you have experienced TransfigurationWhen things have shone in a new light and we have had new awareness.When we do that the next question is to ask:What is God trying to draw out of me through this experience?And what will I do with that?