Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Arrivals and departures

The Sixth Sunday of Easter, 5th May 2013

John 14:23-29

14:23 Jesus said to his disciples, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
14:25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
14:28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.
14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Life is full of arriving and departing
But it is more than just getting on and off trains and planes
Every day we come and we go,
and others do the same in our lives.
Some of these are bigger experiences than others
When someone close to us dies, gets married, leaves home

or has some other radical change to their lives
something passes away 
that is not necessarily going to be able to be replaced
Yet these times

are laden with the opportunity
to understand more about life and love.

Equally well, babies are born,
new relationships are formed
and so the coming and going fills our life

So it was for the disciples of Jesus.
He went from them.
And, like our lives, we realise that as sad as it is
when someone goes, or circumstances change
there is also a necessity about it.
It causes us to grow and mature.

What might Jesus have been drawing out of his disciples
that required him to go away?
There are a number of things:
  • We only realise when we are independent what we can do of our own accord
  • The disciples (us) were pretty pathetic when it came to over-relying on Jesus
  • This has a tendency to make us inactive and lazy
In a way, this analysis is too simplistic, because Jesus also points us to a "life in the Spirit"
which is more than just object lessons on how to be independent.
This is an important dimension of the promise of life in Christ
which is not realised simply by overcoming our natural indolence.

For thought and prayer this week

How is God calling me to be open to the Holy Spirit?
Spend some time praying for the increase in God's Spirit in my life

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Where is love?

John 13:31-35

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.
13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
13:33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.'
13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Anyone who has studied another language knows that words don't translate uniformly.
We had an experience in Indonesia of wanting to work out how to ask for a milk shake to be "thicker".
My, then, wife asked the taxi driver "What is the word for 'thick'?"
He had some difficulty understanding what she meant,

 but after she had gesticulated the word she was talking about 
he finally gave her a phrase.
I realised that he seemed to have understood 'thick' 

to mean more 'wide'
 than 'viscous'
so, when she next asked for a milk shake she got a really wide one!!!

The point of that diversion?
Well the word that we translate as 'love' 

is often a number of different words in the Gospels.
There are 5 or 6 Greek words agape, eros, philos...etc 

several Latin words caritas, amor...and so on
And we often just call them

John plays around with these words a bit,

 and we don't always undersstand the subtlety of it.

This passage however gives us a pointer...

Jesus says 
"You should love as have loved"
We do not need so much to understand the words as know the quality of life

How has Jesus loved?The love of Jesus is shown in two related ways.

he gives up his Godly status to be born as a human being
(see my reflexion on Philippians 2 here which explains this).
This character of his life is humilityHe doe not use his power to manipulate 

or to get his own way
but rather lays it aside.
We often simply want to bludgeon our way to success,
whether it be at work

 or at home
maybe we are sometimes more subtle than this
and try not to look like we are doing this

BUT if we take these passages seriously
then the way we are to love
is by emptying ourself!

The second way we see Christ loving
is by giving up his life.
This is really hard 

for those of us who live in a world that says
look after yourself and take care of your own life

There is almost a reckless abandon
to Christ's gift 

of the life that is lived at the disposal of others.

It is such a radical gift 

that it transforms not only his own life
but also the life of others.

There is a promise 

that living one's life 
with such radical obedience
will bring new, 

resurrected life to bear.

For thought and prayer
Where do I use my life to manipulate 

and how do I need to stop doing this?
Where is God calling me 

to put aside my giftedness,
 my authority 
and to live out of the risk of not using it?
Where can I lay down my life for others?
Pray for the courage to do this!


One of the things I am deeply proud of is being an Australian.
I have lived 46 of my 60 years in this great land
and there is not a day when I do not wake up
and feel free.
What ever we make of the ANZAC.....I would prefer to call it STORY.....rather than myth or legend
there are many such "stories" of heroism, mateship, bloody-mindedness, loyalty,
This seems to me deeply is probably deeply Muslim too...and certainly indigenous!
I am in you and you are in me.
I pray God's blessing on the living
and on the departed
on those who struggle
and those whose struggle goes unnoticed.
I am deeply, deeply proud to be an Australian.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How long will you keep us in suspense?

Readings for today the 21st April 2013 include Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

People ask Jesus "How long are you going to keep us in suspense?"
They want to know who he really  is?
His response is a rather incredulous:
"I have already told you, and you do not believe."
Now we are often told things
and we don't hear them
we don't hear for two reasons largely:
1. Because we are not listening
2. Because we don't want to hear.

Both of those things probably apply to you and me, at least some of the time.
We don't listen or we don't like what we are being told.
Today is often called Good Shepherd Sunday, because it opens up something of the intimate image of John 10, in which Jesus talks about caring for the Shepherd of a small flock of sheep.
I know my sheep, and my sheep know me.
My sheep hear my voice, and believe.
We believe in this relationship
in which God cares for us.
The assurance that we have is not that we are kept in suspense
but rather that we have eternal life
and God will never let us go.
We will never perish.

Maybe this is not what we would like to hear
maybe we are not listening.
This is the surest way we have
of being unsure
or in suspense

John Henry Newman (see God has created me below)
reminds (along with many others)
"He has not created me for naught"
we may not always get it
we may not always understand
and this is what Faith is about.

Trusting that God is doing it right
we might be impatient
and think that God is being slow
we want to reach the end quickly
and skip the necessary middle
(see Teilhard's poem Patient Trust here)
but the Good Shepherd idea calls us
to faith.
To faith that Jesus knows us
that he calls us by name
and that we will never perish.

Can we allow that idea
this pastoral image
the Shepherd and the sheep
to strengthen us this week?
To speak
but perhaps more
to listen
"My sheep hear my voice"
What might Jesus be saying to me
about forgiveness
kindness and other things which challenge me.

If we do not listen
we will not hear
I we don't want to hear
we will not hear.

That will resolve nothing.
It will keep us in suspense!

God has created me

God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission—
I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
…I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good;
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep his Commandments.
…Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am.
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
…He does nothing in vain.
…He knows what He is about.
John Henry Newman 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Catch a big fish!

(this incidentally is my Great nephew....quite the fisherman!)

This Sunday, 14th April 2013 is the Third of Easter and the readings are 
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

[ for the boffins:   This chapter of John's Gospel is a question of some debate, many commentators think it is not part of the original and is drawn from Luke's account of the big haul of fish.
Personally, I like the nature of the story where Jesus calls to his friends in a personable way  and says "You mob of losers how come you haven't caught any fish"]

There is in this passage a mixture of the historical and the symbolical
this is not to denigrate either of these important aspects of literary style.
Quite to the contrary, they rather work together
to give us a more complete picture.
John's gospel always seems to offer a richness
which is worth pondering on 
as there is usually more there than meets the eye.

There are two simple things immediately apparent
The first is (as noted in my earlier commentary)
that John is providing the logical development and conclusion
to the story of Peter's betrayal.
Peter, who has betrayed Jesus
not once but three times
is given the opportunity to make it up
....not once, but also three times.

At the very least, this shows the way God deals with us,

not just matter of factly
but with care and consideration
attending to the depth of the restoration
that is needed;
and not just going through the motions, however thorough.

There is also an abundance of material flowing out of John's pen (or quill I suppose)
which is providing the closure of his treatise on the gift of eternal life.

We see being concluded in these final chapters of John
what is posited in the opening chapters
that the Word made flesh
is drawing people
in their human lives into the relationship with God
we called abundant and eternal life.

The mystical fish that are caught...153...
sometimes taken to be all the nations of the world
a sign of the universality of this eternal life
that is being offered:
God so loves the world not just a select handful of initiates
or one tiny little nation

we sometimes miss some of this important symbolism.

But if we bring the two together
we recognise that 
nor is it just about understanding 
the mystery of faith
it is struggling with how this is worked out in our lives.
It is not secret mystical knowledge - Gnosis
It is the fleshliness of our lives
it's the emotional trauma we get into
because of failure, weakness, betrayal

This is the world in which the Divine Word has been made flesh.

The very ground in which God's salvation will be worked out
is not mysticism
it is
Not that we should treat this lightly
or even assume that we understand it terribly well.
We often muck it up.
Or run away from it.
We need to plummet its depths,
with Jesus for sure
and encounter the woundedness of the risen Christ
as we also open our own woundedness up to him..

This week
Where is God inviting me to be deeper?
Where do I need to allow Christ to meet me and restore my life?
Can I pray for courage to attend to the most difficult depths 
and to allow Jesus to bring eternal life to me there?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Why bother to worship?

For Easter 2. Reading include: Acts 5:27-32, Psalmm 118:14-29, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8; & John 20:19-31

Many years ago a very saintly (yet perhaps obstinate) Bishop wrote a book
defending, promoting and encouraging
the ancient worship of the Anglican church
It was entitled "what mean ye by this service"
Itself a quotation from Exodus which children are invited to ask their parents
what worship means
it is particularly linked to the Passover
that mysterious meal when God's saving events are recounted
and rendered present in this world as they were in the past

It may seem strange for a priest to say that he gets a little freaked out by worship but what worries me is that we make a disconnect
  • worship and the scriptures and 

  • worship and real life

If some how we have forgotten
that worship does not exist for its own sake
then  we have rather lost the plot.

There is a sense in which people 
(outside the church community)
come and find us
doing something that 
neither connects with God
nor connects with life.

This is very serious stuff.

But if for a moment there is an element of truth of it then the Church is in deep trouble!

What might we then think about?

Easter is a good time for us to think about worship
It reminds us that we gather together to link our story with God's story.
We can at least least ask:
What do I hear in the Scriptures?
And what do I feel through the prayers?
And how does this connect with my life.

The readings at this time of year are almost too much
The Gospel alone speaks of "Peace be with you!"
Immediately sparking the question
....what is PEACE for me?   What do I hope Jesus will bring if he brings me peace...
I have a few clues about my do you go when you think about yours?

As we think about our worship...does it help or hinder me to hear how God speaks this into my life

There is also much about woundedness
and about what we do with doubt

Is there space for this in our worship
do we come out feeling enriched 
or diminished
with these important questions?

Some how "going through the motions"
isn't going to cut the mustard
is it?

Or detaching ourselves 
from reality for an hour or so.

We are seeking  to be honest 
with God, each other and ourselves
anything less just misses the mark.