Monday, October 28, 2013

Get down from your tree!

  • I read recently of a Bishop's visit to a parish; 

  • the priest said that the Bishop told the people 
    that what we need is "More Jesus!"  I heartily agree, it is the key to Christian life.

    What ever else Christians think they have to say,
    our key focus is Jesus!

  • In this "Kingdom time" it is an exhortation we do well to hear

  • Reading for this Sunday, 3rd October the 24th Sunday after Pentecost come from Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 119:137-144 • (
  • Isaiah 1:10-18 and Psalm 32:1-7 ) • 
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12• 
  • Luke 19:1-10
  • (this is also the Sunday after All Saints' Day so there is another feast that may be kept on this day see the other entry for some thoughts about the Saints)
    The story in the Gospel this morning is pretty straight forward. Jesus is in the town of Jericho, and a crowd throngs around. A tax collector called Zacchaeus (who we are told is short!) climbs a tree.
    If we take this as a guide today we could see the challenge
    in our own life
    to climb the tree and get a better look at Jesus.
    In the last couple of weeks
    we have been reminded to snap out of our apathy
    and get back to the task.
    As we think about the saints
    we see men and women who inspire us
    because they have seen Jesus and responded.
    Sometimes we become a bit lacklustre
    and take it all a bit for granted.
    Far from being excited about Jesus
    we just ignore him.
    So we are being reminded today to climb the tree
    and get a better look at Jesus.
    What we note is that Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus
    Directly to his condition.
    What, I might ask,
    is Jesus saying to me today?
    Mary McKillop heard a call to serve the poor and teach the young,
    Francis heard Jesus' call to rebuild the church
    and to attend to the creation
    to love the unlovely
    and be there, first and foremost,
    for the poor.
    If Jesus was speaking to you today
    what is he saying

    From the readings
    there is still a vision for the appointed time....... the righteous live by their faith.(Habbakuk 2:3-4
    What enlivens us is "faith"
    we might think, it's organisation, or wealth
    but we are reminded that it is faith ...the assurance of God's promise ...
    that is the dynamic that transforms the life of God's people.
    What promise of God do you hear from Jesus
    and how can you act on that.
    Is it about forgiveness, healing, prayer, love and mercy
    service, action and care
    In your tree as you look at Jesus
    what is he telling you to get down and do!

    We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

    We are reminded that we can look at others (we have been calling them 'saints'...Mary MacKillop, Francis and many others) who take this call of Jesus on their life seriously and see how it is transforming
    Zacchaeus at least alludes to the possibility that his encounter with Jesus will make a difference.
    An I suppose that a gauntlet is thrown down
    to be more than just 'fair weather' Christians

    Where is God looking at us and speaking into our lives?
    Where are we being invited to come down out of the tree and welcome Jesus?
    What can I resolve to do today to put this encounter into practice?

    Saturday, October 26, 2013

    Passing the buck

    Readings for Sunday 27th October 2013 Proper 24 of Year C the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost. Joel 2:23-32 and Psalm 65 [or[Sirach 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22] ]and Psalm 84:1-7
    2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 Luke 18:9-14

    (Reading in the Australian version of the Revised Common Lectionary use Luke 18:15-30 this week)
    The standard  ploy when we don't want to look at ourselves
    is to try and hide and deflect attention away to others.
    This goes right back to the Garden of Eden
    God asks Adam (Genesis 3:11): "Why did you do
    what I told you not to do? " and Adam says,
    "Eve made me do it!"
    When God asks Eve, she says "The serpent made me do it!"
    Like everything in the Creation stories
    it is talking about what human beings are like
    -We pass the buck-

    Luke editorialises on this parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector
    "He told  this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt" ((Luke 18:11)
    The Pharisee we are told stands praying
    giving thanks that he is good:
    Jesus told the parable "to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous!"

    We might ask...if I am righteous on my own account
    then what need do I have of God
    (plenty of people in today's world say "None!"
    And the next question we need to ask is
    "Is this what I am like?"
    This is not the Christian position
    but it is often the way we speak and behave
    as though we have made the grade
    and we are pretty good

    It is of course not true!

    So if we ask the second question:
    Who says you are perfect...
    then we hide and point the finger elsewhere...
    I actually  am good because I am not like that guy over there!

    We should be outraged to be scandalised by this sort of analysis!

    There are many things we could say:
    We so often judge people harshly for the very things they represent that are like us.
    We are critical of the people who can accurately assess us,
     a sort of process of discrediting the reliable witness

    We may think this is the stuff of politics
    It also seems like the stuff of human rerlationships

    There is the other figure....who simply says
    "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
    Neither saying he is fixed and nearly perfect
    or not as bad someone else.

    This week
    Where do I fail to properly scrutinise myself and present myself honestly to God?
    Where am I guilty of judgmentalism

    Thursday, October 17, 2013


    Praying is a lifestyle not a one-off pursuit.

    Not just to fire off once but to keep on going.

    Readings for this Sunday 20th October 2013...include Jeremiah 31:27-34, Psalm 119: 97-107, 2 Tim 3:10-4:5 and Luke 18:1-14
    [ The Australian lectionary conflates both this week's and next week's Gospel readings]

    This is the idea that is being presented in the metaphor about prayer.
    When we were talking about this the other day someone said to me.  "This seems to be saying that God will only hear our prayers if we nag!"
    when ever we talk about God we are speaking metaphorically and imaginally.
    That is, we are using an image to try and understand something that is, in reality, more complex than the words that are used to convey it.
    We might for example think about the word 'love'.
    It is clear enough...but the word alone does not convey the depth and subtlety of everything that 'love' is about.
    When Jesus is teaching with this level of subtlety he uses images or parables
    The image here is a woman who wants a judge to hear her case. We are told she keeps on and on until she gets her way.
    It is about persistence.
    And Jesus is wanting to help his listeners to understand that prayer is about

    In fact Luke's editorial hand even tells us that this is what this parable is about
    "Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart"

    Don't pray just occasionally, or in a limited set of circumstances
    keep on praying.
    Rather like nagging !
    It is of course not the nagging that Jesus is talking about
    it is the persistence.
    So often persistence is not in our prayers
    We 'fire one off' if we feel like it
    or in emergency.
    And then wonder why so often it seems to us that nothing happens.
    All that is well and good
    but let there be more Persistence!

    This week
    Have a think about what you might currently pray for and decide that you are going to throw some energy at it
    The sort of energy that is typified by nagging....just keep going on and on.
    Try not to nag God....but do try to keep the energy at that sort of level.

    Lord help me to persist in my prayers

    When I feel like giving up

    may I know your encouragement to persist

    And then persist! 

    Tuesday, October 08, 2013

    Getting it wrong

    Does God really care about anyone?

    This Sunday October 13th 2013 is the 21st Sunday After Pentecost and we can use some or all of the readings below: 
    Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Psalm 66:1-12 [or 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Psalm 111 ]
    We like it when it is pictures of 'proper' doctors and nurses
    of scouts and hospital orderlies

    Leprosy has a sort of romantic attraction for many Christians
    and indeed, we find it more 'comfortable'
    if God is healing people who are outcast
    but who we would want to like (if they weren't so awful)
    but in reality that romanticism is ill-placed!
    Leprosy is as romantic as AIDS in the modern context
    and as socially stigmatising as skin cancer
    or any disease which has disfigurement associated with it.
    The story (Luke 17:11-19) has not only some interesting reflections to make about seeking healing from God
    ...Do we for example live out of the thankfulness of answered prayer?
    Or do we quickly forget that God desires healing for us all?
    This story reflects that 9 out of 10 people
    forget to give thanks to God.
    and my estimation would be that that is about right!
    But the story also tells us that God's healing is not confined by religion,
    it isn't just confined
    to who we think
    God should be disposed towards.
    God's concern is towards humanity and not just to Jews or Christians,
    white or black.
    It is not just to be nice to children
    or those who say their prayers
    God's concern is for the whole of humanity.
    God's grace, the free gift of eternal life,
    is without bounds
    and is offered to all.

    It is a reminder to us that we should be no less open.
    That our compassion needs to be challenged beyond the bounds of niceness.
    We are to be open to be compasssionate
    beyond the bounds of our own social caste or religion.
    The world is not like this.
    9 out of 10 people get this wrong.

    We witness prejudice in all manner of ways.
    I once sat with someone in hospital and listened while his wife told me
    that the staff were fabulous

    except for the Indians

    who you just couldn't understand.
    I found myself thinking of the many many Indian doctors and nurses
    who have served us well in this country
    and just shuddered.

    This week
    Can you reflect on where you make judgments
    based on prejudice rather than compassion and mercy?
    Invite the Holy Spirit to let you do better than this and to show you how?

    God who is truth and love

    grant to us your people

    the wisdom and compassion

    to act justly and with mercy
    in the name of the guiltless Jesus

    who died that all people might know the love of God.