Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Veni! Veni!

I love Latin! If I was to fault my education…don't let's begin…it's that when I asked the question …."I am going to be a priest …should I do Latin or Chemistry? ….I was told by a well-meaning but ill-educated Cambridge graduate…you need to learn German!.
I am glad for my scientific education, but I love Latin (and indeed Greek)….much more thankful for learning God's language…but not everyone gets it!
So in Advent, I just can't stop myself singing
Veni, Veni Emanuel!
O come!, o come! Imanuel!…the great Advent hymn

There is a renewed sense of purpose and focus today as we begin the formal preparation for the celebration of Christmas
These four weeks of Advent are often marked by candle-lighting ceremonies.
Each week an extra candle is lit so that by the time we pass through the four weeks there is a wreath of four purple candles alight
which are finally crowned with a white or gold Christmas candle
So it's a funny little series of ceremonies, perhaps indicating to us that there is more to this bizarre little season than just random trinkets and the clash of ideas.
It moves on and draws us in, first a little way and then a little further....we are being invited to not just sit back and play games
That is the the substance of the readings today.
To remind us that we are in the middle of God's work
that it invites us to full participation
and we should not just sit back and be detached.

Don't spend your cash on all sorts trash
In our family, like most I suppose,
the giving of gifts is not without its problems
(this is rather ironic but fairly universal)
but in the spirit of Advent
as we are caught up in God's work
the challenge to us is to make response
and to get that response right
The Gospel (in particular) invites us to respond
and respond NOW!
Who knows, the image goes, this may be the day when everything will be brought to conclusion
and there will be some sifting
some will be chosen
and some will be left.
We are not to get too literal about this,
but rather to understand the principle
that with this sense of urgency
we are to live our lives
in the present
and strive to get it right today.
To, as it were, live this day as if it were our last.

How, therefore, we might ask in this busy little season
might this impact on us?
we might in general, I suggest,
strive to get things right the first time.
We might not procrastinate.
We might seek to act now, rather than wait until next year.
In a more bold sense, perhaps we may be prepared to risk a little more.

I want only to think about giving this morning
but there may be other more urgent dimensions of your life
that need attention.

Christmas Bowl
Traditionally, we set before ourselves the at home and overseas work of theChristmas Bowl at this time
Christian World Service, of the National Council of Churches
invites us to support the work that we do as Christians together
This is us saying that one of the clear messages we hear at Christmas
is care for the poor, reach out to the stranger and the destitute.
This is not an unfamiliar message
and I urge you to support that generously.
Once a guide was given to us to consider giving in the Christmas Bowl
as much as it would cost for a person at your Christmas Dinner table.
Maybe we are too frightened to work out the cost of our Christmas diunner!

The Local Church
For us this year, we have already talked about the need to support our local church community.
We face a challenge just to pay our way here
our life together is supported by a commitment to give generously.
Put simply, we exist financially as a parish
because we commit to give.
Each of us must examine our commitment to give
and do what we believe God requires of us.
for us at this time, our estimate is that we need to do something about our local giving
pretty urgently.
It is certainly one of those areas
where assuming there is a tomorrow
is a mistake
and where we need to challenge ourselves
to do as much as we can
not as little as we can.

It is, as I was alluding before in the area of presents,
where we become fixated.
We can be generous, we can be mean
we can be thoughtful, or thoughtless
We can mistake value for cost,
and we can make the mistake of thinking that giving
is about the gift
instead of the person.

What if we were to ask ourselves some key questions
as we wrap our presents?
like...what will this present say to this person about how I really feel about them
and..what will this gift communicate to the one who receives it about God and the meaning of Christmas?

We have time....maybe...
in this season as we give thanks for all that God is doing
To take care to do Christmas right.

Can we respond with the Christmas Bowl, to the local church
and can our gifts truly express the spirit of Christmas

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Looking to the universal reign of Jesus

Two images of Jesus help us think about what it means to call him Christ the King.
They are at different ends of the spectrum.
The first is the king born in the stable at Bethlehem,
and the second is the king enthroned on the throne of Calvary.
The stable and the cross.

Readings for Sunday 24th November 2013 Proper 29-The Feast of Christ the King 

To be a king in the tradition of Jesus
is to embrace a fundamental contradiction
That we bring nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of the world.
That true wealth and power
is born out of poverty and humility,
that in order to live as a king
you must first learn how to die.
It is a deep mystery,
It is the mystery of what it means to be a Christian.

Because both stories are rich and profound in content, meaning and symbolism
I won't attempt to cover all bases
but perhaps suggest one idea
and then a couple of thoughts
about how we might understand this.

The idea
The idea is that we should allow the stable and the cross
to speak for themselves.
When you look into the stable
and there see the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus
what does that cause you to see about your life
about the state of the world
and about what God is calling us to do.
Where do you stand as you witness the event of
The Word becoming flesh?
Are you detached, are you an observer,
or are you a participant?
Are you shepherd, wise man, Jospeh or inn keeper?
What is God speaking to you
as you witness the birth of the eternal Word?

As we do the same thing at the foot of the Cross
what is the king saying to us from his throne?
Does he speak to me as to his mother, am I a soldier ignoring the demands of justice and cooperating in the torture of an innocent man?
Am I the thief who is speaking to Jesus?

How does the king, whether in stable or on the Cross, speak to your life?
Because that is what is important.
It is not just what these very key ideas and stories are meant to say
It is how they speak to your life, to your hopes, desires and dreams
how the mother of Jesus holds your brokenness in her arms,
or how the love of God enfolds you and nurtures you at the breast?

A couple of thoughts
So, for me, I see the invitation to look beyond the values of the world
and recognise that being born a king is not about the trappings
it is about the transformation and change that the good king will bring to the world
and his subjects
it is not about economic growth
but about quality of life
that the king strives to bring about for his subjects.
Is this how we live our lives?
Is this how our new kings will exercise their government?
But let's not just blame them
because is this, also, how we will live our lives?

If the stable reveals such depth
how much more the mystery of the Cross
which says that it is in dying we are born again.
Where do I need to die to self, to embrace the suffering,
to see that kingship is not about fame and fortune
but about character, leadership and sacrifice.

They are the same story.
Contradictory in a way.
But both invite us to see beyond the outward guise of kingship
and embrace the challenge
of humility, service, and sacrifice.

Where does this speak to your life today?

Aeterni Christi Munera

The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to tie my child's sandal
and to encourage her
to leap small buildings
The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to dare to love
but to dare to do it any way
The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to step into the traffic
with a body of one my friends
following in a hearse
The eternal gift of Christ our king
invites me to accept myself with love
not with indulgence
but with love, and perhaps a little care
Such is the eternal gift of Christ
who doesn't seem to think of himself
as a king

written by Stephen Clark , November 2006

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Tidy Priest-The busy Bible

Peter Samwell Roper-A tidy Priest
The homily preached at the funeral of Peter Roper, husband, father  retired priest and faithful parishioner

I am two years older than Peter.
You may think I look remarkably well preserved! (he is 87 and I .well let's say "I'm not!)
In the way that all professions play their games
we clergy measure our age 
not from our birthdate
but from the date of our ordination
and I was ordained two years before Peter
so I am 33 and Peter was 31.
and ordained by the same Bishop. ( who was happily sitting in the congregation)

Peter followed me as an assistant St Mary’s Church, 
and then had solid  ministries as a parish priest at Bordertown and Port Elliot.
He was what one of my friends (who is much older than both of us!) would call a ‘tidy priest’
This is for Peter and I 
quite an accolade
(I am anything but tidy!)
It means...he knew what he had to do
and went about and did it thoroughly and well.
(Peter was also, I think, a “tidy man”)

This has its strengths and its weaknesses.
One of my abiding memories is how sometimes 
when I was not a parish priest
my family and I would go to St Jude’s Church 
for the lovely Easter Vigil
There would be candles, beautiful flowers 
Peter would preach a good sermon
and celebrate the Eucharist.
He would always be glad to see my family
and so Easter would begin.

I was delighted when he & Joan retired back home to become  parishioners
in this their home parish.
In a parish (any parish) where sometimes things are really difficult
it is good to have wise counsel (even though he was two years younger!)
He never let my UNtidiness (some would say...bizarreness)
stop him from being supportive. 
if ever he disagreed he would speak quietly and attentively
I always felt supported.
Most of you don’t know what it means to be a priest
(though there are quite a few gathered here
which is a tribute to Peter's character, life and ministry
and a witness to us, and particularly his fine sons 
about the importance and value of his life as a priest)

The call to be the Good Shepherd
was important to his family, as a husband, as a priest. (which is why we read it today)
He didn’t always get it right
sometimes was bit too conservative,
and maybe a bit dogmatic.
Infusing his life was the desire to be a Shepherd like Jesus.
Caring for those committed to his care
Peter’s ‘tidiness’ meant he did this in a certain conventional way.
I quite like that (but I am not like that)
I like his tidiness, thoroughness,.

Let me show you his Bible.
The workbook of the tidy priest...the good shepherd.
Notes, lists of people to pray for, comments and thoughts
pages falling out ....Bishop Bruce Rosier said to me once this is what a Bible should be like...we should have to replace is a workbook

Peter of course would have like to have been not only a Good Shepherd..but a better Shepherd,
Only too well aware  that as father, husband, grandfather, priest
there was great responsibility and some failure and disappointment
More than a little sadness

But we thank God for this tidy priest...this man...this Good Shepherd.

Thanks be to God

Monday, November 11, 2013

Surely God is my salvation

One of the great things about the new Daily Office Readings and opportunities for praying each day 

(this may indeed be mind blowing to some/many who do not realise that there are many who pray daily in a regular way…psalms and scripture, hours and seasons)
 …. any way  we have been exposed to a whole lot of new scripture songs.
There is indeed a multitude of readings for this penultimate Sunday of the Church's year. November 17 2013; 26th Sunday after Pentecost and today we have the amazing Song of Isaiah which expresses something of what the psalms do about our hope in waiting for God.

x Don’t give up your day job!x
Christians took a while to understand what Jesus was saying. On the one hand they heard him say he was going to ‘come again’ and bring everything to completion.
But on the other hand their experience for the first two hundred years was that Jesus didn’t seem to be coming immediately

I don’t think  we can begin to imagine how much of a dilemma this presented for early Christians.
Some were so caught up with the idea of Christ’s second coming that they stopped living their normal lives. We have seen that happen from time to time throughout Christian history.
Well-meaning (but perhaps zany) believers put their life on hold.

Jesus told them not to
This is despite the fact that Jesus told us not to worry about when this great return was going to happen.  
Even today some Christians think they can hasten God’s plan
some believe that when the Jews return to Israel, for example, then Jesus will come to reign from the Holy City.
There is a certain irony that millions of American dollars were shelled out by fundamentalist Christians
to encourage Russian Jews to emigrate to the Holy Lands.
Thinking that some how they would hasten the second coming
And I say it again
This is despite the fact that Jesus told us not to worry about when this was going to happen.

Jesus’s point seems to have been not that we should stand around waiting
but rather that we should live each day
as if it were our last.
What would YOU do this week, or today 
if you viewed it as your last possible opportunity
--to express your love for your child, or your friend
--to seek forgiveness for something you have done wrong
--to do something you’ve always felt you should do
Few of us would be saying: “I should work longer at the office”...or “I just need to ensure that my financial situation is more secure.”
This would seem to be more of the point.

Paul tells the Christians not to stop working
but rather to get on with finding Christ in their day to day life
Far from being pious 
(he is a bit blunt) you should get on with living 
But do it with this new and better perspective.
If you stop won’t eat.

There is a balance that needs to be struck

But it is not the balance of trying to manipulate God (it won’t work any way)
But rather of trying to have in our life
that sense of priority and perspective
that says
Live this day as if this is not only the day that the Lord has made.
But also the day when we will sit down
and explain to Jesus just what we think we are doing with the life we have been given

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Some more saints

In this season of the saints I came across this post I wrote some years ago

Would it be too maudlin, pious or whatever on this Halloween E'en to begin my litany of saints
Tom, reader and arguer, who has muddled along with faith for most of his life, and now finds himself in medium care nursing home a bit bored
Allan, pray-er and writer, my alcoholic friend who amidst a crazy life used to come & pray with me every day; sometimes in a stupor so thick you could almost blow over the limit just breathing in his air. Wrote funny, observant novellae about Australian pub culture. I loved to talk to him. Died Christmas Day 2005 waiting to go to his family's for lunch
Charles and Mary, teachers, musicians and worshippers. Faithfully devoted to each other for decades, without children he gave himself to teaching young children the faith through Sunday School, she to being his faithful companion, friend and spiritual support.
Lillian, mother and strugglerI said at her funeral she had a hell of a life. Which she did like most people of her era. But she loved her children and refused to love one of us more than the other. She never felt she was too old to learn more about Jesus, and she loved to sing.
Martha, matriarch and widowIn a quiet way my grandmother inculcated in her three daughters the importance of being a faithful Christian and a wise mother.
Spencer, priest and scholar. What ever else he may have been (boring old so and so springs to mind) he was a priest who was faithful to his call. He drove like a maniac, and loved to pray and to read. He served as a Bush Brother in outback Queensland and always loved the sense of call that said being a priest is about embracing challenge and loving the people God gives you.
Helen, counsellorWho has shown me and others the richness and mystery of Christ within through our subconscious and the mystery of dreams.
Philip, troublemaker and directorA priest who has stuck to the truth of paying attention to Christ within and without. This has got him into all sorts of curious places where he couldn't (and didn't) keep quiet.
Laurie, good man and public servant Quiet municipal treasurer and faithful man, encourager of the young. Who encouraged us to grapple with the complexity of right and wrong.
John, pompous know it all priest. Too smart for his own good, he enthused many young people with a vigour for things catholic. Too foolish, ambitious and unaware he boxed himself in to an awful view of life
Keith, priest and scholarWho when I told him as my supervisor that I'd been done for DUI laughed..and put it into perspective. With a commitment to true catholicism he refused to be intellectually boxed in and set himself in retirement to read through the Goolwa library. He died too young. He challenged us to think hard
Jan, friendWho allowed me to challenge her complacent faith and who used to walk me to challenge my weight!
Joyce and George, missionaries and priestGood evangelicals tested by personal weakness, they were of great support in time of difficulty. At her funeral
Mark, priest and pastorsaid..."She loved Jesus". Testament enough.
And I could add:
..well many others

Ora pro nobis

Try and listen to the serious about the answer

The Gospel reading for today is decidedly curious
but remembering the recent election we should not be so surprised or puzzled by it!
Jesus is asked a question by some antagonists

they are neither interested in the answer
nor in any real engagement with Jesus.

They are trying to get him to put his foot in it.
This happens on a number of different occasions in the Gospels,
and, we might reflect,
it happens a lot in day to day life!
We talk, but are not interested in listening.
We say a lot of things;
but we need to also pay attention to more than the words.

Classic Question
The question that Jesus is asked is no doubt a 'classic'
He is asked it by Sadducees, who were one of the major parties at the time.
They differed from the popular party, the Pharisees,
to which Jesus probably belonged,
in that they did not believe that life continued after death.
This was a key part of Jesus's teaching.
The question that they ask:
If a person has been married multiple times
and if this resurrection is true
then who will the person be married to after death
when everyone is dead and husbands and wife
are all living happily ever after in this supposed resurrected bliss

It is sort of amusing and clever (on one level)
but simply blind on another.

It is like many of the political questions that we.
Not designed to elicit an answer
rather trying to expose a weakness
It is not about hearing the truth;
it is rather about struggling with versions of right.

Are we aware
That we ourselves are like this
that we often choose what is a view of 'right'
rather than engaging with truth.
Perhaps the infuriating things about politics and family disagreements
remind us of this.
We are often more judgmental of the person or the party
than what is being said or done?

Maybe that is what politics is about.
It is rather more serious I suspect
when we do this in our lives!
When we dismiss our husbands and wives
children and friends
sisters and brothers
workmates and neighbours
because we are feeling angry with them
or not terribly at one with ourselves;
rather than responding to what they do or say.
This encounter reminds us that 
there can be no end of game playing
But this is not really about Truth
with a capital T!

we invite the Spirit to show us where prejudice has become our way of operating
rather than judgment or discernment

pray for the grace and perception to be more discrimnating
and for the will to put it into practice.

And if I tempted am to sin
and outward things are strong
do thou, O Lord, keep watch within,
and keep my soul from wrong
Isaac Williams
Victorian Hymnwriter