Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DIY Manifesto

The readings for this Sunday 2nd February 2014 can be for  the 4th Sunday after Epiphany are from Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-12

A manifesto is a grand idea
A statement of beliefs and principles
which undergird what we are trying to do.
The so-called Holstee Manifesto is alongside...don't know that I fully agree with would be interesting to write one's own and there would no doubt be some cross over but.....

What we have this morning is three manifesto-like readings and a psalm manifesto

Micah says
What does the Lord require of you:
but to do justice, and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

This is a powerful manifesto.
If you want to know what God's person does
it is not about being smart, powerful, rich or succesful
It is to be an agent of justice,
to live life with kindness
and to always walk remembering that we are creaturesnot the creator
Justice, kindness and humility....if you want three buzz words to check
the quality of your actions then they work
Is what I am doing just?
Is it kind?
Does it reflect my ultimate submission to God?
Paul reminds his fellow Christians in Corinth
with this manifesto:
We proclaim Christ crucified
God's way is not the way of the world he says God chose what is foolish to shame the strong
and the source of your life is Christ Jesus
an important manifesto. The Cross, the strength of God and Jesus

In the passage so often seen as Jesus's manifesto...the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)
Jesus points us to various places where we might find God's holiness and transformation of our lives
Places where we might look to see the work of God
and, it needs to be remarked,
places where we might often miss the powerful presence.
Not in the life of the expert: but those who are poor in spirit
Not with the proud and the successful, but the meek and lowly
Where we mourn
where we hunger and thirst for what is right
where peace is being proclaimed and worked at
the need for purity of heart
at places where good is being tested, and even persecuted
and never to forget
that it is when we are being ridiculed, picked on and victimised
for doing what is right that we are blessed.

So there is a comprehensive manifesto to follow
if that's what engages us

The Comprehensive Manifesto
*Justice, kindness and mercy
*The Cross, God's wisdom, focus on Jesus
* poverty of spirit, comfort in the face of death, humility and meekness, the thirst for what is right, mercy, purity of heart, peace making, fighting for what is right, and being prepared to suffer for what is right

It rather makes our minds reel
but let it not do that
let us see it as the standard that we hold
to keep ourselves connected to Christ.


Perhaps take one of those items from the manifesto
and ask yourself
What does this mean for me?
What can I do this week to deliberately implement the Christian manifesto?
And then
Do it!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Let us rejoice

Some readings to reflect on Australia Day might include Deuteronomy 8, Psalm 125, Hebrews 11, and Matthew 5

The idea of a national day
is not without some difficulty 
but it does give us much to think about.
So often we are seduced into thinking
that faith is ‘private’

And that God has nothing to do
with our nation.
If you read the Hebrew Scriptures
this idea is almost totally foreign.
The prophets speak almost entirely 
to the nation!
It is not about a narrow personal morality.
It is not about what I must do
in order to keep myself
In line with the divine.

It is rather what
WE, as a community/nation/people
should be doing

Blessed are they!
It is instructive that we are pointed to the Beatitudes.
Dallas Willard(see his book Divine Conspiracy... also available on YouTube) reminds us that: 
this is not a prescription...
    or persecuted
    or meek

As though somehow
some people are ‘unblessable’

Jesus is essentially saying
that the ‘unblessable’
are also IN!  

I wonder if we can stay with that.
There is no one who is beyond God’s reach!!
Not you or me. Not anyone!

So, who do WE think is not really ready for God’s grace?
We are being invited to  recognise
that the fat, the drunk, 
the refugee,  the criminal,
the divorced, the immoral....we might go on!

The world tells us...
...the beautiful, the successful, 
the clever....the correct
are OK!

What about our country?
I am not convinced 
that Muslims are the problem
for Australia or anywhere else!
The real problem 
for we Christians
is that 
have lost faith 
The God who speaks to the nations 
is saying to us
I want to bless you!
Are we saying....I don’t really believe in your promise?

If we ask ourselves
What does God, Adonai Elohenu!, actually have to say to our world
Do we think that that there is an answer to that question?
I certainly do!

I am the God who wants people of all races to live in harmony with each other
I am the God who does not think that because a person is :
  • black
  • gay
  • female
  • Asian
  • Muslim
You name it! They are out!
What do we want our country to be like.

May we want nothing more than to be what the Gospel requires.... to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God!
So may it be!

Monday, January 20, 2014

On having a relationship

Readings for Sunday 26th January if you are keeping the Third Sunday after Epiphany (Year A) can be taken from Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, & Matthew 4:12-25
(We will be celebrating Australia please look elsewhere on this blog for that)
The early disciples 
got a curious glimpse of something different:
what it might be like 
to follow Jesus.
For two thousand years 
people have got a glimpse of the same thing.
For some it has been very clear
for some it has been a gradual realisation
The question we ask ourselves today is 
what makes me a disciple of Jesus?
Why do I follow, what do I seek to be and do?
You may remember that last week's question was: 
What are you looking for?
This is what Jesus asks those who pursue him.
The two questions are not unrelated
But the mature realisation of the disciple is
that it is not a job description
rather it is an invitation to a relationship
This is not unlike a marriage
I could be tempted when preparing a couple to say
"This is what a husband does" and "This is what a wife does"
as if it were some sort of job description
(this is, incidentally, why some people get Paul's teaching about marriage all skew-whiff,
they mistake his comments about the nature of mutual relationship 
as a role descriptor for spouses!)
in reality what is important 
is not the job that we do as a spouse or as a disciple
but the sort of relationship we have.
With each other, and with God

This week
  • You might reflect whether the idea of having a relationship with Jesus is one that works for you
  • How might you deepen that relationship, or (perhaps) discover what it means?
  • Pray for yourself and your friends that you may have better relationships.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Power and Hope

Readings for Sunday 19th January 2014 the Second Sunday after Epiphany (Year A) can be taken from Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, & John 1:29-42
In these weeks after Christmas and Epiphany we are invited to explore 
how Jesus is understood 
and made known to people.
This is what the word "epiphany" means.
So we have seen Jesus, 
as the baby born in Bethlehem 
who is not just a fairy tale for the Jews, 
but also the fulfilment of the hopes for the world.
The Wise Men who initiate the season 
are the signs of the wider world, 
and that this revelation of God is for all people.
Last week as we thought of Jesus's baptism, we were introduced to the idea that Jesus is the Beloved of God, here for a purpose.
A purpose that is full of hope and expectation.
Today we hear not only about who Jesus is, but about who we are.
And we are invited to understand that who we are is, of course, tied up with who Jesus is
and who God says we are and he wants us to be.
So picking up (not quite at random) we are told
You are my servant in whom I will be glorified and
that the Lord formed us in the womb, to bring the faithful back to him
and we hear Paul speaking to the Church in Corinth and also to us
we are made holy in Jesus we are called to be saints
we are not lacking in any spiritual gift and
the Lord will strengthen you to the end
This is powerful and hopeful language
and we should take a while to breathe it in.
But it as we look to what John says about Jesus
that we are given an insight into how to explore this in our own life. John tells them that
Jesus is "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world",
and also that he is the one who will baptise people not just with water but also with the Holy Spirit.
We can't imagine that the early disciples were able to put all this together like some elaborate spiritual jigsaw
which as long as they found the pieces and had enough time would ultimately become clear.
It is enough however for people to be entranced
and so they go looking for Jesus and try to see what he is going to do.
Now this is a pattern of our life and indeed of most people
they are captivated by Jesus.
They do indeed see in the stable, under the light of the star,
on Palm Sunday,
in the miracles,
on the Cross
and at the Garden of Gethsemane
something which they do not quite understand
but which, nevertheless, captivates them.
It grabs our attention. and for a brief moment we run after this hope and this promise.
Jesus says to us what he said to those first searchers .....What are you looking for? This is a telling little remark
it says apart from anything else
that we have to do some digging for ourselves,
even though we are often content to do nothing
and then wonder why the holy God seems silent or distant.
What are you looking for?
Take some time to think about this question.
It may be that you need to think about the question behind the question

I just want a quiet life...but what does a quiet life mean...a quiet life means a life without worry...but what worries are of concern to you....I want my children to be happy...what would their happiness look like
So you see what one such chain might look like.
The initial attraction that we (or anyone else) might feel towards Jesus
invites us to dig!
What are you looking for?
It is worth spending the time to identify what we really want
and asking Jesus to speak into that situation.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The way things are!

Sunday 12th January 2014 ...The Baptism of Jesus Readings for today include: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew3:13-17 and Matthew's account in 3:13-17 is below

If you were in Ukraine today it would be a great festival. (As indeed in South Australia)  But the Baptism of Jesus is celebrated by being able to break the end to winter...rather than by diving off Henley Jetty
Much (too much seems to me) is made of Jesus's Baptism by John the Baptist.
The point that is usually made is that:

  • Jesus did not need to be baptised but he obediently responded and expressed a certain humility in so doing
  • It initiated the start of his ministry and public recognition of who he is begins to unfold
These points are reasonable , but, maybe, too subtle and/or theological

Baptisms are rich occasions, they mean a lot to people
and they are often multi-complex in meaning.
They do not just have to be one thing or the other.
At the very least we see here Jesus making a deliberate act of openness to God
an act which we are invited to share in.
There is a recognition that however he conducts himself
he needs to do it in accordance with the way the Father wants things done
and so we rejoice when we see this happening.

As we watch Jesus being baptised, however,
this story impacts upon us
and the same journey/opportunity
is set before you and me.
  • To allow our lives to be deliberately open to God
  • and to commit ourselves to walking in the way of God
I often am reminded of the verses of the daily invitatory Psalm, often called Venite after its Latin title.
In the latter part of that psalm God speaks to the singer or perhaps we might say pray-er
If today you hear God's voice
do not harden your heart
as in the Provocation and the day of Temptation in the wilderness
when your ancestors tempted me, put me to the test
even though they had seen everything I did.
Forty years long I was grieved with generation and said
"It is a people who err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways"
Unto whom I swear, in my anger
They shall not enter into into my rest.
from Psalm 95

This is not a threat, it is the way things are.
We are tempted to ignore God, and even though we see what God is doing
yet often we still go our own way.
The call to Baptism
is the call to do what God wants
and to commit our lives to that cause
If today we hear his voice
we pray that we harden not our hearts

Saturday, January 04, 2014

What can I give him?

What can I give him?
This week we bring the 12 days of Christmas to an end with the Epiphany on January 6th.
Epiphany means manifestation or revelation and traditionally we focus of the coming of the Wise Men, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world. The manifestation of God to those who are seeking. The showing forth of the mystery of human life in the context of the eternal plan of God.
This is a big and important story for the whole of the creation and the universe

Readings could be Isaiah 60:1-16, Psalm 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, and of course Matthew 2:1-12, 13-23

No better Christmas Carol has been written than Christina Rosetti’s simple  words in “In the bleak mid winter?” (There is a certain irony for us where some centres  in the State have experienced temperatures in the high 40s)....
But in the last verse of that carol she writes with typical Victorian piety

What can I give Him,Poor as I am?If I were a shepherdI would bring a lamb,If I were a wise manI would do my part,Yet what I can I give Him,Give my heart.
Here is an amazing version of the carol on YouTube

The words may seem overly sentimental and romantic to us. But that does not mean that they lack truth.

The important thing they remind us is that Christmas, the manifestation and knowledge of a matter of the heart.

This is not Valentine’s Day sort of sentimentality.
This is about Passion 
the word that will recur again and again God’s story.
Are we passionate about God?

St John warns one of the early churches that they are neither hot nor cold
they are lukewarm
and he says that this tepidity
will cause God to spew them out.
I sometimes shudder when I read this,
as I think people will look at us
and see that we are lukewarm.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that 
the world looks at the Churches and rejects us
Christina Rosetti,  like St Paul, like countless other saints
reminds us that what we should be bringing to God is not our apathy
not our pettiness, or our small vision
But it should be the stuff that is in our hearts.

What is in our hearts?
It is a good question
are we lukewarm
are care-less
do we lack passion
and indeed faith-less.

In our prayers, and in our Christian lives
should be the things that lie in our hearts
Those we love,
the things that enrage us,
because of injustice and inequality.
Those things that excite and enthuse us.

If we critique our lives, our worship, our parish
Do we find this...

Loving hearts, aflame for God.
Excited about the message of forgiveness, 
of love
of acceptance and tolerance.

If we cannot bring our hearts
we have nothing else to bring