Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not being mythical

Not a myth
This story of The Transfiguration is a fascinating one.
And we need to understand its purpose 
We need to heed the advice
that Peter gives to his readers
which is that this is NOT a myth
This is difficult in a way 
because it has all sorts of supernatural bells and whistles
But it’s important that we hear Peter saying
We need to look beyond the supernatural.
This is about seeing Jesus for who he is.
It is one of those points 
when Peter is able to recognize that Jesus is Messiah
The Beloved of God
the one who is able to bring us into God’s very presence and life.

Not religion
This for Peter is an explanation of something he experienced
there are a couple of of things to note.
The first thing we might be tempted to do 
when we encounter God is to make it into a “religious” experience
Peter wants to set up shrines 
for Jesus Moses, and Elijah.
While religious sites have their place
Jesus tells them this is not what this about
Peter is adamant 
this is not to be about 
the bells and whitsles of supernatural experience
It is about seeing Jesus as God’s son
Beloved by God
And opening ourselves to God through Jesus.

Relationship with Jesus
We are being invited to not mythologise this opportunity
or perhaps we would say 
not fantasise.
Or to turn it into some religious experience
But to understand that 
this is about God’s love
for Jesus, the Beloved Son
and for you and me
As Lent looms 
this is what is being handed to us
Not an opportunity to become more religious
but an invitation to relationship. with Jesus.
Maybe we don’t want this
the real danger about ‘religion’ 
is that it can actually be used to keep God at a distance.
Peter is adamant
this is not fantasy
Jesus is certainly
no shrine or religious formularies
what is on offer is relationship
What might we do during Lent
to respond to this invitation?

The account tells us….This is my Son the Beloved
Listen to him.
If Jesus is speaking to me
what might he be saying?
if I cannot hear
can I spend a little time
trying to pay attention?
Time is of course of the essence
in any relationship.
You don’t strengthen your relationships
by not spending time.
And there are perhaps two warnings here
as Lent approaches.
One is, we can say…
that is for somebody else to do
I think that’s wrong
we cannot delegate our responsibility 
for our individual relationship
we must allow time for Jesus
just as we should allow time
for our other relationships.
Second, let’s not make the mistake
of thinking that increased religious practice is what is being asked for
This is the warning that Jesus is giving the disciples.
So keep it Personal
and keep it Real

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The extra mile and the other cheek

    The focus this week shifts a little
although we are still emphasising that it is not just sufficient to
say the right thing
but also to do it
last week's emphasis
was more on not doing the wrong thing
But today we are exhorted to do the right thing
Both, of course, are necessary
Jesus uses extreme examples (hyperbole)
this grabs our attention
and indeed they contain some of his most memorable ideas
That is part of the purpose of hyperbole
-to grab our attention-

If anyone strikes you, then turn the other cheek!

If someone wants your jumper, give them your coat too!

To someone who make you do something you don't want, do more than they ask!

And so it goes on
This week therefore we are being invited to stretch ourselves in doing good.
You might immediately think of a situation where this applies, and so you have the opportunity to respond.
But if you need more convincing then maybe we need to go back to first principles (which is sort of what we have been doing over the last few weeks).
Jesus is inviting us not just to keep the rules,

or not just to not break the rules (if you can suss out that double negative)
but to recognise that this discipleship is going to be about

deciding at the very core of our being that we are going to live our life...not out of the book
but according to the principles.
This is probably harder,

because it means we have to actually think about what we do.

We have to do more than just accidently be Christian
It is about commitment.

So THIS WEEK..there may be some obvious place where we can go the extra mile, dig a little deeper, act more out of principle than out of duty
or we may have to grapple with this deeper again

To talk with Jesus about what this will mean.
This is not about punishment, it is not about making life hard. It is about acting out of the heart, rather than the head.
About living the Gospel, rather than keeping the rules.
Find one thing to do, and do it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Choose life

Readings for the 6th Sunday after the Epiphany can include 

  • Deuteronomy 30:15-20  or Sirach 15:15-20 • 
  • Psalm 119:1-8 • 
  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 • 
  • Matthew 5:21-37. [Australian lectionary uses Deuteronomy 10]

  • What are we to make of this idea
    that even thinking about sin
    might be as bad
    as sin itself?
    What Jesus seems to be getting at
    in these little sayings:
    Don’t just not be angry
    Actually do something about it
    Don’t just not commit adultery
    deal with your inward thoughts
    Recognise that you make some serious commitments
    and that you need to stick to them
    And even…don’t swear an oath
    but let your word be of such quality
    that it shouldn’t be necessary
    to have legal compulsion to tell the truth.
    This is the point at which, as the popular saying goes,
    the rubber hits the road
    or where we not only say the right thing
    but we do the right thing.
    Is this what people think of us?
    Is this, indeed, what we think of ourselves?
    or are we two-faced?
    We often can rationalize this behaviour
    (We don’t want to hurt people
    we want to avoid trouble…so on)
    But what we hear this morning
    is rather consistent
    with what we have been receiving
    from this section of Jesus’s teaching that we call the The Sermon on the Mount
    Your faith should be tasty… like salt
    and it should shine out like a light.
    Now we hear..

    Don’t just say things
    but actually them!
    And be aware of how you think!
    Because your thoughts are probably a tell-tale of what’s really going on

    Work for this week
    What’s going on in your life?
    In particular those secret places
    where perhaps we are not up-front with others (or even ourselves)
    The word of warning that we are getting here
    is that even though we may be duplicitous
    with others
    and even with ourselves
    that it doesn’t actually deceive God
    and doesn’t often or actually do what we think.
    Avoiding conflict doesn’t resolve it!
    Putting on a masquerade
    for the sake of public appearances
    doesn’t actually make that come true.
    Are we thus going to follow our Saviour in deed as well as word?
    It is the image of jesus himself. He not only was a good person but his life was put on the line too!
    I would even suggest that creating and sustaining the charade
    is more damaging in fact than the problems it seeks to solve.
    Avoiding conflict is probably more damaging than confronting it.
    Suppressing our strong sexual feelings, would seem to be more damaging than actually dealing with them.
    When we lose our integrity (our Yes/Yes)
    We have lost something centrally and essentially human.

    Oscar Romero- Martyr Bishop of El Salvador
    so threatened the power brokers
    of his country by his determination
    to not only be good but also to do good
    and to confront evil and corruption
    He was assassinated whilst celebrating Mass

    This week, let’s pay attention
    to where God is calling us to
    not only say but also to be and do our Christianity
    This may be hard, probably will be
    But we are called not to be wishy washy
    But to be faithful…in word and in deed

    Saturday, February 08, 2014

    Pour on the Salt & Turn on the Light

    Readings for February 9th 2014 are those for The 5th Sunday after Epiphany
  • Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12) • 
  • Psalm 112:1-9 (10) • 
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) • 
  • Matthew 5:13-20

  • Coffee is a mixed blessing.
    Often when I visit my sister it is my job to make the coffee
    (this is largely because I don't believe anyone can make coffee as well as I can!)
    There was of course the unfortunate day when I mistook the salt for the sugar
    and my coffee was undrinkable!

    The whole point about salt is to give flavour
    but to give the right sort of flavour,
    in the right sort of place.
    And Jesus makes the same point about light;
    you don't get batteries for your torch
    or a new fixture for your kitchen
    so that you can sit in the dark.

    Taste & Light
    The light that we give at baptism
    is a light to bring us out of darkness
    into God's marvellous light
    - a light which exposes evil
    - a light which shows us the way to go
    - a light which help us show the way to God to others

    I would suggest that this is not just a call to you and me as individuals
    but also to us as a community
    and as a community of the Church, the parish and the nation

    So we might ask how does our parish, church, family (or wherever we identify our community)
    - expose evil
    - show the way to go
    - help us to show the way to others

    We could suggest:
    that when we are confronting prejudice, when we are standing against dishonesty,
    standing up for the rights of the friendless
    then we are shining the light.

    We should also see that we need to train ourselves in what it means to be a good Christian
    Lent is coming up, and is a good time for us to get back to Christian basics
    Brushing up on prayer, 
    on spiritual discipline
    practising what we preach with more verve.

    AND we should always recognise that the purpose
    is not just for our self edification
    but so that others might be drawn to the light.
    We want the light to be for others as well as for ourselves..

    Not always good at that, 
    it sometimes seem a bit hard
    yet it should be our catchcry.
    The Gospel for others.

    Finally, to all this we add salt..

    I think this suggests that all this should be tasty!
    I sometimes worry that we are very British in our spiritual tastes
    We like it bland 
    with lashings of brown!

    Where, we might ask, 
    is the flavour of our community?
    Can we give ourselves permission to be more adventurous?
    In the words of the musical Godspell
    But if that salt has lost it's flavor
    It ain't got much in its favor
    You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth

    So what can we do to spice up our faith.
    What can I do to add flavour to my life, my faith, my community?

    Perhaps this is a challenging question
    but Jesus gives it a priority which makes it important for us.

    Should we be a community:

    • that does hospitality well
    • that prides ourself on caring for families
    • that thinks music should have a high priority
    • that looks to engage the community on controversial issues
    • that looks for way to welcome those who the rest of the church finds difficult
    These are just a few suggestions:

    You gotta stay bright to be the light of the world
    You gotta live right to be the light of the world

    Let's give ourselves permission to be tasty and to be bright