Sunday, April 27, 2014

Different ways of knowing Jesus

The quiet mystery of the story of Emmaus 
invites us into the mystery of Easter.
'The disciples knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread'
In a journey shrouded in mystery all the way up the road,
when they talk doctrine to Jesus 

and he quietly shows them 
what is the mystery that God is unfolding
they fail to recognise
who and what he is.

It is not until they sit quietly at a table
tired, perhaps ready for bed
that they see through the haze

and Jesus is known to them in the breaking of the bread.

for the Holy Communion we receive today
so we are reminded of the mystery 
that Jesus comes to us in the breaking of the bread.
I came across a cryptic little remark the other day
which said
"If you doubt go to Holy Communion!"
It was a little tongue-in-cheek but it has about it
an element of truth.
The disciples know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
It is the steadfast experience of Anglicans,
and I would suspect, but cannot speak for, other Christians
that as we gather to share Bread and Wine in the Eucharist
we encounter Jesus.
So the funny little comment is some how  true.
If you doubt go to to Holy Communion.
There we hear in the Word of God
of the Jesus who gave himself 

to be broken and poured out
so that others might live.
This mystery, so common place to all Christians
should not be taken for granted.
As we hear the words
"Take eat this is my body given for you"

"This is the blood of the new covenant which is shed for you"
It is Jesus speaking to our doubt.
But we should not also miss the mundaneness
that is also being spoken about
that it is as we share bread and wine
around our family tables
and commit ourselves
to human relationships
which the dinner table also embraces
and conveys

that we are also attesting to the truth
that Jesus is made known to us

not just in the ritual of worship
but also in the ordinariness of human existence.
For Christians, too, there is an imperative
to see that no one goes hungry

either spiritually, or physically
so the sharing of food ---spiritual and physical---
is to go beyond our comfort zone
and reach out to the hungry.
Jesus reminds us Matthew 25:31–46 (NRSV): in the parable of the Sheep and the goats
that we are called to not only pay heed to the theory of the gospel
but also to put it into practice.
“Truly I tell you, just as you give food and drink to one of the least of these you did it to me.”

We know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
So, the risen Jesus is encountered
So, if we doubt 
worship God in the Holy Communion
and lest we forget, 
worship God in the reality of our lives
-our families-
and those who God sets before us in need.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Making way for Jesus

Easter is not just a one day festivalbut rather a way of lifeThe rather good stories that tell how early Christians 
encountered Jesus after his deathhelp us to assimilate our own experiences of Jesus.Take Peter, for example, 
who stands up boldly and reminds his listeners
"This Jesus who you crucified"...he might also be saying...."and who I deserted at his time of need"...well "This Jesus 

God has shown to be the Messiah,
the incarnation of God himself."It is, a reminder of the way we take 

the revelation of the Godhead for grantedand fail to seewhat mind-blowingly transforming stuff we are involved in.Thomas, too, who is a quintessential figure in the Christian story.
Not with the disciples when Jesus appearshe does not just take at face valuethe fact that they have "seen the Lord"

Why, indeed, should he?

There is perhaps a salutary reminderthat sometimes we assume 

that people will take our witness for granted.When we tell them what our experience of the Godly encounter iswe should not just assume 
that is going to be the last word in the debate.We often mistake what is happeningwe do not name it rightlywe may fail to appreciate where the other person is(all these are warnings 
for the would-be evangelist)but more than this we need to appreciatethat conversion is not so much about persuasion
as about openness 

to the Holy Spirit of God.The disciples encourage Thomasto articulate 
what it would take for himto be convinced of the truthof what God is doing in our lives.What,indeed, would it take for me to be convinced?

Perhaps more deeply convinced, or more fundamentally convinced,

can we  write a short list of the doubts you haveand what God needs to do to allay those doubts.

Thomas did....I need to see and feel the experience the physicality and the aliveness of Jesus.This confrontation and naming of doubt 
enabled him to respond wellwhen the moment came.This is an important statement about the integrity of GodThe God who honours our shortcomingsas well as our insights and our strengths.Indeed the story seems to suggestthat doubt is not necessarily a "shortcoming"The experience of resurrectioninvites us to exploreboth the light and dark placeswhere God is to be encountered in our faith journey.
What would you name as your doubts?What would it and does it take to be more firmly and deeply committed?
and can I allow that process to take place in God's good time?

Friday, April 18, 2014

The litter of the Cross

Reflections for the Holy Days GOOD FRIDAY

Good Friday
There is an awful lot of litter around the Cross
some suggest that Golgotha 
was a sort of rubbish dump.
But as we look around the Church on Good Friday
we see palms from Sunday, 
towels and bowls from Thursday's meal
snuffed candles from the altar of repose
where we watched begrudgingly 
with Jesus
for barely an hour (in the end I sat before the exposed Blessed Sacrament and finished my sermons for the devotional hour was a good thing to do even though last minute...but I had more than enough material; and maybe it had some cogency which I had been struggling with for a week)
But the litter!
Well the litter is the past.
If we read nothing else into the Passion story we read that it has left the litter behind.
It is very immediate is today.
This is the only place we live.
And in this place we hear Jesus speaking.
He speaks to his Mother, he speaks to his closest friend
Intimate powerful words:
"Mum look after John"
"John look after my Mum!"
there is not much casuistry
to the thief alongside, worried about his eternal destiny
He speaks about Today.
"This day you will be with me in Paradise"
And to his God he speaks the profoundest words
that in the face of total and utter desolation
he can still say
"My God! My God!"

What is Jesus saying to me TODAY (not yesterday or tomorrow)?
As intimate as the words to John and his mother,
as death confronting as the words to his fellow victim
As profoundly faithful as his own words to our God!

We won't hear if we don't listen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why all the fuss?

Reflections for the Holy Days MAUNDY THURSDAY

Maundy Thursday

Why all this fuss about the Eucharist?
It has become a language
Perhaps a poetry of the way we talk about God.
We celebrate that Jesus calls us to serve
That is the washing of the feet.
Itself an act of humility, not a neutral act at all.
It is at once confronting.
Do I really want to touch someone’s feet?
Can I allow someone to touch my feet?
It is a challenge about the way we deal with people.
Do we withhold ourselves?
Christ Jesus was in the form of God, but he did not cling to equality with God.
Do we withhold ourselves?

We share a ritual meal.
Frederic Buechner says “We take the profane and make it holy”
It is the pattern of our whole life.
In this body will be broken and blood will be shed.

We say words that remind us of death.
This is my broken Body, and this is my shed Blood.
Our society tries not to talk about death
But is often very careless about life.

It is a reminder that someone we love is no longer with us
Probably all of us feel that from time to time.

Christmas, anniversaries, Easter…my grandmother died on Good Friday.

And then we talk about a mystery.
About how Jesus is present.
After 60 years of Eucharist I have had plenty of experience of this.
Sometimes this Real Presence is totally tangible.
{This is not theological point-scoring about how Jesus might or might not be present}
it is the lived experience of the Christian

Sometimes it is the fact that we are just giving ourselves up to worship
Sometimes it is because we can see the rightness of our service, either as individuals ort as a church or as a community
Sometimes the worship is ordinary, and the footwashing is poor. But we know Jesus as we gather together. We are the Body of Christ
(It is not an unwounded or perfect body necessarily}
Sometimes it is simple remembrance

But I suggest that what keeps bringing us back is that somehow we encounter Jesus.

So we say those words.
The disciples knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

It’s, as I say, a mystery
To which we can open ourselves.

As we begin these Three Holy Days
Do what you can to open yourself to this mystery.

Jesus, made known in the service of others
and in the breaking of the bread

be with us this night and through these days

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Do we (really) turn to Christ?

Sixth Sunday in Lent _ commonly called Palm Sunday. 13th  April 2014 Readings of the Eucharist are: Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 and the Passion according to Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

I have made a number of complex trips in the last few years
Europe, Israel, the Far North of South Australia
A few years ago when I thought about this particular cycle of reading (Year A) 
I had just been to Europe a few months 
before so I had done some thinking about what did 
and what did not work when you plan a complex trip.

And then later that year my wife and I took another journey
when we made a decision to journey separately.
That was difficult and sad.
We all make
all sorts of journeys.

And journeys require tenacity
they need planning
and they change us.

Last year I journeyed to the Hawaiian Islands
for a period of ministry there
that had all sorts of insights and complexities.

I say again, journeys change us.

As Holy Week begins we take  a journey
it is undergirded 
by the story of Jesus's  last days before his death.
We mirror this  journey through Lent,
in these weeks we have been thinking about what it means to be Christian
we have been trying to hear the voice of Jesus
(chiefly through the witness of John's gospel)
about how we might try to live faithfully 
in the spirit of the promises we made
or which were made for us at Baptism.

How do we continue the journey begun at our baptism
when we were asked :
Do you turn to Christ?
and indeed the consequential questions

Do you repent of sin?  Do you reject selfishness?  Do you renounce evil?
These promises are reaffirmed on Easter Day

We have also reflected on the mystery of life and death
and we hear that there is a great overshadowing promise of Jesus:
"I am the Resurrection and the Life!"
It is the promise which breathes life back into our deadness.
And which open the eyes of the blind heart.

The reading from the letter to the Philippians this week
addresses this journey, this transition, this growth,
in a more poetic and philisophical way

St Paul writes

Philippians 2:5-11

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.
2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The purpose of the journey is that we may become like Christ.
Not presuming on our Godly nature
but acting out of it.
It is a journey of suffering
a journey of challenge
which will transform us that we may be like him

Such journeys require tenacity
they need planning
and they change us

as we enact it liturgically
the real goal is to pursue it
in reality