Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This can be hard or easy

Readings for the Sunday after the Ascension (Seventh Sunday of Easter) June 1st 2014  Acts 1:6-14 Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 John 17:1-11

Now this can either be hard or easy!
Because, either the point of the physical removal of Jesus
is an insurmountable obstacle to 21st century rational-scientific minds
or it is as easy as recognising
that in order to mature
we cannot go on having others
doing for us what we need to do for ourselves!
I opt to think, today, about the Ascension
in this latter way!

In the most obvious sense
if God wants mature men and women.

People who will have depth and understanding

then that is not achieved
by always stepping in making up for our inadequacies.

Any parent knows the truth of this.
Indeed anyone in any relationship whatsoever
needs to understand this,
we are not called to step in and make up
for the inadequacies, mistakes and failures
of others.
However well-intentioned,
this breeds immaturity and over-dependence,
rather than freedom, initiative
and sophisticated maturity.

There is a difference between supporting people in difficulty
and in not allowing people the opportunity to make their own mistakes!

The withdrawal of the physical presence of Jesus
rather than being an expression
of God's disappointment and heartbreak with the world
can and should actually be seen
as a statement of faith by God in you and me.
God believes that we have within us
the means to be effective people
God believes that we have within us
the means to be effective church
God believes that we have within us
the capacity to fail and to know that failure is not the end

This is what is going on

Two encouragements
We may feel as though this is too hard sometimes
Can we hear two things today:

That Jesus prays to the Father for our protection.

He is not assuming that it is going to be easy,
indeed the reverse would seem to be the case.
So he prays for our protection.
In the midst of difficulty
our faith requires that we bring that 'big gun' into play.
Let us not forget that God is on our side,
this is not some sort of crude lining up allies
during war
but rather seeking to draw out of you and me
Faith in God.
Perhaps we need to pray 
that prayer that one of the rulers prays
Lord I DO believe
but also help my unbelief.
feeling undersiege
is not necessarily a sign of spiritual weakness
but rather an invitation
to strengthen our faith
As we rely on faith
we learn to be faithful.

Jesus's key promise
in this time
is that he will not leave us friendless.
He promises the Holy Spirit.
We are not called to do this alone,
but rather to realise that we act out of God's power.
there is something important
about being able to ask for help.
As we seek to move and grow
we pray that God's Holy Spirit,
the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself
will cause us to move as God wants us to
and to understand as God wants us to.

And we discover what the first Christians dicovered
that in acting out of faith
our faith is increased.
In that exercising our God-given independence
we find a new sense of freedom
which opens them up 
to the gracious life of  the Spirit of Jesus.

More mysteriously, then, though Jesus is no longer
physically with us
May we have a deeper, 
profounder sense of God's abiding love.

May this be ours too

This week
  • Remember to commit yourself deliberately to God's care and protection as you seek to be more faithful
  • Pray deliberately for the Holy Spirit to guide, encourage and lead you

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Looking at putting it into action

Readings for Sunday May 25 2014
Sixth Sunday of Easter Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:8-20, I Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21,

I sometimes half-jokingly say 

that we should be careful about what we ask for in our prayers
and particularly when we pray for God to send the Holy Spirit
or to renew us, or something similar.
Because my experience is that 

that is exactly the sort of prayer
---for the Holy Spirit---
that God is likely to answer!
So, don't pray for renewal unless you want to be renewed.

What might 'renewal' be like?
It seems to me that renewal is likely to be about truth
then when the Spirit of renewal comes
it is going to be the Spirit of Truth.

It will therefore be drawing us towards God 

and showing us what God is like.
In the process of doing this
one might expect we also discover 

what we might be like.

This classic movement
leads us to traditionally Christians have said...
the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin.
This is not, I think, some vindictive nasty process
but a 
true one.

We will 
know and be known.
It is  our life's work:
to understand the truth of what it means
to be made in God's image.

The truth draws us on
to move away from sin
and towards the light.

In this process, too,
we will also uncover 

the truths of God's world.

The eternal truths can often be spoken with our lips
and may take a little while 

to appropriate into our lives.
How easily we say "God loves you!" 

and yet do we believe
that God wants the best for us
and for everyone
and how do we imagine 

that might work itself out in our lives.
To me, for example, 

it means that there is here
a command to ensure that others
are going to be able 

to experience God's generosity
and share in the bounty of the creation
it will mean that I need to work to challenge
my own selfishness and greed
and to stand against the aggressive greed of individuals 

and institutions
which is the cause of so much poverty.

Truth will mean 

that I try to conduct myself
with honesty, openness and integrity.
That I value these things about myself
and I treasure the vulnerable gifts 

that others may choose to share.

The Spirit will 
lead us into truth
implies that this will take time.
And we need patience and diligence and respect

for what God is doing in others
for what God is doing in me.
The way of the Spirit


Saturday, May 17, 2014

What's the question?

Fifth Sunday of Easter May 18 2014. *Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 I Peter 2:2-10 John 14:1-14
The writer Gertrude Stein is reputed to have asked
as she was being wheeled into the operating theatre
for what would prove to be a fatal procedure.
"What is the answer?" 
When there was no reply,
 Stein said, 
"In that case, what is the question?"
It had been a major part of her life's work
to steer people away from trying to find answers
and towards asking the right question.

It could be observed that this is wise advice
for those of us who dare to read the Scriptures
or who believe we know the mind of God.
It is not so much  the answers that we find in the Bible
that are important
But what are the questions 
I am being asked 
by my encounter with God.

Jesus says I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

These statements all ask questions of our life:

What  does it mean to follow this Way?

What is Truth?

And indeed What does it mean for me 
to live properly and well?

I am struck in this week when we have seen 
political harshness in the form of a Budget.
When we are particularly being told
that these are the answers
to problems 
that many of us don't actually think we have.

What questions does our political process 
ask of me, of our country,
of our government?
One question that occurs to me: 
and a number of people 
have articulated it both publicly and personally during the week
Why do the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised
appear to be being required to carry a disproportionate 
part of the burden?

Perhaps you and I today
can only be expected to 
What questions does this pose for me?

But let's not fall into the trap
so beloved my politicians and religious people alike
of posing pat answers, 
instead of asking hard questions.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

And what exactly do you want?

Fifth Sunday of Easter May 18 May *Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 I Peter 2:2-10John 14:1-14
The story is told of St Christopher
that he searched the world over
for the strongest king to serve.
It is almost like Game of Thrones!
Christopher rejected one after the other
even the devil or Satan
Finally he is told to serve God
and he is to do this
by helping people
across a dangerous river.
One night a small child comes
and Christopher carries him across the river.
Christopher senses the burden getting heavier and heavier
as he crosses
and it is only as he gets to the other side
that he realises he has been carrying the Christ child.
It is a very good story, and has a strong moral.
These days it is regarded as legendary
rather than an account of an actual event.
This does not make it untrue.
It rather points us to the fact 
that sometimes deeper mysteries 
like the fact that we are called to serve Christ
in the work we do in this world
are better revealed in story, song, poetry, art...and so on
that we often don't realise that Christ is there.

It is an Easter encounter
we don't realise that Christ is alive
and already amongst us.
He surprises us
by being in the ordinary place.

The disciples have to learn this.
They are often easily distracted
and well... to no be too blunt sometimes
just plain 'thick'

Not unlike you and me really!

What is on offer by Jesus 
is not some fairy tale encounter
nor is it some pious ritual.
It is the glimpse of glory,
it is sharing of the vision of the open heaven
and God reigning in power, peace and love.
St Stephen, at his martyrdom, is able to blurt this out.
Things often become very clear to us
in the valley of the shadow of death.

For most of the time it is a struggle, like Christopher,
to not insist that God does things 
in the way that we want them done
and rather to open ourselves
to the mystery of what God might be offering us.
Not what we vainly want
but what God might be trying to invite us into.

In the halting passage in John 14
 often read at funerals,
Jesus promises a prepared-place.
He is of course speaking imaginallywe are not talking about the Legian Beach Hotel
or some Georgian mansion
But rather of the fact that there is a place.
This is a comfort to the dying and the bereaved, I suggest,
to know that whether we live or whether we die
God has a place for us.
But as we read on we discover that the place is not so much a location
as a relationship....How can we know the way?
and Jesus says to you and me

I am the way and the truth and the lifeI think once we grasp this we are on the way.This is what Christopher found.It is not discovery of the answer it is by entering into relationship with Jesus.

This is the relationship
which will reveal to us
the life of God himself
We Christians believe
that this shepherd
this Jesus
this way, this truth, this life
uniquely draws us into the life of God.

This is not an exclusivist claim
it is the promise and hope of relationship.

I will know God, and God will know me.
I will know and be known.
It is a glimpse of glory.

This week
  • Where is Jesus telling me about himself?
  • What do I tell Jesus about myself?
  • How does this mutual revelation change us both?
  • How do I change my life to better live that experience
  • What will I do this week as I live out of this relationship
  • all seek resolution in practice

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A difficult concept I am a sheep

Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter May 11 2014  Acts 2:42-47 ;Psalm 23; I Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
This is an extraordinarily clear picture of a good shepherd, don't you think? 

A priest said to to me during the week that she hated Good Shepherd Sunday..This 4th Sunday of Easter.
 I understand what she meant. It is an image that has become very passé, taken for granted, ordinary. And most of what is said is trite and, perhaps, irrelevant . Out of touch with the 21st century world. My brother in law, now not far from his 70s used to be a shepherd like the sort of shepherds Jesus was talking about in rural Italy. Those who cared for small flocks, in quiet, remote, and occasionally dangerous environments. But it is a long time ago.

At least Australians, 
unlike most city dwellers, 
are probably
quite used to sheep
No image is fonder to traditional Christians than that of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Yet it is a foreign image 
which bears little relevance to most of us
Even in this country (Australia) 
the intimacy of the image...
one shepherd caring for a small flock of sheep...
is not the way we look after sheep.
They are in hundreds and thousands, largely left to their own devices
until the time comes for them to be killed or shorn.
So we need to look beyond the image and translate it to our modern times.

A couple of pointers
being a sheep is about belonging
It's only as we belong to Christ
that we understand and believe
This would suggest that the Good News 
is about the decision we make to be Christ's
And not so much about intellectual knowledge.
[As important as doctrine and learning are],
life in Christ is actually about being in touch with the person of the Risen Christ

How might we be in touch?
We need to maintain a deep commitment to personal and regular prayer.
We will meet Jesus 
in so far as we encounter him in the early morning,
and in the evening,
this is a figurative way of looking at prayer of course. 
but we need to do it
We will meet Jesus in the shared life of the Christian community.
There are no solitary Christians...
we are the Body of Christ, 
members of one another.
We belong to a flock.
It may be big.It may be small.
in so far as we struggle with one another (difficult as we are)
we are exploring the depth of relationship in Christ
and coming to know Jesus in depth
Relationships require struggle.
Jesus himself shows this as he journeys to the Cross

The spirit of obedience
Jesus could not be blunter..
We hear his voice, and we do what he tells us!
  • What, then, is Christ saying to me in my life?
  • Do I respond by doing what he tells me to do?
  • What does the life of the Body of Christ say to me about what Jesus invites me to be and do?
  • Do I do it?


  • Take some time to reflect on what I hear Jesus saying, through my prayer,

  • through my life, through experience of community

  • What 2 or 3 things do I seem to hear Jesus saying to me about how to faithfully follow

  • What resistance do I have to obedience? What do I need to do about it?