Thursday, 29 September 2011

Make me rich



Wow.

I don't trust this guy.  But I think he is probably being honest.  Amazing really that a trader has spoken so honestly about his desire to get richer and richer and that he doesn't care about anything other than making a lot of money.

I wonder if politicians will ever be that honest.

I do suspect that what this guy is saying could well happen and that we are entering into an unknown and never before seen time in our lives and the world economy.  It is a time for people to join hands and help each other.

This is a time where the Church can be who they are called to be; a people of good news who enact and share the story of Jesus in the communities that they live in order that people would discover who they are truly called to be.

We are called to be in communion with God to discover our true selves and live in the hope of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, inviting people to come and share in a new community where God is known and can be known.

We are called to be a people of the Kingdom of God, seeking God to bring His Kingdom to earth, establishing another way to live and to love, seeking the good for all of God's good creation.

We are called to be a people who care for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden, seeking out the stranger and inviting them into a new community of peace and refuge.

We are called to a path of suffering, following the Way of Jesus and knowing him in his sufferings.

We are called to expose the idols of our time, declare what is evil and seek its destruction.

The god of money is exposed as an idol, yet path away from the worship of it and towards the worship of God is long, rocky and difficult.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Conservatism

Conservative religious belief is an interesting phenomenon.

I have many friends who have conservative views on Scripture, church, the cross etc. Yet they hold onto their beliefs with a vulnerability and openness; a belief that we live with mystery.  It is not this conservative religious belief that I mean.

It is the conservatism that seeks to unwittingly reinforce a cultural way of life that is indeed opposite to the nature of the Gospel and a calling to be a people of peace following the Prince of Peace.

And so we find churches become a group of like-minded volunteers from similar economic backgrounds jostling for position amongst all the other voluntary groups in the community.

The teaching that is given becomes a means to reinforce a cultural way of life and serves to make Christian theology all about 'what it can do for me.' Christian belief becomes inward looking, defined by my own desires and wants. We use the term 'making the gospel relevant' but end up with a humanistic message. It is the assumption that religion is about making me happy and fulfilling our desires.  Yet since when do we know what we really need?

Christian faith therefore is defended, not because it is true, but because it reinforces a cultural way of life that people want to keep.  And rather than being a people of peace who witness to the truth of God in Jesus, relying on nothing else than its witness, the 'truth' is sought through violence and coercion.

Conservatism therefore sees no problem with violence, power or coercion. It promotes the desire to control and be in control at all times. it seeks status and recognition and refuses to be wrong. And what we find is something that sits at odds with a faith the is defined in Jesus of Nazareth.

Liberalism holds up no better, but I'll reflect on that another time.  

Monday, 26 September 2011

Jesus walks into a gay bar...

'Andrew Marin - who has spent the last decade living in Boystown, Chicago's officially-designated neighbourhood for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) residents - works to try and bring Christians and gay people together in open conversation about sexuality and spirituality - and that includes running a large-scale meeting four times a year at Roscoe's, one of America's most famous gay bars...He says that the Marin Foundation simply wants to get gay people thinking about Christian spirituality in its broadest sense, without a disproportionate emphasis on sexual morality.

I love this story.
I love how Andrew Marin has committed himself to real relationships with people.
I love how he refuses to give answers, how he refuses to put any one person in a box, how he refuses to define someone's spiritual journey based on their sexuality.
I love how seeks to help people live a life with God according to where God is leading them, not according to what their sexuality is.
I think this story highlights some beautiful things:

That beautiful place of vulnerability; giving yourself to others and allowing yourself to learn from them.
That sacred place of allowing questions to hang there without answers; allowing the mystery of God to transform you and bathe life in mystery.
That challenging place of otherness; going to the people and places where God has always been but where you were too ignorant, judgemental or afraid to go and finding love, joy and change in your own life by being there.

Thank God for people like Andrew Marin

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

True Knot

When our second daughter Lizzie was born, we found that she had a true knot in her umbilical cord. What this means is that at some stage of the pregnancy Lizzie's movements inside the womb had resulted in her making a knot in her umbilical cord.  The knot looked like a granny knot in a piece of rope.

I discovered later that when a baby has a true knot in their umbilical cord it raises the chance of the baby dying in the womb fourfold. The reason for this is that the knot can cut off or restrict blood supply to the baby.

We have no idea how long Lizzie had a knot in her cord.  What we do know is that when she was born the knot in the cord was extremely tight.

Sarah had an extremely fast labour with Lizzie. Throughout the pregnancy Sarah suffered with severe pelvic, back and leg pain because of a condition called SPD. Such was the pain that Sarah could not even walk some days. We went to see the consultant who was not particularly helpful. Sarah's assigned mid-wife was also very unhelpful. Sarah asked her for help to get the labour going early, such as a sweep. She performed one at 38 weeks that didn't do anything and was reluctant to do another one until Sarah was 40 weeks pregnant. Through various circumstances out of our control we did not go and see Sarah's assigned mid-wife but another one for another check up at 38 weeks and 5 days. The mid-wife who we saw was really sympathetic to Sarah's physical problems and booked her in to be induced the next day, something the other mid-wife was not going to do. She then said that she would also perform another sweep to see if this did anything to help. This was at midday. By 1.30pm we were in the hospital.  At 3.21pm Lizzie was born.

Interesting isn't it...

One course of action could have lead to a completely different outcome.

Our lives are in the balance. One decision can have life long consequences.

I'll have one more drink...I'll be ok to drive...

Let's have sex...I don't need a condom...

I'll tell them I love them tomorrow...

You don't need a sweep...


Our actions matter. Our decisions matter.

The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love each other.  These are not merely spiritual niceties, but hugely significant ethical decisions and actions. The way in which we obey or disobey these commandments will have consequences that can stretch into eternity.

I find that something worth thinking about.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Lynne

I had the privilege of taking the funeral of our friend Lynne on Friday.  She was a wonderful woman full of dignity and grace.  The church was full with people who brought with them their own memories of who Lynne was and the time they had spent with her.  Tom has written his own reflections on the kind of woman Lynne was.

Funerals are a needed event.  We need them in order that we might say good-bye well and be able to step into the next part of our lives.  It is important that we commit ourselves and those who have died to God.

Here is the sermon that I shared at Lynne's funeral:

'We have heard stories and memories of Lynne, stories that have given us a glimpse into who she was and her life story. Each of us will bring our own memories and stories of our time with Lynne, and in the act of remembering we recognise how much we loved her.  And it is because we loved her so much we find her death hurts us so much. It is like an icy wind blowing into our faces and we fear we might never find shelter.

The reality is that we live in a world of suffering and death.  The Christian faith is not there to provide answers about suffering. God does give us answers to the problem of suffering, rather he gives us his Son.

In Jesus we discover a God who walks with us through our suffering. We discover a God who fully knows us and has fully known what it means to be human; the baby in need an vulnerability; the man experiencing trial and temptation; the friend who weeps at the loss of a loved one. And this same Jesus has walked through the valley of the shadow of death and has taken all its pain and brutality upon himself on the cross. He has walked the road of death for each one of us and has emerged from it in glorious resurrection so that we can be freed from the claws of death and one day know the joy of life and love in God's presence.

Until that day however we glimpse at that future reality and live in the tension of pain and joy today. The pain of suffering today, but the joy that this God, this Jesus, can be known today in relationship, can transform our today and give us hope for tomorrow. This is the God who seeks to walk in relationship with us, through our joys and our sorrows, giving us himself that we might know ourselves.

This Jesus holds his hands out today to offer you comfort.

Hands that wiped tears from his eyes at the death of his friend.
Hands that were nailed to a cross.
Hands that were raised in triumph at the resurrection.
And now hands that take hold of Lynne's hand, leading her into the presence of the living God.
Hands that seek to comfort you today, sheltering you from that icy wind.

Hands that seek to lead you and guide you throughout your life, that in the midst of your joy and your sorrow, you might know a God who loves you.'

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

God's Promise

'At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?    He called a little child and had him stand among them.
    And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'


On Sunday we had the privilege of seeing our youngest daughter go through a service of blessing.

My friend John conducted the blessing and it was truly special time with a clear sense of God's love and presence.

It was a sacramental act.

In other words, God promised to be there by his Spirit through this act of blessing.  As we welcomed Lizzie in the name of Jesus, Jesus was present in a very real and tangible way.

John spoke about how in every child there is the presence of God, and so in the presence of children we truly encounter God's presence.

Sarah and I made promises:


Sarah and Joe, do you thank God for the gift of your child,and do you accept the joys and duties of parenthood? 
Gladly, we do. 
Do you promise to bring Lizzie upwithin the Christian community,and, by God’s grace, live in such a way and love each other in such a way,that she will be nurtured by Christian loveand surrounded by the life of Jesus? 
As disciples of Jesus, we do. 
Will you seek to be parents of peace, sharers of love and signs of hope to Lizzie?  Will you be faithful in prayer for Lizzie, seeking to walk in the likeness of Jesus for the sake of your daughter? 
With the help of God’s Spirit, we will.



Our eldest daughter Grace also made a promise:

Will you promise to loveand help care for Lizzie? 
Yes!



We had it at Seale-Hayne.  So we weren't in a 'church building' or anything like that.  Rather, we were in a place of community where many different people from all walks of life meet week in week out.  Church is the people.  And it was truly church on Sunday.

Blessing
Lizzie, we rejoice, for you are God’s gift to us.
Grow strong in the knowledge and love of God;
we pray that one day
you will be a disciple of Jesus Christ,
following him through the waters of baptism
and in a life of faithful witness;
bear the fruit of his Spirit
and live his great gift of love.

Lizzie, the Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift the light of his countenance upon you
and give you peace,
this day and always.
In the name of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.





Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A New Reality

Jesus' life, death and resurrection jolts us out of self-deception into the reality of our own situation and the truth of who we are.

We are sinners.

I am a sinner.

You are a sinner.

We often rebel and protest this point because we see sin and sinners as 'the other', those who have broken the rules and the law in some brutal way.  The murderer or rapist or rioter.

But sin is not about breaking rules or laws.

We are all sinners 'because we deceive ourselves about the nature of reality and so would crucify the very One who calls us to God's kingdom.'

We live as though we can be the authors of our own stories, as though we have the power to be the main players in the drama and story of humanity. We try to live as though we had no need for God and as if God's story has no place in our own stories.

Jesus came to shake us out of this deception and to reveal reality to us.

He told us that the most important thing to do in our lives was to love God. The next most important thing was to love others.

He told us we needed to repent.

He showed us our need to care for the poor, abused and outcast.

He revealed the horror of our desire for power and hunger to manipulate and control others.

And as he hung on the cross, taking our place, we realise what our place really is.

And so we understand who God is through narrative and the narrative of Jesus. And we see ourselves through this narrative and seek to become a part of this very story. In recognising that we are sinners seeking to rebel against this story, we are then able to see how the Author would like us to become a part of His Great Story.

We are merely characters created to be loyal to the One who created the stars, heavens and earth.

Jesus calls us into the truth of reality. Whether we are willing to participate in this reality and enter into a new story is another thing entirely.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Day that Changed the World



It is nearly 10 years since the atrocities of September 11th 2001.

I'm sure all of us can remember watching our television screens in disbelief and horror as events unfolded before our eyes.

Real questions of the human condition were asked.  How can we do this to each other? What can stir such hate to be acted upon from one human being to another?

We grieved and mourned for those who had died and our thoughts and prayers went to those who had lost loved ones.

And in a few days time people will gather to remember those who died.  Those who put their lives in danger to rescue others will be commemorated and praised.  People from all over the world will take time to pray for peace, for love and that nothing like this will happen again.  It was a horrendous event that we pray will indeed never happen again.

Many have said it was the day that changed the world.

But it wasn't.

There was a day in around A.D 33 that changed the world forever.



This day was the death of Jesus.

It is not simply a day that has been lost in the pages of history. It is not a day that is remembered but has no effect on today. It is a day that continues to transform and impact they very fibre of the universe.

It is a day that the full force of evil was felt.

It is a day that death unleashed its worst.

This is the day that changed the world forever.

The splintered wooden cross hanging on the back of Jesus continues to unsettle and disturb us this very day.

The pain and destruction of September 11th 2001 has been felt in all its fulness by Jesus on that day in A.D 33.

And it is only because of that day in A.D 33 that the events of September 11th 2001 can ever be healed and dealt with. We are to resist the evil that September 11th reveals.

Christians from all over the world are to continually remember the day that changed the world. We are called to cling to that splintered Cross of Jesus recognising that our own lives and destiny depends upon it.  And we are to live as a people that sees, knows and experiences the truth and reality of that Day in A.D 33 upon this very day.