Third Sunday after Pentecost

With the long lead up to our federal elections plodding along, I have been listening to policies and wading through issues. At the same time I confess to being "bamboozled"by the American presidential election process. The alternate Psalm for today (psalm 146 verse 3) warns against putting our trust in princes. This might be one biblical teaching that our current culture has embraced with a weary cynicism.

We frequently hear the assertion that all politicians are untrustworthy and that the political process is completely unresponsive to the desire and needs of those it is meant to serve. We do not trust our princes. Why should we?

Many are appalled at current policies on refugees and the detention of those who have risked their lives seeking asylum in Australia. We are concerned about possible changes to 'super' contributions, while there is a push towards more self funded retirements. The rich are getting richer, while the poor continue to get poorer. Yet the bible reminds us over and over again that “The Lord cares for the stranger in the land, God upholds the widow and the fatherless", as is clear from today's readings.

Knowing how flawed our political processes, and some of its participants, might be, what is our responsibility and calling, as communities of faith with regard to our princes? How often do we pray for, write to, support and advise those we have elected? How might we embrace those who, for noble or base reasons, offer themselves to the political process?

Food for thought?

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Season after Pentecost is a time to reflect on God’s transforming presence, and our scriptures testify to a God who longs to lead us (and all of creation) into wholeness and peace. Yet it is not always easy to choose to follow God’s leading.

In the readings for today, as Samuel grapples with the implications of human kingship over Israel, the psalmist in Psalm 138 affirms God’s sovereignty and good rule over all. In 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1, Paul describes our struggle to be renewed and re-created in Christ, while praising God who desires us to develop to our glorious full potential as children of God. Finally, in Mark 3:20–35, Jesus challenges assumptions of how we are to relate to one another and to God, teaching that it is God who is at the head of all of our relationships.

Today’s Old Testament story begins with the prophet Samuel already retired after serving for many years as Israel’s judge – the highest authority in a nation loosely governed by the elders of various tribes. As judge, Samuel had mediated God’s leadership over the people, but now the elders of Israel, using the moral failures of Samuel’s sons as his successor as an excuse, demand the leadership of a king instead. In the end, a reluctant Samuel heeds the people’s request and anoints Saul as king of the new monarchy. We are left with a disturbing portrait of God going along with the people’s demands even as God is aware that it is not in the best interests of the people.

Yes, God calls us to follow but gives us freedom of choice! And God also gives us a voice to use in speaking up when we believe our leaders are inappropriate or downright wrong. This is true of Christian and secular leaders.

The news this week was full of the blunders by our federal election candidates. And constant reminders of the duplicity and dishonesty in the highest ranks. Voices are raised and outcry has been heard.

  • In what areas of your life do you find God leading you, and when do you resist?
  • Think of some of the groups that you are involved in. Was the leadership chosen or imposed? Who participated in the selection of leaders? Who was “heard”?
  • Have there been times when you have regretted remaining silent?

May God bless you in your choices in this coming week.

Trinity Sunday

We have an election on our horizon and who will we vote for? How do we make our choice? Bill Shorten made it clear, this week that he would give his vote to Hilary Clinton if he was in the US. From a distance I understand his thinking but, on what do we base our decision? Each party seems intent on pointing out the faults and fallibilities of the others, and the media put their own spin on every utterance. If there is one thing I have learned in life it’s that everybody has their own version of the truth.

And we have to try and find the truth among all the truths that present themselves to us. It is very hard these days to know who to believe. Everyone is trying to lead us to their version of truth. In 1997, Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair by showing how conditioned we have become to alarmists spreading fear of everything in our environment through junk science. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “Dihydrogen monoxide” because:

  1. It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
  2. It is a major component in acid rain.
  3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
  4. Accidental inhalation can kill you.
  5. It contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
  6. It decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes.
  7. It is found in tumours of terminal cancer patients.

He asked 50 people if they support a ban.
43 said yes
Six were undecided
And only one knew that the chemical is … water.

Truth. Pontius Pilate asked his wife: What is Truth? It’s a question that plagues everyone who tries to do the right thing…

Pentecost

The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, “Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal.” The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found.

The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, “Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?” He said, “No, I mean are you Pentecostal?” Craddock said, “Are you asking me if I am charismatic?” the student said, “I am asking you if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?” He said, “I want to know if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “I don’t know what your question is.” The student said, “Obviously, you are not Pentecostal.” He left.

What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?

In spite of the fact that the church doesn’t know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is “Pentecostal.”

If the church is filled with people who are changed by their faith, if the church is active and alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Anglican!

Sixth Sunday of Easter

In I Corinthians, chapter 13, we are reminded that we can have every form of spiritual gift in the world, but if we don't have love, then we have nothing. And that's why it is so appropriate to talk about love on Mothers Day. Our mothers are usually our first source of love, and for many of us, our mothers are the best representation we have of true, Christ-like love.

In his book, In The Grip of Grace, Bryan Chapell tells us about that kind of love:

“On Sunday, 16 August, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed just after taking off from the Detroit airport. One hundred fifty-five people were killed. One survived: a 4-year- old from Tempe, Arizona, named Cecelia.

“News accounts say when rescuers found Cecelia they did not believe she had been on the plane. Investigators first assumed Cecelia had been a passenger in one of the cars on the highway onto which the airliner crashed. But when the passenger register for the flight was checked, there was Cecelia's name.

“Cecelia survived because, as the plane was falling, Cecelia’s mother, Paula Chican, unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and then would not let her go.”

That sounds to me like a metaphor of the love of God. She wrapped her arms and body around her daughter and would not let her go. It is impossible to overstate how great is a child’s need to know that he or she is loved. To know as a child that one is loved provides a lifetime of inner peace and security. As a child of God, to know that we are held in the loving arms of God who will not let us go, is the assurance of peace throughout the ebb and flow of the waters of life.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all our mothers this day. And to those who miss their mother’s love, peace be with you.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

REFLECTION FROM WORDS FOR WORSHIP

There is an extraordinary image in our text for this week. A city whose gates are never closed in the daylight and where there is never any night. It is an image of openness and safety, a picture of welcome and radical hospitality. Ancient cities needed strong walls and gates that could be locked against danger. This city of God is a place that needs none of that. This is the kind of world God wants for us all. It is the kind of community our church and faith communities need to be in order to reflect God’s desire for the world. What are some practical ways your community of faith can be a city without the need for gates?

Fifth Sunday of Easter

REFLECTION FROM WORDS FOR WORSHIP

For people of our time and culture it is very easy to not pay enough attention to how world and mind shattering Peter’s experience in this week’s text actually was. Like any Jew of his time Peter’s whole identity was invested in his Jewishness and his Jewishness was all about apartness, separation and distinction from every other culture and community on the face of the earth. Jews were Jews and the rest were Gentiles or in Hebrew goy, which was virtually synonymous with heathen. Peter’s vision must have been a spiritual and psychic experience that rocked him to his core. Yet, his experience of Jesus both before and after the resurrection had been so life changing God’s way of seeing the world.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

REFLECTION FROM WORDS FOR WORSHIP

Many of us know the Twenty-Third Psalm almost backwards it is so familiar to us. Perhaps, in our busy and frenetic world, its most poignant line is verse two, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.” We know, almost intuitively, that times of quietness when we can rest our bodies and minds are essential to our health. Yet, it often seems that so little of what we do in our church communities, particularly for those of us in the Protestant tradition of the Church, encourages quietness and contemplation. It is as if we think the whole of discipleship is about what we do and say. It is not. What might your faith community need to do or stop doing in order for people to be encouraged into quietness and contemplation?

Third Sunday of Easter

It is so easy to get caught up in trivial interpretations of scripture and miss the point. Take a look at John 21:11: “Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.” Now, why in heaven’s name was there 153 fish? Have you ever wondered about that? No? Well others have.

Cyril of Alexandria in the 5th century said that the 100 represented the fullness of the gentiles, the 50 symbolized the remnant of Israel and the three of course was there for the Trinity.

Augustine’s theory (5th century) was a little more complicated. He said, there are 10 commandments and 7 is the perfect number of grace and that’s 17 right? Now if you add all the numbers from 1 to 17 together, you know 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 all the way up to 17 you’ll get 153. And not only that but if you were to arrange them with 17 fish in the first row, and 16 in the next row, and 15 in the next row, all the way down to a row of 1 you get a perfect triangle which of course symbolizes the Trinity.

Jerome, he also lived in the 5th century, suggested that there were 153 different types of fish in the sea and it was symbolic of the church reaching all the people in the world.

Personally I have my own theory, want to hear it? I think that it’s mentioned because there were 153 fish in the net.

Here’s another theory of mine: they had to divide them somehow, and so Peter being the Skipper he got 21% or 32 fish, and John being mate got 16% that’s 25 fish, and the other five got 10.5% each or 16 fish….

You see we can get so caught up in really trivial stuff and miss the point that we need to be obedient to Christ, today.