Christ The King – Reflection 2016

In a waiting room this week I read a silly gossip magazine article about the British Royal family. According to this article Prince Andrew is at loggerheads with his older brother, Charles, regarding the slight on his daughters (Beatrice and Eugenie) who do not have official “royal” jobs or residences – while Kate, the wife of Prince William, is a working royal despite her lack of “royal” blood!!! Apparently Beatrice and Eugenie have been taking their anger and jealousy out on Kate!!

You may well ask, “What has this got to do with us?” The thing is our earthly view of royalty is somewhat different to God’s view. The king he gave us in Christ did not wear the trappings of wealth, sit on a velvet and gold throne or live in a beautiful palace.

Our King was born in a stable, was enthroned on a cross and wore a crown of thorns … We cannot celebrate Christmas or the kingship of Christ, without remembering the events of Holy week. The right of birth did not earn Jesus his place as our King. It was his blood spilt, in death on the cross that brought us eternal life and gave Him the right to be King of all eternity.

The readings from Luke 1 and 23 remind us that Christmas and Easter are not like bookends – a pair is nice but you can live with one. Rather these holy days are symbiotic, dependent on each other. The king heralded by Zachariah is merciful, holy and righteous, and brings light to dark places in order to rescue God’s people from fear. This king holds true to his nature even while dying on the cross. He opens the gates of Paradise to a common thief. In modern Australian life, we may overlook the power in the image of a compassionate and merciful king who keeps faith with his people, people living in North Korea, Syria or Afghanistan.

We are well aware of how one thing is reliant on another and that all creation thrives or fails because of the resilience or impairment of a single link in the system. During this week, let us take a moment to pause at the beginning and end of each day, to consider how we might advance your reign of peace and reconciliation by the giving of ourselves in prayer and service.

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

In the gospel for today we read of a meeting between Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and Jesus.

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. (Luke 19- 5-6)

What a wonderful opportunity for Zacchaeus – what an affirmation – that the Son of God had such a strong imperative to be with Zacchaeus. “I must stay at your house” Jesus said. Of all of the people milling around him, Jesus felt he “must” spend time with Zacchaeus! What an incredible privilege! Zacchaeus acted immediately – eager to share time with Jesus. What about you?

Life and the demands of the world are so time consuming that sometimes we may not even hear Jesus invitation to come down from wherever our busyness has taken us – and sadly we forget to be on the lookout for Jesus and miss a possible glimpse of His everyday miracles.

I love to come into the presence of God and spend quality time there. It’s pretty much like setting aside time to have coffee/tea with a friend. Or preparing for a phone call with someone we love. It’s important to set aside time and space away from interruptions… to give our whole attention to the one we am visiting with.

In private prayer, I am not one to use a lot of words. Sometimes I come to God with specific needs, or the prayer requests of parishioners, family and friends but otherwise, I am happy to sit in silence, just waiting on God.

I, personally need times of silence, listening for the footsteps of our Lord – to feel refreshed and energized, which is why, sometimes you will see me sitting quietly before a service. In silence I find the peace of God. I know that there are others in our congregations who have the same need.

On the other hand, I find great joy in our shared worship and being a part of the Body of Christ. There are many who thrive within the noise, and busyness of community, which feeds and nourishes. We are all different. Together we can know the presence of God in sharing of our concerns, sometimes in tears, in shared wisdom, love, encouragement and joy.

Jesus longs for each of us to open our hearts that He might enter in.

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Forgiveness: A series of events has lead me, once again, to reflect on forgiveness. I guess it’s something we all hope to receive … but sometimes find it hard to offer to others.

Forgiveness is very easy to talk or even to write about, but we need the power of the Holy Spirit to actually forgive. For the Christian, forgiveness is not optional. It is mandatory.

Sydney pastor, Tim Costello, tells of an incident at his inner city church. Quite unexpectedly, while at communion, one person spoke about his shock that he would be accepted at the altar though he was a very great sinner… the man (still at the altar) then gave a very graphic account of his misdemeanours. Other people were also moved to individual confession. With one such confession, a number of communicants were moved to gather around the “sinner” to offer forgiveness and to pray for healing from a particular “addiction.”

It got me wondering how people would react on Sunday, if the same sort of thing happened. I suspect that there would be a certain amount of discomfort. But, after the initial shock, I wonder, would we have the grace to offer healing and forgiveness in Jesus name? Would we still be able to look at each other with love? Or would the revelations change the way we perceive one another?

Jesus ate and drank with sinners… he knew their failings, and, if he didn’t, someone was bound to tell him. Regardless, he persisted in reaching out to those who were shunned by the religious leaders of the time. How would we feel if the undisclosed sins our a parish friends were suddenly made public?

A young member of our congregation once commented that it is easier (less “scary”) to confess to an unseen God than it is to confess to a parent. I suspect that it might be the case with most of us. We make a general confession, at our services, but no one around us is likely to know our individual sins. We keep our “darker” side to ourselves, rarely trusting our whole identity to others, perhaps out of pride, but partly because, while we are pretty sure that God will forgive us, we are not so sure about our Christian brothers and sisters.

We are all sinners in need of forgives, but we are also, by the grace of our calling into fellowship with Jesus called to forgive others.

Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.’ Go ahead – stretch out that hand of forgiveness to someone today. Write that letter, make that call, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. And always remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom: ‘Forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an act of your will.’ To be forgiving can be a wonderful act of encouragement, not just for the person forgiven, but also for yourself.

May you know the healing power of forgiveness this week.

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The gospel for today (Luke 16:1-13) is a complex passage with countless interpretations. It is a strange parable that has stumped biblical interpreters throughout history. Perhaps it is a Robin Hood story about class and unjust economic structures? Perhaps it is a comment on the nature of God’s tent home verses earthly homes? What can’t be denied is that Jesus talks about money and this passage has us talking about money too. This is not to be hushed up, whispered about and kept to people’s private lives. Economics, finances and wealth are topics of faith. In a conversation with a woman who is a financial planner and advisor she made the observation that the more money people have the more concerned they are about keeping it. Here Jesus suggests that wealth does not provide the security or stability we seek.

What is certain about the parable is that it is a comment on the culture of the time. First-century culture was organized and orchestrated by strict social rules. The rules of reciprocal hospitality were in no way optional. Rather they were the supporting ligaments that bound together status and honour, safeguarding roles and responsibilities through right relationships. The dishonest manager has no doubts that he will be able to collect on the favours owed him when the time comes. He will get by, despite his looming unemployment, because he knows how to work the system, or in the more contemporary terms of network, because he knows how to make the net work.

Jesus doesn’t admire the thorns that bar the manager’s dubious situation. Neither does Jesus concern himself with the man’s self-serving character. What Jesus focuses on is the fruit that results from the manager’s shrewdness (machinations?). Jesus sees a man unafraid to push the accepted limits in order to bring about a needed change. And he sees in this shrewdness something that his disciples might well learn from.

Let us serve God through all our lives – our gifts and skills, time, talents, resources and money. Let us be faithful guardians of that which God has given.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

I am aware that sometimes it seems that our children and grandchildren care nothing for our hard earned wisdom. It sometimes seems that they are not willing to listen and so we feel that our efforts to impart what we have learned seems pointless. The following was posted on a blog 21st Nov 2013 as a reminder that we should not despair.

Dear G: Will it even make a difference? It feels like the world is so mean and sometimes I feel like teaching my kids about kindness is just a losing battle.

Dear Friend: Chase brought this home yesterday. His teacher asked him to write an essay about “tolerance.” This is what he came up with – all by himself. I think it does. I think teaching kindness makes a difference. Don’t give up. G

No Matter What

By: Chase M, age 10

Tolerance is one of the Laws of Life. It is any community’s foundation, what it is built upon. You can have tolerance for the homeless, neglected animals or someone who you don’t think wears the right clothes or has the right hair. But I believe in the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I’m going to give you an example of this. Say a group of preteen kids is out on the playground laughing, playing and simply having an all-around good time. A little boy with a special need like autism or ADHD or Down Syndrome or something else walks up to them and shyly but bravely asks if he can play. The “leader” or oldest in the group says no way and proceeds to make fun of the little boy and push him away. Now, let’s reverse from here right to the part when the older boy is making fun of the little boy. First of all, I absolutely HATE when kids are made fun of by other kids, especially older kids.

I think and know that making fun of someone who might have a condition that might make them look a bit different than most kids and that THEY CAN’T HELP (emphasis on those three words) is just as stupid as making fun of them for their gender or the colour of their skin. It is proven that the entire human race has an instinct inside of them to either remove themselves from a bullying situation or to support the bully to make themselves feel higher or better than the other kid. Well, to that I say BOO, and it doesn’t have to be that way. You have the power to make a decision bigger than your mere instincts. You have the capability to be a hero and step outside off your own comfort zone to stop bullying in your community. We can do this. One by one, community-by-community, upstander by upstander- (don’t stand by stand UP!) we can help kids nationwide. With everyone helping, it is possible. So step outside of your comfort zone, break your little instinct shell surrounding you, and make a change.

TODAY, NO MATTER WHAT!

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…