Reflections 26th September 2010 – Clutter, Rubbish and Too Much Paper

My office desk is a mess…. I am drowning in paper! Advertising for this, instructions for that, old sermons, invitations, letters, cards, pew bulletins, diocesan canons etc… It is time to sort out the clutter, empty the rubbish and file away things that really need to be retained.

I was doing fine in this department ‘till about three weeks ago when I had a couple of trips away and things just began to pile up. Then, as one thing piled on top of another, it seemed impossible to find a starting point for the clean up.

You know, spiritually, we can be a bit like that as well. Week by week we take in the word of God through our bible reading and church services, we receive a good lesson from life, a loving gesture, then a painful hurt, a negative word and an unkind comment.

There is exhaustion, someone offers a word of encouragement, or kindly advice, and then comes sadness, illness and grief, soothed with prayer and forgiveness and the word of God.

Life events happen so quickly that we barely have the chance to deal with one before the next event (positive or challenging) impacts on us. Before we know it we feel messed up and confused. We are in much the same state as my paper covered desk!

And, just as the paper on my desk needs sorting so, the clutter of life needs sorting. The thing is, if we leave it all jumbled together, we run the risk of losing sight of what is really valuable.

Every so often we need to do a Spiritual Spring Clean. We may need to let go of old hurts, forgive past wrongs, and replace broken, unfulfilled dreams with fresh and hopeful plans. At such times it is wise to begin with prayer, asking God for guidance, then carefully begin to sort the clutter into piles… separating out the “things” which we find life giving from those that are destructive of ourselves, and others, and our relationship with God. Once we have completed the sorting it is much easier to deal with what is destructive or unproductive, one thing at a time, without losing or destroying what is valuable.

May your “Spring Cleaning” unearth many forgotten valuables.

Many Blessings

Reverend Shan

Reflections 19th September 2010

This week I was invited to visit the Presentation Spirituality Centre in Kooralgin Street. Knowing that the centre was so close to St Paul’s was an added incentive for me as we contemplated our move to Manly.
I have a deep need for times of quiet, peaceful reflection and prayer. Such times are a necessity for my own spiritual and physical health and for my ministry within the parish and community. I know that I am not alone with this need.
When you check into some hotel rooms these days you may find that rather than a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign there is a new message you can hang on your doorknob to keep the housekeeper away. Instead the message now reads “Peace and Quiet.”
People are not just looking to keep disruptions and disturbances at bay. They are looking to find something positive. They are searching in life for some “peace and quiet.” Or if “quiet” is too much to ask, just some “Peace.”
It is doubtful you’ll find real “peace and quiet” in a sterile hotel room surrounded by the sounds of other guests, electronics, elevators, street noises, and airplanes on their approach path. But the quest for somewhere and something that offers “peace and quiet” on demand is a dream that seems harder and harder to realize in a TGIF world.
TGIF: that is, a Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook culture. All those wonderful electronic connections that make it possible for us to stay in touch and stay informed make it almost impossible to encounter “peace and quiet.” And even if you are not into all of the wonders of this electronic age, chances are that, wherever you are, the incessant ring of someone’s mobile phone will shatter the peace.
It seems to me that the twenty-first century is eroding the existence of “peace and quiet.” It is precisely this promise of “Peace and Quiet” that the pastoral epistle of First Timothy promises. Paul indicates that it is in following Jesus, we find the way to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” May you find deep and abiding “Peace” in your week!
Reverend Shan

Reflections 12th September 2010

On Monday I had a couple of conversations with people who voiced concern about the plight of those caught up in wars and natural disasters. There was also criticism of the “moral laxity’ of wealthier countries who seem to have neglected the plight of less fortunate nations. My answer to them and to you all is this… In the end we really only have power to change one life, and that is our own. The problems of the world may seem too difficult for a lone voice to resolve but, if we all work on getting our own hearts prepared, our own lives in order and relationships (with God and our neighbors) set right we become a beacon of hope in our families and our communities. Our lives and actions point to Christ and prepare the way for Him to enter other hearts.
Each of us has a God given purpose. Sometimes it is fear of failure that freezes us in our tracks, on other occasions we fail to act because we feel that our lone voice, our single actions, won’t make a difference but, as I said last Sunday, poet Edward Everett Hale put the reality like this:

I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

You all have a reason for “being”! If you are new to worship at St Paul’s, if you are visiting with us this week, or returning after an absence, Welcome. We pray that you might find refreshment for your journey in our midst.
Rev Shan

Reflections 5th September 2010 – Identifying with the poor

Last weekend St Peter’s Youth Group had a night out in the grounds behind St Paul’s Rectory. They were to experience life in a third world country. It was only over night but it was an uncomfortable experience for them all. I wonder how the rest of us would manage?
Here are 9 Steps to Third World Living
  1. take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?
  2. throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.
  3. all kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue the moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.
  4. dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.
  5. take away the house and move the family into the tool shed.
  6. no more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away, but only two of your seven children attend anyway, and they walk.
  7. throw out your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.
  8. get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one third and your moneylender 10 percent.
  9. find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy–so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.
If we are to empty ourselves, as Christ did, in order to identify with fallen humanity, we can also through in a hefty serving of grief. Imagine the grief which must overwhelm the victims of the Pakistan floods, who have lost all of the above… and many of their loved ones. Will we watch in silence or lift our hands to help and voices in Prayer?
Rev Shan