Strengthened and Equipped
This week we continue with Jesus’ teaching about himself as the “bread of life” – saying “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.” Undoubtedly many misunderstood and thought Jesus was referring to some cannibalistic pagan rite. We know that this is not what he meant at all.
As I said to you last week, we must read the books of our Christian Library (The Bible) in context. We understand that Jesus is speaking metaphorically.
But what do we do with the very militaristic metaphor that is offered by Paul in this weeks reading from the epistle to the Ephesians, and how do we make sense of it in a nation in which our young people know little of war, fear the possibility of war and pray for peace?
For some people today (Christian or otherwise) the very thought of involvement in war is abhorrent.
But Paul writes in a world where military might was the order of the day. In the face of such might, he was aware of the difficulty of maintaining a hold on faith and peace, so he wrote of the sorts of safeguards that were required in order that we might fight against that power and retain all that is important for eternal life.
“Roman armour and weaponry,” says Paul Turley in this week’s Seasons of the Spirit tip “was the state of the art, the best in the world.” He then offers us something to ponder;
“…perhaps we must clothe ourselves in the best that our best minds can come up with. What if we embraced the best thinking on conflict resolution? The most forward thinking of international laws and courts of justice? The most technically sophisticated responses to the alleviation of poverty and hunger? The cleverest weapons to fight climate change? The most comprehensive and international resistance to evil regimes?”
My question for you is “how do you read Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 6:10-20? What does it mean to you? How do you protect yourself and prepare for life each and every day?
Last week I wrote asking for reasons why we (as a congregation) do not enjoy reading the bible alone, or why we do not see the bible as a powerful guide.
This is an important issue especially in the light of the series of readings we have been following regarding Jesus as the BREAD of LIFE. Reading The Bible, reflecting on Jesus’ teachings and actions, sharing in communion, prayer, praise and worship… along with Christian fellowship, have all been mentioned as means by which we take in, or feed upon, the Bread of Life. To nourish our bodies we are encouraged to eat healthy foods several times a day – and many of us do this almost “religiously” – but to nourish our souls for eternal life it seems that many of us are barely on starvation rations. For some, the feeding of our souls only takes place on Sundays! One meal a week is hardly enough to live on!
The response to the (NCD) survey questions regarding prayer were very low with Question 77 (Times of prayer are an inspiring experience for me) scoring very negatively. I suspect this is because we misunderstand prayer. We usually see prayer as being those moments when we fall on our knees as a last resort, in absolute desperation, when we are feeling particularly lost and fearful – or our Sunday intercessions in which the majority of us listen to the words of an intercessor whose role is to gather our prayers and offer them before God. In this case we can be disconected to the point that we are merely observers of another human being and somehow not connecting with God at all. Sometimes we read our lists of names to God – even telling God what we expect by way of answer – but how often do we stop to listen to God? I came across the following cartoon this week which makes the point very well.
Prayer is part of our ongoing conversation with God, with whom we are in a loving 2-way relationship. Perhaps, this week, we could simply take some time to sit with God in silence. If you need a focus for your time with God, try beginning by taking a few deep breaths before simply asking thanking God for being with you in the quiet. Then slowly read the gospel set for next week … asking God to open your eyes to whatever he wants to share with you. May your prayer times be times of inspiration this week.
Love and blessings
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ. On Monday evening a few of us gathered with The Reverend Ralph Bowles to discover, and learn from, the results of our latest NCD survey. There was much to celebrate in that it became clear that our parish is improving in all areas. This being said it is still a sad fact of our parish life that there remain some disturbing areas of weakness in our faith community at St Paul’s.
I say disturbing because they relate to our experience of faith and prayer – most particularly in our own individual faith and prayer life. The 2 lowest ranking questions relate to the bible.
Question 72 states “The Bible is a powerful guide for me in the decisions of everyday life”. The (large) majority of respondents said this was untrue in their own lives. Question 84 states “I enjoy reading the bible on my own.” Again the great response was negative.
Admittedly our response is better than when the survey was initially undertaken but it is still not good. AND – sadly, our parish is not alone, as this seems to be the trend in the Diocese of Brisbane. The Natural Church Development project has shown and discerned that growing congregations are those where individuals read their bible and use it as a guide for life.
I would be interested in knowing the reasons for the responses in our parish. So I ask you all to reflect on your reasons. Why don’t YOU enjoy reading the bible on your own? Why don’t YOU see the bible as a powerful tool for your decision-making? For instance, Is it lack of understanding? Perhaps the bible translation you are reading is in a language you find difficult to decipher. Perhaps it is a lack of time?
I do not ask so as to make judgment. In fact, personally I am concerned that I am failing you in this area. I simply ask so that perhaps we might, together, discern a way in which we can change the trend! Why? Because I believe this would help us to grow in faith, as individual and as a community of faith. Please send me an email or jot down your thoughts and get them to me … anonymously f you like… but not at the door of the church please as, at the beginning and end of Sunday services I have a lot on my mind and can not keep all of your comments at the forefront of my concentration.
Love and blessings