28th July 2013 – 10th Sunday After Pentecost C – OS 17C

Prayer

Have you struggled with prayer? Does prayer seem like an exercise in eloquent speech that you just don’t possess?

Prayer is not a mysterious practice reserved only for clergy and the religiously devout. Prayer is simply communicating with God— It is a two-way conversation, listening and talking to God. Believers can pray from the heart, freely, spontaneously, and in their own words.

Leading Corporate prayers in worship offers a special challenge for some. Corporate prayer is not a sermon to the congregation. Again, it is conversation with God, not the congregation, so the intercessor doesn’t explain the reason particular prayers are used. The intercessor gathers together the prayers of thanks and needs of the community… according to that persons understanding. We add our own petitions in silence. It is inappropriate to pull them up and admonish them for not including a particular concern on our own hearts.

Shared/group prayers are similar, but as we converse with God, we allow others to hear our thanksgiving or matters of concern, thus inviting them to add their prayers to ours.

Personal prayer is as individual and private as our relationship with God. We can trust that our prayers are safe with God and that God understands our deepest needs and desires no matter how inadequate we feel.

In the gospel for today (Luke 11:1-13) Jesus offers a way of prayer. It includes addressing God according to the relationship we share; there is praise and thanksgiving, prayer for our needs, and acknowledgement that all things are in the hands of God. I love the following prayer of Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)…

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Blessings

Reverend Shan

 

21st July 2013 – 9th Sunday After Pentecost C – OS 16C

The Jesuit author, Gerald M. Fagin, writes about reverence with great clarity. “The reverent person notices and responds to the mystery of life and the sacredness of all things.  Reverence is an attitude of dependence and humility…a longing for something greater.” It seems that this is where we find Mary in our gospel reading for today.

While we need to be careful about making value judgements on the activities of Mary and Martha,  the text makes it clear that, at that particular point of time, Mary chose the needed ‘one thing’. Reverence is key to that one thing, however it might be defined.  Humility before the mystery of God is another way of saying a person is open to learn and grow.  It seems that Martha is caught up, not only with activity but a little envy, frustration and judgement of Mary.

Last week, I made it clear that the question “Who is my neighbour?” should be turned inward as we examine ourselves and ask “To whom am I being a neighbour?” This week we are also called to take a look at ourselves, rather than make value judgements on others.

Each person is responsible for his or her own relationship with God and activity in and for Gods kingdom. Each one is responsible for finding balance within their own life. The question today is “how is your relationship with God? And  what are you doing to share the kingdom of God with others?”

Blessings

Reverend Shan

14th July 2013 – 8th Sunday After Pentecost C – OS 15C

Last week, we read that Jesus told his disciples “the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few” and on this theme, the last thing Jesus did before he left this earth was give us the great commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). That is our primary purpose.

It is not our only purpose to be sure. We are to work towards alleviating the many forms of suffering in the world. We are also to be responsible members of our community supporting community organisations and working for peace and justice in the world. And we are to maintain a house of worship and gather each week to worship God and to teach the sacred Word.

But, as vital as these things are they are not our main business. Our main business is to introduce the world to Jesus to the extent that people become his disciples, living the Christ life in such a way that the whole world is touched.

I have recently been made aware that some of you may not be aware of some of the ways in which we are attempting to fulfil Jesus great commission in this area.

Despite low numbers of young people in church I receive many requests for baptism. Sadly, those who seek baptism are often not baptised themselves. Parents and Godparents are rarely confirmed and have no understanding of  what it means to take “communion”… Nor do they understand the language of our worship. Parents come, however, with the best of intentions and bring their families and friends who are usually even more confused about the language and traditions of the church.

So, if I include baptism in the regular worship, the majority of those who visit feel excluded and confused for much of the service. This is aggravated by the fact that “regulars” become frustrated and annoyed by the talking, fidgeting etc this generates.

Hence, after consultation with wardens and parish council (within the first few months of my tenure) it was agreed that I would try taking a special service of Baptism, usually on the first Sunday of the month. First, I meet with the family and talk through the process and expectations, then I gather parents, Godparents etc for a “rehearsal” so as to familiarise people with the place and the language of the service. Each parent and Godparent is asked to consider their role in the life of the child. They prepare their own prayers of thanks for the child, hopes for the future and commitment. So, as well as making promises using the language of the church… they think about and express their faith in their own language.

Please note that this is not a private service. The congregation is represented by a member of Mothers Union who presents each child with a gift and a copy of Luke’s Gospel. Everyone is welcome! In fact, it would be a wonderful witness if more of our congregation came along to welcome the children and their families. I offer my deepest apologies for not making this invitation more clearly. As I will be away in the first week of August, there will be a baptism next Sunday at 11:00am. Please join us.

Blessings

Reverend Shan

7th Sunday After Pentecost C – 7th July 2013

This week we began a new month and a new financial year. Billy Diehm, from our local Christian Radio Station (96.5) wrote “The month of June has been a significant month for 96five. Not only did we hit our on air appeal target but we had a team focus on affecting the spiritual climate of the city. Across the month of June we challenged the staff to stop what they were doing at midday and pray the Lord’s Prayer over the ministry of 96five.

This has been an incredibly unifying opportunity for the team as well as bringing us to focus on God’s purposes for 96five in creating a new normal in the city. We are a staff of Boomers, X’s and Y’s plus nearly every denomination is covered across the team. Hearing mobile phone alarms or calendar alerts going off every midday was exciting as we saw God do things in the life of staff members and listeners.

I would encourage you to consider something like this in your church. Having everyone praying the same prayer at the same time each day for a season is incredibly powerful and helps to refocus everyone to the ministry you are part of.” 

Personally I think this was/is a wonderful initiative and a great example of Christian leadership, witness and action. I believe it is also a challenge to us as a Christian community. Yes, it is true that many of us meet and pray together on occasions other than Sunday… but what a wonderful community building exercise and witness to pray the same prayer at the same time each day?

I challenge you all to join me in praying the Lord’s Prayer with our focus on our local community… at Mid Day, each day, for the remainder of July… wherever you are and what ever you are doing. Who knows what wonders God may unfold?

Love and Blessings

Reverend Shan

 

30th June 2013 – 6th Sunday After Pentecost C

At the end of Luke chapter 9 we read the story about Jesus’ final approach to Jerusalem. On his way he meets three men who wish to follow him and he warns them that it will cost them dearly to do so. To the three he says, you will be homeless, your family will be left behind, and your past life must be forgotten. As you can imagine the three, who were once so certain, are now hesitant. This story is about commitment or the lack thereof. It is about Jesus “setting his face” and three men “turning their heads.”

We do well to remember the words of Martin Luther – “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

A guard in charge of a lighthouse along a dangerous coast was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could read. Another needed some for an engine. The guard saw each as a worthy request and gave some oil to satisfy all. By the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse was dry. That night the beacon was dark and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than one hundred lives were lost. The lighthouse attendant explained what he had done and why. But the prosecutor replied, “You were given only one task: to keep the light burning. Every other thing was secondary. You have no excuse.”

Temptation is a choice between good and evil. But perhaps more insidious than temptation is conflict where one must choose between two good options. The lighthouse keeper in our story found himself in such a conflict situation. So also are the would-be disciples in today’s gospel story.

Perhaps the first task of each Christian is to discover God’s particular call for the individual – then set our face in the direction of that call.

For me that call is summed up in the two great commandments- “to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength – and love my neighbor as myself.” What about you? What is God’s call on your life?

Blessings

Reverend Shan