5th Sunday in Lent – 22nd March 2015

On Thursday I hosted a group of clergy for our Area Deanery Meeting. The time together consisted of Worship, a meal and a meeting. The “hosting” part of the day went well – with the menu being a real hit.

BUT – I had been asked to give a short homily on the readings and, unfortunately I got myself into a bit of a “tizz”, feeling incredibly inadequate with clergy who have more up to date scholarship than I do. I knew what I wanted to say but faced with the reality of my peers I confess to panicking and left aside the object lesson I had planned for fear of the judgments of the “learned”. I was so concerned about the opinions of my peers that I was unable to act and speak according to my calling.

The readings of the day told of Abrahams close relationship with God (and the covenant God made with Abraham – Genesis 17:3-9) and Jesus trying to explain his relationship with God to a group of skeptical and, increasingly, angry Pharisees (John 8:51-59).

Abraham’s relationship with God did not depend on prior reading or academic training. It was dependent on the suspension of disbelief, openness to the divine in creation and a trust that is almost childlike in its simplicity. The Pharisees came at “God” from a very different place… they relied on their endless books of law and written and well debated knowledge. They had read the prophets but were not open to the advent of God in their midst. Their expressions of “faith” are seen as hypocritical assertions to protect their own power, wealth and the maintenance of the status quo.

Jesus spoke from a deeper knowledge, more intimate knowledge, and he did so without concern for the opinion of others or for his own safety.

This, in fact was the message I wanted to give, without sounding self-indulgent or “wishy-washy”. I’m sure I came across as both!

The reality is that I can only truly share my faith in God, and introduce Jesus to others, if I speak from what I know… not from what I am told or read … but what I know from my own experience of the presence of God in my life. If I try to please others I am false and my words do not ring true.

The same is true for us all.

Blessings

Reverend Shan

 

4th Sunday in Lent B – 15th March 2015

I read a story this week about a man who truly wished to live a holy life. He spoke to his rabbi and was honestly able to say that he had not broken any of the 10 commandments.

‘I see’ said the rabbi, ‘So you haven’t broken any of the commandments?’

‘That’s right,’ the man replied with pride.

‘But have you kept the commandments?’ The rabbi asked.

‘What do you mean?’ said the man.

‘I mean have you honoured Gods holy name? Have you kept holy the Sabbath day? Have you loved and honoured your parents? Have you sought to defend and preserve life? When last did you tell your wife that you love her? Have you shared your goods with the poor? Have you defended the good name of anyone? When last did you put yourself out to help a neighbour?’

The man was taken aback, but on reflection he realized that until now he had been merely intent on avoiding wrongdoing. Surprisingly many people think that this is the highest measure of virtue. The Rabbi offers a new vision of goodness – a new and more challenging path to follow – not merely avoiding evil but actually doing good!

We, ourselves, must be careful not to make the same mistake as this man. We must not approach the commandments in a negative way because this leads to doing the bare minimum. We must approach them in a positive way. And we we must keep them in the right spirit. Our obedience should be motivated by love, not fear. We don’t keep the commandments so that God will love us but because God already loves us!

Jesus clarified the law by underlying every word and sentence of the law, with love. In truth the law of love is THE LAW!

Many Blessings

Reverend Shan

Lent 3B – 8th March 2015

Jesus clears the temple declaring that it has been made into a marketplace, corrupted by the ways of human beings. This is a reminder to us about the nature of church – both the building itself and the nature of ministry. Another word for church is “sanctuary”. It is a holy place, a refuge and a place of protection.

The church is also a gathering of people that seek after justice. It is this that Jesus seeks to encourage in his ministry. Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

I am struggling to come to terms with the actions of the Indonesian government.
“Two Australians listed for execution in Indonesia have been given a brief reprieve, while the country’s president has confirmed Jakarta will not be taking up Australia’s offer for a prisoner swap.

Indonesia’s justice and human rights minister, Yasonna Laoly, told the ABC there would be a “short delay” to the next round of executions, which includes drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.”

I do not, and never have, agreed with the death penalty. I know we may feel powerless in the face of this situation. I am reminded of the following…

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will!”
I am shouting out my disapproval and praying from the depths of my being for these 2 men, the other 8 people awaiting the same fate, and their families!

Blessings

Reverend Shan