Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – 16th September 2018

Jesus asks: “Who am I?” And I’m asking, So what?

In 2018, who is Jesus for you? Maybe you’re thinking this is a bit of a nonsense question. But, humour me. Who is Jesus for you and what difference does that knowledge, relationship, experience make in your life today and beyond? For some of us, it is not blatantly obvious who Jesus is, or our concept can change, just like Peter’s did. Of course, we say, Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God, an equal person in the Trinity, the one whom we pledge our faith through, in the Nicene creed every Sunday, but who and what else is he to us?

Scholars might argue, that Mark’s gospel answers the question of who Jesus is, by taking us back to the very heart of the gospel, to that critical moment when the truth of what God was doing in and through Jesus, comes into its sharpest focus. It clarifies once and for all, the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”

Or does it?

My second question: So, What? is more evocative. What does this question actually ask of you, in your everyday life? Do you think perhaps, that its already all been worked out for you? Do you simply believe what you’ve been told? If we could personalise the question, as though someone was asking these questions of us, then what would the answer be? Who are you? And how is your life informed by who you believe Jesus is right now in your life?

One of the most satisfying areas of ministry for me is bereavement ministry; funerals. During the funeral service there is that reminder and reflection on the deceased life; the eulogy. This is usually offered by a family member, or someone so close as to be considered family. This reflection on a person’s life, often brings clarity, insight and knowledge to those listening. What’s really wonderful about this reflection time for me, is to hear about the loved one, from another’s perspective and experience. It is often a gift, to hear stories about someone whom we have known intimately, from another’s life focus. Even when we have known a person our whole life, we still don’t actually know them, the way another does; each relationship is unique to the people within that relationship. This is the gift and beauty of our relationship with God; its unique to us. Our story and God’s story are inextricable linked and connected, whether we see it or not.

So, I’ll pose my questions again; who is Jesus to you? and so what?

How does your knowledge or concept of who Jesus is for you in 2018 inform or enliven you? How has your story and Jesus’ story, intersected and so what? How has your life been influenced or guided by this relationship? How have you taken up your cross and followed the one, you would call Saviour, Lord? Or, how have you, like Peter, perhaps failed to understand? Is your heart set on human things rather than the divine? And what difference does it make? Big questions I know. But perhaps you might like to ponder these and others as you move from Sunday worship into the rest of the week.

So, Who is Jesus for you? and, what difference does he make?

Have a great week
Shalom (God’s deep abiding peace)
Donna

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 26th August 2018

Should priests be paid to pray?

When is the start of my work week? Is it on Monday morning like you, or is it on Thursday morning? Are priests supposed to have days off? If we look at the nature of vocation, days off are not even worth a mention. Vocation or calling is a compulsion by God to be for God, so are there days off?

Some weeks I feel like I have limitless flexibility with astoundingly little to do. I can write a sermon at the dog park for example, while the dogs exercise themselves, or come home for lunch, do the housework, or even have a nap to compensate for a 4 am start. But then there are other days that feel like I’ve been thrown into a marathon I never had the chance to train for. Emails get missed, hospital visits get rushed, or ditched, and we eat one or two too many throw together, or leftover dinners at home. In one go, I can see how I could easily become either a workaholic or dead lazy.

To be a parish priest is to live in a world of bizarre rhythms and punctuations. I don’t actually ever clock on or off, because its not a job its a vocation and I love it. This is complicated by the fact that essentially, I work for a volunteer organisation. This means I need to be available when volunteers are, which is usually after hours or on the weekend. On the other hand, I also work in an institution that looks like a business, with regular office hours, staff meetings and logistical and canonical requirements.

So in order for me to fulfill my vocation, I am paid a stipend, as opposed to a salary. Many folk don’t understand the difference. Quite simply, a stipend is a payment for not task deal. It is paid so one can be instead of do. A salary is task orientated, one is paid to do!

The nature of our work defies measurement, we are free, to live into a slower, healthier,
more prayerful rhythm of life in “defiance of the norms of our frenetically paced society.” This means, that when I am asked to pray for someone, I can and do.

So should priests be paid to pray? No, because priests aren’t paid to do anything. Priests are paid so that taking care of life’s basic needs doesn’t detract from their vocation.

So, if we’re not paid to do any of the things we schedule, write, or facilitate, then all that we do do constitutes a gift. In other words, the church isn’t actually paying us to be there on Sunday. The church is paying us so that we can sleep in our beds the night before. We’re not paid to preach, or pray, or administer the sacraments. To think that we are, cheapens those beautiful moments by stirring in a transactional flavour. We’re given this allowance, so that we can pray for free.

I’ve learned an important thing, it is not ‘when’ I pray, but that I ‘do’ pray, not when I spend time with my family but how I’m present with them. This distinction is a great gift for a person who feels compelled to constantly earn her pay.

Prayers for a blessed week
Shalom Donna

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 19th August 2018

A reflection from 1 Kings

This week in the Old Testament, we hear of the enthronement of King Solomon, son of David. He is but a boy when placed on the throne, but is discerning and already wise. So wise in fact, that he asks God for wisdom to govern fairly and justly, rather than for long life and riches. God is suitably impressed and declares that if Solomon lives a righteous life, like David his father, he would get all he has asked for, and so much more. But, was David righteous? I remember how David took Bathsheba in an adulterous manner and then had her husband killed, so he could keep her. Not righteous in my reckoning. But God says David is righteous. Many of us believe that righteousness is the opposite of sin. If David sinned, how is he righteous? And what of the churches teaching on sin and righteousness?

The church teaches that every human is sinful. Because of this, we need to confess our sin and receive absolution and forgiveness from God. But is that all we do? If you were to ask 1000 people what sin is, you would get a thousand different answers. Most of us, even though we are often taught the same thing, have a vastly different idea about sin. Now most people, might say; that sins are wrongs, confessed, absolved and forgiven. Sin has a scriptural base. Sin is bad. What they might not tell you, is how sin affects them personally. What they believe their personal sin is. Things like, ‘I shouldn’t have said, or done, or thought differently. I must be better. I must be more. I am hopeless. I don’t deserve this. I am unworthy, I am sinful’.

Now this kind of thinking is dangerous, but very human. One because it is hidden, insidious and destructive and two, because its not true. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you do, say, or think, how you live, your lifestyle, your gender, age, sexuality, piety, or righteousness. Ultimately, sin is separation from God. When you think you’re not good enough and even God can’t love you, or forgive you, or want you, you are separated from God’s abiding and indwelling love of you, for yourself. This is sin.

God has created you in all your beauty and complexity, to live and have your being in relationship with God. Everything you do, including confession, is to foster this relationship with God and its good. Everything you do which negates yourself, also negates God. This is sin. In short, sin is our human condition of separation from our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

The absolute genius of Christ’s life and sacrifice, is that Jesus was never separated from God and therefore never sinned. He remained in relationship with God, his whole life, until he took our sin, our very human life of separation, into himself declaring, God why have you forsaken me? Jesus who lived a sin free; zero separation life from God, took our completely separated life from God and died in our place. This was the only way to forever connect us to the love and forgiveness of God for ever. It could be said, that Jesus is the answer to original sin.

During confession this week, I want you think about how you have sinned, separated yourself from God’s forgiveness and love. Then imagine God’s joy in you, when you return to God’s embrace. You are loved, cherished and adored by your God in relationship with you.

Have an awesome week, working on correcting your own relationship with God. Shalom (God’s deep abiding, indwelling peace) be with you.

Donna (Locum Vicar)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – 12th August 2018

In the first reading today we have the beginning of God’s response to Job:

From the heart of the tempest, the Lord gave Job his answer…’Who put the sea behind closed doors?… come thus far and no further …I marked the bounds it was not to cross.’

In scripture, the stormy sea is often used a as symbol of chaos and the power of evil. We read today’s Gospel in light of this. It is not simply a story about a storm at sea,. It represents Jesus as the one who has conquered the power and the force of evil. This was an important story for the early church struggling against powerful opposition. The image of a small boat battling against a heavy sea and a violent storm fitted the early Church well.

The imagery will always be apt. Job’s questions, the struggle with pain and suffering, the ‘Whys?’ we never answer, the strength of the influences that work against decency and goodness – in all this we need the assurance of God’s presence and God’s pledge that goodness and right will win in the end.

God is With Us
Reflections for Sundays
Michael Morwood MSC

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – 5th August 2018

This is what the kingdom of God is like………

Gospel

The literal meaning of ‘kingdom’ is ‘rule’. Jesus is trying to describe what the rule of God is like. Clearly, he does not describe this in terms of rules and laws.

Rather, he uses stories to describe God’s extraordinary love and mercy. Using that as a basis, Jesus then calls on his hearers to love and forgive as graciously as God loves and forgives. Then, and only then, will God’s ‘rule’ be evident among us.

Today’s Gospel highlights that God’s rule is already active among us, even when it does not seem evident….night and day…sprouting and growing like the seed that is planted in the field. It might be like a very small seed, but the possibilities are great.

God is With Us
Reflections for Sundays
Michael Morwood MSC

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – 29th July 2018

Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.

Gospel

So often people seem to imagine Jesus as someone who breezed through life, unruffled, knowing everything, and not at all like us because, well, he was God! And in that attitude of mind the truth of the /incarnation gets lost, that he was human like us.

There are times, then, when it is helpful to stop and consider seriously the words of the Gospels which speak of Jesus’ human condition.

In today’s Gospel it is not so much the tiredness and the hunger that draw our attention. It is more that fact that own relatives thought he was a madman and wanted to lock him away.

How do you imagine he felt when his relatives made their intentions clear?

God is With Us
Reflections for Sundays
Michael Morwood MSC

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – 22nd July 2018

I am the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt.
Responsorial Psalm

The Hebrew people knew exactly what they meant by being ‘saved’ – it was the passing from slavery into freedom.

We tend to think of salvation in terms of ‘getting to heaven’. It can be helpful to us to think of the reality of salvation in terms of our lived experience. We would then reflect on ways we have experienced, with God’s help, transition from lack of freedoms to freedom, negative attitudes to positives ones, disunity to unity, selfishness to sharing, isolation to community, disbelief to belief etc.

When we reflect in this fashion we become aware of God’s work of salvation as personal and on-going. We can then personally relate with the words of today’s response psalm,

I freed you should from the burden….
You called in distress and I saved you.

God is With Us
Reflections for Sundays
Michael Morwood MSC

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – 15th July 2018

All my being, bless God’s holy name.

We acknowledge fairly readily that we as human beings are unique on this planet of ours. We have intelligence and free will. We can love.

We are creatures before the Creator, and in the immensity and vastness of creation we are unique in that we can consciously give God praise for it all.

We can praise God in a way that the material world, with all its grandeur and beauty, cannot. For we can praise with hearts and minds, with words and with songs.

We can adore God with praise that all the multi million types of plant life cannot express for all their wonder and diversity.

We can praise God in a way the animals can only suggest with their movements.

In us the material, the plant, and the animal world find expression: we can bless and praise Good, conscious of what we are doing. We can pray this prayer on behalf of our planet.

God is With Us
Reflections for Sundays
Michael Morwood MSC

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – 8th July 2018

No need to recall the past; no need to think about what was done before.
See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light, can you not see it?

We should not take these words about recalling the past literally. We must keep recalling the ways God has been revealed to us in the past and the ways our Church tradition has been shaped.

There is a strong reminder here, though, that our God is always creative. We should not let our respect for the past put limits on God’s activity among us today. In other words we need to resist the attitude and the inner voice that says: ‘This is
new. This cannot be from God.’

‘Can you not see it?’ asks the reading. Can we not see God creating new deeds in our midst?

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – 1st July 2018

Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. Gospel

Every human being has a need to be touched. Jesus touched the leper. He had no need to do so to heal him. By touching him, Jesus broke the law demanding separation (cf the first reading), and so made himself an outcast, having to stay ‘outside in places where nobody lived.’

Jesus often touched people. He understood that touch has its own power to communicate, and that some people need touch for reassurance of acceptance. Jesus put his fingers into the ears of a deaf man and touched his tongue with spittle (Mark 7:34). He took a blind man by the hand and put spittle on his eyes (Mark 8:32). People brought children ‘for him to touch them.’ (Mark 10:13)

Like others, Jesus himself appreciated being touched. In chapter 7 of Luke we have the story that gave scandal: Jesus allowed himself to be touched and anointed by a woman who was a known sinner.