Welcome

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives
May you never give up praying.
When you pray, may you keep alert and be thankful.
Pray that together we may make the message of the mystery of Christ as clear as possible.
Amen
(Based on Colossians 3 and 4)

Readings for Sunday: Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Reflections for the week: Lyfe Devotionals

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Sunday 30th September 2018

Psalm 124    

…Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

James 5:13-20 

…The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

Mark 9:38-50  

John said to him,

“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

But Jesus said,

“Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me….

…And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

 

These difficult words of Jesus became a focus for great encouragement in our meeting.

Firstly it was noted that the prayer of Elijah; his crying out, stopped the rain and then brought rain to the earth and many were blessed.

Then it was noted that the very name of Jesus was resulting in works of power, and things were happening by the prayers of the unrighteous. In the eyes of the disciples they shouldn’t. The rain was falling for the good as well as the bad, as they saw it and they weren’t happy that the ones praying were not them.

What is Jesus’ answer? Surprisingly he does not forbid but considers those who were experiencing Christ, despite the unregulated message. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” God is bigger than the box the disciples were trying to put him in.

And then come strong and violent words from Jesus. What are we to think? These set of readings seem confusing and contradictory.

The clue is in the last few verses of Mark and the community that James describes in his letter.

Bad things happen; suffering comes to all, the church is not immune from suffering and sickness; this is the salting with fire and Jesus links it to the fires of Gehenna. Then Jesus takes a turn, a twist, and says salt is good. There is another salt that isn’t the salting of the fires of Gehenna.

The fires of Gehenna are the fires of guilt and condemnation; the consequences of turning from God; of sacrificing to false gods and acting unjustly and without mercy forgetting the poor.

The strictures of the judgements seen in Gehenna brought the people of Israel to their knees as they experienced the outcomes of their turning away from God. God gave them up to the consequences and withdrew from them.

The salt is the law that was there to guide and protect them as a people, which came with a curse. If they had delighted in the law then what befell them would have been different but instead they forgot the seasoned words of the law. God set before them life and they chose death.

The law was to be their teacher and they rejected it, the way of Moses, the law and the priesthood were there to set them apart for the blessing of the world, and now Jesus says plainly that the law had failed and these ways had lost their saltiness.

The temple and its religion had lost its saltiness and here was a new way, the promised way that would be a better way that would be in peoples’ hearts and in their mouths; the way that the tablets of stone foreshadowed, the way that the law was meant to be.

The saltiness of the law would be held within hearts and bring transformation not by control and by prohibition; the external rules would become internal drivers so that no longer would people have to say, know the Lord for he would be near them.

What the disciples were doing was trying to start another system of laws; of prohibitions but Jesus says, “…for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” He says in another way, do not weed the field let it grow and leave the weeding to God.

And these verses makes sense of the verses on severing of limbs and the tearing out of eyes. This is the violence of the law; the logical consequence of trying to live under law. If the law is the way you choose then you can only gain life by doing violence to the seat of your sin and, just maybe you will gain eternal life as a mutilated stump as Dallas Willard puts it in his book The Divine Conspiracy (Published by William Collins, 1998, page 186).

Jesus puts before us a new way. We need to read the words of Jesus with grace. Our interpretation of Jesus’ words exposes our hearts and the way we practice them reveals the heart our way comes from. Is there good fruit? Jesus calls the disciples to drink the new wine of freedom but in doing so not try to contain it in the old wine skin of control and law but allow God to be glorified in a new wine skin of abundant life and peace.

He does this with a warning. Only this way will contain the work he has brought. We can see in history the havoc that not heeding Jesus’ words has brought. The apostles were found wanting as we often are in our judging. Jesus warns them that they risk severe consequences in their attitude to these works of power; “… it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” This is the curse for those who reject the new way, the new wine or try to contain the new wine in old wine skins.

So, each day, as God presents us with life, let us be open to the Spirit and reflect on the day, on the blessings that God has brought us through his indwelling presence. Let us reflect on where we have failed, sure in the knowledge that we are God’s little children and  every kindness to us has blessed the giver. Let us resolve with Jesus to do good to all and allow the works of power speak for themselves, marvelling at how God has worked his way into our day.

 

There is a mid-week prayer meeting at the chapel with a period of 20 minutes silent prayer on a Wednesday starting at 8pm and finishing at around 840pm.

 

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Sunday 23rd September 2018

Psalm 1

…for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

…the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

…You do not have, because you do not ask.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Submit yourselves therefore to God.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Mark 9:30-37 

…”Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

The wisdom of the congregation was wide; who are we to understand God is? Is God one who is retributive in his justice? Do we see ourselves as those among the wicked. Conclusion: in all these things we cannot deny who we are and we need to draw near to God.

Yes, grace is free but we can’t stand in our head knowledge of this and if we are not there, God does not call us to be hypocrites; to pretend. Surely also we are not called to stand for what others are convinced of, but need to meditate on what God has placed in our hearts and what we see in the scriptures.

In this communion with God and membership of a community that is, “…peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” we can grow and be that blessing that the Kingdom is.

Yes, we may have been passed over and hurt but if we turn our eyes from the way of the wicked to the way of the Kingdom of God we will be blessed.

We need the eyes of a child who, when secure, naturally reaches out to others. Our father is the one Jesus calls father and from the security of his love, we live and move and have our being.

Then we can ask rightly.

There is a mid-week prayer meeting at the chapel with a period of 20 minutes silent prayer on a Wednesday starting at 8-00pm and finishing at around 8-40pm.

 

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Sunday 16th September 2018

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Psalm 19 

The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork…

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness…

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…

Mark 8:27-38    

…”If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

We had wide ranging teaching from the group which included the idea that taking up your cross begins with a daily surrender to the way of Christ which may bring us troubles. Anger and contempt are our natural weapons but not the way of Christ; we need to be militant in doing what is right without straying into accusation and blame.

We also shared how profoundly we had been affected by the teaching of some and how what to them was an idea or a certainty became a test of faith which ultimately destroys a person’s walk with God. The Spirit brings life and melts hearts so that we are cleansed and walk true to the light that shines in each of us. This is the way.

The word for us was “life”; the newness of the revelation of Christ that sustains us in the day; the precious presence we cannot do without.

I believe the following excerpt from Richard Rohr’s CONSPIRE 2018: Iona Liturgy Homily has an important message for us as we embark on a mid-week prayer meeting at the chapel with a period of 20 minutes silent prayer each Wednesday starting at 8pm and finishing at around 8:40pm.

https://cac.org/conspire-2018-iona-liturgy-homily/

 

 

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Sunday 9th September 2018

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

…. Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; …

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 

…Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor.

…So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty… What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? … So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Mark 7:24-37

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre…

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis…

They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

How easy it is to dismiss those on the periphery, outcasts, those who don’t fit. How often are these “the poor” we consider beyond the reach of helping. We may even see their plight to be deserving, a mark of their godforsaken choices. But God doesn’t see it this way and we as those who know God, know God in as much as we are faithful to his person and mission. We are to be as he is.

Jesus challenges our prejudices. The people of Tyre were beyond the pale for Jews and yet Jesus finds faith here and heals as he did the centurion’s daughter, not even being present in the room. Back in Galilee Jesus heals a mute with spit, a sigh and a word. The kingdom of heaven is for all and in every way! Even for those who appear rejected, demonised and afflicted, not even able to cry out. Jesus acts with compassion.

We feel compassion and faithfully pray. Our faithfulness causes us to persevere, to persist. It is as if we look on the world, where there is much darkness, and to us it is bathed in light. Our faithfulness brings light into the darkness, even into the darkness of our despair for others. Our faithfulness lights the darkness of others. Our reality in prayer is that we see the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of heaven, and through our faithfulness God is made present to us and those around.

James teaches us that God’s compassion is universal. We are blessed as we perceive this, and we serve without distinction and with all we have. We are called beyond the pale.

 

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Sunday 26th August

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!  …

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, …

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.  …

Ephesians 6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power….

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication…

John 6:56-69 

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. …Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

… It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless…

So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

In Psalm 84 we have a picture of people on pilgrimage to the temple passing through the greening dry valley and on to the gleaming citadel of the temple. They see the beauty of the built temple and notice how nature invades its holiness.

This simple picture carries us through the other readings. Our prayer is to be inhabited by God’s Spirit and Jesus cuts through religious sensibilities and presents himself, flesh and blood, as the way of faith.

Our true life; our true fulfilling, is not what we build but the embodying of God’s Spirit in what we do and say so that all is one. We may search for the splendours of religion but like a sparrow perched in the holy places, God invades our hearts almost irreverently despite the splendour. We are not in control except in our accepting.

Would you go to a system or place; a way of worship or building? Jesus says come to me. Jesus longs to occupy our prayers, our solitude and our generosity. Jesus delights in our steps in grace, but for all our building he will nestle in the most improbable places.

So, when the troubles come, rest in the abiding of Jesus. In the time of plenty invest in the abiding presence of God: be people of prayer, of service and solitude knowing that it is this life we have within that will sustain us. This is the flesh and blood that nurtures us: Jesus.

Something to ponder: how is God named Our Father…

 

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