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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Lectio 365 Daily Prayer

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What are we doing?

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:19‭-‬26 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/gal.5.19-26.NRSV

The deities of Gallatia were famously cruel, says Tom Holland in a podcast (https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ask-nt-wright-anything/id1441656192?i=1000567526058).

He refers particularly to Cybele the Mother of the Gods whose priests the galli, were eunuchs, males who castrated themselves after a frenzied ceremony and dressed as women thereafter.

Cybele was a protective goddess of Rome, standing for its authority and order. Cybele’s earthly manifestation was Livia, the mother of Roman emperors, deified in AD42 as the Great Mother, the Mother of the Gods.

Why am I bothering to write this? Well it gives a background to Galatians 5 with Paul’s railing against the subversion of the Way of Jesus by both Jewish law and Roman. He equates circumcision to castration. But there’s more. It also calls us to examine the religion we call Christianity.

Paul was a radical and his message was dangerous, foolish and a stumbling block, undermining the judaisers and Roman civil society. Living by the Spirit was revolutionary. And today? Well today I think we need to reconsider the gift we have as people of the Way of Jesus, our seeming slavery to creeds and traditions, and our running after religion.

We are people of the Spirit. Luke reports Jesus to have said to one of his would be followers who appealed to tradition,

… “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:60 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/luk.9.60.NRSV

This section of Jesus’s teaching is a preparation in my mind for the realities of being followers of Jesus in a hostile world. His followers were cast out from the synagogues and proclaimed atheists by Roman civil society, considered by some to practice cannibalism, drinking blood and eating flesh.

Jesus alerts us to the power of a people of the Spirit and how religion is not our security. A relationship with the living God is. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

To be plain, we need to examine our traditions and religious practices. When we hear that the son of Cybele, the mother god, was Attis who was mutilated, died and rose again we can see what a threat the story of Jesus was to Rome and its protecting gods. We also need to be alerted to how the later inclusion of Christianity in the Roman cults would have Christianized the practices of the gods of the land and subverted the true message of the kingdom of God wrapping it in alien forms.

The way our churches are organised and their practices owe a lot to the system of paterfamilias of Roman culture. This religious system arguably gave a framework for the spread of Christianity outside the synagog with the church leader taking on the role the father under Roman family law. Some of our ways of being are a throw back to this tradition and are now sanctified by those who wield power. That’s why church services feel so incongruous when held up to the way of Jesus. We have to exercise discernment for our times or become more irrelevant.

We know Pope Gregory, who aimed to Christianise the British Isles, directed that the Anglo Saxan pagan festivals were to be made Christian and churches supplant places of worship, for example Glastonbury.

The origins of some of our ways of being the church, threaten the integrity of the message and are redundant. We need to be wise and faithful to the word of Jesus and keep it simple.

The Breedon Angel

Paul says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:13‭-‬15 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/gal.5.13-15.NRSV

Let us be free. Let us not be consumed by the arguments and practices that divide, so that we bite and devour one another.

It is time now to be revealed as those whose faith releases us to love not binds us to beliefs.

See the amazing Anglo Saxon Carvings at Breedon, a testimony of the Christianising of the British Isles

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Cruciform pigs.

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.
Psalms 43:3 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/psa.43.3.NRSV

This is a cry that has inspired me for many years, answered in the voice within. The story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 reveals the many manifestations of God and their bewildering interactions which speak, Trinity to the Christian tradition. God outdoes the storm and fire gods, locating the LORD in silence,

and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
1 Kings 19:12 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/1ki.19.12.NRSV

The Holy Hill is the gathering place of the divine court presided over by the God of Hosts, the Most High God. Here Elijah encounters the heavenly court in sheer silence.

In the story from Luke, the demons recognise Jesus as the son of this God. Jesus is fresh from the stilling of the raging of the storm over the waters stepping on to dry land. Previously I have written about this story (https://takeleychapel.org.uk/2019/06/23/here-but-not-here/ ), but today I saw something new.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/medmss/7352474870/

Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
Luke 8:30‭-‬33 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/luk.8.30-33.NRSV

The poor man was delivered from oppression but what about the poor pigs? I saw that the pigs were Christlike. The pigs are heroes.

All creation is good, being drawn by a good God. At the heart of the creation is the Cross which ripples out and draws all God’s creatures. Jesus trusted the pigs I think, and when Jesus allowed the demons to enter the pigs, he trusted that all would be made well.

For the demons not to be sent to the abyss would not be good and the pigs took it upon themselves to make that happen bringing forward their judgement. I see the pigs rushing to the water as an act of non coerced love! They sacrificed themselves taking evil down into the watery chaos.

This may appear fanciful, but we might see a theme in the readings of not only us needing to trust God to be God but God trusting in the goodness of creation. It also speaks to us now where the metaphysics of that day is lost on us.

Look at the end of the story. After a short time with Jesus, the once demon afflicted man could be trusted with the message of God’s rule.

And the reading in Galations? God entrusts each of us as children of God, clothed in Christ to bring the message of God’s rule.

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:23‭-‬29 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/gal.3.23-29.NRSV

All creation is drawn by God’s love and the pigs cry out with the rocks, God is with you and you can choose the Way and be saved lead by the light and truth.

Photo by Forest Simon on Unsplash

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Hemmed in but not held back.

When he established the heavens, I was there, …I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
Proverbs 8:27‭-‬31 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/pro.8.27-31.NRSV

Tiny but perfect moth on a Sage Bush.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:1‭-‬5 NRSV https://bible.com/bible/2016/rom.5.1-5.NRSV

This is about persecution. It is also about a work of the Spirit. First of all the work of Christ is to bring us peace. Further we are made like him and this our boast, through grace we become like Christ. He became human that we might be glorified, brought into the heavenly council.

What is the suffering here? I am not sure it can include anything other than the suffering of persecution, the sense of being hemmed in, an inner feeling. Overcoming this in the spirit produces fruit, as we learn to trust in the face of tribulation. This happens as we open our hearts to God’s love and are made able to stand.

It worries me if we are to include all suffering here, as the verse becomes a burden for those who suffer abuse, torment or physical ailments. I do not believe we are called to put up with such suffering, let alone boast about it, or think that God somehow is using it to form our character. However, when we feel hemmed in by persecution, then I think God helps us overcome that inner suffering to produce endurance, perseverance and hope.

Jesus warns us that being a follower of the Way will be hard and the promise here is that we can stand when people bring all manner of accusations against us.

The key for me is God pouring his love into our hearts, in the midst of our disappointment, to sow hope and form character.

God is good and it would not in my opinion be a good thing for God to inflict us to build character. It is good however to help us stand when we are attacked. We must not allow God’s word to become the doorway to abusers who would encourage you to put up with “it” as it’s good for you. That’s coercive . If anyone is ill or afflicted I would be wrong to say, just put up with it, it’s making you a better person. That’s cruel and lacks compassion.

God is with us and for us. We are called to stand with the afflicted and seek their good, to stand with the marginalised. When it all goes wrong and we are misunderstood, or we lose everything and suffer injustice, so that our hearts are bursting with hurt, then God pours in his love and the weakness becomes God’s strength and we’re not held back.

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Our Babel

Psalm 104 LORD, how manifold are your works!

There were three of us this morning. Damp weather, family gatherings and work…

But the Holy Spirit turned up in our love for the world, our love for one another and our love for God.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
John 14:15‭-‬17 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/jhn.14.15-17.NRSV

We gather round a table, share news, share our lives, share a drink and a bite to eat. This is the characteristic of our gathering followed by a form of reading from the set readings for the Sunday; a reading from the Hebrew Bible, a Psalm, a letter to the early Christians and a reading from the accounts of the life of Jesus (a gospel).

Then as a community we listen to one another as we share what we find encouraging, what we find difficult and what we find a barrier in what we have read. We follow a rule in how we conduct ourselves, of brevity, not sorting one another out and embracing stillness in listening. Children can be part of this and are welcome to build draw or play, sharing what that have created if they want to or what they heard in the readings.

To end we pray the prayer shared by Jesus and a blessing of peace. Rarely we sing and monthly we share bread and wine.

This is a form of worship and the meal at its centre has become our Tower of Babel. Through a table gathering and the sharing of food, be it breaking bread or a fish breakfast, Jesus shows himself. But the table is the ground of division in the church.

God has chosen to unite us by dividing the fire of glory among us reversing the curse of Babel.

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Acts 2:3‭-‬4 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/act.2.3-4.NRSV

Jesus calls the church his body and sows peace. We take the gift and build a tower of words to set us apart. Jesus says to everyone to gather and we construct reasons why all may not.

Our heart at Takeley is to not do this, but I am sure that in my writing this, we have already been labelled. I believe what we do is a way and brings the Way of Jesus to all ways and enables us to hear in each of our languages the Word of the Spirit, the Voice of God. I recognise in it though a challenge to the gatekeepers of our faith and for this I am truly sorry.


Broken by Ray Davies BBC


BBC drama Broken ‘all about the Eucharist’, says McGovern – The Tablet

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Cosmic battle

This morning we continued in Acts 16. Paul angrily delivers a slave girl of a spirit of divination and the locals become angry.

When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods….

Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened….
Acts 16:20‭-‬22‭, ‬26‭-‬27 NRSV https://bible.com/bible/2016/act.16.20-27.NRSV

The gods lost control of one of their servants and the people and authorities acted, had them flogged and thrown in prison. In the depth of the night while Paul and Silas sing God’s praises, God acts and shakes the earth, demonstrating to the principalities and powers that the earth was his, freeing his servants.

Paul brings the Way to Europe and the battle heats up.

Paul tells us that in bringing the Way, our battle is not with people but with principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12). The chosen weapon of the gods was fear, fear about the economy and status of Philippi.

In this story we glimpse the cosmic battle. God reclaims the nation through the preaching of Paul, deliverance and the shaking of the ground.

The jailer decides to fall on his sword when he sees the prison doors burst open. His masters are harsh.

Paul acts kindly to save him. And as with Lydia’s household the jailer seeks salvation showing kindness back soothing the wounds inflicted by his masters.

At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Acts 16:33‭-‬34 NRSV https://bible.com/bible/2016/act.16.33-34.NRSV

A modern world view divorced of the heavenly realm, obscures this cosmic story. I wonder if with the current threats to our sense of entitlement and what we see in the news whether this world view needs challenging.

We are in a time of trial. If we opened our eyes what would we see? Maybe a heavenly host and acts of kindness. We need delivering from our slavish enthralment to Mammon and claim the ground for community and neighbourliness through steadfast love, truth and faithfulness in Christ.

https://www.fullofeyes.com/project/2-kings-615-17/

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NRSVhttps://bible.com/bible/2016/eph.6.12.NRSV

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