Follow up to the last two meetings

Last week we enjoyed the poem by Malcolm Guite: the Singing Bowl

And this week as we studied the Ten commandments, the question was asked whether we could kill to protect another.
As usual there was a lot of community wisdom and the following resource was mentioned.
Greg Boyd discusses the answer to the questions: “What if violence is necessary to protect a loved one and how we as Christians can respond in a Christ-like manner?” for the blog.

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Reflection for 11th February on transfiguration and the church.

God is the Lord of abundance, he forgives us freely and pours out his grace into creation. He himself comes to us and in Jesus takes creation into himself. Jesus becoming man, reveals that all things are spiritual, not in the sense of being sacred for us to worship, but in the sense that all things matter. Everything has its being in him and he becomes human. All things are held together in Christ and in him, from the beginning, there is an outpouring of grace and a call to love.
The begottenness of the Son is revealed in Jesus. What it is to be begotten of the Father from the beginning is made plain in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the Christ. In his death and resurrection, we find life. This life is a life of love.
The fall of humanity in Adam was in his choosing not loving. The outcome was to know good and evil and to be cast out from walking in the light of God’s love. We do well to remember that all our choices are veiled in sin- none of our choices are pure, yet God in every moment presents his will. He does not remain silent. God’s gift in the beloved Son, is the revelation that we can walk in his light, not the law. Our pattern and guide is love; Jesus’ belovedness; love beyond our reason.
Jesus showed that the way was himself, he was the truth and the light. In searching for the Holy we find him. We find him where love is most needed, amongst the poor in spirit. We find him in a peace beyond understanding which is the light of his love.
Jesus is the only way to the Father. Jesus, not the law, not reason, not morality. We trust God in his goodness. We trust God in Jesus; creator, born, crucified and the living one. God will shine his light into the darkness in the glory of the revelation of the face of Jesus Christ. He will make good his promise and all will be made good in Christ. It is not done through places or religious systems but in him.
Salvation is in the person of Christ. Jesus is the end of all religion. From the moment of his birth all things were revealed to be spiritual. All things are sacred and Christ alone reveals why this is true. Jesus is the truth.
We are together in this; one body for the revelation of the salvation of the world. What Christ has achieved on the cross is greater than what happened at the fall of Adam. God is a God of abundance and it is in forgiveness that Jesus is revealed to us.
How are we then to be? Isn’t this a recipe for anarchy? How are we to live bathed in the knowledge of good and evil and bound to it in society? Jesus gives us freedom through the Holy Spirit to discern what is right. In close fellowship with Jesus we are transfigured and become new creations. We know the truth and the truth sets us free. We know the voice of the shepherd.
Jesus calls us to a body- he calls us to be a small flock. He himself spoke to crowds of thousands but gathered to himself no more than seventy disciples. At the core of this community he gathered twelve. In the twos and threes he makes his presence known and brings all to true humanity. All were gifted, none were priests. All had gifts to bring the flock to maturity. This was the pattern of Jesus’ ministry and the apostles’ teaching. As the thousands came to faith the church grew around the tables of homes. This was not a religion; indeed early Christians were considered atheists.
Jesus followers didn’t look to a mountain or a city they looked to Jesus as Jesus told them to. We must do as he says. The tragedy of history is that to gather thousands, to build Christendom, there had to be control, a law; a setting out of a pattern for deciding and ruling the people; a uniformity of days and hierarchy of authority. This is bathed in the sin of Adam.
Jesus tells us that those who would lead must be slaves. Jesus came to destroy sin and the truth is, the presence of Christ, Jesus tells us, is in the twos and threes gathered together in the way, truth and life of Jesus. This is the offence of Christianity that flies in the face of Christendom, which would build booths rather than worship in spirit and truth.
This is the new atheism I am drawn to- a denial of the gods of religion who veil the truth. The god of this world is defeated on the cross and we are to remove the veil that covers the eyes of those who are perishing through the love of Jesus and listening to what he tells us to do.

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Reflection for Sunday 21st January 2018

This morning’s readings focused on repentance and following after God. We saw how the disciples left their fishing nets to become fishers of people and how Jesus gave them a new identity in him (Mark 1). We also saw how even the most evil nation on earth was not beyond God’s salvation and how repentance changed God’s mind about their fate (Jonah 3),



The psalm reminded us that

Psalm 62:5
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.

But what of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? What of those who acquire a neurological dysfunction or are born with one? How are they to respond? How are they to belong? Where does our theology reach them in an age where the solution appears to be to end life or not even allow it to start?

I believe our hope is in silent waiting, in the peace that passes all understanding, God’s gift to us in Jesus.

A worldview driven by the demands the clock makes on the lives of those with dementia or profound neurological and intellectual disabilities seems pointless.

And yet, Jesus comes to the world to transform time. Jesus calls us to slow down, take time, and learn to recognize the strangeness of living within God’s time. He calls us to be gentle, patient, kind; to walk slowly and timefully with those whom society desires to leave behind.

Becoming Friends of Time
Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship
By John Swinton

To helps us think about this why not listen to

John Swinton on Homebrew Christianity

John Swinton on Nomad Podcast

Or read John Swinton’s Book Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship Paperback – 31 Jan 2017

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Sunday Reflection for 7th January 2018

Ephesians 3:6

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

…the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The creation story teaches that we are all like God, made in his image, not divided, all one equal before God. It shows how good is the free will choice to walk in God’s good and perfect will. Evil is a choice that binds us to a cycle of self-love and self-will; it ensnares us and makes us slaves to it. To choose good is to choose life. We know that God’s heart is to be with us, there in every moment, in every choice, working with us for good.

Scripture leads us to understand that we are to be redeemed, brought back to this good and perfect state. Sin leads to death and God calls us to walk in new life. God’s desire is that we exercise true free will and choose good.

The creation story also shows us that part of our creation is that we are free as God is free to choose. We have choice and dominion in the world. With creation itself, we are cocreators with God.

Free will is the freedom to choose good, not so as to gain anything, but because this is our created nature, our true humanity. We are not free if we make choices out of fear, or because we feel we ought to, or because we think we might gain if we do. Free will is the ability to live in grace and be perfectly holy and merciful as God is.

Religion would have us believe otherwise and enslave us to a system, a tick list, so that in the end grace appears meaningless and is cheapened to a transaction. You do this and this is what you gain.

True grace saves us from this lie. Faith in Jesus frees us to be who we are created and called to be, Children of God. We cannot earn our salvation.

How does this work if salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ? Isn’t having faith a work? Paul proclaims salvation as a promise in Christ extended to the Gentiles just as for the people of Israel. It was true by their birth and John says,

John 1:12-13 (NRSV)
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

But still, Jesus says we are not forgiven if we do not forgive. It appears it is also taught that if we do not receive Christ we do not gain salvation. Salvation and forgiveness are by grace but appear conditional on our forgiving and receiving which is not grace, by definition. This can really weigh us down and rob us of assurance and make us very religious, just in case. I have to confess, I often leave Christian meetings, or finish reading Christian books, not knowing if I am good enough. Believe more, pray more, do more, follow this scheme… I just wish they would say less.

I think the answer is in being born of the will of God. That is the only way grace can operate, if you have, because you are, enabling you to be. So, I am forgiven for free because it’s God’s will and his grace is to empower me to become.

If I were in a game playing in a team, when the whistle went, I would have, with my team, lost, won or drawn. The moment the whistle was blown it was decided and settled though in some circumstances it may have been obvious quite early in the match. Once the whistle goes, every part of the game from then on can be seen to have led to the conclusion. Every victory and failing is part of the result which was predestined.

Paul teaches that faith in Christ gains eternal life. Those in Christ are predestined to salvation. Jesus is the final result which means that our every victory and failing leads to salvation. God makes it all good. Paul teaches that those in Christ have been predestined from the beginning and known to God as those who are saved.

Our faith in Christ reveals the outcome and we are fee to live and act and have our being in this knowledge. Perfect love, mercy and forgiveness lives in us. We are freed through faith in Christ to live in grace, as our salvation is God’s will not our own making. If we believe, we become saved. Religion finds this too radical, a licence to sin, but the good news is that in confessing Jesus is Lord we reveal ourselves to be those becoming the Children of God. We are empowered to do good by grace, not to receive a reward.

We no longer act out of fear; if we care we’re there! The journey has a predestined end.

It is a grave error to say this is settled and some are created to be damned, as in doing so, we are binding God to our understanding and will and creating God in our own image. This is truly a teaching of Satan.

For a time, we will need to be lead into the truth of grace. Through our whole lives we will need to be taught. This involves a transference of some of our freedom into the hands of those who lead. This is discipleship. But to think we are able remain in this relationship is a fantasy; every baby needs to be weaned off milk to grow strong.

Our parents, friends, teachers, systems and priests cannot stand in that place of responsibility forever otherwise they become idols taking the place of Christ. We need to be weaned from these controlling influences or the fantasy becomes religion, which grows into a demon called the bearded magistrate in the sky.

This false god wants to stand in the place of God to make us do thus and so and accept false grace and salvation by the works he demands. Evil makes us slaves to religion and power as we freely embrace the fantasy of our authority to judge others and control them. When the end comes it is revealed that we have not believed that Jesus is Lord, but that we are lord, and denied our humanity.

Good frees us to be truly free, and free others, and this is the fruit that reveals us to be becoming children of God. Let us be priests together, make disciples together and baptise and welcome all to the priesthood of all believers. Let us be revealed together to be those becoming children of God.

Sources: Becoming an Ethical Subject: In Defense of Predestination 

For further reflection: Montessori lessons in Grace and Courtesy

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Reflection for Sunday 31st December 2017


Jesus teaches that those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus teaches that we are to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Moreover, he teaches us that our neighbour includes our enemy (Luke 6:35, 10:25).

Jesus was teaching the remnant of the people of Israel, sons and daughters of Abraham. His disciples were Jews; a covenant people, redeemed from slavery out of Egypt and brought to a promised land. Their confidence was in the Law and the system of worship and sacrifice ordained by God. They lived knowing God’s love for them and in the light of his promises to them.

As a nation Israel had been faithless and experienced deportation and subjugation but lived in the expectation of being restored through a Saviour to their former glory. In the time of Jesus, they lived in the expectation of deliverance from their cruel oppressors, the Romans. Their confidence was in their identity as children of God and God would deliver them.

Each morning the faithful Jew would pray, standing, honouring God, recalling his faithfulness to Israel and asking for what was needed to live. The oppression was severe and their needs were great. The religious system failed them and marginalised them. They were over taxed and traumatised by a harsh invader. This was the mess Jesus taught into. He teaches that the lost are not judged, they are precious and all their needs will be met through prayer. He learned tis from the prayers of Israel.

At the heart of Jesus’ teaching on prayer, given to his disciples, is forgiveness. In Mark 11:20-25 he says, as he does elsewhere,

“… whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive your trespasses”

In Luke 6:37 Jesus says, “…forgive and you will be forgiven, …”. In Luke 6:27 Jesus says, “…forgive your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

And so, Jesus teaches that prayer is built on forgiveness. Indeed, to know God’s forgiveness we need to first forgive. To not forgive is sin and separates from life, separates from walking in the forgiveness of the Father. Forgiveness is given through grace to God’s people and is effective when others are forgiven.

For us as Gentiles, Jesus makes the way for us to become people of God and the good news of Jesus, the message of Jesus, is that all through belief in him are forgiven. Those who believe in Jesus are forgiven (Acts 10:34-43). Our foundation as followers of Jesus is Jesus, not a religious system and, as those forgiven by the Lord, we are called to forgive (Ephesians 4:32). Our forgiveness is a free gift. Grafted into Israel, we are called to forgive just as they were by Jesus.

Forgiveness can be seen as our teacher. The grace available to the people of Israel is extended to us, available to all in Christ Jesus (Romans 5-6). Sin has no power over us in Christ. Forgiveness teaches us how to live under grace. Forgiveness is the foundation of our prayer just as it was for Israel. To not forgive is sin. Sin is its own punishment and without forgiveness faith withers and is a curse. Jesus call us to forgive and in knowing our lack he fills us up with his love. The way of peace and life is forgiveness.

The tension is that to be fully forgiving is impossible and is a daily struggle. We are no longer bound by sin but each day we are faced up with our own failings and the failings of others to us and those around us. It’s a constant call to forgive. The moment we make forgiveness into a system, a tick list or a form of words we lose the power of our calling. We need to wrestle with the tension.

Jesus’ words disrupted the Jews and today they disrupt us; they are uncomfortable. Forgiveness needs to be lived, it cannot be formalised. As we receive the truth through the Good News that we are unconditionally loved and forgiven, Jesus inserts a condition, to be forgiven we must forgive. Both are true! We are forgiven by grace and we are forgiven in forgiving others. Forgiving others in God’s eyes secures the fact of our forgiveness. Our forgiving shows we are forgiven.

When we pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive others we could also pray Psalm 23. In Psalm 23 we read that God has prepared a banquet in the midst of our enemies. In Jewish thought, you can only eat with those you are at one with. The call has always been to love our enemies. Jesus shows us how, forgiving those who crucified him. We are called to an active faith in him which is beyond a meaningless form of words. In the prayer that Jesus teaches us, we learn that faith without forgiveness leaves us unchanged and creates an earnest desire in us. It is those who persevere who are saved: those who love much who have been forgiven much.

Yet again we arrive at love. In our weakness, we may find forgiveness a trial, yet knowing we must forgive and acting towards others in a forgiving way invites God in. We are created free to forgive. Unforgiveness is bondage.

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