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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Sunday 5th August 2018

Ephesians 4:1-16    

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

…We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

John 6:24-35 

….Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

… Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

 

In our lives as Christians, if my life is anything to go by, we will encounter lots of people who believe they have the perfect set of beliefs, the perfect church government and the perfect right to tell us what to do. Much energy will be spent defining status and defending hierarchies instead of living the life. In my experience I have encountered trickery, craftiness and deceitful scheming. A lot of actual church life is very good as it draws us into a community of love, God’s rule.

It is important that we are taught to live from our relationship with God; that we work to know him. We come to know him in doing as he does: loving. God’s essential nature is love. We are to love him and love our neighbours. Our lives are founded on the life and work of Christ; Jesus fills us and nurtures us through prayer and study, humility and gentleness, and community.

We may be painfully aware of our failings but in our loving and serving God and our neighbour we will know redemption. We will pray: forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others and find our identity in Christ, bearing with others in patience and love. Our faith will produce good works and we will know ourselves being changed. Our weaknesses will become strengths.

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Sunday 22nd July 2018

Ephesians 2:11-22
…He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, … he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father…

 

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
… And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Through Israel, God teaches about holiness and how the life we live in the here and now is a consecrated life, a life made holy by God’s presence in their practices. This was for the blessing of the nations and God’s way of showing how each life matters as does each community; it didn’t bring them merit but was the message of the Kingdom of God that bound them together.

The life we live matters; how we treat our bodies, the food we eat, caring for the land and creatures we share creation with. The people of the covenant, Israel, knew that they were accepted by God and that he had provided a way so that they could know the truth and live a life of blessing.

Jesus came to his own and taught and healed. Many were drawn from across Syria and Jesus had compassion on them all. What does the new life he offers look like? Impossible; full of dos and do nots? The people reach out to Jesus and are healed in their act of faith, which did not depend on where they were from or the life they lived.

Life is complicated, much separates us one from another; Jesus offers peace to all. We need peace to live a life of blessing. Paul’s gospel is, we have peace in Christ and are called to a life of blessing. The blessing is in Christ in all circumstances, who opens our eyes and ears to the blessings of God so that here and now we can live in the Kingdom of God, bound together in forgiveness and empowered by resurrection life of Christ. This peace leads us to treat our bodies with reverence, love one another, share food and water and care for all creatures.

We find ourselves following Jesus into the place of prayer, alone with God, studying and learning from him, looking to find him in the scriptures. And as Jesus is formed in us by the narrow way of compassion and a love. The wide way of pride and violence leads to destruction. Christ is formed within us as we live in the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, with faith, hope and love.

The life we lead will be a blessing and, as others find Jesus in us, they will reach out to us as they did to his cloak, and we will see the healing of the nations. The life of the rule of God releases healing power. God will bring people to us and as they touch Christ in us they will be healed. Our place is to live the life of Christ within, a consecrated life, a life made holy by God’s presence in our practices.

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