Monday, 9 January 2017

Covenant

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.'
(Methodist Covenant Prayer)

Contemplating this prayer, I was struck by the line that was, for me, most difficult to pray.
It wasn't "put me to suffering".
It wasn't "let me be empty" or "let me have nothing". Not even "(let me) be brought low for you".
It was (let me be) laid aside for you.
I don't want to be laid aside.
I have lots to offer, lots to do. How can I accept being laid aside? What would be the learning in that?
I know my identity is in Christ.
I know I have no need to give or to achieve to be considered beloved of God.
But laid aside?
I'm not sure I'm ready to go there...
I can offer this prayer "whole heartedly" except for that.
But, now that I've said it out loud ...

So - what would be the deal-breaker for you in this prayer?

Friday, 6 January 2017

Moving On

Matthew 2:1-3
The Visit of the Wise Men
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;

As the year moves on
from the season of Christmas
to the season of Epiphany
we welcome those strangers
who followed the star
and met the Christ.
And we wonder:
What would it take
for us to embark
on a journey of discovery?
To give up 
our safety
and our complacency
to move beyond comfort
to the challenge of the light
who leads us
in paths we could never imagine
revealing truths we could never perceive
while we cling to the known
and the familiar.
What would it take
for us to embrace the uncertainty
and step out in faith
led by the Light of the world
who beckons us
into Epiphany
challenging not just our lives
but the lives of those around - 
for there will always be those
who feel threatened
by our awakening
to the call to be wise
the call to seek light
and love
and justice
in our world today.
May this season of Epiphany
open our hearts
and our minds
and our hands
as we let go of the things we hold tightly 
to be led on a journey 
led by the light
that came into the world
to dispel darkness.
God with us still.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

In those days...

Luke 2:1
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.

In those days...
When darkness stalked the earth
When nations were at war
When people felt oppressed
When fear was a constant companion
When hearts were filled with longing

A decree went out...
And people complied or resisted
Responded with fear or compulsion
Were forced to be registered and recorded
Became united in their plight
or divided by their contempt

From Emperor Augustus...
The region's super power
Imposed and unelected
Revered and despised
Invoking terror or respect
Eliciting confidence or despair
Harbinger of ill to follow

All the world...
The high and the mighty
The poor and the lowly
The stranger and the neighbour
Every creed and culture
Minority and majority

Into this world
A world of hatred and division
A world of fear and contempt
A world of longing and of hoping
God intervened
Became flesh
And dwells with us
In those days
In these days
Hope, Peace and Light dwells among us.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Soon


Isaiah 56:1
The Covenant Extended to All Who Obey
Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

Soon?
Soon salvation will come?
How about now? 
When the darkness seems 
as dark as it can be...
Now would be good.
Now would be good.
for light to come
an dispel the darkness.
Soon.
Please, soon.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Christmas Message

Luke 2:34-35
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Our sanctuaries are busy this time of year - Carol Services, Longest Night Services, School Assemblies and soon there will be Watchnight and Christmas Day worship. A refrain I've heard a lot this week is: "If only it could be like this all year round!" 
Really?
Do we really want the frenzy of often forced joy with lots of strangers to be the norm that inhabits our worship space?
Do we want the often superficial greetings exchanged to be what characterises our time together in communal worship of the baby God, whose life as an adult impacts us not at all the rest of the year?
Do we want to keep on proclaiming a dumbed down, watered down version of God's story that appeals to the crowds all the year round in an attempt to woo folk back to worship?
What then, when "the season of goodwill" has passed - and hardship and difficulty must be faced? How has our seasonal worship of a baby prepared us for that? How has it helped build resilience or fostered trust enough to seek out those who care? Where is the space for doubt and sorrow, for anger and fear in the sanitised worship of a baby God so far removed from the world into which Christ was born?
And how, in sanctuaries filled with folk looking for something that neither challenges nor convicts, will we rediscover the urgency of the gospel that is for all the world when we've even forgotten how to nurture faith that makes a difference in those who come?
God is reshaping the church. Declining numbers in worship challenge and confront us to discover what God is about and begin to discern, individually and corporately, God's invitation to be part of that reshaping, to be part of God's mission in the world, beginning with the communities we serve.
Of course we can make an attempt to reach the Christmas revellers with the heart of the gospel but we'd probably be accused of being killjoys. 
Who wants to hear about fear and oppression and political unrest and hardship and poverty, about the slaughter of innocents, about refugees, about vilification and tyranny and corrupt government...
All contained within the Chrsitmas story.
Not the things we want to focus on in our Christmas Carol Services and Nativity plays.
And yet...
Much more akin to the world around us today.
Much more in keeping with what we read in our daily newspapers or watch on our television screens in our nightly news bulletins.
Perhaps we need the escape just for a while - to flirt with joy and wonder and angels and shepherds.
But let's not long for that all the year round.
Christ was born into a world much like this.
To challenge and confront.
To proclaim, through living and dying and rising again, that the world can be different.
And to call us to work alongside him in not just proclaiming a new kingdom but in working to build that kingdom now.
Now who wants to hear the Christmas message?


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Longest night

Luke 2:8-10
The Shepherds and the Angels
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

May the sparkle and glitter of each Christmas card we receive
bring messages from friends that surround us with love
May the twinkling lights on trees in homes and in streets
pierce the swirling darkness of our loss
May each Carol we hear sung or played in season
become a melody that infiltrates our song of grief
May shepherds and angels whatever their age
whisper the Christmas story again in our ears
A story of light dispelling darkness
Of hope overcoming despair
Of joy penetrating sorrow
And of love born in a stable 
to stay with us forever.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christingle

Luke 2:20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Light in the darkness
Love for all the world
The story of God's love born for us
told with laughter
symbolised by an orange
and sweet things 
for every season
and every corner of the world
Told for a new generation
and proudly carried home
A reminder
of God with us today

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