Saturday, 25 February 2017

Going forward...

Going forward... Is one of those corporate, business, motivational phrases of speech that has crept into all too common usage. It seems impossible to sit through a meeting or seminar without hearing this irritating phrase. Particularly when, often, what underlies the use of the phrase is the wish to ignore what has gone before, good and bad, and simply move on, perhaps without learning lessons that the past might teach us.
Lent begins this Wednesday. Visits to my blog always spike at this time with visitors to a post about Transfiguration which is the reading the Sunday before Lent. This increased traffic has reminded me that I've been neglecting this blog recently, mainly because I've been blogging elsewhere for work.
The season of Lent affords the opportunity for review and reflection. So, going forward, I'm hoping to get back to everyday blogging here as I reflect on the journey with God in daily life. I'm hoping to reclaim this space as a place where I can look back and forward as I see signs of God along the way. It would be good to have your company as I go...


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Run free

Jeremiah 12:5
God Replies to Jeremiah
If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you fall down,
how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?

An unsympathetic response
from a distant, vengeful God...

A provocation to step up
and compete with the crowd...
Or
An invitation
To freedom?
Which will you see?

Will it be a glimpse
of a God
far removed from creation
who cares not 
about human suffering
who is so divorced from the reality of life
that our troubles
are not present
on any radar?

Will it be a glimpse
of a God
who offers challenge
that helps us get ourselves into gear
to step up
that awakens a spirit
of determination
renewed purpose
who provokes us into
renewed focus and action?

Or will it be a glimpse
of a God
who recognises
that to run with humans
to get caught up in that competitive spirit
wears us down
and wears us out 
and offers an alternative
- the freedom
of running with horses
wildly, freely
with flowing manes
at one with the Earth 

God grant us the courage to discern your word for us, to hear your call to us and to discover the freedom you reveal.

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?


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