Monday, 29 February 2016

God filled

Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.
Frederick Buchner, Whistling in the Dark

I came across this quote a few weeks ago and have been pondering it since.
I am keen to be done with this transitioning phase that seems to have gone on for too long as I move from one ministry to another. It is painful and difficult and, though also filled with conviction and affirmation, I would just as soon be over it!
I often find tears in my eyes. And though, at times, they might not be surprising, at others,they are unpredictable and inconvenient. They are rarely around when I create space but always in the midst of activity.
When I contemplate Beuchner's words, I am struck most by the phrase " the secret of who you are". 
It seems that this transition is about confronting a change in identity, moving from a role so wrapped up in a community to a more diverse, peripatetic  role whose peculiarities I have not yet defined far less mastered. The sense of belonging that brought security seems eroded at every turn no matter how good a fit the new role is.
It feels as though I've responded to the summons of where I should go next but I'm still wrestling with the mystery of where I've come from and the lessons learned there. And doing all this alongside forging a new path, a new identity a new way of being in Christ.
Luke 18:34
But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
When Jesus tried to speak to the disciples of what lay ahead, of the road to Jerusalem and his suffering and death, they could not understand. The things of which Jesus spoke were beyond human understanding and foreign to all that they knew or could envisage.
Perhaps I should stop being surprised by the tears and continue forging the way of transition, a journey that won't be hurried, filled with tasks that can't be ignored, in the hope that, along the way, the mystery will be revealed. And give thanks for God's companionship on the road.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Second chances

Luke 13:1-9
Repent or Perish
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Repentance is not a once for all effort - if takes a life time.
To truly realign how we think about God, about Gods world, about the children of God, is not painless and is not easy but involves a drastic re-orientation of ourselves in relation to God.
It affects the way we approach all of life - and death.
Repentance also brings the ability, in the face of disaster, to know confidence in God as the source and the sustainer of all life.
To accept the randomness and cruelty that life sometimes brings.
But to know the presence of God - in ALL of life.
Even in the face of disaster we are upheld by the calm assurance that God is present - not averting disaster, not protecting Gods own, but bringing hope into the most desperate situations.
Bringing hope that, though we live in such turmoil, though disaster might strike at any moment, our hope is in God - the God who ensures that there is more - the God who calls us to be instruments of the hope that persists even in the bleakness of today's world and today's news.
Repentance involves not just a change of heart and of mind but also a change in how we live and how we act with that changed perspective.
Repentance brings a call to join in Gods mission to bring justice and peace to all the world.
To change the bad news by living the good news.
So, as we reflect on all the bad news that we have heard this week, on all the images we have seen on TV, on all that we have read in newspapers, our question is not: Why, God, Why? But, How, God, How?
How can we bring change?
How can we relieve suffering?
How can we work for justice in our time?
Our repentance arises, not out of fear or guilt but out of the awareness of God at work, even in the midst of suffering.
And the difference that repentance brings is the ability to see how God might use us to change the story - from bad news to good news.

That story that Jesus tells, after speaking of repentance, the story of the fig tree that won't bear fruit, that the owner wants to cut down.
The fig tree that is saved because the gardener pleads for it, promising to pay it special attention.
That story speaks to me of second chances.
Second chances that come, not by simply letting fate takes its course, but by intervention.
If the fig tree is to survive the next visit of the owner, it is going to take a lot of hard work on the part of the gardener to ensure that it does bear fruit.
It will take time and investment to make sure the fig tree is turned around.
God calls us to hard work.
To the hard work of second chances.
To the hard work of intervention, changing what we can- to make a difference for others.
To give others their second chance.
God calls us to a ministry of second chances.
To a ministry that bears fruit.
When we have turned around, we can be the means by which the Good News gets the better of all the bad news.
Repentance and second chances.
Gods good news for us today.
Go - and live out the gospel.
Thanks be to God.

Saturday, 27 February 2016


Isaiah 55:1-2
An Invitation to Abundant Life
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

An invitation 
to life
Abundant life
Life that is filled
with good things
with plenty
An invitation
to rest
and renewal
to stop striving
and receive
in grace
An invitation
to accept
the abundant life
that is God's will
for all God's children
An invitation
awaiting acceptance.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The things we do not see

Philippians 4:10-13
Acknowledgment of the Philippians’ Gift
I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

The mystery of being part of the church, the body of Christ goes beyond our imaginations. Sometimes, without our knowledge, prayer is being offered and God is at work in our lives, visibly and invisibly.
Such is the joy and responsibility of being part of that body. If this is true for us, it is also true for others. Think of the difference we might make by praying for one another, not out of desperation or when crisis comes, but simply praying, as a matter of course, with no agenda, no specific request, but simply to remember before God our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It doesn't take a prayer warrior to invoke the blessing of God just some quiet and some intentional prayer - just because.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


Mark 11:27-28
Jesus’ Authority Is Questioned
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

We seize on authority
As though that lent authenticity
We give credence and power
to "officialdom"
Failing to notice
that innovation
seldom emanates
from the courts of establishment.
Spontaneity is denigrated
while adhering to the rules is elevated
Yet few who stuck to the rules
managed to change the world
Jesus, beloved child of God
knew a different authority
and moved to a different rhythm
than those around him.
And so he was silenced
for daring to sow seeds of corruption
in those who followed him.
Still, today, that kind of Maverick
is viewed with suspicion
treated with contempt
but may yet be
the one who reveals most clearly
the very nature of God.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Bread of compassion

Matthew 15:32-33
Feeding the Four Thousand
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?”

Lord, as if you could ever send anyone away hungry,
The crowds came out to hear you,
followed you wherever you were
Their minds were fed
with all they could take
and more
But you worried not just about their souls
but about their bodies.
You filled them Spiritually 
and wanted to ensure
that their physical needs
were also met.
And still you see
each one
as a whole person
body, mind and spirit
and long to care 
and wholly
for all our needs today.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Writ large

2 Corinthians 3:1-3
Ministers of the New Covenant
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

A living testament
Writ large in human hearts
Flesh and bone
wrought by the Spirit
Shaped and fashioned
to be a beacon of hope
signalling new life
and new beginnings
and new possibilities
through Christ.
What a legacy.
What a trail to blaze.
Letters of Christ
written in the Spirit.
Glory to God!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Lord of all

Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Stills the Storm
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Lord of the skies, the hills, the sea
Of beauty and majesty
At home in the calm
and the storm
Teach us how to love and revere
the vagaries of the elements
and in them to glimpse you
commanding the waves
calming the storm
teaching us faith.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Courage or Daring?

Luke 13:31-35
The Lament over Jerusalem
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

Jesus'willingness to put himself in danger, to refuse to turn away from the reckoning that even those around him, slow as they sometimes were, could see was coming, might be seen as courageous or foolhardy.
But perhaps there is something else: In courage, there is also fear. We can't make a choice to be courageous unless we feel the fear of the options before us. Although some might show courage in spontaneous situations, mostly, courage is something we choose over fear. We have to know the inherent dangers to actively choose to overcome those and be courageous.
And so, Jesus, in choosing to press on toward Jerusalem, displays something of himself - that he is open to fear yet chooses to go on anyway. In his words and in the choice he makes, we see deep into Jesus' character, we are party to the vulnerability that he displays for us. That vulnerability that fears rejection, that fears pain, that fears death, the vulnerability that allows Jesus to choose courage and set his course for Jerusalem. 
And, alongside his vulnerability, fear and courage, we see also compassion. Compassion that wants to shelter a bruised and broken city, hell-bent on destruction - a compassion that knows rejection as those he yearns to shelter refuse to be turned away from the course they have set.
Vulnerability, fear, courage and compassion - the sheer humanity of Christ displayed for us in these verses today with an invitation to embrace who we are at our most vulnerable and fearful with courage and compassion. 
In Christ we are invited to be who we are, to love who we are, even as we are accepted and loved by one who knows us and who stretches out wings in which we may shelter.
Thanks be to God.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Nothing new?

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been,
in the ages before us.

Nothing new under the sun...
This passage could be an ode to Social Media - it seems the same jokes and memes appear time and again, recirculating in different guises for different occasions. 
It can be quite tiresome.
And yet, there is also a wealth of creativity and ingenuity.
People paint evocative word pictures.
They capture stunning images of the beauty - or of the squalor- around them.
They share, they interpret, they judge, they implore. Touched by a something in the created world, they draw others in to be moved or appalled too. They gather forces and garner resources.
And much good can be harnessed through a tired media.
Just when we're about to give up, something marvellous happens and faith is restored - faith in God, faith in human nature, faith in human kindness.
For, in the end, no matter how much we have seen or done or how much we've grown weary, we can all be kind, practicing kindness that links us to one another, to creation and to the God of creation today.
Nothing new under the sun?
Yet, still there is kindness.

Friday, 19 February 2016

With a gentle spirit

Galatians 6:1
Bear One Another’s Burdens
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.
Not with judgement
Or condemnation
But with gentleness
Not by casting out
Or ostracising
But by restoring
Acknowledging wrong
but then embracing
with love
Making space 
for making amends
Forgiving and restoring
as we have been
forgiven and restored.
With the gift of the Spirit
we are charged
to be gentle.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Here is water...

Acts 8:36-38
As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
For the Eunuch to whom Philip explained the scriptures, baptism was a perfectly logical next step in response to the word.
When did we last feel the spontaneity of faith, the urgency of response to God's word?
When did the Spirit so move us that we could do no other but respond in faith and in love?
And when did we last facilitate such spontaneity, cutting through the rules and the red tape, simply opening the word and making room for the Spirt to work?
Where, today, is God calling us to be conduits of grace? A question with which to wrestle in these days of Lent.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Praying love

Ephesians 3:18-19
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The knowledge of God's love
It's breadth
And length
And height 
And depth
Beyond our imagining
To pray that
for our neighbour
is a gift beyond measure.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Moving on

Acts 14:21-23
The Return to Antioch in Syria
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

Moving on...
The hard part of the journey
Moving on...
Leaving it all behind
Moving on...
Putting faith in God and others.
The work of moving on
begins at the beginning
preparing others
equipping them
handing on
the tools to continue
before getting out of the way
and letting them do it.
And what if they get it wrong?
What if they change things?
What if there are difficulties?
Moving on
requires trust
and confidence in others
and in the God of grace and love
who is there in the beginning
and will be til the end.
Journeying in faith
is a journey of moving on.

Monday, 15 February 2016

In the way

1 Corinthians 2:1-4
Proclaiming Christ Crucified
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

One of the pieces of advice I was given when I started preaching was: "Proclaim the word and then get out of the way."
While I can understand the well meant sentiment behind that advice, I've come to think of it a flawed.
Our actions must mirror the words that we preach. Our walk must match the talk.
And, while God's spirit won't be hampered by our words or actions, it can only help if we practice what we preach.
Living the way of love.
Practising the grace of forgiveness. ( and it takes a LOT of practice)
Reaching out with the gospel of hospitality.
All these things draw much better pictures of the nature of God than we can paint with words.
May this Lent be a time of matching our actions to our words - or a time of preaching the gospel without words!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Full of the Spirit

Luke 4:1
The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.

Jesus entered the wilderness buoyed up by the affirmation, in baptism, that he was God's beloved son. That was enough to sustain him through trials and fasting.
However we practice baptism, be it in infancy, relying on the grace of God and guardians of the promise or in adulthood, as a public proclamation of faith, we often quickly lose sight of the import of baptism at whatever age - the import of God calling us beloved children, enabling and empowering us to do all things. Blessed to be a blessing.
Baptism is not only our affirmation but our elevation. In Baptism we are called out to serve. No one can refute that calling.
And, however long it might take us to embrace the gift, the blessing and the call, all three elements are present in that simple yet profound act.
It was enough to sustain Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness.
Enough to sustain him through an itinerant ministry.
Enough to sustain him through death and resurrection.
In these days of Lent, in whatever wilderness we may find ourselves, may we recall the affirmation and the ordination we received in baptism and may we respond as beloved children of God, called and equipped to serve and sustained in all things by one whose grace is sufficient.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

If you loved me...

John 14:28
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

If you loved me...
You would rejoice
If you loved me...
You would know
If you loved me...
You would understand 
If you loved me...
You would rejoice
God even with our hindsight
Even when we know the rest of the story
Even when, daily, you surround us
with your love and beauty,
Still we do not get it.
We fail to make the connections
We are slow to join the dots
And so we miss the joy
of loving and being loved
by the one whose name is love.
This day, O God,
Open our heart and mind and soul
to notice the presence
of your Holy Spirit
with which you confront us
in mystery and love.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Calm assurance

Matthew 6:30-31
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’

Colour and resilience
emerging from the frozen ground
signalling much more
than a change of season
promising much more
than beauty and life:
A symbol of faithfulness -
the faithfulness of God
who is present
in every season
alongside all who seek
accompaniment through life
through every time and season
promising and delivering
fullness of life.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Listen carefully

1 Samuel 3:19-21
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Hushed was the evening hymn,
The temple courts were dark,
The lamp was burning dim,
Before the sacred ark:
When suddenly a voice divine
Rang through the silence of the shrine.

Growing up in the church, this was one of my favourite hymns - and the call of Samuel was one of my favourite Bible stories.
The hymn goes on as a prayer for all of the attributes that Samuel had that allowed him to be an effective servant of God.
Looking again at the story, I am reminded that in Samuel's "elevation", there was also a message of judgement - the priest Eli, under whose instruction Samuel was nurtured in faith was censured for not acting to quash his sons' sins of blasphemy.
1 Samuel 3:13
For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.

With adult eyes, I see a story much harsher than the carefully edited version with which I grew up, a story with many layers. 
In this season of Lent, may there be space and clarity that allows the layers to be uncovered, getting to the heart of God who calls, who empowers, who judges and equips, a God who demands much, who gives much and who rebukes and corrects. A God who calls real people to serve in a real world.
During this season, may there be space to listen carefully to the voice of God for our lives today and the wisdom to act on and to share the whole message.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Baptism, Eucharist, Death

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return... (Genesis 3:19)
Ash Wednesday
The first day of the season of Lent
When, by a simple smudge of ashes
the whole gospel is proclaimed:
You are loved,
You are deeply loved
by the God who loved you before you were born
whose love accompanies you through all of life
and whose arms will be there to welcome you in death.
Affirming in baptism: You are my beloved child
Reaching out through the Eucharist: Remember me
Proclaiming in death: Love never ends
In all your sojourns in the wilderness of life
may you hear those whispers 
of the God who created you
of the God who redeems you
And of the God who waits to welcome you to eternal life.
Repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15)

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