Friday, June 06, 2014

Some thoughts at the time of Pentecost...

I have often wondered what the sights and sounds of the first Pentecost were like. Luke describes the scene for us in Acts 2:1-4. He mentions the ‘a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing’. Then there was the sight of ‘what looked like tongues of fire’ that touched each person there. Finally all the people in the room that day, not just the apostles, ‘began to talk in other languages’.  Truly mind-blowing.  No wonder we find some of the crowd that gathered on that day trying to explain everything away by accusing the disciples of being drunk. Their minds could not comprehend what was happening. They wanted to quickly explain it away.
There are times I think that the church today, that’s us, is more like the gathering crowd than the followers of Jesus who were gathered in the room that first Pentecost. We cannot comprehend the working of the Holy Spirit so we play down his importance or we make excuses when it seems like his power is not at work in our lives or in our congregation. Maybe one of the reason people leave the church or are not attracted to join in the church is because we have made it too quiet, too predictable, too safe. If we can learn anything from that first Pentecost it is this. When the Holy Spirit comes the silence is gone.  Our settled ways are upset. All those things we build around us for security and safety are blown away. 
May our Pentecost prayer be:   Holy Spirit, come as wind and blow the dust of death away.  Breathe the gift of life into us. Amen

Friday, May 30, 2014

Whose in charge here?

Ephesians 1:15-23...some interesting stuff here.  Here are some thoughts...

How little we know.  Paul's prayer in verses 16-20 is all about his request that God give us the spiritual wisdom and vision to know God and to know the hope we have, the richness of his blessing, and the great power that is at work in know...the power that raised Christ from the dead.  Though he thanks God for the faith of the people, Paul realizes just how much is still lacking or unknown.  The same is true today.  It isn't simply a problem with faith, but a lack of understanding...a lack of vision...a lack to knowing all that we have to carry out our lives and work as the people of church.  Maybe that is why sometimes it seems there is so little life in the church.  We are not drawing 'life' from the source.

Just what is the church.  In verses 22-23 there are some amazing things to consider. Paul sees the church as part of God's great plan of creation. It is not some social cultural development, but the living body of Christ on earth.  It's life and growth comes through Christ who is the head of the church.  The church is also filled with his presence, living in his life, receiving through him all the gifts and abilities needed to carry out the work of the kingdom of God, as well as the grace which enriches our lives.

One final thought that comes through all this is captured in verse 21.  Here Paul answers clearly and plainly the question..."Whose in charge here?".  His answer?   Christ.

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's been awhile...

It's been a couple of months since I put anything down in this blog. Probably because I cam working through one of those times in life trying to figure out who I am now and where I want to be in the coming years.  Sadly, but no clear answers yet.  However there are some developing ideas.  The text from 1 Peter 2:2-10 inspired me to put something out there this week.  In this portion of the letter there are some telling comments about just who I am, or maybe, who I am called to be in Christ.  Phrases like 'living stones', 'royal priests', 'holy nation', 'God's own people' make me stop and think.  Are these words describing who I am  or who I am meant to be?  And just what does that mean in terms of everyday living?  How do I fulfill the role of royal priest or living stone?  What does it mean to be part of a holy nation or God's own people?  Big questions. I'm still working on the answers.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What sort of proof are you looking for???

We live in a world where "proof" is king.  Everything needs to be "proved".  But as shown time and again, "proof" is subjective.  An individual or a group can choose to decide that the "proof" being offered is false or misleading or incorrect.  So in the end nothing is proven. The argument moves from the original demand for "proof" to what actually constitutes "proof".

 In 2 Peter 1 the author simply says that "proof" for the grace of God and his revelation in Jesus can only be found in one place...the Word.  Christians are called upon to read, study, know and live in the Word. All people are invited into the Word.  But it is important to note that when the author speaks of the Word he is not referring to just a dry document on a scroll or a page, but to the Word made flesh, to Jesus.  That is why he encourages us to "continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)  For him and all who seek to believe, the "proof" can only be found in Christ.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sometimes size does matter...

Hebrews 2:11-18                                                                 
Since the children, as he calls them, are people of flesh and blood, Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature. He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, and in this way set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death.      (verses 14-15)

I am always intrigued when magazines publish those lists of the most intriguing people of the year, the sexiest, the beautiful, the richest, or when Time chooses it’s  person of the year.  It has often struck me in reading these lists and articles, and then reflecting on what else I have read and watched in the media, how so many people, actors, sports persons, politicians, business people are presented as larger than life...richer, more successful, more beautiful, smarter, faster, more capable than the rest of the us.  I begin to wonder if maybe that isn't why we so love to read about their fall from grace...divorces, scandals, gossipy sort of dirt that gets published under the need to know banner.  It makes us feel that they are just like the rest of us.  It brings them down to our level.

In contrast to these larger than life people, I share with you this story. When my daughter was about 5 years old, she and I were walking to her Kindergarten one morning when she started talking about Jesus.  I don’t remember how the conversation started or even where it ended up.  However, in amongst the seemingly endless stream of questions, thoughts and comments that poured from her were these words.  "God is bigger than me, but Jesus is just my size.”

Some deep wisdom in those words. God is bigger than me. That’s why we cannot always fathom or understand or define what is his will and purpose at various times in our lives. God is bigger than me. So I am unable to contain him or control him or even define him clearly. God is bigger than me. So I need to recognize that there is a need for faith and trust in him, his Word and promise.  I like having such a big God.

At the same time, Jesus is just my size.  He didn’t drop from the clouds. He didn’t come in glory. He was born a baby in a small village. He grew and lived as a human being and experienced all of life just as you and I do.  All the feelings, thoughts, temptations, fears, even death. Nothing to separate him from you and me.  I like this, too. It reminds me that in Jesus God does know and understand every aspect of my life. He is aware of the daily struggles I face. He knows the fullness of my very human weaknesses. He has, in Jesus, experienced what it is to be a living, breathing person.

The writer to the Hebrews says, that Jesus did this in order to destroy death and the devil and to set us free from the power and fear of death.  No longer slaves to fear and death, but free for life and all its fullness. No longer under the power of death and the devil, but now living in the power of God and his grace at it comes to us in Jesus and through the working of the Holy Spirit.

How much God loves us.  How much God loves you. In Jesus, God enters our world to live with us, in us and through us always.  In Jesus there is acceptance, love, forgiveness and eternal life.  God did not come as some powerful super being or a divine deliverer wrapped in glory, The God who is bigger than us came to us in Jesus. The Jesus who is just our size. As a baby that became a child who grew into a man who then showed that there was nothing to fear because he died and rose to life again.

God is bigger than you. His grace extends beyond your imagining. His love embraces the whole of his creation. But all this and more he gives to you in Jesus. Jesus, who is just your size.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Do you know what time it is?

It has been more than several weeks since I posted on this blog.  Mea culpa...mea maxima culpa.  I am great sinner when it comes to blogging. However, in my defense, I would like to point out that I have been mindful of the end of the church year with all the Bible readings speaking of the day of Judgement, and the approaching Advent season with its pointers to the coming Messiah.  The biggest and best reminder that I have had in this time has been the funerals. About one a week for the past couple of months. Each one contained the reminder of death, judgement, deliverance and the messiah.  So that's my excuse...a weak one I am sure, but I am sticking with it.  Meanwhile let's take a whack at Paul in Romans 13:11-14...

Paul puts it out there nicely when he writes:

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

There are a number of comparisons here...slumber and waking...night and day...darkness and light...decently and indecently...Jesus and desires of the flesh.  Each involves a choice by the listener. Will you keep on sleeping or are you going to wake up?  Do you wish to remain in the darkness or will you put on the light?   Will you live as Christ or in the desires of the flesh?  

Notice that Paul makes his point in light of "understanding the present time".  He reminds us that "the hour has already come".  It's not something to be waiting for. I know that's where the funerals were helpful for me. They were, each in their own way, a reminder. Life is finite. Time runs out. I need not only to live my life to the full, but to be mindful of living my life in Christ.  For only in him is their "life in all its fullness"

Friday, October 25, 2013

Some thoughts on Reformation Sunday...

This coming Sunday, October 27, our Lutheran church community here in the Illawarra will be celebrating the Reformation. A time when we remember Martin Luther and his call to reform the church, as well as the message of God's grace that found voice in the church again through his writings and preaching and teaching.

Lately, I must confess, I have been somewhat concerned about the Lutheran church and this Sunday seems to be a good time to remember that we are a 'reforming' church not a 'reformed' church. The work that Luther was part of in the 1500s still continues today.  So this might be a good time to look around the Lutheran Church and start asking questions. Questions like:

Where and how is the church in need of reformation today?

Are there practices that we have within the church which are hindering the gospel and the growth of faith in the lives of people?

How clearly are we proclaiming the message of God's grace and are we proclaiming freely and openly to everyone?

What needs to be done better in our lives as individuals and as faith community?

I could of course also add questions about women's ordination, Gay/Lesbian/Bi's in the faith community, and a whole lot more, but I think most of us know many of the questions.  Maybe we should stop being too afraid to ask them...and expect some answers when we do.