Friday, May 27, 2011

"Love, and do as you will."

The title for this week's comments are from St Augustine. I came across them in my reading and they struck home for me because they capture the essence of what is behind Jesus' words in John 14:15-21.

Jesus here talks about love and obedience, another helper, about not leaving us orphaned and then finishes back where he started with words about love and obedience. Underlying all this is the understood truth that he is not talking about religion or religious action or personal piety, but about relationships. John 14:7ff actually act as an introduction to all this with his comments about 'seeing' Jesus is 'seeing' the Father. But here it takes it further to talk about our intimacy with him and his intimacy with us.

If we 'love' then this becomes the reason for our obedience. Not fear. Not moral uprightness. Not obedience for the sake of obedience, but love. Love for Jesus...not just his teachings. An emotional involvement...a intimate relationship with him.

His relationship with us is just as intimate. First coming as our 'helper'...hence the Spirit becomes 'another helper'. Then comes his promise not to abandon us, but to live and be seen in and among us. How is this possible, but through 'love of one another' and the promise that we are in him and he in us...something inseparable and wonderful in itself.

This is why Christianity can not survive becoming a 'religion'. Religions are all about rules and guidelines, rituals and traditions, with greater emphasis on performance and preservation.

Jesus calls us into an intimate relationship with himself. One that is best described as 'love'...and as we all know 'love' is messy, risky, dangerous, fulfilling, challenging, enfolding, life-giving and eternal.

That's why I like St Augustine's words... "Love, and do as you will."

Friday, May 20, 2011

"...even greater things"...John 14:1-14

So just what is Jesus saying here? Greater than what? Greater than whom? And what are these things anyway? Miracles? Successes? Advancement?

One thing is for certain. If we want to see and experience the 'greater' things it means we can't sit around. There is action called for. Greater things involve doing things in the first place. But it is not just about acts of faith either.

Sometimes we just simply have to get ourselves off our collective backsides and get stuck into the work or task at hand. Sometimes we have to get out of the easy chair and break away from the TV and move into action. Sometimes we have to take a risk, step outside our personal comfort zone. Sometimes we need to lift ourselves out of the rut we have dug for ourselves.

Jesus has called us into relationship with him for 'greater' things than our personal comfort and salvation.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Shut up and listen!

"Are you the only visitor..."

So go the first words of Cleopas to Jesus. What I find interesting is that the word so blithely translated 'visitor' actually means 'stranger, exile or alien without civil or native rights'. The idea of Jesus as stranger or alien is so much more accurate than visitor.

Jesus is a true child of Israel; living in exile
Jesus was not of this world though creator…he came from above, and for this reason he was an alien in his own country.
Jesus is an alien because he is not bound to one culture or region.

Both Peter and Paul in their later New Testament writings pick up this theme, except they apply it to the church, to the followers of Christ, and to us. We are the aliens, the exiles, the ones who are away from their true home.

Knowing this and applying this truth to ourselves might encourage us to change behaviours and recognize that:

Rather than shunning strangers, we would do well to journey alongside them.
Rather than exclusively speaking to those we encounter along life’s journeys, we would do well to listen first.
Rather than deeming others to be foolish, ignorant, and of no benefit, we would do well to assume that God might have revealed himself to strangers.
Rather than taking things at face value, we should realize that the Spirit is at work in the world around them.

For it was only in listening to this 'stranger'...this alien...that the eyes and hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus were opened.

It just may be that it is in our listening to others that we will more clearly hear the voice of God and experience a renewing of our understanding and vision.