Friday, June 24, 2011

Back to basics...

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:40-42)

We have all heard the call for labourers in the vineyard...the command to go and make disciples...the invitation and challenge to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus...but our response to these various words of Jesus is usually tempered by our feelings of inadequacy and lack of ability. In these few verse from the Gospel according to Matthew,what does it mean to hear and heed and live in response to Jesus' call to discipleship?

Simply be meet the basic need of those you meet. Whether that need is a glass of water or spare change from your pocket or sharing your lunch or providing a bed or a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on or a lift to the corner shop. The smallest kindness is of great value in the Kingdom of God.

And why shouldn't this be so. As Peter reminds us, we are the king's priests and a holy nation. Every aspect of my life is sacred, holy, set apart for God's service. Even that simple drink of water or the loose change in my pocket.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A couple of thoughts....John 20 and Matthew 28...

I keep coming back to the fact that in the reading from John 20:19-23, Jesus sends out 'fearful' and 'fear-filled' disciples. He does impart the breath of the Spirit in them, but at the same time there is nothing to tell us that their fear has been removed or even lessened. Particularly when you read on and discover that one week later they are still 'locked' in the upper room.

Now this week in Matthew 28:16-20 we have the 'Great Commission' as it is so often called. Again it struck me here in verse 17 that when Jesus appears to the disciples some worship him, but some 'doubted'. Yet once again Jesus commissions these 'doubters' along with the 'worshippers' and entrusts them with his authority before sending them out.

So what does this say to me...well a couple of things.

First is that to be a disciple of Jesus, and therefore a witness for him, is not about having my act together. I can never get it all together. Not in life. Not in my spiritual life either. Being a witness for Jesus is simply telling my story, my encounter with this gracious and loving Jesus, openly and honestly with all my weaknesses and doubts there alongside times of strength and faith.

Second is a reminder that both in the John reading and the Matthew reading, I am not to be the object of faith. Nor is the church or even it's teachings. Jesus is to be the object and focus of faith. Jesus is to be the object and focus of my witness. My purpose and goal is to point people to Jesus and encourage them to find their personal relationship with him...not me...not my church...not my belief system.

Finally both of these stories from the life of Jesus highlight that Jesus has entrusted the gift of the Spirit and the work of his kingdom to ordinary people, just like me. Fearful and fear-filled at times. Questioning and doubting. But capable of acts of faith and faithful that can change the world and reveal the living Jesus.

One final question...a big one... "How?"

Simple really. You just need to be willing to make a difference wherever you find yourself.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Quiet Pentecost

I like John 20:19-23...particularly vvs 21-22...the quiet Pentecost event. No sounds of a rushing wind. No visible signs appear like tongues of fire. No multitude of languages. No crowds of witnesses. No powerful preaching Peter. Just a bunch of fearful and fear-filled disciples in a locked room. The appearance of Jesus. His quiet calming "Peace be with you." And then he 'breathes' on them. He 'breathes' into them the life-giving Spirit. Like God in the garden breathing into the dust new life. Like Ezekiel breathing the Word into the valley of dry bones. Jesus breathing life into his disciples...and so into his church.

For many of us, the coming of the Holy Spirit is just such a breath-filled experience. The Spirit's coming took place in the quiet spaces and places of our lives...filled us with peace and a knowledge of the presence of God...and challenges and encourages us to act despite our fear.

I like John 20:19-23 because it helps me remember that Pentecost is not always bells and whistles. Quite often it is simply the quiet small voice of God speaking into the silent places and space of me. May God grant me the ears to hear...and the trust to act.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Ascension...

Though for the most part, the Ascension story is about the enthronement of Jesus as Lord of heaven and earth, from a human perspective it is also a story about loss and grief and hope.

Luke records for us in Acts 1 how the disciples questioned Jesus about the establishment of their 'dream' kingdom, the restoration of Israel, proving once again that they still had not comprehended what Jesus was all about. His signaled departure was worrying and it is easy to put yourself among the crowd as Jesus disappeared from their sight and hear the questioning, "Is he coming back???"

The appearance of the two men (angels), refocus the disciples on this earth. To paraphrase their question, they ask, "Just what are you looking at?". A good question since Jesus had made a clear on any number of occasions that his absence would not mean the end of his work, but rather the beginning of a new aspect of his work in which the disciples themselves would be doing those 'greater things'.

Sadly, I think, we often spend more time worrying about the when and where and how of Jesus' return, or take great pains trying to experience his presence or search for some spiritual experience to reinforce our struggling faith. The reality is that Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, have given us all we need to carry on the work he has given us to do as individual Christians and as church.

So rather than looking up and wondering when and where he will return...we need to look around and see those around us, for Christ is already here among you and in me and in the people we interact with every moment of every day.