Sunday, February 26, 2012

It doesn't matter...and acts of violence

1 Peter 3:18-22 has two aspects that truly hit home for me in this past week.

The first is found in verse 18 where Peter writes "For Christ died for sins once and for all..." It doesn't matter whether or not you believe this happened. Christ has died. The debt is paid. That's all that matters. What you or I do with this act of grace...well that is a whole other matter.

The second is in verses 20-21:

"...during the days that Noah was building his boat. The few people in the boat - eight in all - were saved by the water, which was symbol pointing to baptism, which now saves you."

When we think of baptism it is the child held lovingly in someone's arms over the baptismal font with the Pastor gently pouring water over the top of the baby's head or maybe at our most extreme, an adult being immersed in a baptistry or pool or pond or river. But here, Peter compares baptism to a 'flood'. And not just any flood, but one that is all about judgement and destruction, out of which God recreates a new world and a new start. I never thought of my baptism as a flood, but if I stop to think about how it rearranged my life, what else could it be? Paul picks up this theme in Romans 6 when he speaks about how we 'die' in baptism. More rearranging.
I guess it also hits home a bit more because of the Lenten season when I am a bit more reflective on these sorts of things. Floods not only rearrange your life, but they often sweep the place clean. All that debris. All that stuff that clutters our lives is swept away in a maelstrom of water. Well, that is baptism, and the debris that is swept away in my life is sin, death and the power of the devil.

Roll on cleansing waters.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just some thoughts...

This Sunday is Transfiguration and I am continuing through the Epistle readings for this year which brings us to 2 Corinthians 4:3-6.

Some thought-starters for me were:

Transfiguration can be met with celebration…not explanation or moral lessons...I like that!!! So often we want to provide people with some sort of explanation to help them understand or apply the teachings of Jesus or Scripture in some way. Paul talks about 'revelation' and doesn't mention application or understanding.

An interesting historical note I came across in my reading. A Supernova occurred in 1054 AD which was recorded in China, Arabia, Arizona, Alaska, South Pacific, but not in Europe. As one historian put it, "An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it!" The same can be said for the Gospel. It's not that the Gospel isn't out there, but that we and other people refuse to see it! The human ability to limit God's that's something.

v.3... Paul may be pointing to individuals within the Christian community who misinterpret and misunderstand the gospel, not necessarily people outside the community of faith.

Note also the use of words like: veiled...blinded...cannot see...light...dark... light...knowledge...glory...face

Many images of vision…seeing.

There is the reminder in the Gospel and also here in Paul, that the transfiguration is not so Jesus being changed, but about the disciples eyes being opened for a brief moment to see the true glory of the Christ.

Our lives are to be filled with seeking out those moments when the kingdom of God is opened…investing all that we are and want to be in seeing his glory revealed.

So are Communion…baptism…prayer…worship…all ways of seeing and seeking the glory of God?

Just some thoughts.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Companions...not Chameleons!

I have been serving in the Illawarra Lutheran Parish for 3 years now and have been preaching my way through the Gospel readings. Now I am starting on a preaching journey that will take me through the Epistle readings for the next few years. I hope you will continue to accompany me as we take our first look.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 is a classic text from the writings of Paul, apostle, missionary, evangelist, author. In it we find some of his better known words:

"So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible." (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Too often these words are taken to mean that we are 'chameleons' who must constantly change to suit the situation or the people we meet. Self-denial seems to be the key. The problem in this is that we easily become dishonest and hypocritical with ourselves and with others. Taking a stand on anything seems almost impossible and it seems to me that we become more like some slick snake-oil salesperson who will say anything to make a sale.

But we are not in the business of selling. Evangelism is not selling. To me Paul is talking about acceptance of the person. About being authentic and real. About being flexible and open to meet people wherever we find them in their physical and spiritual lives. It may mean that sometimes we find ourselves mixed up in some things that make us uncomfortable and challenge our way of thinking. It may mean offering real know... 'making someone feel at home when we really wish they were'.

One of the best understandings I came across in my reading for this text was written by D.T. Niles, a theologian, who wrote that we are just:

"one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread."

To be all things to all people is about being companions...not chameleons.