Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Lion who would be Goat

There is a great story that I heard the Rev. John Claypool, an Episcopal priest from Texas, tell a few years back about a lion who though he was a goat. It didn’t start out that way. The young lion cub was born into this world and very shortly after his birth, his mother died. It was an accident but the young lion cub found himself alone in the world. As he sat there in the field a few paces from his mother’s body, he sat and cried. Passing by was a herd of goats who heard the sad tones of the cub and they came to check things out. And in the kindness and compassion that is in the world the herd looked on the sight of this pitiful creature and decided that they would invite the cub to come and join the herd. And the cub willingly went along. As time pass there were changes in the cub as he grew: massive muscles and bones, large teeth and a very swishy tail. Yet he also took on all the qualities of “goatness” and became one of them bleating, jumping and playing and chew on grass and bushes.
One day the King of the Lions was passing through that part of the world and he happen upon this goat herd with its young lion in tow. The king moved in to see this sight and when his presence was realized the heard scattered, leaving the lion cub to bleat nervously and continue to chew on a blade of grass.  The King called to the cub and took him to the river. The King fed the cub lion food and then took him to the river and showed him his reflection in the water. And he looked at himself he then saw the reflection of the King there beside him. The King said to the cub, “I am sorry about what happened to you. And what happened was an accident and getting involved with the goats was a mistake. Come with me now and become the grand creature you already are.”
There is a lot about animals in this week’s reading and so I thought fitting to use this story to help us reflect on where we are with God and with ourselves as we begin another Lent. But if there is one thing that I would reflect for you in this moment, it is that we are to be who we are, as we have been created in Christ. There things we want to give up. There are things that we are persisting in prayer to God about. There are things that we can give and offer to others and to God as an offering, as gifts, and as a sacrifice. So maybe we need to consider carefully this Lent how we live everyday in Christ as baptised people. This examination is not just for Lent, but for everyday walking. Where is the Kingdom of God lived in your life and in the life of your family? Lent is an opportunity to reorder our lives and bring them into line with what God asks and demands of us. After all, as Martin Luther might remind us, baptism “takes only a few minutes to do and a lifetime to finish.”
So maybe this Lent is as much about endings and beginnings as the story about lion cub would suggest. The end of things shows that we like the lion cub recognize that there is something new and real that is taking place, in the light of the new relationship that is his with the King. There are things that are beginning to take shape and that has cause something that have been, like the life that had been lived with the herd will now become life with the King and his pride, his family. And both are happening all at the same time.
So take some time to go to the river this Lent, to look in the river and to see both your reflection and then the King’s, that you may become more and more his and that life spring eternal from what he offers you to eat and to drink.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Live the Mountaintop in the Valley

Almighty God, on the holy mount you revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured: mercifully deliver us from the darkness of this world, and change us into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
             - Collect, BAS Last Sunday After Epiphany
From time to time I tend to look at and consider the collects and what they have to tell us about the Gospel and God. For example, when I look at this week's collect I am only two words in and I have to stop already. Why? Because I have to stop and consider just how powerful God really is. I like to think that I am strong physically and mentally; even powerful. But then human strength and that strength isn't even as strong as God's weaknesses. God weakness is stronger than the greatest strength we can put forth. Imagine that. There is someone strong than us.

That same strength - not just raw power but power under control for that is what strength is - is housed in the person of Jesus Christ. And God has revealed this to us through Jesus. The strength to deliver us and to complete the mission of salvation and recreation is found in the person of Jesus. It has all been planned. It has all been declared and Moses and Elijah are there to help witness it. Jesus is here to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. He has come that we might be transformed into the people that God has created us to be and we are called to follow him through the think and the tin, even back down into the valley of the shadow of death. And we are to do it because we need to live what we see and hear on that mountain top back down in the valley for the sake of those who were not there.

We are to live in such a way that we will draw others into the procession of the exodus that Jesus has begun and leads us in. We are to draw others into the great and swelling train of followers who are moving into the kingdom and the eternity that God has prepared for those who will come to him. We are to be merciful people, like Jesus, who are willing to stand between people and their disasters, call to them with hands out stretched to use all the strength in us and in God to draw them in. As we are reminded by the prophet, "it is not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit," says the Lord.

And all this comes from and through Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Spirit are one God and live eternity. So let us witness to the power of God's grace, mercy and love and actively witness to his kingdom that others might come in. So let us live the mountaintop down in our valleys and let us go immediately.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Training the Christian Mind

If you have some time to listen, then please take the time to listen to this - it was very thought provoking for me as one who spent time and money to train to be a priest. It would be interesting to know what others think. Let me know in the comments section. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whose kingdom will you build?

It has been a full week this week with getting ready for an annual meeting, for Sunday worship, handling pastoral situations and so on. And I can in some ways relate to the situation which Jesus finds himself. There was so much expected of him. Earlier in the week he had healed a man of his leprosy. The man had made an impassioned plea to be accepted and made clean. He knew that Jesus could do that. About at the same time it also opens the door to things that had not been intended. Many people were being impressed and were openly now questioning whether Jesus would be the long awaited Messiah who would bring back the kingdom of their father David… you know… the good old days.

The man instead of obeying both Jesus and the Law of Moses went around spreading the news that Jesus had healed him of his leprosy. He should have gone to the temple and to the priest and been examined to be declared clean, offered the necessary sacrifice according to the law and then went to others about the greatness of God. He didn’t do that. He chose his own path and it had consequences, for Jesus, for the disciples and eventually for himself. Jesus was not able to enter into any town or village and this had a profound but unhelpful effect of making the disciples think they were popular and wanted which led to them fighting over who was the greatest among them. They would say crazy things to each other like, “God loves you but I am his favourite!”

So perhaps the lesson (Mark 1:40-45) is not so much about the coming of the kingdom as it is about how we should respond to it. We need to respond to the message when we have heard it. There are things that we need to do, not because a great and glorious thing has happened to us, around us or even within us. The healing is not about us getting setting free, it is about God who is making us whole and free through Jesus. And we need to, in turn, point to the kingdom and to the grace and mercy of God almighty. As one who has been rescued from what medical minds thought was going to be certain death, let me point out to you that it is not the moments of healing; it is not the moment of baptism, of confirmation, of marriage or even of ordination that is great and thus makes you great. It is every moment that you live after those powerful moments that gives grace to your neighbour and glory to your God that matters. Take some time this week to know what it is that God asks of you and then be brave and take the opportunity to do it and to live it, that the King might be known and the glory might be given to God.  Then we will not need to worry about the good ol’ days. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Built and saved to serve... How great is God!

The message about freedom and healing went out from that synagogue last week and it was well known around the Galilee to all those who were ill and distressed by evil. And the people started coming and the people starting finding Jesus, so that they too could be healed and be free. But maybe the most important healing of that particular evening was the one that was done in Simon’s house out of sight and where very few could see it. (Mark 1.29-39)

I have heard clergy moan in sermons about how awful it was to be healed and pressed into service – from the sick bed to the kitchen. Some have considered it very sexist that Jesus would do such a thing. But we haven’t stopped to consider why he did it. It wasn’t because Jesus needed a sandwich and a glass of milk. It wasn’t just because it was Peter’s house and it was Peter’s family.  Jesus saved that woman’s life, her dignity and enabled her to serve him so that others that night have the same experience. The kingdom was made real to her and because of that she began to truly live. And have we considered the fact that hospitality in the East is a great duty? People want to serve and not to be served – most of the time. We need to consider the very fact that this lady was not only made better, Simon’s mother in law experienced something of that salvation that we are all in search and are going to want some day. Maybe it could be someday soon.  How often in our own lives have we wanted our very own superhero to swoop in and save the day.

People are often easily impressed. They see something they want and they will pursue it: a new car, a new house and different (supposedly better) spouse and sometimes a whole new family. If they cannot get it, if there is not enough of what they need to get what they want then people turn to other things to fill the void: television, food, sex, alcohol, drugs. People will search for something to fill the void because they cannot acquire and covet what it is they want; love, grace, hope, and most of all life. It is nothing more than simple, straight forward idolatry. Shocked that I would go that far? That’s probably because we don’t talk that way much anymore. We need a few of the idols we have had built up in our lives knock and pulled down. We need to feel the need to be close to God again. Isn’t that why people came to Jesus that night at Simon’s house? To be healed and to be set free so that they could know God and his kingdom; that they might have what they truly need: hope, grace, love and eternal life?

Jesus didn’t come to impress people that they might live a shallow existence in this momentary and fleeting world and be cheated out of full life in the life that is to come in the kingdom. He came to impact people so they would transform and become the men and women that God created, the people that God wants to spend at least one eternity with. Jesus was not the bearer of God’s message to this hurt, broken and dying world. Jesus himself is the message of the growing hope, health and freedom made possible his Son through his incarnation: his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

There are those who will bemoan all the things that need to be and how impossible the task is will look at the great crowd and wonder “HOW? How are we going to change a world that is more ready to believe that God is dead and that Elvis is still alive somewhere in the universe? We are called to be like Jesus and look up at the starry hosts and be reminded not of how massive the problems of this earth  are but rather how gracious, how great our God is and with Christ, laugh out loud for joy. Let us live that for the sake of the kingdom that we might see others healed, others set free that they would serve Jesus with us and in his name.