Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What deserves our attention and amazement?

This week’s Gospel lesson (Mark 1.21-28) is where the message of the kingdom, get is momentum. It is the Sabbath and Jesus is in the local Synagogue teaching. It is not what Jesus is teaching that is surprising people, it is how he is teaching it. He does not refer to other people. He does not have specific prayers, tricks or incantations. What Jesus has, is a simple and direct command to a demon. No bargaining, no pleading. Just the simple command “Stop talking and come out of him.”

Jesus’ teaching is declarative not just deliberative. His teaching declares the nearness of the presence of God and the kingdom and how things are in the presence of God rather than asking the people simply to believe that God cares. Jesus’ teaching doesn’t just talk about peace and healing – it becomes a reality the sight of the nation. Jesus preaching is the kind of teaching that breaks the boundaries of the old system which has benefited another kind of rule and allowed evil to thrive. The presence of God and the preaching of Jesus come to make God’s blessings flow “far as the curse (of sin and death) is found”.  God has come in the person of Jesus, to break down all that entangles and ensures us and the rest of creation so that we can grow and flourish as we are created to.

This season of Epiphany is a time for us to look at this very thing so that we are ready to enter into Lent and participate in Christ as he walks, suffers and dies and then rise again with him at Easter time. And because of this, we need to decide whether we can accept the way that life is around us, and live the status quo or if we are going to take the risk and believe in and follow Jesus to the cross; the same Jesus who is commissioned by God to bring the life of the kingdom to the people of God who are in need of it. We are challenged by the message to discover if there is something more beyond what we have become familiar and satisfied with: to figure out what deserves our attention and amazement.  

One way to help us do that is to be in worship on a regular basis. We need worship, eucharistic worship to help us to deal with what is going on inside. Worship and prayer are the foundation of how God reorders our lives so that we can be free. The four fold action of the Eucharist (Take, bless, break and give) teaches us the order in which we are to live our lives. We receive and take for ourselves, what God has given – because the Father gives good gifts to his children. We bless what we have received because what is given, life and all it holds is sacred. We break it to savour all that the gift holds for us. Then we share it, because it is a matter of life and death for each and for all of us.  

We must learn to live in this fourfold way precisely because when people come to the Church looking hoping for a miracle, leaving frustrated because they think God isn’t listen or does not care. We are his hands, his feet, his eyes and his voice. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to not have it all down. It is okay to not have all the answers. We are not called to be God. You and I are being drawn in to be witnesses of the power of God’s Message in us and through us, that others might be set free physically and spiritually.

Will you come and follow him?


Friday, January 16, 2015

Can anything come from up North? Come and See!

The question that is asked in this week’s Gospel is a ponderous one, after just having had a week off: “Can anything good come from up north?” It is the question that gets asked by Nathaniel of Phillip (John 1.43-51) when Jesus calls Phillip to journey north towards home and Nazareth with him. Phillip goes and extends the invitation to Nathaniel. This means to me that the import of this portion of Gospel is the call to come and see so that we might go and participate in the life and ministry of Jesus. And what the Gospel is telling us is that faith is caught not taught.

When Philip gave the reply “come and see” he could have chosen to lecture Nathaniel about being pessimistic about what God can do. Phillip didn't plead with his friend to be serious and to take him seriously. Philip extended an invitation and left the choice with Nathaniel. And I think it was the exuberance of the reply that got Nathaniel’s curiosity up and he wanted to check out this Jesus guy from up north to see what the hullabaloo was all about.

If there is one thing that I have learned in the years that I have been as pastor, teacher of the faith, and as an evangelist, it is that faith is caught, not taught. I have the opportunity from time to time to speak with people I knew when I was younger and we often talk about the “good old days” and why they were so good. One of the things that I remember is how we used to talk about Jesus and our faith far more openly. We would invite people to come with us and we tried as much as we could to take as many people with us as we could to wherever it was we were going and to whatever it was that we were going to do.

If there is something that is missing from the life of the churches these days it is the Spirit of God. A bold statement to be sure but it is something that I don’t talk about much lately and need to do more of it. I will talk about following Jesus and other important things from Scripture but I have had an epiphany this week while I have been off resting up, and that is we as a church, I as a priest, don’t talk a whole lot about the life and things of God the Holy Spirit. It is not an intention omission to be sure, but I have come to realize that I need to be more intentional about talking about it and preaching on it because it matters.

God uses people to draw other people to himself and to work on them to bring them to be the people that they are meant to be in him. Being and moving with God in the Spirit, is a lot like ballroom dancing. God takes the lead and we are to follow the motions he sets out and indicates for us – showing us where to step and controlling the speed and which we, the Church, move.

But the Christian life is more than that. it is also about capturing the vision and learning to improvise within the steps and motions. It is about learning to see what it is that God sees in us and in the life of others. The Church needs to learn to be creative in what we do (in displaying and communicating the Gospel) so that we can capture not just the motions but also the imaginations of people. If you want to know what good can come from up north, come and see. If you want to see how God is working to rescue and redeem people, come and see, if you want to know what God is really like, come and see. It is God’s idea, God’s epiphany to show you all this and more – he is showing us the way! He is leading us and sustain us by his Spirit.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jesus is in the building

This past week, there are many in the music world who observed the 80th birthday of Elvis Aaron Presley, the late king of Rock and Roll. I can remember when he used to do concerts. To control the crowds, they would announce, “Elvis is in the building”. No doubt, the announcement used to whip the multitude into a frenzy for the concert. And conversely, they would announce that, “Elvis has left the building.” This was done in an effort to dismiss the throngs and to keep control of the situation. Over the years there have been many famous announcers who have had catch phrases. You might not know the name of Michael Buffer, but you will certainly know the catchphrase he coined: “Let’s get ready to rumble!” if you are not familiar with this please click on this hyperlink, to learn about it:

The Gospel this week (Mark 1:4-11) has some similar connotations. There is an announcement that “The Son is in the building. Thank you. Thank you very much. And with him I am well pleased!” But have you considered the importance of who made the announcement?

I hope that you understand that the voice that declares Jesus’ presence notes for us that there is a God. A Father. The voice tells us that there is a mission that needs to be accomplished – to reach human souls and draw them home - and that is why the Son has been sent. And because there is a God and God has a mission, God has a church.

The experience of hearing the voice brought about different reactions from different people. But just in case it was missed, this was not a small, quiet voice. It was not an indoor voice in a frilly, lacy moment. It was a booming, shake you out of your socks roar that announced that Jesus was here among us and that God’s favour and grace rested upon him. But why all the fanfare and gusto about this one baptism when so many are being baptized?

Something important that sustained Jesus in his ministry happen in that moment – he saw the heavens open and the Spirit descending to him as he comes up out of the water.  He gained insight into his relationship with his Father. His Father is watching him and is please and celebrating everything that Jesus was doing and blessing with everything that he had to offer him. What was it that Jesus doing? He was following His Father’s will. The Father was rejoicing over the fact that the Son was doing what was asked of him.

And this brings us to the bath time - John baptised Jesus in the River Jordan. The purpose of Mark – and therefore of Peter and Jesus – in sharing this story is for those who follow in this way so that they can capture a vision of what is means to be in Christ, in his death and his resurrection. It is the start of the change from what the world is to what the world is becoming in God’s grace and timing. It is also good news to those who believe because they are told that nothing can overcome God and his kingdom: not by the powers and evil nor by worldly oppressors and systemic persecutions.  That is good news for a community that needs reassurance that things are going to work out, in spite of what might be the current circumstance.

This also means that we are free, not only to proclaim, but also to be handed over to suffering and death. Without being handled over to suffering, pain, disease and death there is no resurrection and new life. Therefore we must be prepared and ready for whatever it is that God calls us to and to follow wherever he is going and doing whatever it is that he is doing. After all, there is a God. And God has a mission. And because God has a mission God has the Church. What do you bring to the mission that you can offer? Jesus is in the building, what will you do next?


A Huge thank you

A big thank you to all of the readers! We just past 10,000 reads on the blog! Thanks for your interest and I look forward to writing more!