Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Can you imagine that?

Imagine this: someone you love has just told you that they are going to die, and die soon. Imagine that this person has just done you a great favour. Imagine that the reason that this person is going to die has something to do with another friend in the group who has been selfish and willful. Then imagine that this same person tells you that you will deny knowing them before everything is said and done. Would this not be stressful? Would you not get all wound up? Is it possible that if you were experiencing all this loss and this grief that you might think your world is coming at the seams? Would you not want a personal leaning post?

The Gospel this week (John 14.1-14) provides us with an opportunity to look at Jesus as just that – a personal leaning post. At the Last Supper, Jesus talks to his friends and disciples about what is ahead: the betrayal, the arrest, trials and crucifixion. He remains them that they are going to follow him through and they are going to come out together. He commands them, to overcome the fear and consternation while learning to continually trust and place faith in God and to love God and neighbour. Jesus insists that we learn to, in the living of our lives, not be shaken to the core but rather to calm and quiet ourselves because there is still life to be lived and God is with us in it all.

All that is happening and going on in the world at this moment are the preparations for the feast that is to come in the kingdom of God. It is hard and scary to watch the things that are going on in the world. But this is why Christ is with us and within us through the Spirit. We can lean on Christ in a number of ways. And you might be sitting there thinking, “Religion is just a crutch.” But I have to ask you, “When you are lame, hurting and walking funny, is that bad thing?”

We are asked to lean on Christ and to put our trust and faith in him. Faith is being sure of things that we hope for and being sure of what we cannot see (Hebrews 11.1). It is what those great men and women of faith did – what they had and all they needed was their faith in God. And if you need convincing, have a look at Hebrews 11 and 12. Look at all that those people did over time by trusting God, in good times and in bad. To recognize that we are going to die the deaths that Jesus died and rise in the resurrections Jesus lives in on a daily basis. Or as St. Paul would have it, “I die daily.” (1st Corinthians 15.31)

We need to constantly be learning to lean on God through prayer so that we might be fruitful and faithful in our ministries for the Church and the kingdom. And I would not worry so much about the words I use as I would about sharing with God what you are thinking and feeling about what’s in front of you. The Spirit can help with this – to communicate the things that we need to communicate and enable us to be faithful in doing so.

We need to rust God for his word and his promises because he is always makes good on his promises. We can trust him and his word. We do need to show some patience though. Scripture is replete with examples of having to learn to wait on the Lord for his will and his timing because they are perfect. Plus we need to remember the words of St. Paul who said to the Church in Rome, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8.28-30)

In other words, can you imagine a life where you are not only expected to be but also a life that you have been called and destined to and that your life and ministry are being used as a part of the wider life of the kingdom in eternity?

Learn to lean on the Lord’s side. He will give you strength to carry on. He will give you guidance to move you forward. The Lord awaits you that he might supply you with what you need to bring glory to him. Are you ready to risk some trouble and in the process find out what you really believe and where you actually put your trust? Are you ready to put your trust in God and wing it? Can you imagine that?


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Good Shepherd is calling you

This is one of my favourite Sundays of the year to preach – Good Shepherd Sunday. It is the Sunday that we also read John 10 (1-10 this year) and we get to talk about Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the coming of a whole new way of living.

One of the first things that I notice about this week’s Gospel, his how Jesus points out who he is compared to those who call themselves the shepherds and pretend that they are the true Shepherds of the people of God. The thing is, as Jesus points out to his listeners, the Good Shepherd, the messianic Shepherd of God’s people acts and sounds different from those of the current, popular religion. Case and point is the healing of the man born blind in John 9. This man and the whole of his life, including the healing and the blindness are used to witness to the fact that God is caring for his people and doing what he promised.

On the other hand, are the religious leaders of the day who are, from the description of Jesus in this for themselves to maintain positions they have inherited and continuing to accrue wealth and power. They are compared to Jesus as being hirelings who when real trouble and problems come up care nothing for the people (flock) under their care and charge and run away from the danger to preserve themselves and their own perceived self righteousness. They are living off the work and wealth that the contemporary religion is giving them and not caring for people in return.

The Good Shepherd understands that the life and welfare of the flock is tied to his own. He is the life of the flock. Much is often made of how dumb sheep are. And at the same time there is this to their credit: they know the voice of the one who loves them and they follow him. Again, think of the man healed of his blindness. Jesus didn’t just give him sight, Jesus enabled his insight so that he could see God and be given to a new community when the old one threw him out. This man’ blindness and his entire life is used of God to glorify God and help others to see the coming kingdom. There is a simple reality that people of faith know: when you open your eyes, you can see. When you can see, you come to believe. When you believe, you become (John 1.12).

So consider Jesus and who he is for you and for all of us. Sunday by Sunday we hear the words, “The Body of Christ given for you” and “The Blood of Christ, shed for you” Jesus loved each and all of us to offer his life for us. He laid down his life and God raised him up again that we might be with him. That is why St. Paul would later write, “it is not I who live but Christ in me.” Through the Eucharist we discover again our first love and make him apart of our lives at the start of another week. He draws us in with his staff, checks us over, cleans our wool, binds our wounds and sets us free to follow his voice.

Living with Jesus means that there is a whole new way to live. We can only enter into that life by following the sound of his voice. If sheep know nothing else, they know the voice of the one who cares for them and they follow him into pasture and into wider life. Take some time this week to quiet yourself and listen for the Master’s voice. He is calling you.