Thursday, June 21, 2018

Row, Row, Row yer boat!

As I sit to write this week, I am thinking back on all the things that have happened: the meetings, the trips and the worship, including a funeral. I have been leaning on two things in all the business that has needed to happen. The first is the moment that members of the congregation here at St. James’ laid hands on me and prayed for me. I ask for prayer from time to time, for the congregation pray for me. This time I asked for them to do it. I knew it was going to be a difficult week and it has been that for a variety of reasons. The other thing I concentrated on was the image of Jesus fast asleep on the pilot’s cushion at the back of the boat while the storm rages around him and the little flotilla that had set out from the beach where the feeding of the 5,000 took place.

If you consider the people in the Lesson (Mark 4.35-41), we learn some things about Jesus and about people that are both interesting and important in learning to be good followers of Jesus. First there is God himself, who through Jesus is calling for transformation while people around him are wanting revolution. What is the difference? Revolution may change the situation, but it does not deal with the person. Therefore, God comes to you and to me incarnationally – as the God with the skin on so that we might be transformed. This story reminds us that God is not just the God of those who agree with him but that he is the Creator of all that is, seen and unseen. The Father has authority over creation. Jesus has authority over creation. What does that tell us about Jesus – that he is his Father’s Son and that he is God. He has raw power over all of creation, including you and me. Jesus is Lord over everyone, not just those who agree with him.

And what about those who follow Jesus? The Twelve? They have been following and listening to Jesus, watching him and asking questions. However, their faith has yet to be tested – and this will be the night. In moments of fear and stress, we often express what we hold most dear within ourselves. Jesus takes them to the boats and it is getting dark. This is matter for the disciples, at least not for the fisherman. It is life and business as usual. Other boats with other people get into the water and follow Jesus and his Twelve.

Mark drops us then suddenly into the middle of the boat and the middle of the storm. Fear in the disciples rises and they wake Jesus who is tired from a full day’s worth of ministry and complain that he does not care about them and that they are about to die. In all this, we can trust the fisherman’s judgement because they know about bad weather and the Sea of Galilee. When the fishermen are scared, they you too know to be afraid. As human, we are often quick to think that God cannot see us or is indifferent to what is happen to us. It is not true of course, but we often rush to that very conclusion.

Jesus arises from his place and he speaks to the wind and the waves and they cease their tumult and come to a flat calm. The disciples go from fearing for their lives to thanking God that it is all over and they can continue to go on as before. This is when Jesus confronts them about their faith – do you still not believe after all that you have seen? Why do you have so little faith? The Twelve had seen Jesus with power over sickness and evil. In this moment they go from fearing death to preferring death because they are more afraid of living with and for Jesus, than they are of going to the bottom of the sea.

Jesus has the power and the authority to end death and destruction. He brings healing and wholeness to those who need it. Jesus is Lord even if others don’t perceive or agree with him. Jesus gives hope and that hope enables trust in him and trust is the strength of faith – that is why all those who follow him must persist to participate in the kingdom. Do he does not abandon the Twelve because of their lack of faith. In fact, he draws them on to show and teach them more, including how to deal with rejection.

Need help? Call out to Jesus! Make it a good prayer and hang on to see what he does!


Thursday, June 14, 2018

the Seeding of the Kingdom

Though you might not think it, my family’s background has been until more recent years, a farming background. All my grandparents grew up on farms in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. My maternal grandfather left school at an early age because his presence was needed at home. It is incredible to drive the roads of my new diocese and watch so much of what took large groups so much time, to be done by a single large tractor pulling a series of implements.

In this vein, I got the thinking about the comparisons that Jesus is making between (in Mark 4) seeds and the kingdom of God. First, Jesus is the planter and we are his seed scattered all over the earth. We as his Church are his planting. We are put into the soil and in the darkness of the ground, the seed dissolves and begins grow into what it was designed to be. The seed is not the goal and the end of the process but only the beginning. What grows as a plant, shrub or tree is something else from the seed. There is a transformation in life, from seed to fully mature plant.

The Christian life is no different than a seed. Even in the smallest things, there is great potential. The Church is proof of that. It started with 120 frightened people in a room who are then emboldened to go out and tell others about Jesus Christ and him raised from the dead. No programs, no budgets and no structures. One of the awesome things about the kingdom is that it is still growing, even after al this time. We have not known or seen the full extent of it yet. Therefore, we need to be aware that we need to adopt new ways of seeing and responding to the kingdom. God’s kingdom is growing and invading this world with its power and governments – kingdoms, dominions and republics. The kingdom of God is growing in the hearts of men, women and children everywhere. It cannot be stopped, overcome or overwhelmed. The full extent of the kingdom is not yet known.

If there is a comfort from the Gospel of Mark, it is that the kingdom’s growth is not dependent upon us. Although the Twelve make mistakes, and that they bumble and stumble their way through the Gospel, the kingdom and God’s rule have begun and there is nothing to prevent that. The kingdom is not about being or looking pretty. It is about shelter and security for those who need it. The kingdom is medicinal and is good for the body as well as the soul. The kingdom forces us to rethink and redefine how we understand greatness and power.

Something that we regard as completely ordinary is capable of swiftly taking over. The kingdom is not a great oak or a towering Cedar of Lebanon. It is a fast-growing weeding that will mess with our boundaries and values. It brings colour and life to desolate places and spaces. It will crowd out concerns and fears. It resists manipulation and corruptions of all kinds. It does not depend on human guile, ingenuity or even our help. We are invited to join in bringing to fruition a kingdom that is going to continue to grow until it is in its fullness. It will continue to grow even through there are those who want to up root it and burn it down and restore the natural order of things.

How do you see the kingdom? By the fruit that is produced! Love joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5.22+23). If you have these in an increasing measure in your life the kingdom will be seen because God will cause that to happen. Let be so in Jesus’ name.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Will you becoming to the family supper?

The Gospel this week (Mark 3. 20-35) is an interesting situation. Consider that there are some different groups of people involved in what is going on. Jesus and his disciples are in some family’s home. Jesus mother and brother walk the 30 miles from Nazareth to Capernaum where Jesus was to retrieve him because they thought he was crazy. There were Scribes and Pharisees that were saying that Jesus was not crazy but that he was pure evil. And there were of course all those who wanted more. Those people that were making it impossible for those men to eat and to have some rest – who wanted grace in their lives. So, it is worth considering why people viewed Jesus the way they did and what they were willing to do about it. And of equal import what does Jesus think about people and ministry? That is, what does he think about the people that are with him in ministry? After all, you need to know your family and together, you need to do and be within the Father’s will.

So let’s talk about family. Jesus’ mother (the brains of the operation) and brothers (the muscle to back up the brains) made the trek to find Jesus and bring him home before he got himself into serious trouble. He’s crazy they kept telling each other as the walked. Why else would he act the way that he does? Why would he be baptised? The electrical panel has fallen out on the floor and the wires to his brain are disconnected. It is interesting that when they get to the house, they do not go inside to hear what’s going on or to ask him questions. His mother makes the demand that he come outside the house to them, thinking that would be half the battle. He would not disobey his mother – he wouldn’t dare!

The reply Jesus sends back outside is a question with a thunderbolt: who is my family? Is it not the one who does my Father’s will? Those who do my Father’s will are my family.

Then there are the religious people, the Pharisees and the Scribes. The point out that they think that Jesus gets his power from evil – in large part because he does not act like they do. He is radical in his teaching and constantly pushing beyond the limits of what is sensible and required by the Mishnah (local tradition). The Scribes, using their reputations and knowledge, write Jesus and his ministry off as being a deception of evil. They do this to try and ensure that Pilate eventually will crush Jesus and send him to his death.  This is sad in my mind, because it shows these men to be devoid of hope and openly contemptuous of what God was trying to do through Jesus from them. Despite their best attempts to stifle Jesus and his work, they cannot stop the renewal that is already happening around them.

Finally, there is the people that are coming to Jesus not worried about his mental health or whether he is evil. They experience in him the grace, mercy and rescue of God that they have been looking for – maybe for all their lives. The things that Jesus are doing and saying are magnetic. Jesus is drawing people to himself. The crowd does not speak, only comes and awaits whatever it is that Jesus has to offer.

As part of our Gospel this morning, Jesus tells the “Parable of the Home Invasion” where he is the figure that has broken into Satan’s stronghold and has bound him so that he can plunder what Satan has claimed for himself and return it to God. He points out to those who call him evil that if he were using evil to gain favour and popularity, the kingdom he builds will collapse because it is divided.

So where does this leave us? You have a choice: you can be a child of God or go your own way. It depends on what you do with and about Jesus. Some will consider him a lunatic. Others will consider him to be evil. What do you do with Jesus? Will you call him Lord? Either he is Lord, a lunatic or something worse. In choosing Jesus we can go from the house of oppression to a house of freedom and blessing. You cannot leave him as a great human teacher, like Mohammad or Buddha. Jesus has not left you that choice. You can silence him as a fool. You can kill him for being something demonic or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord. The choice is yours. So, will I see you at family dinner?