Friday, September 28, 2018

Salt in the wound

If it seems like Jesus us jumping on his disciples with both feet, that is probably because he is. Mark 9.38-50 is one of the testier parts of the Gospel of ark where Jesus is working on the Twelve to get them thinking more about the kingdom and the needs of other people while at the same time thinking and worrying less about themselves and their lives.

The Gospel this week is about reminding the Twelve of what ministry is really all about. The Apostle John speaks up and points out that they found a man doing what they can do, but he would not fall under their authority, so they tried to stop him from doing ministry at all. It occurs to me that the greatest sign of the kingdom, which is what ministry does. Is your own relationship with Jesus and how you live it out with him and with others? In fact, it is about “being weird” as we live in this world and as we walk into the next one.

Leading ministry does not mean that the leader owns it. Ownership belongs to God and that makes us stewards of what Good has and what God wants done. Jesus points out to the Twelve that it is better and wiser for them to allow people who can do these things t do them because they will not turn on Jesus or the community easily, having done them. It also occurs to me that while ministry needs to be under authority and to be accountable for what is done (because it enables testimony and celebration) it is not just for the chosen few who lead nor is it just about “the Minister”. Moreover, is it not a sin to leave a person in their pain and sorrow, sin and sickness because the right people do not control that particular person? “Whoever is not against us, is for us.”

And let’s look a little deeper into the life of ministry and what we do with how we live and how we act. Jesus’ solution to dealing with what makes us sin and fall, is pretty radical, but it is not our bodies he wants dealt with. It is our capacity to be able to sin. We need to be radical in dealing with your sin. How do we do that? 

Here is some things to consider before you move to radical surgery:
  • ·         Be very careful what you pick up and what you put down; not just with your hands but with your tongue as well. – Let your conversation be seasoned with salt.
  • ·         Be wise in walk you walk into and what you walk away from.
  • ·         Be compassionate with those you choose to see and those you choose to not see.

You show were you are going to live by how you are living. Choose to be salt and light, even if it means sometimes being salt in the wound or light in the eyes. It will sting, it can hurt but then it will heal, life will be restored and all that will be left is a scar as a reminder of how gracious God is. And one last thing? Patience in serving and under suffering brings joy and freedom to those who need it most, including the servant.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Who are we when we come home?

Who are you when you come home? I can remember times when my boys were small, and they would love to come running to the door to greet me. Invariably they would want to be picked up and have my full and undivided attention because I had been out doing what Dad does when he was not downstairs in the Parish Office. They loved to wrap their arms around my neck and hold on for dear life - as if they had not seen me in a thousand years though it had only been a few hours at most. The Gospel for Sunday (Mark 9.30-37) got me to thinking about home. Jesus came home to Capernaum for the last time on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus came home and to the house where he lived through his ministry and life away from Nazareth. Who was he when he was home?

I ask this question because I often wonder as a priest, who people become when the walk out the doors of the Church and go home from worship – who do they become? I ask because I find it interesting that I can write blogs about life, peace, hope and people respond to that like gangbusters. On the other hand, when I write about things like following Jesus and the realities that we face in doing that, people don’t want to deal with that. People seem to only want the sweetness and light and not reality. Maybe it is reality they are trying to avoid. That’s why it is critical to understand that Mark’s Jesus is at a critical spot because they are going to Jerusalem and the time is short. 

So, it makes it important when Jesus asks them the question, “What were you arguing about on the road?” they were ashamed, not because they had argued, but because of what they had argued about: who was the greatest amongst them. Wanting to be great is a good thing but if you are going to be great in Jesus’ eyes, you’re going to have to be a good servant for everyone. The Twelve were worried about who was going to get position and power, not about the people around them who were suffering. It occurs to me that things aren’t all that different in the Church from then until now. What do you do with a bunch of disciples who are self serving, self interested and self seeking? Jesus knew what to do! He called them into deeper service with him. “if you want to be great, then you must be least and servant of all. We must learn to not only seek to bring people into relationship with Jesus we need to be humble enough to stay with them and teach them what they need to know to be effective Christians too.

Every person you receive and befriend, regardless of who they are, is worthy of the service you can offer them. It is not about you, it is about God and them. Remember the baptismal promise to seek and to serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? Every person, every life matters because you seek Jesus in them. Every life has significance where the Father is concerned because each of us is worth the life of the Son of God. Even if and even when they cannot give us the power, position and prestige we think that we deserve. Every person is entitled to the care and protection that we can offer through the grace and strength that God gives us.

Moreover, the service that we offer others then becomes thank offering for all that God the Father has given and all that we have received from him. We are sustained in our life and ministry because we are continuing to seek Christ both in the Church and in the world. The Father makes this happen because he is seeking to reconcile all of his creation with himself. As Stanley Hauerwas recently said, “The pastoral task of the Church, is the building up of the Church in holiness.”

This means that when we come home to God, and we are at his table, we are received as a desirable guest but that is not where we remain if we are in relationship with him. We do not, we cannot remain the same and remain with God forever. Our relationships with the Father and with one another transform because we know each other increasing measure. Being holy and righteous are about the relationships we hold not who we become. Such states therefore, are communal and relational much more than they are personal.

So when you come home who are you?


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hope is kindled

There is a great little moment in the last of the Lord of the Rings movies, the Return of the King, when Gandalf the White utters a simple phrase, “Hope is kindled.” He says this to acknowledge that the message has been sent from Gondor to Rohan, that aid in the fight against the enemy Sauron and evil is needed. Rohan under the lead of King Théoden will respond, but will they come in time and with enough strength to drive back the enemy?

I connect this with what we read this Sunday in the Gospel and through out the Scriptures about how God is coming to the aid of his people, whom he loves and how he deals with the separation that has been created between him and them. Which leads me to ask, do you know what the first question is in the Bible? It is God who asks Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”

In the moment when Peter announces that the disciples believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah we have a biblical moment when the flame is kindled and hope springs into the world. But then Jesus orders them to stay silent about it and with God reason. To announce the presence of the one who is going to upset the status quo and who is going to overthrow the government, is not helpful to what Jesus is trying to do and is dangerous for those who would bring such a message. It is ultimately why there is a confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish leadership which led to a conflict with Pilate. This in turn led to Jesus’ death on the cross. This too is a moment when hope is kindled. Jesus told them that he was going to be rejected, suffer and die and three days later, rise again. All Peter could he is that his dream wasn’t going to come true – that Jesus wasn’t going to be the kind of Messiah that he wanted him to be. After all, of what use is a dead Messiah?

Jesus, in rebuffing Peter, looks at his disciples before he says anything. He knows that what he says is going to be crucial. It is why, I think Jesus was so pointed and demanding. He insisted that Peter stop playing God and get with the program. He wanted Peter to follow and learn to lead, even if it meant learn to do it the hard way. Jesus does not have interest in claiming his royal seat through his bloodline. He is not interested in furthering a political agenda.

We are far off and away from God. It is why God asks the question of you, “Where are you?” Jesus came to find us and to bring us home. We are worried about failure. We worry about loss. What we need to start doing and to be aware of is what Jesus is asking of each and of all of us, so that we can together help to build the kingdom of God.

So maybe it is time that we follow Peter and with him get back in line. But let’s be clear, no disciple follows the Master on their own terms. You have a choice. You can live with and for Jesus and all that this means, including what St. Paul would call “light and momentary troubles”. Or you can live your life the way you want, at least for a time and then face an eternity without God on your own. It is totally your choice.

Jesus and his demands on his disciples are clear. He is not looking for men and women to become a band of martyrs. Martyrdom is a gift you can use but once and at the end of your life. Jesus calls you to live for him and that is why he calls for your surrender and submission. As the Scriptures remind us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)

Because we seek to follow Jesus in this moment. Hope is kindled. Let’s get to it.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hope and Light for life

In recent weeks, I have been reminded of the necessity of Christian people learning to be merciful in their actions, especially when dealing with one another. The Gospel this week (Mark 7.24-37) speaks of the necessity of mercy in the stories of a woman who calls on Jesus to heal her little daughter and a man who is brought to Jesus by the community for Jesus to heal because of his hearing loss and being tongue tied. Now maybe at first, these don’t look like mercies offered but we need to consider carefully who these people were that Jesus healed and the impact they had on the people around them, including Jesus.

Firstly, there is the Syrian Phoenician woman. She had some many things against her and Jesus, when he encountered her in Tyre. She had gone in search of Jesus and found him out when he wanted to be in quiet and spend time with the Twelve, to make sure that they understood everything because time was short, and the cross was coming nearer and nearer. Jesus wanted to ensure that his work and his Church would thrive after the Resurrection and Ascension. So, when the woman came to him and interrupted his plan, Jesus did not make it easy for her to make the request. The woman remained undeterred in her persistence for her daughter’s health and well being. I think that this is important to the Markan community because it shows that someone who is thought of as an outsider, an enemy of the kingdom, or worse an insignificant speck, could have faith and receive what God is offer to the rest of his children. This understanding would be huge to those to whom Mark is writing because that is how the Empire and the world are treating them. They are hunted, persecuted and executed for claiming to believe that Jesus is their Lord. They needed encouragement and they wanted more hope for the life they needed to live, if they were going to live it for the name of Jesus.

Secondly then, to get further away from his popularity, Jesus went north from Tyre to Sidon, and then from Sidon to the region of the Decapolis (Ten Towns) where they brought a man to Jesus who had no hearing and only had a little bit of speech. It might be that the man had suffered an illness and lost his hearing. What is certain is that Jesus took him indoors to keep the healing from being a public spectacle. Wet Willies and your spit on another person’s tongue is a dramatic (if not completely icky) action to a modern ear and mind. In declaring that man to be open, Jesus opened the man’s life to all the good and grace that God had for him which in turn allowed the man to opening and plainly praise God for what he has and was doing, in his life and in the life of the nation. 

That is why I found this past weekend so powerful for the lives that were spoken into by the Spirit. The speaker at the youth weekend has the gift of prophecy. He spoke a word to each and every one of the 20 teens that were there because he had been praying for them for weeks. He told them about the things that God could see in them. He told them about how much God loved them and about how much joy there was in God’s heart over them. He worked to help these young people open up to God and to the people around them so that the world around them could hear about the transforming power and love of God for them. People who have experienced this kind of transformation cannot help but talk about God and how God has opened them up – and they keep talking and talking about God and how wonderful God is and what he is doing in Jesus in this world.

This has helped me to realize that true darkness is not the complete absence of light, but rather the total loss of hope. Being around younger people, newer Christians, has reminded me of a long-held belief that when the light and hope of Christ are seen in the life of a young person, then not only is a life saved, but so is the lifetime that goes with it.

Seeing Light and hope in another, is a mercy and a God given grace. I know that this is true in my life and pray is so with you as well.