Thursday, December 20, 2012

Luke 1: 26-38.

For most people the next few days are going to be very busy.  There’s food to prepare, presents to wrap, last minute shopping and, most importantly, special services in church.

Perhaps you’ll have guests coming to you - or maybe a journey to take yourself.  On top of all that there are all the ordinary things of life.

Children, though, are just getting excited.  Christmas Day can’t get here quick enough.  Many parents, harassed enough at this time of year, may be tempted to say, “yes, whatever” to almost anything simply to keep the children out of their hair.

“Yes, whatever” – or as the Beatles put it, “Let It Be”.  Those words are loosely taken from Mary’s response to God’s amazing news, given to her by Gabriel.

The trouble is that “let it be” sounds like a tired, passive response; like saying “yes, whatever” to the children because we haven’t really got the energy to say anything else.

But that doesn’t do justice to the force of Mary’s “yes” to God.  She replied to the angel with a declaration that she was the Lord’s servant and with a definite faith-filled “yes” to God’s invitation.

As you reflect on the wonder of Christmas, remember that it began not with acquiescence, or weary “whatever” fatalism, but with Mary’s faith-filled enthusiasm.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Micah 6: 2-7b

We like to think we know what’s best, and often we do.  We know what’s best for our children - ­their schooling, behaviour, routine, friendships.  For ourselves - the type of work we do, what helps us relax, what sort of church we want to attend. 

But the Bible has a word for the person who thinks they know best all the time.  They are called ‘fools’.

Only the fool thinks that what goes on in their own head is the end of the matter.  This is why the Bible frequently tells us to ‘listen to what the Lord says’.  We don’t need to remain in the dark when the giver of light has spoken.

As God’s spokesman, in the middle of the 8th century BC, Micah realised that God’s word must be heeded.  Speaking largely to the southern tribes of Judah, probably in Jerusalem, Micah knew he must get a hearing for God. 

Idolatry, injustice and immorality were rampant, but the people were so used to thinking that they knew best, that they had forgotten God’s laws and ways, and so Micah calls them to listen again to God.

Have we given God time to speak his word to our hearts?  What was the last thing he said to us?  Have we responded?  Or deep down, do we think we know what’s best?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

READ: 1 Peter 5: 1-7

St Boniface was a great Englishman - yet hardly anyone in this country has heard of him, even though he was our Patron Saint for 300 years. It’s very different abroad where he is still the Patron Saint of both Germany and the Netherlands.

Boniface was born at Crediton in Devon in 675. He became a monk, but felt a calling to be a missionary, so at the age of 43 he left his monastery, never to return.

He embarked on 35 years of missionary work in various parts of Germany. In 722 he was consecrated by the Pope as Bishop of the whole of Germany to the east of the Rhine.

But being bishop didn’t give him a sense of self-importance. Like Peter in our reading, Boniface stressed the need for humility and service. When Boniface wrote to other bishops, he had a way of invariably reminding them that Christian authority meant service.

Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet was the supreme example for him, and so, whenever another bishop sent him a present, back went a towel from Boniface.

Humility is a difficult quality to cultivate. We might think that it means being a door-mat, but that’s not so. Christian humility can include assertiveness (which is different from aggression, of course).

Above all though, humility means acknowledging that we are sinners, saved by grace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

John 13: 1-17, 31-35 and 1 Cor 11: 23-26

On Maundy Thursday we shall remember the last night Jesus spent with his disciples – his washing of the disciples' feet, the Last Supper, and his betrayal and arrest.

The word ‘Maundy’ is an old English variation of the Latin word ‘maundatum’, which means ‘commandment.’

And so on Thursday night Christians around the world will remember 3 commandments of Christ from the night before his death: "do this in remembrance of me," "love one another," and "wash one another's feet."

Communion, love, and service.

Being in the presence of God, loving our neighbour, and serving the world.

At the Last Supper Christ showed his disciples what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of his.

Communion, love, and service.

And then he went out from there, to show that love and service in practice, as he faced his death on the cross, for me, for you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psalm 22: 1-10, 22-24

Lent, a time of self-examination and penitence, can unfortunately lead to an extreme of self-loathing, as we see our faults in the perfect light of God’s holiness. There are, sadly, many people who have low self-esteem. I, often, am one of them. Verse 6 in this Psalm is something I could often say about myself:

‘But I am a worm, not a man.’

The worm, as an image of something lowly, beneath contempt, undeserving of love or affection, is something that appealed to the 18th Century mind of Charles Wesley. It’s an image that appears in more than one of his hymns:

In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a sinful worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope Thou art
Strength of my failing flesh and heart,
O could I catch a smile from Thee,
And drop into eternity.

The point is, of course, that however lowly, unlovely or useless we may feel ourselves, however much we may feel we do not deserve the love of anyone, far less that of God, his grace is great than our self-loathing; his love is greater than anything.

So I pray, with Wesley, that:

Spirit of faith, inspire my consecrated heart;
Fill me with pure, celestial fire, with all thou hast, and art;
My feeble mind transform, and, perfectly renewed,
Into a saint exalt a worm, a worm exalt to God!

Monday, February 27, 2012

John 17: 13-23

‘That they may have my joy within them’. Strange words for the start of Lent, a time we normally associate with fasting, confession and repentance.

But just as Lent will lead us into Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day, so Jesus is preparing the disciples for the same events.

Jesus has been teaching them about his death, and assuring them of his Resurrection. He is equipping them to go out into a world that will be hostile to the Good News, and promising them the gift of the Holy Spirit to be with them, the truth of God’s Word for them, and the protection of God’s Name over them.

Jesus longs that every Christian, even in tough times, should have the full measure of his joy. He had already promised this - for example:

‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’ (John 15:11)

‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my Name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be complete.’ (John 16:24)

Even at a solemn time like Lent, or in times of difficult personal circumstances, we can still experience the complete joy of the Lord, as we open our hearts and minds fully to his truth and purpose, and his presence.