Shame

It’s easy to mistake apparent truth for actual truth.

We overhear a conversation and think we have the truth only to discover later, and often embarrassingly that we missed critical elements of the conversation. We didn’t have the truth after all.

We succumb to advertisements and buy the latest product that promises to do all the things you really want that none of it’s competitors are able to do. Of course, we quickly discover it can’t do these things. Again, we didn’t have the truth after all.

We watch the world go around. Greed seems to lead to prosperity. Harshness in employee relations seems to lead to management advancement. Self indulgence seems to lead to happiness.

Psalm 97 stops us in our tracks. It reorientates us around the actual truth that is not always apparent.

v7 is the key:

All who worship images are put to shame,
    those who boast in idols—
    worship him, all you gods!

In the middle of a psalm that is full of praise and adoration to God it gives the contrast. While those who worship and boast in idols may seem prosperous, successful and happy they actual truth is that they are put to shame. The Lord God reigns, he is exalted over all gods and brings joy to those whom are upright in heart.

In an age of fake news, and with a new year approaching, let’s remember the great truth that the Lord reigns and the great reality that the worship of idols, of fake gods, will result in shame not joy. Today, may we be glad that when it appears the idols are running our world, it is actually Lord God whom reigns.

 

Advertisements

Longing

Todays passages are Isaiah 40:1-5 and Luke 1:67-80.

With just two more sleeps till Christmas, some of us will be full of anxious anticipation as what is coming while others are racing around making sure that something will be coming on Christmas morning. At some point in life we transition from the childhood longing for Christmas to the Adult who becomes responsible for making the things children long for come to fruition. We look forward to Christmas in different ways… and we look forward to different things.  I’m looking forward to the marriage of my son in about 6 months time. I anticipate a great day of joy and celebration when the wedding day arrives.

We pick up Isaiah at the start of Chapter 40, conscious of the chapters prior which have talked about the distress coming to Jerusalem due to the rebellion of the people against God. A time of great exile is coming for Israel. The tone changes quickly in Chapter 40, with words of comfort, not judgement, for Jerusalem. Another day will come when

A voice of one calling:
In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God…

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed

The exile will not be the end. Another great day will come where Jerusalem will be comforted and the glory of God revealed.

We know when Christmas is coming. I know the day my son will be married. We wait, but with a definite timeline. The Israelites waited in hope not knowing when this great day would come.

Fast forward 700 years or so years later. After living in this great anticipation and expectation, trusting that God would come to his people and reveal his glory again we find a Father full of joy at the birth of his child:

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David (Luke 1:68-69)

The Lord has come to his people.

The Lord has redeemed his people.

The time of exile is over.

The glory of God will be revealed.

Who is this child? Luke makes it clear in Luke 3:4-6 (notice the similarities and the difference in the Isaiah quote). He is the one preparing the way for the Lord’s salvation.

As we continue to prepare for Christmas, may we long for the coming of God in the lives of those around us; and may we be filled with praise to God for what he has done in freeing his people from captivity.

May you have a Happy and Blessed Christmas

Sliding doors

Today’s readings are Hosea 11:12-12:14 and Luke 12:13-21

In the movie sliding doors, two  alternative scenarios are played out in parallel regarding a woman’s relationship with her husband. The movie creates a “what if” scenario.

The passages before us this morning create a similar feel – particularly when read together.

In Hosea, we read about a nation judged for their evil… and we wonder “what if?” What if they had been obedient to God? What if they had lived in covenant faithfulness? What if rather than chasing the wind and pursuing dishonest gain, they had pursued the Lord God? Imagine the regrets…

In Luke we find a parable about a rich man who pursued selfish gain during his bumper harvest but was never able to enjoy the life he had prepared for himself as his life was taken from him that night. Imagine the regrets… From Jesus’ comment on the parable (v21), we can take it that the scenario would have ended differently had the rich man made a different decision regarding the bumper crop.

Today will be full of sliding door situations for all of us. Sometimes they are little decisions, sometimes big. Life is the cumulative effect of our decisions. The point is not to be overwhelmed by them, but to live in obedience to God in even the little decisions. Under God, the “what if” then becomes irrelevant. As Proverbs 16:9 reminds us

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

As we approach today’s sliding doors, may we live with humble obedience such that we have no regrets come the days end.

Shameless audacity

Today’s readings are from Hosea 6-7 and Luke 11:1-13. For more on Hosea 6, here’s a sermon preached in 2016.

Audacity is not something we generally view positively. The audacious one tends to get people offside, even if they do get what they want along the way.

In instructing his disciples about prayer, Jesus uses a story to encourage persistent, bold prayers… even tending to the point of disrespect. It’s not hard to empathise with the homeowner in the story (v5-8) whom is waken from his sleep by a “friend” asking for bread. We are meant to empathise – the point is that the even the friendship won’t get the homeowner out of bed to give his friend bread. Rather, it’s the shameless audacity that will bring about not just the 3 loaves of bread (v5) … but as much bread as he needs (v8). It prompts the question… how much “daily bread” do we want from God? Are we prepared to keep on knocking until the door is opened( v9-10), confident that our shameless audacity won’t result in our Father responding badly, but rather in him generously giving good gifts (v11-13)?

If only Israel in Hosea’s day took the shameless audacity approach. Hosea knew that if they had returned to him they would be met with kindness and restoration (v2) (restoring on the 3rd day – hmmmm); that like the homeowner, the Lord God would come to them – as surely as the sun rises or the winter rains come (v3). Yet, rather than behaving with shameless audacity, their rebellious behaviour was simply shameless (Hosea 7 – pick a verse).

Wherever you find yourself this morning, whatever situation is currently on your mind, whomever burdens your heart -Jesus invites you to shameless audacity. Take it to God, over and over again. Knock on the the door with faithful vigour and wait expectantly of the good gifts of your loving heavenly Father.

 

Rejected!

Todays readings come from 1 Samuel 10 & 11 and Revelation 3:1-6.

Rejection hurts. Even when it’s not a big deal, rejection hurts.

Reading 1 Samuel 10, I am struck by the rejection theme.  The Lord God says:

I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ (1 Sam 10:18-19)

What a tragedy that unfolds before us. The beginning of the Kingship of Israel is born out of the rejection of God!

He was their King, the one who had rescued them out of Egypt.

He was their King, who did not forsake them in the desert, but wandered with them for 40 years!

He was their King who had led them into the promised land, winning battle after battle for the Israelites.

He was their King who had shown himself faithful to the promise to Abraham.

He was their King who desired to bless them.

What more could they want?  How could they do such a thing as reject their King? When you have a more powerful, just and loving King then any of your neighbouring countries… why would you want a King like your neighbours?

It’s easy to look back and shake my head at the actions of the Israelites. Such disbelief. Such unfaithfulness. Yet it doesn’t take much reflection to find myself empathising rather than criticising the Israelites. As I reflect on thoughts, words, actions and attitudes I can quickly find ways in which I am rejecting God as King and asking for a King like my neighbours – i.e.. myself. It makes no sense, but there’s something in me that wants to reject God’s rightful Kingship and substitute my own.

The words of the angel to the church in Sardis, though stern and solemn, are nonetheless encouraging for moments like these:

 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Rev 3:2-3)

When I find myself slipping onto the throne as I reject my good and rightful King, I am reminded that in his goodness and mercy, he does not abandon me, but just ask me to remember and repent.

May we remember who is King, and repent when he is not our King!

 

The Road To Emmaus

BY Jane Thomas
Today we begin our slow journey away from the Easter weekend of remembrance, worship and celebration. A Monday off is thankfully a gentle way to ease back into every day life, however, there is a real sense after a weekend such as this, that we have been taken out of our everyday lives and thrust into another reality. The Easter reality centres on a story which is overwhelming emotionally and revolves around the largest questions we have about life, death, friendship, loyalty,  betrayal, identity, expectation, hope, and God. No wonder we need some sort of respite on Monday!
The long walk away from the traumas of Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus by two followers of Jesus, happens in a space of terrible exhaustion and heightened emotion, following three days of drama, violence and distress. Their sadness is still palpable when another traveller joins them. Luke tells us straight up that the stranger is in fact Jesus, but the two disciples are unable to recognise him, and we have the awkward experience of listening to these two disciples share intimate details of their own misunderstandings and misconceptions about the very person who is now their traveling companion along the way.  
The men share freely, courageously really, the multiple deaths they have experienced, which have left them utterly bereft and grief-stricken… 
The horrific and brutal death of a friend, one who they considered a prophet “mighty in deed and word.” 
The death of their trust in religious leaders who betrayed Jesus with such cruel, self-serving cynicism. 
The death of their heartfelt hopes and anticipation that Jesus was the Messiah, sent from God to rescue the oppressed and occupied people of Israel.
To increase their confusion and disturbance, there were reports from fellow disciples of angels, an empty tomb and a missing body.
Jesus is their unrecognised companion through this outpouring of distress, listening and walking alongside. He gives them his close, intimate and undivided attention.
Jesus meets us where we are at.
The two disciples’ hearts burn within them as Jesus responds to their distress and uses scripture to lift their minds to a bigger story of rescue and God’s purposes, which culminates in the glory of a suffering Messiah. This is life giving food and the disciples are hungry for more. They urge him to share a meal with them.
Jesus doesn’t leave us where he finds us.
Jesus breaks bread with the disciples in an action reminiscent of the last supper, held only four nights previously. And it is in this moment that they recognise him for who he is. They remember the bread, symbol of his body, “given for them” (Luke 22: 19). Their eyes are opened to the mystery of a different death. A death offered freely, which has astonishingly brought nourishment, and enabled hope for rescue and new life.
Jesus takes us where we can’t go on our own.
Filled with joy and energy, able to ‘see’ at last, the two disciples return to Jerusalem, to community. 
Today, in the quiet after Easter, perhaps there may be time to ponder the mystery of a death which births life rather than annihilation. And of a God who meets us in our pondering.
Jane

In need of a good resurrection?

HE IS RISEN!

Happy Easter.

Today’s reading takes us back to the first Easter morning.

I wonder what it was like for the women as they wandered to the tomb. They were probably  quite confused.  The events of the previous week had been troubling to them. The death of their friend Jesus – devastating. They lived in a much less individualistic culture than ours. Their hopes were for the prosperity of their people, God’s people, as much as for their own personal satisfaction in life.  They had hope that Jesus was the Messiah (or the Christ/King) that Israel had been longing for.  They were hoping that he was the one who would finally restore the people of God, undo the curses (particularly the curse of death) and bring hope by restoring life to the world. They knew the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40-66, especially Isaiah 65:17-25) had spoken of this new age. They hoped Jesus was the one. But now, he too had been defeated by that great enemy of death.

On this morning, they are going to pay respect, to treat the body, to continue their mourning.

The empty tomb first brought about in them curiosity. The appearing of angels brought fear. The words of the angels brought hope. Hope that Jesus is not to be found among the dead. Hope that “he has risen”.

As the woman recounted the story to the male disciples, they considered the story to be nonsense.  How ridiculous – a resurrection? Peter, however was intrigued and began to wonder at what was happening.

For many of us, Resurrection is so much part of our worldview that we can take it for granted. Imagine how hard it was for these first disciples, in the very moment itself, full of grief at the events of Friday, to understand what was taking place.  But Peter wondered.

Surely he entertained that this could be true.
Surely he saw that if Jesus was resurrected, death was defeated.
Surely his wonderings engaged the idea of a new creation, a new age.

Is this the defeat of death for which they had hoped?

Often we can get consumed in our individualism.  It’s right to see this story as part of your own story – that you too will be experience a resurrection in which the pains and troubles of this world will be gone. But resurrection, Easter, is about much more than that.

This momentous morning reminds us that the new age has broken into the world.  Reflecting on this morning many years later, Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:55

Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?

The larger narrative we are invited into in that a new age dawned with the resurrection. Life came. Life won. Life lives.

Those of us in Christ now live in the new age. Colossians 3:1 reminds us:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

The Kingdom of God has broken in. The victorious, risen and ascended King, Jesus, now reigns.  We who partake in the resurrection are to be practicing kingdom living. We are to live in the life giving hope of the resurrection- not just that I will be resurrected, but that new life is available now, and we, the resurrection people are its agent. Our lives of justice, peace, love and reconciliation are not simply good things to do,  they are the only thing to do if we truly believe that he has risen, that new life and new creation have begun!