Monthly Archives: February 2013

If you are God’s child…—Lent 1, 17 February 2013 (Year C)

Readings
Deuteronomy 26.1–11
Luke 4.1–13

 

Today, we heard the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, but—what happened just before that?

Jesus was baptised, that’s what. This is how Luke tells that story (3.21–22):

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

In the Gospel stories, “a voice from heaven” is the Voice of God. God says to Jesus, “You are my Son…”

And just over the page, the Devil says to Jesus in the wilderness:

If you are God’s Son…

“If” is a big word. The seeds of doubt are trying to be sown. But Jesus responds with words of Scripture. He says,

It is written…

One does not live by bread alone.

Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

Jesus counters temptation with Scripture in the wilderness. He is God’s Son, and he comes through unscathed.

Today, we baptised E and E, and in doing that we declared that they are united with Jesus Christ and therefore daughters of God. And we can say the same of every baptised person here today.

But sooner or later, everyone who has been baptised finds themselves in the wilderness. Am I really a daughter of God? Could I be part of God’s family? Surely I’ve done wrong things, I’ve doubted too much, I’m not good enough. Soon it becomes It’s a load of hooey, I don’t believe all that kind of thing any more.

When Jesus was baptised, God declared him to be God’s Son. And we have authority given by God to declare E and E to be adopted daughters of God.

We’re declaring this right at the beginning of Lent. Lent is the forty-day period that we set aside for self-examination. Why is Lent forty days long? Because Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days.

So in this time of self-examination the question is not, Are E and E really children of God? but How are God’s children meant to live? How are we going to teach E and E?

In Christian Tradition, there are three ways we mark the time of Lent: prayer, fasting, and giving to those in need (or almsgiving).

In more contemporary language, these things are all about reassessing our priorities. How do we reassess our priorities in Lent?

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The kindness of God—Ash Wednesday, Year C (13 February 2013)

A very short meditation.

 

Let me start with a verse we don’t read on Ash Wednesday, Romans 2.4:

Do you not realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

This is a very helpful verse, one to remember always. It tells us of a goal—repentance—and the way to get there—accepting God’s kindness. ‘God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.’

The journey through Lent has a goal—a goal of repentance, of changing our minds so that we have the mind of Christ.

But: we don’t repent so that we ‘get’ the mind of Christ. Through the Spirit within us, God gives us the desire to receive the mind of Christ. So we repent because we realise just how kind almighty God is to us.

Let me put it this way: there are three easy words to remember when we pray: thanks, please, sorry. I used to think that there was an order I was meant to say them in:

  1. Sorry—I repent, so God will listen to me
  2. Please—I ask for forgiveness
  3. Thanks—for this new life

But I now think there’s no particular order, it depends on human need. But if any order does make sense, it may be this:

  1. Thanks—for giving us your Son
  2. Sorry—I messed things up
  3. Please—help me to live a life of thankful obedience

In giving us Jesus Christ, God has given us life in all its fullness. In giving us Jesus Christ, God has given us a sure Guide for life and a Saviour from death. So come, let’s repent of our waywardness, let’s return to him. Let us join together in this journey of the heart we call Lent, so we may truly rejoice at Easter.

 

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God shares glory—Transfiguration of Jesus, Year C (10 February, 2013)

Readings
Exodus 34.29–35
2 Corinthians 3.12–4.2
Luke 9.28–43

If you look on the inside of my office door, you’ll see a piece of paper with something written on it. It was put there during the time of the previous minister; I’ve kept it because I love it. It’s a wonderful saying that has been handed down through the centuries to us, first uttered by St Irenaeus, who lived in the second century AD (that is, in the 100s). He was bishop of the town we know today as Lyons, in France.

So what does this piece of paper say? This:

The Glory of God is
for a human to be
fully alive!

The glory of God is a human being fully alive. The strange story of the Transfiguration shows us a human being who is fully alive.

Jesus takes three disciples, Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. (Traditionally, it is usually assumed to be Mt Tabor.) They don’t know what they’re in for! Jesus is changed, his clothes dazzle them, Moses and Elijah are there(!?) and a cloud descends. From the cloud, God tells them

This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!

And then the cloud lifts and Moses and Elijah are gone. And some commentators wonder why the disciples told no one about this. I don’t!

This story is told by Matthew, Mark and Luke; a couple of other parts of the New Testament may refer to it as well. John 1.14 is a possibility:

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

It’s just possible that “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son” is a memory of the Transfiguration.

It’s much more likely that 2 Peter 1.16–18 refers to the Transfiguration:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

The word that occurs in both passages is “glory”. God is “the Majestic Glory”, and Christ is clothed in glory: “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son”.

I want to emphasise one thing today: God is generous with glory. God shares glory with us through his Son Jesus Christ.  Continue reading

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It’s not about you—Epiphany 4, Year C (3 February 2013)

Readings
Jeremiah 1.4–10
1 Corinthians 13.1–13
Luke 4.21–30

 

Good morning! My name is Jeremiah. No, not that one, not Jeremiah the prophet! I’m Jeremiah the boy who lives in the village of Nazareth. What’s that? How old am I? I’m fourteen! I live with my parents and sisters in a normal kind of house—a few rooms, a courtyard, a few animals, a place to work, and a hiding place in case Roman soldiers come looking for rebels. But why would they ever come to little old Nazareth? I mean, only about four hundred people live here. But my dad says better safe than sorry, so we have a hiding place. I go there when I want to be alone for awhile.

You want to know life is like at Nazareth? There’s not much here—a stone quarry, farmland on terraces, a wine press. Oh, and watch-towers. (I’m not sure what they’re watching for in this out-of-the-way place.)

We eat pretty much the same thing every day— flatbread made with barley, and lentils with fruit and goat’s cheese. Sometimes, we have dried fish. On special days, we get a bit of lamb. That’s my favourite!

There’s not much to do at Nazareth. Something did happen the other day though, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Jesus came back. He’s quite old, nearly thirty I think. His family just live three houses down from ours. His father Joseph was a good carpenter so my dad says, and he thinks Jesus should’ve carried on the family trade.

It created quite a stir when Jesus returned, because people all over Galilee have been talking about him. He’s been teaching in synagogues all over the place, and healing people of all sorts of things. He’s famous! They said he was going to put Nazareth on the map!

When he came back home, it was decided that he should preach in our synagogue too. The reading that day was from the prophet Isaiah, and they gave the scroll to Jesus. We were all looking forward to what he had to say.

It was that amazing passage about the Spirit of the Lord anointing his messenger to bring good news to the poor, to release captives and let the blind see. Jesus said “The year of the Lord’s favour” was here, right now! Everyone thought they’d never heard a better preacher, even at the Temple in Jerusalem. I heard my dad say, I always knew that boy would go far!

Then Jesus went and ruined it.

Everyone thought if the year of the Lord’s favour had come, it should start here in Nazareth. Charity begins at home and all that. Physician, heal your own! After all, this village knows Jesus and has been part of his growing up.

But Jesus said that it was happening everywhere, not just here. The Lord would even favour foreigners over us.

My dad muttered Ungrateful thing, after all we’ve done! I always knew that boy was no good!

They drove him out of town and it looked like it might get ugly. But he just calmly looked them in the eyes and walked away.

I haven’t seen him since, but I can’t forget what happened. People have said to me that God might be calling me to do something, like he called Jeremiah the prophet. Maybe I am being called—but I don’t know…I don’t want to end up like Jesus.

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