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April 2016

April 5th and 6th 2016: Colossians 1:15-2:15

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

So much of what makes knowing and following Jesus so exhilarating,┬áso crucial, so necessary to human flourishing is encapsulated in the readings which we are looking at here. Continuing on from our jaunt in to Romans a couple of days ago, Paul is at pains to emphasise the sheer majesty and wonder of Jesus, and his total sufficiency. Not just in terms of what he has done, but in who he is. It isn’t just his action that makes him acceptable to God and able to present us holy and blameless to him. It is who he is. Similarly, the work of salvation Jesus has done for us doesn’t just render freedom where captivity once resided, it changes us at the very core of who we are. We are new people. We wear the skins we have always worn, but everything ultimately consequential about us has been made new because of this god-man, this second Adam who has won the victory and brought us to fullness of life. He is only able to do this because the fullness of God dwells in him, or to put it another way, because he is God.

We are full of life because God has made us full of life. Nothing we can do can make us more full of life. We are full as full can be already. Don’t be deceived by claims that you can have more, better, a closer relationship with God through a certain way of living, speaking, singing or anything else. You have fullness, closeness, full intimacy already. Accept no weak substitutions for intimacy with God. Instead, rejoice that you have the freedom that was meant for you. Freedom to know the Lord, to trust him, to give your life to him. That’s all this life is for. Everything else is a pale imitation of life, joy and the hope Jesus died and rose to make real.

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March 2016

March 22nd 2016: Luke 22: 39-53

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

Have you ever prayed so earnestly that it was as if you were sweating blood? In our comfortable Western context, prayer can easily lack intensity. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place where someone sweated like great drops of blood blood in anguished prayer. If they did, we’d probably try and calm them down, make them sit down so as not to distress other people. Jesus, as he does this, is entering the most intense moment, not just of his life, but arguably of all of human history. Still, it’s a detail that can sometimes get brushed over in our cultural of appropriateness.

Jesus finds his disciples sleeping ‘because of grief’ and demands that they pray ‘earnestly that you might not come into the time of trial’. If we do pray like this, it’s easy for us to slip into feeling selfish or to descend into self-absorption. Recently, the concept of the enemy ‘prowling like a lion that he might devour some’ has been much on my mind. As I write this in front of the backdrop of the unfolding event of the terror attacks in Brussels this morning, I find myself thinking again of how accepting I have become of ‘times of trial’, moments when evil rears its head and wreaks as much havoc as it possibly can, seeking not just to devour individuals, but whole communities, cultures and ideologies. Evil is part of our world, our lives, but it is never acceptable. We should do all we can to stand against it, recognising, especially this week of all weeks, that we have one who is for us and who went to the Cross to defeat evil. In our own lives, in our thoughts and actions, in our words, in our politics, in the choices we make with money, let us not be people who repay evil for evil. Let’s instead be people who pray earnestly for those who find themselves in a time of trial, that the merciful love of God would enfold them. Let’s be people who, when faced with evil, repay it with good. Where there is hatred, let’s bring love. Easy in theory, but all so very hard in practice.

Let’s be people who hold true to the one we believe in and love, the Prince of Peace.

 

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February 2016

January 17th 2016: Galatians 4:21-5:1

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

I’m not very good at memorizing passages or phrases from Scripture. I don’t know why. It’s just never worked for me. One of the few I have managed to commit to memory though is contained in today’s reading. The trouble is, it’s all very well saying to myself over and over again ‘it’s for freedom that Christ has set us/me free’, but if I’m actually not willing or able to accept that freedom, then I am the one who loses out. So, here it is, I’m not a slave to sin anymore. Jesus took the consequences of sin on himself. They are not mine to carry any longer.

I’m someone who cares a lot about justice, about doing the right thing, about having the right thing done to me. I very often don’t manage to hit the mark. This causes me a lot of problems. I worry endlessly about problems I have caused for others too. Often I worry about permutations of problems that may well not even exist. I don’t think I should be allowed to live in freedom, at the same time as I spend a large amount of life trying to convince myself and others that this is exactly what I have, because of Jesus, not because of me. It is exhausting.

There are a great many days, a very great many, when I feel far from free. I’d almost rather I be enslaved, this seems fair to me (I mean this in a spiritual sense). I know this is wrong and contra to the life and teachings of Jesus, but there we are. The gospel is such foolishness, even to me, someone who is being ‘saved’. It is unfair. It is so much more than any of us deserve, but there’s the ever-present worry of becoming complacent or too comfortable with the whole deal that we don’t acknowledge the sheer wonder, grace and abundant generosity of it all. I am not better. I am not superior. I am freed, by Jesus, to be a voice, and an activisit, in freeing others by pointing them to him and extending his invitation to life and love.

What do you think?

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2014 Lectionary Ramblings Lectionary Ramblings

August 26th 2014: Acts 4:1-12

Read Acts 4:1-12 here

Perhaps unsurprisingly, healing and proclaiming so forthrightly in the name of Jesus lands Peter and John in trouble. Luke would have us believe it is because the Jewish rulers were deeply troubled. No wonder1 This was a time of huge upheaval and social unrest. Whether it be true or not, any claim such as this that could incite people to riot was to be quashed as quickly as possible, for the good of all concerned. It is easy for us to look down on the Jewish leaders as misguided or worse, with the benefit of hindsight, but it is hard not to have some sympathy with them here. Jesus had proved pretty awkward, and now His followers were proving equally troublesome, just when it was thought they should have been crushed and would disperse quietly, as usually happened when false “Messiahs” were dealt with.

But this time it is different. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit (a key detail) claims that Jesus’s is the only name under heaven by which people can be saved, bold, certainly. We’ll have to return tomorrow to see what the upshot of it is, but there’s no denying the bravery and intensity of Peter’s defiance. He now appears to have an unshakeable belief in the “right” of what he says about the power and story of Jesus Christ, only a few short days after denying Him, and being certain that he, Peter, would be rejected permanently by his Lord. What had happened to bring about this tremendous change? Jesus’s acceptance of him over breakfast certainly helped, but I would wager that as well as this, seeing 5000 men flock to the cause of Christ as he preached in His name might have bolstered Peter’s confidence a bit too! We know that he wasn’t an eloquent speaker, but he did make himself available to God for use as God saw fit. Are we willing to do the same today?

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2014 Lectionary Ramblings Lectionary Ramblings

August 3rd 2014: 2 Peter 1:1-15

Read 2 Peter 1:1-15 here

“….forgetting that they have been cleansed from past sins”

As with all the readings we look at here, there’s so much richness in today’s passage. I couldn’t hope to cover everything that Peter is driving at here in what I’m aiming for, bitesize chunks to make us think at the start of the day. As I’ve said before, please do return to this reading more than once through the day or during the week, and see what it might be saying to you.

For me, today, a key element of this passage is the part of a verse quoted above. Peter is exhorting us to desire the fruit of the Spirit, in ever increasing measure, so that our knowledge of God, in the holistic, rather than merely academic sense, might increase. It’s powerful rhetoric. We are foolish and without true faith, he argues, if we do not see increase in our knowledge, wisdom, love and hope. But in the middle of it all is the key bit, and the key pastoral message for us today, I think:

It all comes down to whether we truly believe that we are a forgiven, free people, or not. Do we really think that we have been forgiven of past sins to such an extent that God has forgotten them? We struggle, many of us, to forget sins we have done, or things done against us, so how can God forget? But if He does not count our wrongdoing against us, we can live in the positivity and hope of abundant life, knowing that we are secure. We don’t need to doubt, to question, whether we really are forgiven, whether the work of the cross truly applies to us. We can hold to it with confidence. And then we can, gradually, gather the strength and wisdom of God that He gives to us, so that we can focus on our primary task, to love God, our neighbours and ourselves, with everything we have, and to seek justice, care for the poor, widows and orphans, to be the radical world-changers that we are called to be.