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Pentecost +3 June 5, 2016 The prophet and the widow’s son.

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Luke 7:11-17

11Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

I find this reading very interesting, it is actually a retelling of the widow and Elijah found in 1 Kings 17:8-24. It’s good to have a look and see the similarities between them. The author of Luke is trying to help the people he was telling about Jesus understand that Jesus was as important as Elijah . He is showing the signs and marks of the prophet. The drawing this week is of the Luke reading yet the Kings reading is like a shadow behind it. The small tree at the prophet Elijah has grown into a huge tree with Jesus, there are widows in great despair in both stories, both with a dead son that is brought back to life. For a widow to lose her son means that she also looses everything her house her land, with no man to care for her she has nothing. She is right to think it is not just death of her son but also of herself.

Why is this story so important? What does it show us about God and who God is? I hear it said that often the Old Testament is so different from the New Testament, that God is so different. Yet here we see God’s action remaining the same, compassion and help for those who are most vulnerable.. What does this mean for us now?  God might not have brought any widows sons back from the dead recently, but God’s love and compassion for those most vulnerable remains.. As followers of Jesus we too are called to show compassion and mercy to all who are vulnerable.. For me it is also about when we are at our most vulnerable that God has compassion on us and is working for us.. We are not alone..

 

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Pentecost +2 C Luke 7:1-10

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Luke 7:1-10

7After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Where is the Spirit of God to be found? In this second week of Pentecost we come across the reading of the Centurion who’s slave is very ill.  He is not one of God’s chosen people. He was not born into the right family, or wore the right clothes and did not belong to the right Nation to even be cared for by God.  Yet is this the reality of it? He also is the person who helped build the temple and the Elders had enough respect for him to advocate on his behalf. (they don’t seem to be speaking out of fear but a genuine love for him) But it wasn’t this that impressed Jesus.. It was the humble acknowledgement of who he was in relation to God and his deep understanding of faith and how Jesus came to have what he had that impressed Jesus most..  He could see that Jesus had what he had because of God, and he understood how powerful it was.

In doing this work I was thinking about the walls we put up around people. Whether it be to keep people in or keep people out..But these walls mean nothing to God. God was known to this Centurion and gave him a perspective on Jesus that all others missed.  I wonder how often our own walls actually stop us from learning more about God because of our belief that it is not possible  that God could be here. The Spirit of God came at Pentecost, she came in many different languages, to speak to many different types of people.. I wonder what it would be like if we assumed it was a two-way conversation with God?

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Trinity Sunday – Romans 5:1-5

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Romans 5:1-5

5Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This is one of my favourite readings.. The different versions use different language, I followed the NIV for the drawing but much prefer the NRSV (above) for its simple language.  I love that we have peace with God through Jesus. Just believing in him is enough to bring us into God’s grace and share in the ultimate of what God has.  Not because of anything we can do or say or perform..

My favourite bit is about suffering. When I am struggling with something it can become really overwhelming, to be shown a purpose to this suffering and that there could be something beyond this helps me to hang in there.. In reality this verse has proven very much the case for me over time.. Suffering has led to perseverance or endurance, I can stick with things a lot longer now than I could when I was younger.. Working through these struggles and sticking with them has built my character. I am much more compassionate, I am stronger, I am able to stick with people as they go through hard things, I try to see things from all sides now. In turn this mostly leaves me in a place of hope, because I know that God’s love remains with me no matter what I am going through.  I also know that what I am going through will not last forever and with God’s help things will not remain the same..

So for me it is like inside the suffering person, is this person of hope. The picture looks a bit silly rather than hopeful I think, but I wonder how often when we are hopeful in suffering how others think it looks silly too. God’s spirit of love comes to us and is around us all the time. There are 3 arms coming in, being the Holy Spirit, Creative God and Jesus because at different times we need to experience God in different ways in our sufferring, at times it is about the mystery of God, at other times it is through the feeling of the Spirit and again others it is through the thinking and actions we know through Jesus. These work together with us to turn the suffering and difficulties into the treasures we are left with in the end. Mind you it often doesn’t  feel like treasure creating at the time!!!

If you are struggling at the moment, I pray that the Spirit of God will fill your heart with love, so that you are able to endure this and that that endurance produces character,  until eventually it leads you to a  a place of hope as well.

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Pentecost!! C

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Acts 2:1-21

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Have you ever noticed how different ears can be? It’s not just about the colour they are, but they also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some stick out, some are thin, some look like there is a maze to get into them. I discovered last week, even the tones we hear are different, we think we are singing a note but actually we can be way out to other people’s ear. Evidently you need to tune your ear in.. This is not to mention the native language that is easy for us to hear, that naturally makes sense to us. Those words spoken to us in the beginning by those around us..

Sometimes it is hard to hear.. When someone is speaking to me for the first time and I am not used to their accent I really have to concentrate so that I can hear them and understand. Or when someone is speaking really softly or even really loudly, or if they are explaining to me a new concept that I know nothing about, or something I don’t want to hear..

Often when we think of the miracle of Pentecost we think how amazing was it that Jesus disciples were speaking in all these different languages, but the miracle is not just in the speaking, it is also in the hearing.. Finding the right words to say in a way that they are not blocked by only language but also preconceptions and assumptions, that too is a major miracle.. Not surprising Jesus says often in the gospels  “If Anyone has ears to hear let them hear!”

It is funny trying to write in other languages, at first I was going to try to write the characters in which others speak, but I could see how easily putting one stroke in the wrong place could change the words to say something totally different.. I think sometimes we are afraid to speak because we are afraid that our words are not going to be just right and may in essence say something that we never intended it to mean.. Our words can be trapped in the cage of fear. The disciples had good reason to be afraid, it was not exactly a safe place to be talking about the life and teaching of Jesus, but who he was and how it had impacted on their life could not be contained.

We can think that Pentecost was a one-off thing that happened long ago and that the Spirit does not move like this today.. I don’t think this is the case, people are still being open to the good news of God’s love and how it can transform their lives and that good news still does. Everytime someone has the courage to speak the good news and every time someone hears it, the Spirit moves in the way She did at Pentecost.

Do you feel you need to listen ? or is it to have the courage to speak? Are your words trapped in fear?

If you are brave enough to speak, I pray you may find the words and language to speak it in their “native words” and may the one you are speaking to  have the ears to listen.

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Easter 7 , John 17:20 – 26

I am in you and they are in me

John 17:20-26

20”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Who were the these? The assumption is of course that it was the 12 disciples and they are the ones sharing the love of Jesus to the many. Yet when we think through the Bible there were many men and women who heard the good news through Jesus and became his followers. We know in Luke that Jesus sent out seventy-two at one point in pairs to share the good news of God’s love. What  about the people he met once of whose lives were transformed that were never heard of again , the unclean leper, the woman at the well, the Roman official, the bleeding woman.  It got me to thinking about the people who help me in my faith, the ones I hear the good news through. People who remind me to be patient in God, those who remind me it is OK to be nervous and afraid but from that I have the courage to move forward in hope. If those first had not had the courage to speak we would not know. I am grateful for their courage. Thanks to them we too are in Jesus who is one with God, and that love of God which God loved Jesus is still shown to us today.. How have you felt love recently?  It may have been a while , but regardless of whether the humans around us remember how to show it, God’s love is always there for us.

I’m a bit of an irish prayer fan.. I love the image that Christ is with me, behind me and before me. If we understand Christ as love it adds another dimension.. Love be with me, Love before me, love behind me, Love in me. … As we are in Jesus so is Jesus within us.

 

Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man
who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man
who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
Salvation is of the Lord.

http://islandireland.com/Pages/folk/sets/bless.html