Posted in Lectionary Yr B, Lent reflections

Unless we let it fall to the ground, it will not grow. Lent 5, John 12:20 – 33

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John 12:20 – 33

I have been pondering this reading all week, it is funny the things you remember from the text.. The key theme for me has been the exploration of the seed falling to the ground and dying so that new life can be created from it.. I was reminded of my lemon tree at home, overhung with fruit, with much of it landing on the ground and no use to anything but the worms.. rotting and dying, mouldy.. But that rot and death is actually what feeds the seeds for new life to grow, or feeds the tree that drops the fruit. Ideally I would love to have used every lemon. I made gelato, lemon cordial, lemon butter and jams. But they just kept coming! Many of them hand not grown properly due to the heat and dry spell we had over the summer. As more and more fruit came, more was left on the ground to feed the life around it.

What I think is useful and the “best” things for my lemon and the vision of God’s creativity are two different thing.. Those rotting fruit did feed the ants, butterflies, caterpillars and worms. They put nutrients back into the soil and added to the eco system. My useless was actual very useful to the world beyond me.. But even more those fruits, when left to rot on the ground provide the opportunity for new life to grow, a new tree that can produce hundreds of more fruit.

Again we find ourselves in the season of Lent so how does this relate to how we think about our own life? I was wondering about the things we need to let go of.. The things we have a certain plan for and expectation around what would be useful, or tasty or right or correct. How often do we keep trying to make the most of these even when we have reached a point where we have exhausted that vision, those lemon cordial bottles, the jam jars. How do we know when we have reached a point where we have to just let it go? Leave things to sit, maybe even to rot a little to see what is the next way that God uses that beautiful fruit. Is this going to feed a butterfly? Is this going to help a whole ants nest?  or maybe even still left longer, does this piece of rotting fruit  sprout into a new life a new plant?

How ever it happens, there are somethings we just have to let go of. They were never ours to hold.. Like Jesus says this can be scary.. it can be hard and it can be heart breaking there is grief in letting go.. There is grief in not being able to use every piece of fruit. But it is not my fruit, it is a blessing from God of which I was given, it may have come from my branches, it might have sprouted under my effort and care, but I cannot make a fruit come to fruition. I am merely part of the journey..

Jesus uses the wheat as an example, it gets one shot, has only one head of wheat. Each seed has the chance to grow another, will it feed the birds? Will it make a loaf of bread or a cake? None of that can happen if we do not let it go to die.

I wonder what it is that I am holding onto tightly that I might need to let go? Why won’t I let it go? Do I not trust what God is going to do with it? Do I think that if it doesn’t look the way I think it should it is not as good..

When Jesus talks about the seeds it is actually about our whole lives. Do we try to control our lives and have a way that we think it is going to turn out? Do we have it sorted? or are we willing to let it go, follow the leading of God in the general direction we are heading and let God sort it?

There are so many areas I can think of where I think other people need to let it go and let it die.. The harder challenge is to sit honestly with my own life.  Yet my experience of the journey with God is that God has it sorted, probably not the lemon cordial I was thinking of, but boy those ants are grateful!

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Posted in Lectionary Yr B, Lent reflections

Can you hold my broken pieces gently? Lent 1, 1 Peter 3:19-22

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1 Peter 3:13-22

This reading for me cut a little close to home, it has taken me 3 days to get to a point where I am willing to put it up on the screen.

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good.. When I was young, in my naive happy place, I would have believed this whole heartedly. Tragically some decades later, after a series of major soul-destroying conflicts, I find it much more difficult to say amen to this statement.. The second line of this reading I hold to like a spiderweb is the spiders’ lifeline – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. I wish I was able to easily hold onto this, deeply in my soul, so that it fed me and kept me strong in those difficult times. But the truth is in the middle of suffering for doing good, I do not feel blessed. I feel alone, weak, scared and vulnerable. Yet in some weird way, I am driven to speak the truth, over and over again, despite the pain I experience in doing so.

It is in the stillness of Lent that I reflect with you on why.. usually this reflection happens in the post event, a couple of months / years later, when I start to see the tiny, tiny fragile tips of green shoots from the seeds of courageous action (post the living through the rotten fruit ), that I can really take comfort. It is with time when I see the freedom found in those oppressed, the courage they discover in being honoured and listened to, that I realise that this is what Jesus is talking about. This is the blessing of preventing ongoing systemic family abuse, the hungry fed, the oppressed free, the naked clothed, shattered self-esteem, rebuilt like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is put back together with a lacquer containing gold or silver.

I think one of the hardest things with doing good and acting in an honourable way is that sometimes that gives people even more freedom to say what they like, in not fighting back or gossiping, you are relying on good people to ask the question is there more to this story than the side I am hearing? Does this ring true to what I know? Why is this person remaining silent in the face of all of this? It is hard when they accept just what is said particularly when they are people you love and trust..

Now I wake daily, aware of how deeply I am blessed, yet it is hard for me when people I knew who want to just skip to the here and now , without hearing the pain of my journey on the way. The pot is back together but the gold is still a little warm in places. You can’t rush this and if we want to have truly deep relationships with integrity we need to hear this. I can’t tell you the blessing of a deeply listening ear, reflecting back the depth of a situation, one’s suffering being acknowledged. It is gold, truly gold.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” So I continue on the journey with God, allowing the gold cracks to shine beautifully in the sunlight, in the hope that others who are broken may see this and ask – How do you remain hopeful in this?  and then I tell them about the God who loves me so deeply, that I am never truly alone. The God who puts beautiful people in my life in the moments I think I am only shards left for the garbage, who hold me gently and place the pieces back together, sharing their gold so that they begin to stick. How I have seen my courage change people’s lives and I have been blessed with them, to see the results of thier own beautiful pots with the gold seams sparkling in the sun. And I tell them the story how God knows my pain because he felt it while he was on earth and like the season of Easter we are journeying to, death and destruction are never the end of the story.

As we journey through Lent we must reflect how we too are part of the destruction of our world. Where are we holding so tightly that things are smashing rather than us moving to find a place of hope that we can build together. Where do we only want to hear one side because it is easier for us, because we have a deadline to reach or because we just forget there is another human being in this situation? When do we jump to conclusions or listen to gossip or tell gossip, thinking we know the truth.. Is this really our story to tell?

Tragically I think that often things don’t need to be as damaging as they are, but I think it requires us to tell the truth when things are just a little out of whack, but also for it to be heard. This is hard because we are vulnerable fragile people, our self, controls us in ways sometimes we don’t even see or understand. Often we don’t even realise the parts of ourselves that hurt others. It is hard to hear painful truths about ourselves.

Lent is the season to stop, to check out our pots and see what needs some work. Where are the sharp edges that need smoothing, what are our chips that need refilling? This is not work we can do alone, it takes courage to sit with God and ask these hard questions, much harder than giving up chocolate. The honour it brings to God and humanity and the healing it brings to ourselves is so worth the sacrifice.

So if I have hurt you in my passionate enthusiasm, I am sorry.

If my committment to what I love has meant you feel I have not heard you, I am sorry.

If I have got frustrated with you because I feel like you are not hearing me, I am truly sorry.

Know that at all times I seek to act in love and will stick up for the weak and vulnerable and try to make the best out of a situation. I am trying to live a Jesus life.

I’m still learning, a work in progress.

broken pottery gold Kintsugi

 

 

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Lent reflections, Uncategorized

If only..looking through Jesus eyes. Lent 5, John 11:1-45

Raising of Lazarus

John 11:1-45

Today we look at the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They lived in Judea, I had never noticed before that for Jesus to go back to visit them was a dangerous act, the people there were trying to stone him. I love the confidence in which Jesus is portrayed at putting the visit off, it will all be for the Glory of God. Of course we get there, and he was too late as he knew and both the sisters say, IF ONLY.. If only you had been here these things wouldnt  have happened, you could have made him well. They knew and believed in the power of Jesus they had seen it in action and they loved him deeply. He loved them deeply too, he cried with them sitting in their grief..Comforting each other in the pain of loss. They hadn’t just lost a brother, but thier protector,thier voice into the community.   If only you had been here all of this wouldn’t have happened.

I was thinking about how often we say those words if only. I have heard them often in grief, if they hadn’t been driving so fast, if only they hadn’t been drinking to much if only they had talked to me, if only we had more time.. This pain would not be here or would not be as bad. Lazarus is a difficult story for me, here we hear of a good friend of Jesus being raised from the dead, why him God? Just because you knew him and liked him? What about those other good and faithful Christians who too are your best friend, who are martyred for you, who die suddenly, or who contract some terrible disease. Why?

For the women it was an impossible thing, he has been dead for 4 days, which is biblical terms for a really long time and he is definitely gone! He will stink! I think often in grief of all types it can be very difficult to see hope. I love that a third of the reading today is about Jesus sitting in the sadness and being sad too, grieving at the loss of his friend as well. If being a Christian is about doing what Jesus did then here is a clear example fo what we can do. Sit in sadness with those who are sad.

As I drew this picture I loved that Jesus is looking over their shoulder and whilst being present with them could also see hope. He saw Lazarus coming out of the tomb, he saw beyond thier present situation, beyond the grief to what was more. I wonder if part of our journey with those who are grieving and struggling is to remind people that there is more to this picture than what you can currently see. I don’t think it is about using trite sayings, but seeing the hope of a future. It will be different, and the journey to get there will not be easy and it will probably really stink at times, but it won’t be like this forever. God is present in ways you currently can’t see or understand. Do you have the courage to believe?

I was thinking how often when things are not real good we can find it really hard to turn around and to open our eyes to what is more. It takes good and faithful friends, people who can see more than we can that help us on that journey.

This week on Lent 5 You might want to think about who are your Jesus eyes, around you? Who are the people who can see God things that you currently can’t? What are they saying to you? What can you hear what are they saying that makes no sense at the moment? Maybe some of them have gone a difficult journey with you but kept a vision before you that helped lead the way. I give great thanks to those who have been my Jesus eyes along the way! Blessed be your journey particularly in broken and dark places.

 

 

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Lent reflections, Uncategorized

Lift the blindfold, check out what God is doing.. Lent 4, John 9:1-41.

blind man

John 9:1-41

Our story this week is about the blind young man. The story begins by the disciples asking Jesus who had sinned for this young man to be blind? Immediately it must be the parents fault. We look at this conversation often as though this was so primitive they blame what physical ailments their children suffering on the parents sin. Ironically now we know that sometimes it can be due to the genetics that we pass onto our children or because something happened to the mother or the child whilst it was in the womb.. The point I think Jesus is trying to make is that blaming the parents is more like scapegoating and it doesn’t help to play these blame games. It is interesting too that this terrible suffering was in place so that God’s glory could be shown..

I’m not overly keen on suffering like most of us I try to avoid it at all costs, but it is a part of life and my experience of sufferring is that sometimes and more times than I would like to admit, through that sufferring I have become a better human being and often it is in those moments that I see God’s presence and work most clearly.

Our young man was born blind and Jesus healed him by spitting in dirt to make mud then sending him off to the waters to wash.. and of course in true Jesus style he was healed.  You would think this should be the most interesting and exciting part of this story but actually it goes on for ages about what happens after Jesus leaves.. The community is a bit shocked that this man at this time is healed and I think are a bit threaten by this Jesus. He had flipped their thinking on its head.

I wonder how often when something crazy happens in front of us we try to justify or explain it away so that we can fit our lives all back in their boxes. The movement of God for me is often quite powerful at the moment, but when I look back on it can understand how others who look at that scenario say it just looks like coincidences, dumb luck or chance. In my moments of doubt I start to wonder myself, I have to work hard to connect back into that moment to remember the power that was within it.

I have made the blind man’s eyes blank because evidently he was the one who could not see. Yet it is he, who saw who Jesus was and got how important and powerful he was.. His parents and all the leaders around them whilst they had eyes and could see, were blindfolded and not willing to see things as they really were.. It seems their fear of being rejected by the community was more powerful than facing the joyous miraculous moment in front of them.. I get it, none of us want to be alone and to go against the community, it would have  left them outcasts with nowhere else to go.. Blaming the victim when it should have been a great celebration of God.

I wonder how often we can get caught in the same place, our world gets thrown into chaos and there is much to celebrate but we are so afraid of the change we can’t let go. So week 4 of lent, how does this passage challenge me? It makes me think of the times I am blinded to what God is doing because I like things the way things are. or when I miss the times when amazing God things happen to my friends and I can’t see it cause I am caught up in all the other things happening.. So this week I am going to look out for the cool stuff God has done or is doing. I might even lift my blindfold a little!!

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Lent reflections, Uncategorized

The water that really quenches, Lent 3, John 4:5-42

 

woman at the well

John 4:5-42

Here we are week 3 of Lent and there is water again.. The well the place everyone needed to keep them all alive and functioning well. Why did Jesus stay outside with the well and send the disciples in to get what they needed? Why did he sit by the well in the middle of the hot day waiting for someone to turn up, knowing most people would be heading to the well in the cooler part of the day?

So here he is, hot, relaxing and a woman comes out to get some water. I have her fully covered because I was thinking about her choice to be there during the day, not wanting people to know who she was or engage with the rest of her world. It is easy to hide behind the masks we have. But Jesus sees right past her. He doesn’t go straight in for the interrogation, instead asks her to help him.. I wonder how often we meet vulnerable people by acknowledging our own vulnerability? Do we offer what we can or do we go straight into the interogation . It is actually her curiousity about why he would break the cultural rules and norms that sparked an honest conversation. Jesus tells her what he sees. She stands courageously and owns the reality of who she is.. He does not condemn her but shows her that things could be different. You don’t need to hide out any more you can be free from this, I have the living water, that which with soothe your brokeness and refresh that part of you that is dried up.. I look at the words we have on the page and it makes no sense to me, something else must have happened, or been said, because her life was so transformed by the encouner she went back to the people she was hiding from and told all of them about Jesus. So much so that he stayed with them for another 2 days. It was the outcast’s story that brought it home to everyone.. This God knows you as you really are, loves you and is present with you everywhere!

I wonder how much of those people secretly felt the same as her, sufferring the imposter syndrome and waiting to be found out. When Jesus shows her at her most raw he respects her and does not harm, instead loves. How beautiful a gift it is when someone sees us at our most naked and does not use that against us but respects us and does not harm, instead loves. It changed her life. It changes my life, and I hope that I in some small ways may be able to show that love too.

So what to reflect on this week in Lent? As I was drawing the walls of the well I was thinking about the walls we build to protect that valuable water in our lives. What are we trying to keep out and why? Is it for thier own safety or do we only want those with the special bucket to access it? So then is the question when does Jesus come to meet us and ask us for a drink? Who are the people that are hot and tired, sitting near us, feeling broken or at least dried out, that look longingly at our well with it’s beautiful Godly water? I wondering if we dip in with our bucket to share a drink with them if we would discover Jesus seeing us for who we are, not judging us but loving us in our brokeness..

Journey well, my friends. K

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Lent reflections, Uncategorized

LOVE, not to condemn but to save, Lent 2, John 3:1-17

John 3

John 3:1-17

I love how the lectionary reminds us to put things in context.. Today included is one of the most quoted passages. John 3:16. I am so pleased that verse 17 of the speech from Jesus is included because I often feel like those banners you see at the football miss a very important part of the story.

Lets start from the beginning Nicodemus one of the religious leaders of the time comes to Jesus in the middle of the night. I love that Jesus doesn’t belittle him or hassle him that his faith wasn’t enough that he could come in broad daylight, he meets him right there. The things Jesus is trying to teach him are not easy for him to understand, which is interesting because if anyone should be able to understand right of the bat it should have been someone like Nicademus, he was one of God’s chosen. When I think about it Nicademus question was very Greek in his thinking and Jesus was using Hebrew story or metaphor to explain something. “What are you saying an old man like me needs to climb back in my mother’s womb and be reborn how is this possible?”  Jesus explains you have to let go of what you know and trust God in a new way. Jesus reminded Nic about when he had heard this happening before, you know how God works, remember about the snake in the desert and see how much better their lives ended up because of it. You can trust God again.

This week I was given some advice by a professional that was very counter intuitive for me, I felt a bit like Nicodemus, you want me to do what? Are you sure about that? Like Jesus and God, this person was trying to teach me out of love, in essence to help us. The head flip was not an easy one for me or for Nicademus but it doesn’t make it less important. I could have kept going with things as I always had and we would have continued to struggle, or I could let the old ideas be washed away and let the new ways give me a new idea and hope.

I return to our famous saying..

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

I’m sure you can tell by my art today that love is the priority here, God who is far more than we can see or know, hidden in the mystery but known through the movement of the Spirit. This God chooses to step into our world, your world, my world, sending God’s Son to save us almostfrom ourselves.God loves us and is deeply connected and protective of us, of this world and all that are in it. I wonder how often left to our own devices we would choose to move and breathe in a place of love and grace? Yet I now know that from living this life to make the most of every human being, everything on the planet, this is the only way it can happen. Through love.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Part of the mindshift for Nicodemus was to understand that God wasn’t condemning him, but was trying to help him.

This week we are in the second week of Lent, a time of reflection particularly on our own relationship with God. For me the reading this week has challenged me to unpack where I miss the point and get stuck with God. I fearfully put it before God in the hope I will not be condemned by the harsh reality of my struggle. To see this engagement between Nic and Jesus it makes it a little easier to sit honestly and open with it, in the hope I will grow, knowing I am not condemned but given a chance to learn.

Journey well.

 

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Lent reflections

Temptation, Lent 1, Matthew 4:1-11

temptation-of-jesus

Matthew 4:1-11

I had a friend say to me about my doodles it is good to leave space some time so others can interact and doodle with it themselves. This seemed like a good week to do so. We have entered into the season of Lent. It is a time of reflecting on where we are with God and doing a bit of work on it. It goes for 40 days representative of the time that Jesus spent in the desert.

We hear in the reading today about the 3 main temptations that Jesus was faced with, to use his power for his own personal gain, to use his power to be a superstar in his community or use his power to rule the world.

It got me thinking, we are all given gifts and abilities and given a choice about how we are going to use them. Do we use what we have just to take care of ourselves? I do think we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, to be active and do our share, but when we get to the point where we only care for ourselves and our immediate family I think we may have lost sight about what we are here for. In our world of pension cuts and encouraging individualism it can be easy to  circle the wagons and be fearful for the future. If something goes wrong I will have no – one and I must look after myself, God offers a different voice, remember last week do not worry? Be generous as God is generous to you.

We could also use our gifts and skills to make ourselves look pretty impressive. Aren’t I fabulous! It is interesting that I have even seen people use the gift of service to make themselves look good. Humility is an interest path and not always an easy thing to master. It is a balancing of being confident and comfortable in who we are and our gifts  but seeing them as valuable and important as all other gifts. We have an equal place in the whole, that means we are no better or worse than anyone else.

The final temptation is about power, do you want to rule the world? or at least your little patch of it? I think in our world we can often feel very powerless. I wonder how often we remain silent  or absent from issues because we feel powerless to do anything about. I am only one person? Last week I went to a training course in political advocacy and learnt how a good democratic system works.  The truth is we do have power, you have power. Your voice added to the voice of others can change the world and often does.. This is both very hopeful and very scary at the same time. Things can be changed. When enough people are brave enough to look at the issues honestly and seek wisdom the world can be made a better place. There is also the opportunity to use that power that might make the world better for some but makes it a lot worse for others, thus I say the need for honest wisdom. As a Christian I believe I am called to humbly sit before God as I ponder my opinion about this, to sit in that humble place means that i might need to acknowledge I am wrong and need to change what I am doing and how I see things. You will find I rarely say this, but from this perspective Paul is my hero, he was adamant he was right about persecuting the Christians but God knew that Paul was a genuine man of God and that he could be changed and he did, becoming one of Jesus biggest supporters.

So Lent, a time to pick something up or let something go to become closer to God. I offer the colouring in this week as a meditation what are your temptations? Where  are you locked into only thinking about yourself? Where do you want to impress people or be the centre of attention? or where are you hiding from the community around you? and where are you using the power you have? Are you using it to help many or only some or have you been sitting comfortably not using it at all?

I pray this time of Lent may be a rich opportunity  of deepening growth with God for each of you.