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.

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

Don’t worry. Epiphany 8. Matthew 6:25-34

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Matthew 6:25 – 34

My daughter loves to watch the birds of the air in the morning when I drop her early to school. She told me the other day that they like to fly in figure 8’s around and around. Interestingly she also said they don’t like it when the crows are around “they tend to disappear” she says.. It would seem that there are some things that the birds of the air do worry about. Yet it is about the things that really matter, the things that can destroy you, not the things that consume you. We worry about not having enough, or how we look. I do too. But it doesn’t really matter that much, nothing can change having pot holes in my face from a dose of adult chicken pox and I don’t care enough to cover it up. Having had a life time of pimples, now pot holes and wrinkles, I have begun to love the body I live in.. Do not worry.. How much more does God love you..

This weeks doodle I wanted to offer, just take time to ponder how much God does love you. Plain and simple. Consider the beauty that helps you connect with God, maybe it is the birds of the air, or the beautiful lilies, or an amazing sunset or beautiful rainforest. Go to that place in your heart and sit a while with God, put the things that consume you down for a little while. Maybe you might want to leave them there.

Love heaps

Karen

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

Revenge, justice or generosity? Epiphany 7, Matthew 5:3 – 48

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Matthew 5:38 -48

I love what I notice when I draw these readings.. They are particularly challenging with how they deal with conflict. Some read these reading as though to be a Christian requires that we be door mats and let people walk all over us.. Some read them a challenge to stand up for yourself (turning the other cheek is about encouraging someone to hit you rather than just backhand you, giving them your cloak  as well as your coat, would leave you naked and show a landlord evicting you the injustice they are causing, taking a soldiers luggage an extra mile which they were not allowed to force you to, puts them very much on the back foot and highlights their laziness.) This second theory sits more comfortably with me usually but I noticed this time that the reading isn’t finished until you include giving to people who beg, and loaning to people who ask of it..

It got me to thinking.. What if the whole of this reading is about generosity. We know that Jesus chose to go to the cross and took it humbly and non violently to make a point or achieve a goal. He wanted to demonstrate that both he and God were not into revenge, “you have taken this from me so I will take back what you have taken”. He was definitely not weak he was willing to confront the officials in a very physical and violent way in the temple. But he was generous. Choosing to give of himself with no expectation of payback. He would bless, heal, give to be people on the way and keep walking.

Which brings us to the question why are people hitting us, taking our coat, or asking us to walk a mile? Sure they could be not very nice people who just like to use the power they have to only serve themselves. But often people are reacting from a place of pain or suffering, hurt and jealousy. I wonder if this was the first lesson for the disciples about this other way of thinking? You do have the power to pay back and seek revenge but choose to be generous and loving. Even in those difficult moments, they totally change the way  the conversation goes from there, most of the time.

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

Looking for Wisdom, Matthew 5:21 – 37, Epiphany 6

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Matthew 5 : 21-37

I have chosen this week to link you to the Message version of the text. I found it to be a great way to get the concept of what Jesus was on about.. This speech of Jesus is trying to transition people from the concept of law  – we only don’t do something because it is against the law to a much bigger concept of wisdom..

These couple of readings are looking at what Christian living is about. What does it look like with flesh on? Jesus here is trying to connect the laws into why we have the laws and that the problem often starts long before we think they do..

I love how the message concludes the first section by saying ” The simple moral fact is that words kill.”  It is easy when there is law to get caught up in who is right and who is wrong, debates can go in forever, Jesus reminds us it is better to sort it out as soon as you can and be careful what you say.. Your gifts to God are pretty useless if you haven’t sorted things out with those you love..

I wonder if you could read the second section of the reading about divorce and lust to be more than that.. If you see in the image the woman walking away has no face and hands yet the woman he is with does have. I wonder if part of it is about not appreciating and respecting what you have but instead being distracted and drawn to the other things we don’t know.

This final reading is one I carry in my heart always the simple fact of your yes being yes and your no being no.. the idea of a signpost was important for me in this image because you need to be able to trust them to send you in the right direction. Our words point people in directions and people need to be able to trust that what we say is what we mean. This is not always easy, sometimes I have to change the topic and avoid the question if I am unable to speak truthfully at that time. At times I have also had to say to people you might not like the answer to the question I am giving you, but I will try to tell the truth when you ask me.

All these ideas change the way we live, it is not just about adhering to the law but also about understanding why we have the law. I am reminded about the speeding example, I can get a fine and eventually lose my liscence for speeding, but realistically if I speed my reaction time is shortened and I am not able to stop as quick as I can in an emergency. It is about changing the way I live not just watching my speed when there is a speed camera. It makes a difference when we live with wisdom, truth and integrity but that doesn’t always make it easy.

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

You are called to be salt! Matthew 5:13-20

Matthew 5:13 – 20

salt-loses-its-saltiness

Hi everyone,well it would seem that doodling is good for my soul and I found I was missing it terribly!! We are in the new house but the boxes are still high!!

Here is this weeks lectionary doodle, sorry for the quality next week will be back on track but thought you might like to have a look!

This one was an interesting reflection on the use of salt, how much difference it makes to good food, how it helps to preserve things and helps to keep things afloat! I was thinking about the joy and delight of someone who loves to make a great meal adding just the right amount and the difference it can make.  usually this works best in hot fluids the combination of those flames licking the feet of your pot, and the perfect addition of salt gets that bubbling stew perfect.

I sometimes wonder if as Christians we think we can just add our salt to whatever and it will make all the difference to the world. We forget that it is actually the combination of heat and great ingredients mixed with love that makes some that truly is Divine! Too much salt is truthfully disgusting and will ruin any meal, and you can go without it for health reasons but boy you really notice and appreciate it on those rare times it gets added!!

We are called people to be salt, to drop just the right amount of love and God into the world at the right time. May our task as salt and light is to be open and available to the great Chef to see when and how much needs to be added!!

As I worked on my doodle today, my colleague Rev. Miriam Parker Lacey wrote a blessing prayer to go with it..

May your week be blessed through the salt sprinkled through your life!!

Blessing….

blessing

salt, earth

human, breathing ,reclaiming

free gift of Creator Spirit

disturbing presence

MPL 2017

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

Happy New Year! The Baptism of Christ A, Matthew 3:13-17

bpatism-of-jesus

Matthew 3:13-17

Happy New Year people! It seems appropriate to be saying that as we reflect on the Baptism of Jesus. Baptism being the sign of us dying to our old self and being born afresh as God’s child.

As I was reflecting on this reading I was thinking about how intense it must have seemed. The famous John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, who was actually really nervous because this was the “Messiah” and he didn’t feel worthy to do it. With the water splashing everywhere the clouds depart and the Spirit descends like a dove. Then a voice from heaven says “this is my son in whom I am well pleased”.  It reminds me of the amazing times I have had where I know something special has happened but sometimes it is a bit hard to explain and can often make you feel like you may just been a little crazy or just imagined it and yet there is something in it that cannot be denied! In the book the Shack, the Holy Spirit is a woman, but you can’t quite see her, you know that she is there but even when you look at her you can’t quite make her out. I really like this description because for me it fits, the sense of  – I know there is something there but it is hard to put words on.

I found it interesting that in this moment there is God the Creator, seen through the parting of the clouds and the voice, the Holy Spirit, descending like a dove, and Jesus, the physical embodiment of God, but the Church (the gathered people of God), are also present in this moment, the hand of John is actually between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As has been the case throughout history, humanity can either be the conduit for the work and movement of God or they can block it.

In my ordination vows, I promised to submit myself to the discipline of the Church and I feel that in this moment, Jesus allows himself to be part of the process, he submits to the discipline of the Church. Here for me is the beginning of the long humble journey of Jesus. He never put himself better or above anyone else but saw that he too needed to be born anew into that God life.

I think sometimes we underestimate the importance of God using us to make disciples, to be the conduit for the Holy Spirit in others. This miraculous moment of God happened after the faithful, shared and did what they know. As difficult as it is to describe faith and we can at times feel as crazy as John the Baptist out in the desert eating honey and locusts, what we have is a beautiful gift of which many people in the world are desperately in need of . I would go so far as saying what our whole world needs, i don’t believe we are able to bring peace to the world on our own strength, I don’t think we can turn the damage to the earth around due to great thinking and innovation alone. It will never be enough, because people  can be selfish, greedy and scared. Myself included. It is through humility and submission to a vision that is greater than ourselves (that of God’s), with the hand of another alongside us, and the Holy Spirit hovering upon us, then there is hope.

The new year is often a time of thinking about what we could do differently , what we shall pick up and what shall we put down. I wonder how often the resolutions we make are actually a reflection of the values that are destroying the world rather than bringing hope and peace? I wonder for Christians whether it is a time to head to the wilderness, away from the excitement and see how we need to better tune into that vision of God, because after all if we die to our life and are born as God’s, surely then it becomes God’s new year resolutions we need to follow?

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The faith and courage of the Journey, Christmas 1, Matthew 2:13-23

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Matthew 2:13 – 23

The first part of this reading is about the journey of Joseph and Mary to Egypt, another country, because it was not safe for them or their child to stay in their home land. As they set out on this path, I wonder what they are thinking? Is it a story of courage and hope, or one of fear? Where did they stay? Were they alone? How did they survive?Is the sun rising on a better day or setting on all thier hopes and dreams?

The truth is they didn’t know what really to expect maybe it was a bit of both.  I feel like Joseph took really seriously from this text to be guardian and protector of this special child. Going to whatever length it required to keep him safe. What dad wouldn’t.. How many Dad’s try to keep their kids safe, doing whatever it takes for their kids to have the best future.

I was thinking a lot about what they would have taken with them. Us going camping for a weekend requires a whole household for us to survive, how much of it is needed for the journey realistically? How much do I think I need but realistically I will be quite fine without?

The journey wasn’t just about the physical trip either it was an exercise in faith. Faith that God would provide what they needed, faith that their actions would be enough to protect the child, faith that there would be kind people at the other end who would give them a chance to be able to support their young family.

My faith journey has taken me on a new path over the last couple of weeks, it certainly hasn’t been the path I expected, but I have learnt with God not to hold too tightly to expectation. I stand with Mary and Joseph at the beginning of the journey wondering what is ahead? Will the path lead me back, I can’t assume that, what will I learn? But I step out in faith, faith that it is God who has called me here and that God is there already ahead of me, faith that there will be kind people  when I get there, faith that I will have what I need to support my family and faith that I will be able to use everything to God’s purpose.

Journey’s don’t always go where we think they will but that is not always a bad thing. Maybe it is both a sunrise and a sunset at the same time.

 

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

A New Nativity, Luke 2:1-8, Christmas

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Luke 2:1-8

This week I wanted to play with the idea of the alternative nativity. Most of our images of the nativity is with Mary and Joseph in a shed in the middle of a field all alone. It would seem that historical research in modern times actually gives us a different understanding. The word we use for inn does not accurately reflect what they were trying to talk about. More it was that all the guest rooms in the homes were full, so they would have had to bunk down with the family. Probably in the middle of the house with the animals which was probably a good thing as it was warmer there than anywhere else. The place would have been busy and there would have been lots of people. Including midwives to help in the birth.

Some say what does it matter? It is interesting how my perceptions of God changed when I found this out.. Living in a very individualistic culture I read the original nativity story as cruel and heartless, that poor Mary  was left alone, to give birth to her firstborn. A young couple with no idea and no support. Having had children let me tell you it is a scary time. Even with modern medicine I still knew things could go wrong and that both mine and my baby’s life was at risk.I was grateful for the wisdom of midwives and the companionship of older women.We assume in this culture that the love of two people is enough. I much prefer the concept that it takes a whole village to raise a child, making the best of everyone’s gifts and skills and sharing them with the whole community.

As I have got older and watched the people around me as new babies enter our world, most people are drawn to newborns, it is like they want to give their blessing to them, or an understanding that they have witnessed a miracle. It brings such joy and delight. Even if they were among strangers, there is a common love of children, particularly babies and most people would do whatever they could to help.” I have this and I have that” , they want to share, help.

For me it reminds me, that God’s relationship with us is not just one on one, my Jesus my Saviour, but that this child was born into a loving supportive community, of doting aunties, excitable children and proud uncles. God does not just dump us on this earth alone expecting us to find our way to God or to succeed. Jesus wasn’t just about God’s love but was born into the best of love, making room where there wasn’t any, finding support amongst strangers and generosity out of nothing. This is the exciting creativity of God for me this year. A reminder of the importance of community and that we are not alone, not just because God is with us but also that there are others who have love to share. May you find people who are kind this year, may love be your companion and may the joy and delight of new life fill your heart with hope for a better world. Merry Christmas.