Posted in Easter, Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

Abundant life, Easter 4, John 10:1-10

good shepherd

John 10:1-10

Sorry I haven’t been online for a while, I had realised that the task had become more of a chore for others, rather than my way of connecting with God and the text in a deeper way.  It seems a break has helped! I hope you had a blessed Easter.

The reading this week is one I have heard a few times before. The story of Jesus the Good shepherd. I have heard from a couple of sources that the Shepherds of the time used to sleep accross the gate, to keep the animals in and to keep the predators out.  The reading highlights that Jesus is the gate to abundant life, there wil be others that will try and sneak in but they are thieves and robbers.

I was thinking about the things that seek to get our attention and rob us of the abundant life that God has visioned for us. Sometimes these things lead us to death, like the sheep who would have been stolen away by theives. Some of those things for me are wanting to achieve impressive things, being more concerned about the impression people get rather than building  solid relationships that are real and honest, being woried about the future and the changes that will happen in my world, whether they be economical and the need to have enough for when we finally retire which stops me from being generous now, or environmental and what will happen to our planet, the drive to keep everyone happy, the desire to provide my kids with the best opportunities. I haven’t even started on the being a good wife, daughter, sister, minister! As I reflect on these things the thing that motivates alot of them is to have an abundant and fulfilling life, yet all of them distract me from being at peace and living. I think this is the irony of this reading those things that rob us in life are the things that give false promises that they provide the key to an abundant life, but it is really Jesus who does.

It is the times when I have asked God what to do in a situation that I have taken time to hear wisdom, when I pray about the situation with my kids I don’t quite so easily get driven by the fears of not being a good parent (some days I still do!), when I start my work remembering it is actually Gods work I don’t feel quite so much the need to prove myself and I can be humble enough to make mistakes and learn, when I remember my call is to love my neighbour I care less about how my lawn looks and more about how I connect with the people around me, when I remember this is God’s world I take time to remember I am called to be a good steward with what I have and I take the time to switch off lights and devices and remember my shopping bags.

Jesus does give us the key to abundant life, God’s vision of life calls us to something much more richer and beautiful for all of life it is a pleasant change from the manic drive which can so easily consume us!

I realise I am a white middle class woman and these are my struggles, the line “first world problems” comes quickly to mind , tragically these first world problems stop me from remembering the plights of my brothers and sisters all around the world, if anything they create mind numbing guilt. I need to be honest about them so I can be part of the world that makes things better for everyone. I would love it if you were willing to share how Jesus moves you from the things that rob you to abundant life in the comments section!

Posted in Easter, Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

Provocative comedy? Speaking out against injustice. Palm Sunday. Matthew 21:1-11

Palm sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

This is the second time now I have reflected on Palm Sunday. You would have seen the image on my welcome page.

So what did I notice this time? The story this week tells of how Jesus is coming from the Mount of Olives, the place to which Jesus would return and where things would not go so well for him. The question that arose for me was, does it matter where he came from? He was engaged in the city but did not actually stay in the city but trotted (literally) in and out of it making very public political statements. The first a critique of the Empire and the nature of how they use power and the second was the turning of the tables at the Temple.. The two key residents Jesus was intentionally antagonizing. It isn’t really surprising that they got to a point of wanting to take him out.

The second point that came to my attention was that there was a massive crowd who came in waving palms and laying cloaks but it actually created chaos in the city and people were wondering who this person was. I think when I have heard this story before I just thought everyone was on board, but here the text  is clear Jesus had his own crowd that were excited about his arrival. In this light it makes a bit more sense how the crowd turned to have him crucified. Maybe they were never with him and if all he did was come into the city and criticise and mock, almost goading a reaction from the leaders at the time, I wonder how the every day citizen of the city would feel as they tried to make out an existence in the dynamics that was their lives.

This week I am doing some training on leadership and political advocacy. It has raised for me some questions about how we critique those things that we think are contrary to God’s way and God’s will. Is Jesus model of trot into the city drop a couple of controversial public statements and leave, waiting on the outskirts for them to come and get him. I wonder if Jesus had considered other ways? I wonder if the lengthy discussions with the Pharisees and Sadducees along the way was a way of trying to speak into their world and situation. I wonder if the conversation as to who’s head was on the coin was a gentle attempt to educate? Sometimes people don’t want to listen or hear, even when we talk with them directly no matter the language we use or the examples we explore with them. Sometimes people can justify anything, or it just makes sense to them because that is how it has always been. I wonder if they got it when he went to the extremes? I wonder if Jesus frustration of hearing the suffering of the people had got to a point that it required some light relief. His frustration at the temple and the leadership there left him with no other way left? Maybe, maybe not..

What do I take away from this? The example of Jesus to speak out against the things around him that were causing harm to others, that were separating them from each other and from God. Honestly I struggle often to speak out against most things. The problem I have is that I can see things from both sides, and to the people involved it makes sense. But does it make it ok to harm others or stop others from connecting with God purely because of who their family is, their background, or where they come from? Is this God’s way? Jesus life would suggest otherwise, he even had to fight against his own cultural conditioning to remember this.  Sometimes the consequences of these actions are not good, and the truth be known I too am scared. But slowly I am working on my courage to remain true to myself and what I hear Jesus calling us to as a church and to speak out against injustice. Today we talked about fighting for justice is what love looks like in the Public arena, love cannot remain only contained in caring for the individual without dealing with what is causing thier suffering. So I begin with conversations, kind and gentle chats, going to vigorous discussions, maybe we will even make light about those things that get in between us or try to control us, I wonder if I too will need to turn over tables, I hope we can grow together long before then!!

May wisdom be your guide and the Spirit’s courage your companion.

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.

Posted in Lectionary Yr A, Uncategorized

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

consider-the-lillies

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

turn-the-other-cheek

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

lectionary-doodle-12th-feb-2017

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.