Tuesday, April 12, 2016

last Colossians Challenge: giving thanks

We've been here before, "giving thanks".  Gratitude is pretty central to the spiritual life no matter what your belief system is, so it bears repeating.  Giving thanks.   Present participle.   Ongoing.
"to God the father": this image of God has permeated much of Christian thought, but we must remember it is just an image, just one image of who God is.   Play with some others and see how they feel, how they fit, how they stunt or deepen your relationship with the Divine.
In this context, the author seems to suggest that the important image is less the name than the meaning, that God, whatever we call the Divine, is the source of all for which we give thanks.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

breakfast on the beach

Breakfast on the Beach 041016 (John ch 21)

Walking through the text, we may find ourselves in this 2000 year old story, if we listen with the ear of our hearts…..
Disciples have gone back to their old routine—they’ve been cut off from their hopes and dreams by death, by uncertainty, doubt and some weird experiences…they’ve had glimpses of new possibilities through Jesus’ life, and even through those odd appearances, but they can’t quite give themselves to it….so they go back to what’s safe, known, hiding behind the normal of life.
And they’ve caught nothing on their all night fishing trip.   They might be back to the routine, but it’s empty, like their nets.
But even there Jesus shows up.
We see a clear literary pattern to the stories of easter……early in the morning, Jesus is present, he’s not recognized
As we heard in the poetry of our psalm, early morning is a new beginning:  weeping lasts for the night, but joy comes with the dawn  (yesterday’s morning reading from Lamentations – God brings something new every morning).      we often fail to see it – to recognize it as God at work—but God fails to give up on us.
In the story, Jesus sees the problem, makes the disciples admit it, then suggests an alternative.  He doesn’t jump right to the fix, as we’d like, but makes them face what’s going wrong…
And they do respond.  They try the suggestion and change their fishing practice, surrendering to Jesus’ way instead of achieving it their own way.   Hmm.  
Perhaps there’s a word for our congregation here, focusing as we do on numbers and how we can increase those numbers.    In a video our Tuesdays at 4 group is considering for our next reflection, someone says “The role of the church is not its own growth…any organization obsessed with its own growth is essentially cancerous”  
Not that there is anything wrong with the metaphor of fishing for evangelism; after all Jesus calls us to follow him and fish for people.  What I am saying is we can lose our focus, and try to do it the old way and by our own abilities.
But when Jesus saw them be so remarkably unsuccessful, he suggested something new, something as fishing people they’d know was a bit silly, something counter to the fishing culture…. but as followers of Jesus, they had learning something….to listen for a word from God, even from an apparent stranger,  so they’d know was worth a try.
Surrendering to Jesus’ way instead of focusing on their own abilities, they had more success.
And one of them recognizes who it was.  One out of seven.  But one was enough.
Sometimes someone else has to point out to us what God is doing; sometimes we need each other’s perspective.  
And the story focuses away from the discouraged disciples to the breakfast on the beach,                                                                                                                                                      away from  present failure to future vision,                                                                                                               away from the humdrum of routine, to the possibility of resurrection,                                                                             away from the small world of individual achievement to the large community of divine nurture and hospitality.
Come, says Jesus.   Come and have breakfast with me on the beach.   Come and be fed, you who are weary of trying, hungry for something more meaningful, doubtful of purpose, uncertain of belonging, unsure of what this resurrection stuff is all about.
Come and be part of the community of Christ’s nurture and hospitality, where you belong with others, where you have something to contribute (Jesus invites them to bring something of their own to the picnic).
If we had read on, we would find that Jesus’ invitation back then has consequences….we are not in the community just to be fed.  We are called to take it out beyond the pleasant beach, or sanctuary.
We are to BE the community of hospitality and nurture, where needs are noticed, mistakes are made and recognized, where we listen for the voice of the Christ calling for something new, where the invitation is public, where both body and soul are nourished beyond the desires of our small selves, where the practice of community is not behind closed doors like last week’s story, but outside and obvious, like a group having breakfast on a beach.
Can we do it?  With God’s help, with focus on Christ instead of self, yes, I think we can.  Each of us can find guidance by listening for God, with the ear of our heart, for a change we need to me,  and all of us for a change WE need to make.
The question is, Will we?

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

name of Jesus

One thoroughly enjoyable Colossians Challenge group discussion later.....we talked about the names ascribed to Jesus, one of which was Deliverer.  Immediately I thought of churchy, theological stuff about "freedom from slavery to sin and death" kind of delivery, rescue of sorts.  But more curious thinkers than I gave me awesome new thoughts:
deliverer as midwife, who delivers a baby, giving new life to the world
deliverer as in UPS, who brings us something we have needed or wanted

Monday, April 04, 2016

penultimate challenge

Our second last challenge from Colossians is to do everything, in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus.   Everything?   Really?   Those who are often dropping the name of the Lord Jesus everywhere seem to do more harm than good to the name!  But in view of all that has gone before, in view of the community we're part of, there's a deep challenge here:  what we do and say can point to Jesus, even without our using his name.   If our lives point to Jesus, or are sourced by his example, it'll show without words.
I suspect that the author of the letter to the Colossians was also aware of the culture that considered Caesar as "Lord", so to be, to do, to speak as if Jesus were Lord could be quite counter-cultural, maybe even dangerous.   When I was going through the ordination process, one question we had to answer was "What does it mean to say 'Jesus is Lord?'"  I heard of one candidate whose answer was the shortest ever received:  to say Jesus is Lord is to say I am not.
 In what ways do I show who or what is Lord in my life?

Sunday, April 03, 2016

heart song

I was reminded this week of the delightful movie, "Happy Feet", where each penguin needs to find her/his own heart song.   It made me wonder what my heart song is....is it gratitude, or even deeper, is it Love?

Friday, April 01, 2016

Colossian Challenge: sing spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God

Church-going people might know a few spiritual songs, or hymns, at least one verse of a favourite; others might know historic 'spirituals', but many of us are more likely to know secular songs, to belt out along with Adele when we're in the car, or sing with Sinatra in the shower.

the challenge's question is, what's in the heart when we do?  Why do we sing what we sing?  Why do we memorize the lyrics we do?  and why not what we don't?  that may be a useful measurement of the heart, of our spiritual well-being.