Monday, August 22, 2016

Our future

The Olympics have been great. I have not watched nearly enough, but I got to see some action, and like the rest of us basked in the wonder of New Zealanders winning medals across the board. I admire these people who put so much into their sport; hours and hours of training, hours and hours of practising the skills needed to perform until they become a habit, and the discipline of careful diets to gain the slightest edge. Such dedication in itself is a wonder to behold. And then to see so many rewarded with a medal is fantastic. And so many more making it into the top eight in the world! So many from our little country. Well done to all.
It makes me think about our lives of faith. I have just finished listening to a little book by Most Revd. Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury called “Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer.” He explores these four as the core pillars that shape our lives in Christ. He suggests they are common to nearly all denominations and are what hold us together. In the chapter on prayer he talks about some of the early great writers and there emphasis that in our prayer we are stilling ourselves so that the eternal prayer of the risen Christ might continue within us. We do not pray, but Christ prays within us. And he says that for this to happen we need to stop so that we can be still enough for this prayer to happen. It is much less about the words we say, and more about our stillness so that we might join Christ in prayer. And when we are still enough often enough, we will be changed to be people marked by God.
There are a lot of people wondering about the future of the church. I hear our next clergy conference is on this subject. The problem with paying too much attention to our angst about the future is that it can paralyse us from doing anything, or it can tell us that our job is to ensure the survival of the church. Actually, our job is to join God in the mission of God. The church is God’s concern not ours. And joining the mission is much more about the kind of people we are than the programmes and services we run. It is about being people marked by God’s love, inclusiveness, generosity and mercy. The answer to our angst is to be people of prayer, people who stop regularly in the presence of God. But how much do we really want to change? Our Olympians have shown us what is possible when you stay focussed on the end goal. The invitation as we move through to the end of this church year is to be inspired by their lives of discipline and to learn to make prayer a habit so that we might be people of love, inclusiveness, generosity and mercy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Eyes lifted

This can be listened to here:

Gate Pa – Year C  21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pentecost 14,

Psalm                          Psalm 71:1-6
First Reading:                         Jeremiah 1:4-10                     
Second Reading:        Hebrews 12:18-29            
Gospel:                        Luke: 13:10-17                                     
What I want to say:
enter into the story of the women and use that to explore our own experience of being freed.
What I want to happen:
Who is God?

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

Today I want to offer a reflection
as you listen I invite you to reflect on your own story
where am I in this story we hear today
and how does it speak to my story.

     2.     Eyes lifted

Alone she stood
invisible to all
even herself
bound by sickness
for 18 years slowly stooping
lower as the
bonds of infirmity
she bends to the ground
            in pain
            and shame
her horizon lowering with each
day confining her world to
her feet and ground around
She stood
stooped at the back
hidden and silent
            even to herself.

Hope was gone
replaced by doubts and such
deep dismay.
Her face etched in the question
that defines her
binds her
She had been obedient
            tried to live Torah
paid the tax
done what was expected
She had been loyal
            to God
            and her people
She was not the holiest
she was not the worst
and her reward was to be
shuffling through each day
staring at the ground
punished for some unknown sin
by this far away God
who abandoned her
to this life
leaving her shamed

So she stood
behind the others
hidden by the others
unseen by all
even herself
just inside
listening to the man
who taught Torah so differently
on this Sabbath.

Ready to resume her bound life
stooped by infirmity
the ground her horizon
not really listening
a nudge
eyes looking at her
eyes seeing her
he speaks
this rabbi
from Nazareth
“daughter come here”
She has been seen
she has been seen!
she stoops forward in
pain and shame
eyes down in
pain and shame
bound and silent.
“Woman, you’re free!”
And as he touches her
the bonds snap releasing
her bent body releasing
her shame and
she is slowly lifted
            from within
God’s mercy and love
gently raise
her head
her eyes lift
to see the world
his words
his touch
she is resurrected
freed to live once more
a daughter of Abraham.
Her eyes lift to see
her new horizon
and meets the eyes of one
who is so small
who stands
in outraged indignation.

“God is not honoured in this,
to live Torah we honour
keeping this day holy we honour
be gone
come another day
to be healed
this is God’s day of rest
There is no honour in this!”
She sees his stoop
the bonds tightening
as he stands tall
there is no honour.
His obedience binds
His loyalty blinds
his horizon shrinking
as he speaks
there is no honour here.
She has been here
She will not go back.

As the rabbi replies
with stern words inviting
lives lived in God’s mercy and grace
honouring God in our forgiving and love
she wobbles in the revelation
she is
a daughter of Abraham
even by herself.
Her horizon is wide
by all that God is

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Behold a daughter of Abraham

“And behold a woman having a spirit of infirmity 18 years”[1]. Or as the NRSV puts it “And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years”[2]. We slide past that line. And yet here is the crux. Behold – and invisible woman, invisible for 18 years, is seen by Jesus. He sees not a cripple, not someone with a problem that needs dealing with. He sees a daughter of Abraham. Everything stems from that. In being seen her spirit of infirmity leaves her, her bonds are loosed, and she is able to stand into fullness of life, restored and visible.
In contrast the synagogue leader sees only sick people wanting healing. Come another day. Today is God’s Sabbath. The rules, the theology, the preconceptions get in the way. He can’t see.
When we look at others do we really see them? Do we see sons and daughters of Abraham? Or people needing help/healing/whatever?

[2] Luke 13:10