Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Abiding in each other

We could describe the overall theme for this week as being “Abiding”. Abiding is a central theme in John’s gospel. It is introduced in the first chapter. We heard it last week in Jesus response to Philip’s request to see the Father, “‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” This week we are reminded that Jesus is in the Father, and that we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. So much abiding!  What does it all mean? 

In Jesus we see the Father who abides in Jesus. We see the character of the Father: love, compassion, mercy, justice, inclusiveness, passion, goodness and peace. For John the chief character is love. We are to live in this love, dig roots deeply into this love, and base our identities in this love. When we do this we cannot help but love. That is the commandment – to love one another. We do not do this out of obedience but because we are people in who abides love.  

All this sounds easy, but Jesus knew it was not, and promises the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth who will also abide within us, and will help us abide in this love. 

Truth is an interesting word. I suspect we mostly understand it as “conformity with fact or reality”.[1]  The underlying Greek word which is translated into English as "truth" is alethea. “"Lethe" is the river in Greek mythology that the dead drank from in Hades in order to forget their past. And so "a-lethea" - truth - has the sense of: waking up; remembering; overcoming oblivion and stupor; being alive and vital; not being deceived by false ideas or desires or scams; SEEING what is as it actually is.”[2] The Spirit of Truth wakes us up from our forgetting who we are, that is people made in the image of love. We are then saved from our blindness and can live and love as God intended.

William Loader concludes “The passage is framed by human anxiety about the absence of Jesus and ultimately about the absence of God (14:1; 14:27). It does not deny the anxiety and distress, but offers a promise of presence and sense of meaning embedded in sharing God’s life and participating in God’s action in the world, recognisable by its ‘Jesus-shape’. John composed these parting words with more than the immediate disciples in mind. Do they not still make sense and help people make sense of their tradition?” [3]

In the passage from Acts we hear Paul inviting his hearers to recognise that “Jesus shape” within their own religious setting, in what they already knew and practiced. And we hear him inviting them to get beyond their desire for novelty, and instead to go deeply into the one who abides in us, opening us up to the reality of love. We live in a similar age to Pauls, an age captivated by the new and novel, and a deep desire for the instant. Like Paul’s hearers there are many influences that claim our identity, that invite us to sink our roots into, even just for now. History, even recent history would teach us that Christians are no more immune from this than any other group. We too easily forget the Spirit of truth, and our eyes close to the risen Christ abiding within. We too become slaves to the novel and instant.  John and Paul both invite us to ask, “whose are we, and who are we?” May the Spirit of truth waken us to the love within each of us, within all those we meet, and in the world we live in that we might love as ones loved by the One in Whom There Is Only Love.


Friday, May 16, 2014

What If?

Gate Pa – 5th Sunday in Easter (May 18th 2014)
First Reading:                                     Acts 7:55-60                                                   
Psalm:                                     31:1-5, 15-16                                     
Second Reading:                    1 Peter 2:2-10               
Gospel:                                    John 14:1-14                                                  

What I want to say:
Use Eleanor Catton’s graduation speech at VUW Graduation this week to ask “what if”. What if we take the incarnational seriously and are simply willing to trust into God made known in Jesus. Not the God taught about by Jesus, but the God whose character is made know in the life and death of life of Jesus. What if Jesus as the way, truth and life is not a propositional truth but an incarnational truth, a relational truth. What if truth and love has priority and no-one is beyond God’s love.
What I want to happen:
I want people to ask what if for themselves and come up with their own learnings.

The Sermon
Eleanor Catton and “if” – gospel is about if – asking questions, taking off assumptions, looking from another point of view
Gospel is part last discourse – last logn speech
            after Judas left
            seriously important
            biographies – this last sppech is distillation of wisdom of person
                        establishes them as someone worth paying attention to – or not
set in conversation with group disciples – frightened, confused, troubled
            like Johns community was frightened, confused, troubled
            as we can be
in face of this Jesus says simply believe into me, trust into me
there is a place for you in the heart of God, even in death
Thomas gets stuck
can’t get beyond the literal
can’t let go of his assumptions
cant look for another place
can’t ask “if”
basically he is asking – when have you told us the way to get to the father
            when have you taught us the right doctrines, right way to think, right way to behave?
Jesus answers “I am the way, the truth, the life, no-one comes to the father but through me. If you know me you will know my father also.”
“If you know me”
heres the problem
God is out there
you can’t really know God
can’t really even know God’s name
you can be taught about God
given some ideas and concepts about God
and clearly Philip is not convicned Jesus has done a very good job at doing that
so he asks “show us the father and we will be satisfied.”
he misses the “if”
and sadly so do we most of the time
what happens if Jesus isn’t talking about teaching about god
isn’t talking about getting the ideas and concepts straight
what happens if
Jesus meant when he said you know me you will know my father also
what happens if when we look at Jesus we see God
when we hear Jsus we hera God
what happens if we don’t have to believe in the theological concept that Jesus is God incarnate
we just have to know at some level that when we see Jesus we see
God in flesh
God among us in the here and now
oozing the character of God
the love and compassion of God
the mercy and justice of God
the inclusiveness and passion of God
the goodness and peace of God
with every word, every action, every breathe
Jesus invites us to ask if
if God is like that
then what does life in God look like
            for me
            for us
            for this world
            God’s world
what if Jesus the way, the truth and life is not a set of ideas and doctrines about God that we need to believe to get into heaven
but the way of God we are invited to live now
and what if believing  Jesus is the only way to the father doesn’t mean that God is only found in those ideas and doctrines
but that wherever we see and hear of this compassion and love, this mercy and justice, this inclusiveness and passion, this goodness and peace, then we can trust that God is present and at work, even when Christian claims are not made or known
What if God is not defined and contained within our theological understanding of who Jesus is, who God is
what if God exceeds all our understanding
what if God does not require right belief, or even right action
but simply that we seek to live into, trust into: love, compassion, mercy , justice, goodness and peace we find in Jesus
those qualities that we come to know as we come to know the historical Jesus, and the risen Christ.
If we are willing to ask if a lot more often
Then says Jesus, we will be part of a much bigger mission that Jesus led 2,000 years ago
then we will begin to be incarnational ourselves
then we will be missional
then we will know whose we are
who we are
and what is ours to do
then we will join in God’s ongoing mission to change the world.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Gate Pa – Easter 4 (Good Shepherd Sunday) 2014
First Reading:           Acts 2:42-47                                   
Psalm:                       23
Second Reading:       1 Peter 2:19-25                                                 
Gospel:                      John 10:1-10                                                 

What I want to say:
I want to explore how we understand salvation, and how our understanding then affects how we see God, ourselves, Christ, Church and mission. I want to offer one way of understanding that using Augustine and Julian of Norwich, and then use that to explore some of Acts, with a side look at God as mother.

What I want to happen:
People to feel free to embrace a wider array of understanding of all of the above and to know they still fit within the wide stream of Christian thought and belief.

The Sermon

       1.       Introduction:

34 years ago Bob Dylan released Saved – album unashamedly proclaimed Christian faith
great song
remember mid 80’s going concert Mt Smart rocking to it all stoned people around me
song comes out particular understanding what being saved means
understanding sometimes/often understood as only Christian understanding
reality is that there are a number of understandings which go back to the early church.
As I read todays readings and some commentaries
                thought about our understanding of salvation shapes how read passages like todays
                certainly how read next week’s gospel
like we put on these glasses
they shape
                how read bible
shapes how understand God
shapes how we see ourselves
shapes understanding Christ
and what it is we think we are here to do.
despite all that
I suspect that many of us don’t think about much at all
don’t give a lot of attention to “what is it we understand by being saved?”
what is salvation?
what being saved from and for?
what want to do today spent a little bit of time wondering
what on earth does that mean to be saved?

      2.       Saved for eternal life

we can say - saved means gaining eternal life
                life with God
think if asked most you
                after die – future
                heaven - somewhere else
colours everything
God  is loving – up to point
God is holy, righteous, judge
see ourselves as sinful
                stone cold dead – Bob Dylan describes it
our sins keep us out heaven
Jesus death paid price of those sins
resurrection allows us live again
all which means we will get in to this eternal life
if we believe right things and say right prayers
what then implications of this theology for
how see God?
How see ourselves
How see Christ?
how we read bible?
What we are on about as church?

       3.       Saved – for now

Older understandings salvation
find them in John’s Gospel
find them writing early writers – Augustine, Athanasius
Find them in writing Julian Norwich – who remembered Thursday – calendar saints
eternal life is life with God
salvation is in the here and now

        4.       St. Augustine

St Augustine of Hippo (not be confused Augustine sent by Pope Gregory to Britain 200 later)
wrote – we had forgotten who God is
                who are – those made image God
                forgotten how to live people made in image of God
For Augustine Jesus came remind us
show us
came as God among us
we might be reminded who God is
                who we are as ones made image God
                                made in image one meet person Jesus
                                (by we mean all humanity)
                how we are live as those made in image God
In Jesus we find God
invited rediscover character of God
                people mixes with
                how interacts with them
                what teaches
                what he does – restoring community
in Jesus meet God in whom there is only love (Julian Norwich would say)
What this understanding do to
how see God?
How see ourselves
How see Christ?
how we read bible?
What we are on about as church?
being saved is not something about future
about how see ourselves now,
                people made in image God who we meet in person of Jesus
restoring God’s community in here and now

      5.       Acts

not a lot written about early church by non church people
some references to James Just – brother Jesus the messiah
James of Acts
brother Jesus
Head of church (not Peter)
he was renowned as holy and devout
zealous God
champion for poor
take off the eternal life is in future glasses
offered glimpses in Acts in particular
                group took Jesus message about “new” way conceiving society very seriously
message stood firmly in tradition of prophets
king David – shepherd of God’s people
sought live that out
in way all treated as made image of God
who loves all
draws all in
freely forgives and seeks life for now
lived in way all had enough, and none had too much
salvation was to live out this life now
in way others invited to join.
For these the kingdom of God is now, and in will be fully realised in the future

      6.       The Questions

two years ago suggested three questions we constantly need to reflect on
our answers to these will shape our understanding who we are as people God on this place
understanding of what we are doing here
those three questions are
                whose are we
                who are we
                what is ours to do.
how we understand salvation shape how answer all these
how answer these 3 questions also shape how understand salvation
we need to think about and talk about how we understand salvation
invite you turn neighbour and reflect on what just said
                what stood out
                what new
                what disagree with
                what next?