Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finding Our True Selves

Why were you given your name? What does your name reveal about who you are? Today we are given our names for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we even change our names to something we would prefer. In the Bible names are pretty important things. A name revealed your essence. And sometimes, when your essence changed, God gave you a new name. Today’s reading from Genesis is one of two versions of the covenant between God and Abram, which establishes circumcision as the sign of that covenant. It is a covenant which changes both Abram and Sarai, and so God changes their names to Abraham and Sarah.
Last week I proposed that Lent is a time to slow down; to be still and silent; to listen more deeply. It is, I suggested, a time to pay attention to the three questions that shape us: whose are we, who are we, and what is ours to do? It is a time to reflect on how our experience and understanding of God shapes how we see ourselves and what our lives are about. Lent is a time then to hear the invitation to deepen that understanding, to let go of some images and embrace new images. In light of that, what name would God give you today, and what name is God inviting you into this Lent?
Our gospel story today should shock us. Jesus says that the way to understand God is through crucifixion. It should challenge so many of our ideas about God and what God wants of us. It should challenge our ideas about ourselves.
William Loader[1] says, “Clearly we are being offered an alternative model of being. It is for our gain, in our interests, to consider it. That is the appeal. So there is no thought of our abdicating responsibility nor of our being asked to do what we do not want to do. We are being challenged to want something different. Instead of thinking only of ourselves and believing that it is to our good to gain wealth and avoid any path which leads to suffering, we are being challenged to be generous, giving of ourselves, even when it may mean suffering. The first image of ourselves and our good is to be set aside; instead we are to embrace the way of Jesus, of self giving love. Then we will find ourselves, our true selves. The merging of our will and being with God’s will and being, and therefore with love which cares for others as well as for ourselves, is the way of discipleship. It is also the way to real humanness - and the way of Jesus, and ultimately also of God!”
May this lent continue to be a time of making room to listen so that we might find our true selves in God’s will and being.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Whose are we this Lent?

This can be heard here.

Gate Pa – Lent 1, 2015
Psalm                          25:1-10                                                
First Reading:                         Genesis 9:8-17           
Second Reading:                    1 Peter 3:18-22          
Gospel:                        Mark 1:9-15               

What I want to say:
Lent is a time to slow down, embrace being still and silent, so that we might listen more deeply. It is a time to pay attention to the three questions that shape us: Whose are we. who are we, what is ours to do? In particular it is a time to reflect on who we understand God to be, and to hear the invitation to deepen that understanding, to let go of some images and embrace new images.

What I want to happen:
People to pay attention to the God they worship, and to use this as a time to let go of some images and embrace new images.

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

Wednesday night read this out – quote
            alto like Ramadan for Muslims
traditionally we seem focus on fasting
does involve emphasis on prayer and reading scripture
being aware of meeting needs poorest
could describe lent as time slow
            embrace silences and stillness
some of that is about giving things up – so have space listen well
some of that about developing new spiritual disciplines
new practices
help us listen, new ways live gospel
sometimes we just fast
            just give up something
            good for you
            what we do
I kind of feel that misses the point really
            point being Lent time pay much more attention to God
            further problem – end up feeling super virtuous
doesn’t seem to be what it is all about

     2.     The 3 Questions

last 3 years much what said three underlying questions
seem to me shape understanding of what our role is in this place
here in Gate Pa
three questions are
            whose are we
            who are we
            what is ours to do
primary question whose are we
            who is God for us
            who is this God we seek to follow
And Lent offers us a chance to reflect on what names/images we use are helpful
            what names/images we might be invited to let go of
            what new ways understanding God we might be invited to embrace
our Lenten studies offer us a chance to engage with this in a more deliberate way.

     3.     Readings

the readings we heard this morning also give us a good start
especially reading Genesis and Mark
both traditional readings for first Sunday lent
alternate between fall and first covenant for reading from first testament
hear Jesus time in wilderness in each Gospels we focus on for that year
how might we understand them?

     4.     The Fall and Ensnarement

The other reading we might hear on a first Sunday in lent is story of the Fall
When Eve is deceived by serpent
she and Adam eat of apple
they are cast our Eden
more importantly maybe
all creation is ensnared by powers that work against will God
powers that would become personified in Satan
 prevent creation from being all that God wills it
            Paul talks about this as all creation groaning in childbirth
we, humanity
prevented seeing that we are made in image of God
prevented seeing that we are beloved children of God
prevented living as beloved children of God
then have story Noah
God seeks to start again
            start afresh
with Noah and the Ark
Now here are some images that we need to take note of
Noah sends out dove
eventually returns  with olive branch
symbol of the land uncovered
the chance to start again
precursor to covenant God will now enter into with all humanity
with all creation
covenant we heard this morning
all that goes before it
God will never again use violence and fix what has happened
deeper import
that god will fix what has happened
but by other means.
it is a covenant
            God promises to fix what has happened
            God promises not to use violence
what do we promise?
what does humanity have to do to get this fixed?
this is a one sided
            one way covenant

     5.     Mark

flash forward to today’s gospel reading
this man
most which heard before
as i said before
            sets themes for rest of the Gospel
-         authority
-         liberation
begin with how unexpected this all is
            come from Nazareth for goodness sake
then baptism
where sees the spirit descending into him (into way better translation than on)
commentators suggest this deliberate image
designed take hearers back to Noah
back to that first covenant we also heard this morning
covenant where god says
            “I will fix this
I will end this ensnarement
I will heal this blinding
I will restore creation to what I desired
I will restore humanity to beloved children”
The sign of that is this dove
In this morning Gospel we are offered an image of Jesus
as God’s answer to the fall

     6.     pay attention

number ways we can understand what this is all about
more recently – last 700 years or so
might describe this as Jesus coming to meet the demands of God
so that our relationship with God can be restored
one we know best

first 1300 years or so
understood as Jesus coming to break chains hold creation
            hold humanity
by meeting demands of Satan
This is God honouring the first covenant
Jesus being Light God  (John’s Gospel)
that banishes our blindness and restores our sight
so that we might see that we are still beloved children of god
we never ceased to be children of God
throughout all gospels
Jesus takes of powers that resist God
defeats them
in death on cross
when all seemed lost and Satan had won
God destroys power evil for ever

     7.     Lent

so then
what images of God might are you being invited to re-examine this Lent
what images might you need to let go of?
what new images might are you being invited to embrace
Whose are we this Lent?
            this year?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Some thoughts this Lent

We begin a new season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday (not counting Sundays). On Wednesday night we were reminded in the liturgy that Lent is a time to prepare for the celebration Christ's death and resurrection. We were told that “In order that our Lent may be a time of renewal and growth we begin this season by remembering our need for repentance and for the forgiveness of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ.” We were then invited to “observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, self-denial and giving to those in need, and by reading and meditating on the word of God.”
Lent provides us an opportunity to go more slowly, to take time in our fasting to be silent and still so that we might listen. It is a time to go deep within ourselves to listen to God deeply.
Lent is a time when we can be reminded of the nature of the God we follow in Jesus, to be reminded that God is love and we are held in that love no matter how bad we are or unworthy we think we are. We are also reminded that God is establishing God’s reign of generosity, peace and justice; and that we are invited to be part of that mission.
Lent is a time for us all to listen, to be ready for God to continue to speak through all those gathered, and through those on the edge of our community. This Lent may we know deeply within as individuals and as a community that we are profoundly loved by God, and may we rest in that love. May we also see afresh the world as loved by God and through prayer join with God in living out that love. May we deepen our reliance on the grace of God, and share in God’s mission.