Thursday, March 31, 2016

Believing into the Christ



"These things have been written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ the son of God, and in order that while believing you might have life in his name." (John 20:31)
“Believing” is at the heart of John’s gospel. It is the point of John's gospel. The tricky thing is understanding what John might mean by believing. For some believing has come to mean being able to agree with some intellectual or creedal position or statement; for example belief in the virgin birth, or the miracles. It has come to mean being able to agree with something like the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Nicene Creed. When you agree with that you have faith. If you don’t then you do not have faith! Is that what John means? Do we have to have the right understanding or belief in order to reserve our room in eternity?
Belief for the writer of John, and for all the biblical writers in fact, was not about right thought. Last week we heard that the beloved disciple believed when he saw the empty tomb, but did not understand. This “believing” is about our relationship with Jesus. Belief is when we place our trust, hope and life in this relationship. It is when this relationship and the qualities of this relationship govern our lives, and shape our response to others. It is not a finished thing, but something we are forever growing into. It might be better to translate it as believing into Jesus. It is when we live knowing that nothing, not our actions or thoughts, not even death can bring an end to this relationship. May this be the belief we grow into this Easter.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter sermon thing



One of the things I learnt a long time ago at a conference in Oxford England was to not try to say too much explaining scripture, but to tell the story and shut up, so to speak. I have also learnt that at Easter and Christmas the goal is to help people into the story, rather than try to talk about the story. I try to do that most weeks, and I suspect most people would laugh at that statement. But here is my sermon for this Sunday. It is a poem really, with images playing on our screens. I may have posted it before. If I have, arohamai. 

You can listen to me reading this reffelction here. To be honest it goes better with the images


They huddled
Numb
Exhausted
Stuck
Filled with grief
Filled with guilt
Disbelieving
Desperate
Overwhelmed by darkness, sin, and death
They wait
Powerless
Angry
Afraid
Hopeless
Helpless
Unsure
Uncertain
Where is God in all this?
Why has God forsaken us?

Wanting to bury the crucified one
The disciples,
Men and women
Wait
Are waiting
The night never seems to end

We too are numb
Exhausted
Huddled in our fear
Stuck
Sometimes filled with grief
Sometimes with guilt
Disbelieving
Desperate
Overwhelmed by darkness, sin, and death
We too are powerless
afraid
angry:
                boy racers
                Taggers
Gangs
Murdering youth
                Those who do violence
Those who seek to stop violence
Drugs
P
Suicide bombers
Terrorists
Brussels
Paris
Istanbul
So many places weep
The United States
Iraq
Syria
ISIL
Palestine
Israel
The list goes on
The government
Politicians
The treaty
Health care
Global warming
(pause)
We too feel powerless
afraid
angry:
overwhelmed by darkness, sin, and death
We wait
Hopeless
Helpless
Too busy
Too tired
Unsure
Uncertain
Where is God in all of this?
What does God have to say?

One woman
Three women
Some women
Walk in the dark
To say goodbye
To bury their dead
One final hopeless act….
In the gloom
The stone has gone
He has gone!!!
Who has done this?
Even this last act of despair
Of love
Even this denied!
Who to turn to
Who to help?

Who to turn to?
In the darkness
When the dawn never seems to come
Who are our “they’s?”
Who is to blame?
What are our stones in the gloom?
That deny our acts of love?
And who will help us?

They come
Peter the leader
and the beloved
each see the neat tomb
one believes
and neither understand
They see
They hope the impossible
And leave
Still helpless
Still unsure
Still uncertain
Where is God in all this?
And who will help?


But Mary waits
Patiently
Alone
Silently weeping
At all that is lost
Dawn breaks quietly
No blinding light
No fanfare
Just a gardener
”woman
why do you weep?
Who are you looking for?”

Why do you weep?
Who are you looking for?
Who do we look for?
What do we look for?
What do we hope for?

“Sir
if you have taken him away
tell me
tell me where you have laid him
and I will care for him?”
Such gentle love
Such despair
Blinds her
blinds us
to Jesus
who simply says her name
who simply says our name.
Quietly in the dawn
a single word
“Mary”
changes her world
changes our world
“Mary”
where do we hear our name uttered with such love?
where do we hear our name uttered by the risen Jesus?

Her darkness is shredded
the dawn warms her from the inside out
the darkness is shredded
alive
freed
enlivened
Filled with joy
She believes
Overwhelmed by light, love and life
She goes
Boldly
To tell the men
To tell the world
She has seen the Lord
At peace
courageous
Hopeful
Sure and certain
God has said her name?
God has not forsaken her?
The crucified one does not need to be buried
But goes to the Father
The waiting is over
The night has ended

Our night has ended
Our waiting is over
Christ has said our name
Christ is risen in our world
We are not forsaken
Our darkness is shredded
Our darkness is shredded
And in its place
Is joy
Hope
Peace
Love
Quietly in the dawn
a single word
has changed our world
We are freed
We are changed
Our world has changed
What changes for us in this moment?

Let us give thanks
To the God
Met in the risen Jesus
Who says our name
And invites us to live
not in dark and sin and death
But overwhelmed in God’s light, love and life

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Breath of life at Easter



Here we are on the other side of Good Friday. On the other side of death, celebrating life once more. It is easy to think that Easter fixes Good Friday – fixes Jesus humiliation and places Jesus where he belongs in glory in heaven. There is no fixing. Easter affirms Good Friday as the moment of Christ’s glorification. In Jesus death the ways of rivalry with the need to have more status, power, money, stuff, people; and the way of compliance are shown to be empty. Easter does not correct Good Friday, but declares that on Good Friday Christ was glorified and love won. All other ways are death. God’s way of compassion and generosity through the cross is life. And this way is to be lived out now.
Karoline Lewis[1] puts this another way. ‘(R)esurrection is not only the promise of life after death, which, after all, would be enough, but also the assurance that the life-giving love of God will always move the stones away. Tombs are just that -- containers for the dead. And while we seem rather content these days with such spaces -- those dead places that fuel corruption, deception, racism, sexism, suspicion, rejection, marginalization, misogyny, judgment, and fear -- God continues to roll those stones away that keep life at bay. And when the stale air of decay meets God’s breath that creates new life and the possibility of hope and peace, death truly is no more.”


[1] <http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=4571>