Rector's ramblings: December 2015

Christmas message for the 'Measham Messenger'

This year I have felt unequal to the task of writing a meaningful Christmas message for Measham. What can I say at a time of so many deep and difficult issues in Measham itself and in the world at large?  I guess many of us have a sense of helplessness in the face of everything right now.

  All I can offer is how I have come to understand that the events of that first Christmas speak into our helplessness and can bring hope, love and peace. The story of Jesus, Son of God, is to my mind so ludicrous in human eyes that I came, many years ago, to believe it to be true.

    Jesus came willingly to live among us as a helpless baby born to instant danger. Before long, Mary and Joseph and their baby were on the road to Egypt as refugees as they escaped King Herod’s murderous intentions.

   Then looking ahead to his life, it held for him no wife, no children, no home. His friends left a great deal to be desired – a real rag bag collection. In the eyes of the society of his day, he mixed with all the wrong people – prostitutes, tax collectors working for the Romans, women, those whom decent society avoided.

  He wrote no books, raised no army and built no great buildings. He met his end nailed to a cross – a public, painful and prolonged death.

    He was prepared to be with us in all the best and worst of human life. This being with us in it every inch of the way somehow saves us: because we are helpless to sort the human mess on our own.

   Jesus throughout showed love to the lovely and to the loveless alike; when wronged he never retaliated or met violence with violence. On the cross, as I understand it, he absorbed (and goes on absorbing) all the hatred, badness, horror of which we humans are capable. He doesn’t add to it.

  Then he somehow (and this is resurrection) takes it all and reworks patiently and slowly – bringing good out of bad. He’s like a worker of wood who starts with an idea of the sculpture he intends, but meets knots in the wood. So has to work round and adapt – yet still creates an item of beauty.

  Wherever I see people bringing hope, comfort and blessing to others (as I see in Measham now, and as happens in the many tragedies) I see Jesus being born again today – new beginnings in the middle of disaster. Jesus wants us to work with him in sowing seeds of love and peace and hope and blessing wherever we are. Patiently and probably too slowly for our modern thinking, I trust him to bring healing and redemption from what to us seems an impossible situation. It is mystery why God chose this way but I can go with mystery and deep time thinking.

  This is a personal viewpoint but it is all I find I can offer this Christmas. I hope it may help you. 

 

Advent Sunday 2015

 

 

  This week has been a week of deeper conversations than normal – people trying to get heads round Paris, Mali, Measham and beyond. Being faced full on by results of human beings choosing their own way and not God’s. I have found myself using phrase – need to do deep thinking, talking about deep time (phrase stolen from geo-chemistry to speak of the enormity of earth’s history in which human history is no more than blink of an eye)

   It reawakened one of my longings for the church – that the church and its people are a deep pool to which people can come and drink of God’s mercy and compassion (as happened last week).

  For us to be a deep pool however, we need to work at deep levels in our beings as individuals and as church communities. For too much of recent Christian history in the west, Christianity spoke of the individual being saved from sin and going to heaven – became harsh and judgmental. It looked harsh and judgmental from the outside and it is interesting that it is the so-called Christian west that has produced more atheists than the rest of the world. We need to be deeper pools showing God’s depth of compassion than that!

  Listen to Isaiah’s words: ‘in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. But you would have none of it.’

   These words were addressed to Israel at a time when they were overwhelmed on every side by foreign powers – Babylon, Assyria and Egypt.  So very modern a feel. How we feel right now in 2015?  But Israel is God’s people and a different way of being is their calling under God. Instead of trusting God, they have formed an alliance on this occasion with Egypt – noted for their swift horses valuable in battle. It has done them no good at all. Isaiah says “you have trusted Egypt more than God”.

 They have adopted a false model of reality – one in which God isn’t Lord. Reality will smash their false model as they are defeated. They refused to wait for God’s help – just rushed off. Yet strangely when they admit helplessness to do for themselves, they will see him and find God was there all along.

  Story from desert fathers. A brother insulted by another brother and came to his Abba. ‘I was hurt by my brother and want to avenge myself’. The old man tried to console him – ‘don’t do that. Leave vengeance to God.’ But he said ‘I will not quit until I avenge myself.’

  Old man: ‘Let us pray brother’ and standing up he said ‘Lord we no longer need you to take care of us since we now avenge ourselves’ Hearing these words, the brother fell at old man’s feet and said ‘I am not going to fight with my brother anymore. Forgive me Abba.’

   Advent in particular urges us to wait. Wait on the Lord: the Lord for whom 1000 years are as a day and a day as 1000 years. Waiting is not natural to us – humbles us I guess. Counter to culture of our day in big way – culture which says I should have it now, if not yesterday. Where news media demand governments solve huge international issues by tomorrow. Bad decisions often those made in moment. Yet there is stature in waiting and trusting.

   Who is the God we are waiting for? God is the God who always doing new thing – never be boxed and pigeonholed by us. We want to package him so we know that if this happens, he will do that. He will not be packaged by us though we try.

  Think of God’s people in Old Testament days waiting for the Messiah who they were promised would come. But their picture was of a military Messiah who would win their battles and lead them to freedom by defeating everyone else. God didn’t come like that – came as baby in stable in backwater of Bethlehem. If going to come as baby, not even the decency to be born in palace so it was obvious who he was.

  He adopted the life of travelling preacher who raised no army, wrote no books, built no great buildings. He was shy almost secretive. This was unexpected. And then the cross – how unexpected can you get? That this was the way of God’s power?

I hope you have had experience of Jesus love, personal to you. Don’t expect he will always come in same way again.

  So we are waiting for a God who may not be doing what would be obvious to the human race – in a way that mirrors his work on the cross – taking the pain and anger and misery into himself; never retaliating but transforming, slowly but definitely.

   We need eyes to see him at work for we probably would like the odd thunderbolt and more immediate and obvious action.

   He invites us to give control to him – so many ways we stay in charge. Imagine an archery target – who is at the centre? Is it you, trying to organize everything. Or is the cross at the centre and us to one side? Or will we have none of it and go our own way?

   Waiting, watching for our Lord at work – Lord who longs to be gracious and show compassion. And dedicating ourselves to sowing the good seed of God’s kingdom – seeds of love, peace, hope – these seeds that have the power to overcome the seeds of anger, violence, nastiness even if that seems impossible.

  Attentive….waiting……watching……planting.  This is our call for Advent and beyond.

 

 

 

   

 


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