Rambling thoughts 2014

December 16th 2014

  I keep thinking how the nativity story has become something for young children only. It's why I love our instant nativity services in church where all ages take part as angels, shepherds, kings and the animals in the stable. The story of Jesus' birth is a story for all ages - however old or young we are. There are more and more layers of meaning to be discovered and experienced in the fact that the Son of God was born as a tiny human baby. He comes so close. He is so vulnerable. He does not want to frighten us; rather he wants us to love him, for we matter to him so much. It's a lifetime's journeying to even begin to touch the wonder of that!

November 30th 2014 (Advent Sunday)

  I'm typing this on the afternoon of Advent Sunday. We've had a wonderful time this morning singing the great hymns of the Advent season. What were my thoughts for the day? The readings set for the day were 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 and Mark 13:24-end, focusing on the second coming of Christ.

      Imagine Jesus walks in now to join you. You know it’s him – you have no doubts. What would you do? Say? Think? Feel?  Hold on to sense of your reaction.

    In the 1Corinthians reading, Paul was full of joy, trust and excited anticipation at the coming of Jesus. Jesus' words in Mark might have instilled more of sense of anxiety. Something scary about this time when Jesus comes again. Uncomfortable and uncertain – not sure what to do about it. Jesus tells us to watch, be alert. Don’t be found asleep. I'm suggesting that we use this season of Advent ( it is a penitential season) to turn again to cross – to be reminded of what Jesus accomplished there for us, for there lies Paul’s confidence.

  On the cross, Jesus saves us from ourselves. I want to use that phrase rather than 'saves us from our sins' – too often that suggests that it's all just about forgiving that lie, that meanness, that lack of love. But the cross is so much bigger and deeper than that. I guess in the language of previous days, we're talking about the seven deadly sins (greed, pride, sloth - sloth rather appeals - and so on).

    Jesus came to save us from ourselves – something we cannot do for ourselves. We can’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. True of us as individuals and as church.

   As we grow up, we build up an image of ourselves, our self-image. We want to fit in, survive, to be acceptable,so we build up a self image that we then need to maintain and often a gap opens up bewteen the outer image and what we know of ourselves inside.

  I looked up ‘self’ in dictionary – whole list: self-satisfied, self-content, self-conceit, self absorbed, self-advertising, self- congratulatory, self-seeking, self-justifying, self-sufficing. It's not an easy list to read but we recognize these characteristics – in ourselves, in others, in the church.

     Self-advertising, self congratulatory – perhaps real feature of life today with websites and Face book. Frowned on when I was young but we're enocuraged to put it all out there nowadays. Self-justifying – I had to do it, not my fault but theirs. Self-seeking, self-absorbed – speak for themselves. Self-sufficing – don’t need anyone else.

      All of these characteristics are a real barrier to our relationship with God. How can we be open to believe in his love, let alone receive his love? 'Self' keeps Him at a distance.

      There is a whole other list of ‘self’ words though which are common to human condition: self-hatred, self-despair, self-accusing, self-torture. Self hatred is probably one of which I become increasingly aware as I listen to people.

     We can’t save ourselves from all these deep, deep fractures within us. Jesus can and has on the cross. On the cross, He says "this is how much I love you. I have willingly gone through this to set you free because you cannot do it for yourself". Our part is not to try to be good or make ourselves deserving of this love (not possible) but to open our hands and hearts to receive. 

     And that is difficult. So often it's made to sound easy - open your hands and hearts to receive. I was struck the other week by this phrase ‘few of us know how to be loved. We know how to be pampered and indulged or how to whine about injustice’ (Jane Williams). I have had to work with that one myself since reading that, because I recognize truth for me – how about you?

    We can do something that is perhaps harder still - to admit we don't know how to receive this huge, amazing love and to ask Jesus to help us receive it; to admit that degree of helplessness. To say 'we long to receieve your love in all its height and depth and breadth. Help me to receive for I am helpless on my own.'

   Can we see that the mercy lived out there is for us and that we don’t deserve it but it is there for us to receive? Can we gaze on the cross this Advent and know that this is for us – and for the church? All beloved of Christ and ask that Jesus enables us to receive, seeking his forgiveness where our ‘self’ gets in the way? And keep gazing and keep asking?

    To know this truth deep within us is what gives rise to joy and confidence – joy and confidence that was Paul’s and which Jesus longs to be ours. 

     Knowing this love is for us, may we allow God to love others in this way through us. For he loves all, he died for all on the cross in his great love and he wants them to know that love for themselves. He loves every single person in our villages. Let's be alongside Jesus in the sharing of that love.

  So this Advent, gaze on the cross and know the love for you that Jesus shows you and me there. Let's ask him to help us receive it from his hands. Much changes as we do that!

September 28th 2014: Cross-shaped lives

  This week I heard the challenge to be good news and to live the good news. How I long for us to be good news to the people we meet day by day. Have been thinking for several weeks about cross-shaped lives. As I gaze on the cross of Jesus Christ, I see there a love that will go all the way; I see forgiveness and I see sacrifice. For me and for each one of us. At the same time, I see the challenge for us to lead cross-shaped lives where we seek to love all the way, to forgive and to be sacrificial. How else will our world ever come to a place of peace?

  So gaze on the cross now, that symbol of the greatest love ever:

 

   What does it tell us about God's love for us? God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. He sent him not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. Jesus got his hands dirty by coming to be one of us - he didn't stand aloof.

   Then think of a time when someone has shown you a kindness that spoke of thier love for you. Out of thankfulness for the love of Jesus and the love of a fellow human being, what kind and loving thing could each one of us do today for someone else? That is the way towards living a cross-shaped life.

  

 

 

 

 


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