Tag Archives: advent

Week 4: Saturday (aka Christmas Eve! yay!) Matthew 28:16-20

What goes around comes around.
Child in the manger
Innocent peace
Sleeping so soundly
Not knowing the danger
From Herod’s police
Pursuing him roundly
Already authorities
see him as threat
Yet still he sleeps calmly

As he grows older
At mother’s knee
Learns of his Father
Now enters manhood
Clearly we see
As crowds now gather
Here’s a man speaking
with authority

Touches the leper
Gives sight to the blind
Hope to the hopeless
Never unkind
To those who are needy,
Who come for his aid.
Forgiving the guilty,
Says “don’t be afraid”

Authorities now feeling
threatened indeed
their power is challenged
As he meets the need
For love, for forgiveness,
For healing, release
From fears that disable –
To all he brings peace

Around him disciples
are blind to the signs
of the times.
Though walking beside him,
Alone now he strides on
to certain destruction
for other men’s crimes

He hangs on a cross now
In great agony
Centurion looks up
At man on the tree
This foreign invader
Is first one to see
“surely oh surely
this can only be
The Son of God”.

Why?
‘Cos unlike the usual kinds that hang close to death
This one, far from cursing, with his dying breath
Says “Father, forgive”.
Nothing if not consistent.

Disciples are gathered in fear in the dark
Fearing they’ll be the next one.
Women determined to care for their Lord
Head off at the rise of the sun
Expecting a closed tomb, to their deep dismay
the tomb is now open, the stone rolled away.
weeping and wailing, expressing their grief
the voice of an angel now offers relief:
“He’s not here – he’s risen! now run, tell the rest”
But Mary remains, sobs still racking her breast.
Still not understanding, she asks of the man
She thought to be gardener “Please tell, if you can,
Oh where have they taken him? where lies he now?”
He speaks but one word
“Mary”
She sees him at last
“Rabboni”

Now forty days later, on mountain-top high
The man who now lived though they’d all seen him die
Leaves them once more, he’ll not be seen again –
But first sets in motion unstoppable chain
Reaction

“You’ve heard me teach,
Seen me reach out to all
Now one last commandment
I give you – I call
you to take on the mantle
of Love.”

And that is how God’s Kingdom rule
is even now, through me and you,
by power of Spirit shared with all.

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Week 4: Friday Matthew 26:1-31

Extravagant love

 She loved him more than words could tell
Her heart was overflowing
She poured her love out o’er his head
In form of precious perfumed oil
Bought after many years of toil
Worth a fortune, so they said…
Why waste it on his head?

They said the money spent was waste,
The oil should have been sold in haste
To feed the poor – not this disgraceful
Wasteful generous anointing
Of this one man’s head.

“The poor” he said “are always there.
Just this once, her loving care
Of my needs for the future day
When dead and cold in tomb I’ll lay
Is right and proper”. So He said.

I wonder – when the dread day came
When hung he on the cross in pain
Bearing all the sin and shame
Of humankind – did thought remain
Of act of kindness, act of love?
Of oil pouring out above
His head, now crowned with thorns?

Before that cross, that bleeding brow
We kneel now, and we wonder how
We too can show our love right now
For him who died and rose again
And reigns on high – yet still the pain
Continues here on earth.

Babies die with nought to eat,
Refugees with bleeding feet
Trudge wearily along the street
To nowhere.
Even in this land of ours,
Peaceful, rich in hope
Homeless have no place to go
Hungry children whimper low
Christmas morn for them is bleak,
No gifts unless there’s less to eat.

So that is how we show our love
For Him who came down from above
To save us all from sin and shame.
Loving others – that’s the same
As loving Him – he said as much
As day by day he healed by touch
And word and deed.
So we now feed
The hungry
Out of love
For in so doing we feed Him.

 

Week 4: Thursday Matthew 22:34-40

A sideways look at the pain and privilege of loving and being loved.

The Great Commandment

The first time was unexpected
I thought it was a one-off
But now  …
One after another the burdens come
Crowding in
Jostling, fighting for attention.
Each heavier than the last

Everywhere I turn
Need
Hunger
Despair

I bring it all to
You
Offer it all to
You
Increasingly
You
Give it back,
You
Offer it to me to
Carry for a
Time

A compliment, I’m told
A sign of
Your trust
A reward for a job well done
Or at least for a job
Done

Some reward!!!

And yet
And yet

With the
Burden comes
Blessing,
To bear the
Pain brings
Privilege

Not privilege as the world would understand it
No Nobel prize here!
No accolades
No public praise
No medals
No honours
No glory…
No, the glory goes to others and
Ultimately to
Him,
To the ultimate
Source

Instead,
Privilege far greater than any the world could bestow
Privilege beyond measure
Priceless treasure
Privilege of sharing in the
Hard, heavy work of
Redemption
Privilege of entering
Daily
Hourly
Moment by moment
Deeper into the
Mystery of the
Cross

Experiencing from within the
Depth
Height
Breadth
Of the love of
Christ
Christ who said
“I love you”
Christ
Who opened His arms wide and said
“I love you this much” as He
Died
Christ
Who rose to new life
Christ who raises us to new life
Christ who loves with
Boundless love
Who said “go, love others like that”

Living in the ocean of His love
We also are
Healed
Who bring
Healing to
Others
And this is
Glory enough

Week 4: Tuesday Matthew 6:16-24

Just five days before what is traditionally the biggest blow-out of the year in our over-commercialised Western celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, our reading begins with the three words “When you fast”.

Not if – when.

Fasting isn’t a fashionable discipline.
Come to that, discipline isn’t a fashionable concept.
In particular self-discipline and self-denial fly in the face of the current Zeitgeist.
I suspect the decline of discipline, in that sense, began
around the time that your flexible friend took the waiting out of wanting. Any of you remember that?access1978_85c

We are challenged in this passage to live by another standard.

Not “I’m on a sea-food diet. I see food and I eat it.”
Not “I’m entitled – why should I wait?”
Not “I’ve worked hard – I deserve to splurge on ……. (insert indulgence of choice)”
Not “My happiness depends on owning the latest piece of technology” (despite what the adverts would have you believe)

No.
The challenge of Jesus is summed up in those first three words – “When you fast“.

What Jesus is not saying is that it is inherently wrong to have nice things or to enjoy nice things. Remember – he liked going to parties – even provided the best wine they’d ever tasted. So go ahead – enjoy your Christmas feast.
Just don’t make the consumption of things the main goal of your life.
The discipline (that word again) of the Christian year includes two seasons of fasting – Advent and Lent.
Two seasons of putting the wait back into wanting (unless of course you succumb to mince pies in October and Hot Cross Buns in January  winking-smiley)

Fasting isn’t just going without food or alcohol.
Fasting is about priorities.
It’s about putting prayer – simply being in the presence of God – higher up the list than anything else.
It’s about not allowing your appetites to rule your life.
It’s about allowing God to rule your life.
It’s about discipline – remaining steadfast in prayer for our broken, hurting world including the perpetrators of the latest atrocities as well as giving thanks for all that contributes to building God’s kingdom .
It’s about being Christ to the world by the power of the Spirit.
It’s about building the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

Week 4: Monday Matthew 5:38-48

What this passage doesn’t say:
“Ignore injustice – accept it, embrace it, submit to it”

What this passage does say:
“Break the cycle of violence, of hate – but do it in such a way that the perpetrator has the opportunity to realise how their action is attempting to dehumanise you. By your reaction, be fully human – as Christ was fully human – the way God intended all along.”

And as for “pray for your enemies”… here’s a prayer you might like.
But be warned – something deep in you may resist at first, and then you may be taken to places you wouldn’t have chosen. You will, without doubt, be transformed.

“Jesus, help me to love X just half as much as you do.”

Try it. I double-dare you…

praying

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Matthew 1:18-25

Emmanuel

In heart of clamour
Silence grows
In midst of turmoil
Peace flows
Beyond all logic
God draws near,
Takes on our flesh –
Christ is here.

Rest for the weary,
For hatred, love.
For sin, forgiveness,
For warfare a dove.
Hope for despair,
Comfort for grief
For sorrow, joy –
Such sweet relief
When dawns the Dayspring
On our sight,
Dispersing gloom,
Bringing light.

The King is born –
We own His sway,
Kneel in homage
On this His day.
Thoughts are stilled
Words fall away.
Gaze in awe
In silence pray
Before the Babe
Asleep on hay
Emmanuel

Week 3: Saturday Matthew 27:27-38

This passage came as a shock.

Wright’s commentary gave new insights – I’d never before made the conscious connection between the Sermon on the Mount and the events surrounding the crucifixion, although I’d always seen in the crucifixion narratives a deep integrity with all that Jesus lived and taught up to that point.

Powerlessness. That’s the word that sprang to mind as I read the penultimate paragraph on p89 of the book where Wright ponts out that similar atrocities continue to happen and asks what our response is.

Powerlessness.

Jesus, who had demonstrated such authority and power over sin, guilt, sickness and even death, was in this moment powerless – this is, above all, the moment when he, “though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2)

Powerlessness.

The disciples looking on could do nothing – the full might of the occupying forces was ranged against their Lord and Master, and would crush them instantly, like an insect underfoot, if they gave any sign at all that they objected.

Powerlessness.

Maybe above all, the powerlessness of his mother.
Mary, who had born him in her womb for 9 months, facing herself the possibility of condemnation and rejection for her “immorality” (an angel?? the Holy Spirt??? yeah, right… who does she think she’s kidding???).
Mary, who had nurtured him as only a mother can, held him to her breast, watched over his development, disciplined him when, an unthinking adolescent, he caused her and Joseph heart-lurching anxiety when they couldn’t find him following his Bar Mitzvah.
Mary, who had looked on as he left the carpenter’s bench to which he’d been trained by Joseph and began to wander the country – claiming, at one point when she and her other sons came to speak with him, that all the needy people crowding around him were his family.
Mary, who had given her life to love, cherish, nurture this precious gift from God.
Mary, now powerless to mitigate the suffering of the man who was once the baby inside her womb.

Powerlessness.

Ours, as we look around our deeply troubled world today.
There seems so little we can do – and certainly we are powerless to change the big picture.
Ours, as we watch those near and dear to us suffer physically and psychologically.
Ours, as our own bodies begin to fail or develop life-limiting conditions.
Ours, as our nearest and dearest or indeed ourselves, approach the end of life.

How do I respond to the cross? How does it touch my life?
It proves beyond doubt that God is in all things – including the unspeakable, the unthinkable.

This is Incarnation.

God in all things?

Truly?

Is God in all things?

A beautiful sunset, a sleeping child,
A rose in bloom, a mother’s smile…
A father’s strong hand, a lover’s caress,
A hug from a friend, my deepest distress…

Hold it right there! What’s that I just heard?
My deepest distress? When the sun is obscured
And the lightning strikes, the tsunami floods in
Sweeping all life away – or so it seems…?
When grief shreds my heart, when my body is wracked
With pain, when for lust a child is attacked?
When I’m sinking in mire, when I can’t find firm ground,
When all hope is lost, when the darkness surrounds…

Is God in all things?
Is God truly in all?
Is God?
Dare I say it?
Is God at all?

Is God in my doubting, my darkness, my fear?
Or does God hide away when the fog fails to clear?
Does God simply watch from the side-lines, wait
For the act of destruction which settles my fate?

Is God in the darkness?
Is God truly in all?
Is God?
Dare I say it?
Is God at all?

A child in a manger,
A refugee flight,
A victim of prejudice,
Sought out by night
For fear of the others –
Yet offering sight
For the blind, healing, hope
For those life leaves behind…
A man in a courtroom,
Falsely accused…
A whipping, a taunting,
Face battered and bruised
By a crown of thorns
Pressed down on his brow…
As he hangs on a tree
Is God in all things now?
If not now, then never…
At this moment of death,
Of defeat, the man says
With his last gasping breath
“Into your hands, my Father, my God, I commend
My spirit” – and still the night had no end
As darkness encompassed the earth at noon,
As the sun was obscured, earthquake rumbling on.
Grief, despair, darkness had won the day.

Until three days later the stone rolled away…

Yes, God is…
In darkness as well as in light
Yes, God is in all things,
In both day and night.
As I face the tsunami of life I proclaim
That God is in all things,
In both joy and pain.
Yes, God is…