Tag Archives: love

‘I love you’ says God

‘I love you’ says God
‘yeah… right…’ say I

‘I love you’ says God
‘you’re kidding…’ say I

‘I love you’ says God
‘you reckon?…’ say I

‘I love you’ says God
‘How much?’ say I

‘This much’ says God
As with arms open wide
He is lifted on high,
Sighs as I sigh,
Cries as I cry,
Dies as I die

And in the silence
God whispers
‘I love you –
See? It’s no lie’
As He calls me to
Life
With His
Love

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Freedom?

crucifixion

There he is – hanging there,
crying words of deep despair
“my God, why have you gone?”
…..
What lay behind that cry of pain?
He’d lived and loved, he’d healed and prayed.
He’d sought to do his Father’s will,
to serve God all his life until the bitter end – and then,
At hour of deepest, darkest need
“Forsaken!”
…..
This man had stilled the raging storm,
fed thousands with a young boy’s snack.
He’d raised a dead man from the tomb –
when lashes tore him front and back
why did he not speak a word
of power?
…..
The voice that whispered in his ear
That day in wilderness, so clear –
“just claim your birthright, Son of God
take the short-cut, Son of God
ignore your Father’s will”
Surely that voice rang out again
as now his body, wracked with pain,
hung bleeding, dying on the cross.
He heard the man beside him say
“why don’t you just walk away?
Prove that you’re the Son of God –
or was it all a lie?”
…..
The sense of unity he’d known
with God his Father – “we are one”
was, in his hour of deepest need,
gone.

He could have simply walked away
but chose to stay.
And this is why I love this man –
this God who chose, despite the pain,
the agony – chose to remain
with us,
with me.
…..
When all is dark, when faith is gone,
when pain controls each thought
when hope is done, when light goes out
when any sense of God is nought
then look I upon the cross
and live.

 

Remember…..

gibbet

The gallows speaks
What does it say?
It says “Remember!
Remember that day!
Remember the one
who hung on the end of the noose
and swung
choking,
Yet with tortured breath
said ‘Father, forgive’
as encroaching death
cut short the life of one who lived
to help and heal, to cleanse, forgive.
For death could do its worst
and still this man had only words to heal
the damage that we did to him.
Remember him – and know for sure
that God cannot be forced to hate,
destroy, condemn, declare our fate
destruction
as we destroyed that man.
No.
God can, will love, forgive, resist
all evil. Always. He just keeps on
loving, healing, setting free
any who come on bended knee
admitting that they were the one
who sent that man, sent God’s own son
to hang by neck ‘til breath was gone.
Remember how he loves you.”
And so we dare to live the way
that we saw on that fateful day
when God’s son hung and swung and still
Said ‘Father, forgive’.
And so we will ourselves,
when offered hate,
retaliate.
Yes.
We retaliate
with love.
As we remember.

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.

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: Wednesday Matthew 10:32-42

In Victorian times it was the fashion to have bible texts hanging on the wall in order constantly to remind people that God was keeping an eye on them.

Some examples:
“Bless this house” in the lounge
“How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of they sleep?” ove a child’s bed
“Be sure your sins will find you out” could be seen on prison walls.
I did hear once that on the wall of a nursery in a great house the text was hung “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”. I’ve never been sure whether the person who chose that text for that setting had a marvellous sense of humour or simply didn’t see the double meaning!

If you were choosing a Bible text to hang on the wall of your house, I wonder what you’d choose…
I wouldn’t mind betting it probably wouldn’t be the verse 34 of today’s reading, where Jesus says “Don’t think it’s my job to bring peace on earth. I didn’t come to bring peace – I came to bring a sword!”

What’s happened to the idea that Jesus is the Prince of Peace?

God’s way of looking at people and situations is not our normal, habitual way. It rarely fits with our deep sense of tradition and continuity and respectability.

The context in which Jesus spoke his words of division rather than peace is rooted in a particular historical moment, in a particular point in Jesus’ life.
He’d been travelling around, mostly in Galilee, experiencing the adulation of the crowds, healing the sick, casting out demons… he was only too aware the people were beginning to have ideas, beginning to see him as the promised Messiah.

The problem was, they had their own idea of what that meant and it didn’t chime with the reality.

Messiah, to them, meant a military leader to free them from political tyranny. That was the traditional view.

Jesus had continually tried to show them in his way of life that the Messiah was actually to free them from religious tyranny – from the tyranny of the Law, from the tyranny of self-righteousness, from the tyranny of trying to earn their right to stand before God.

Needless to say, this went down like a lead balloon with the religious authorities and all the pious Jews who took great pride in keeping the Law, doing things right… remember the story of the Rich young Ruler, one of the most privileged in Jewish society at the time?

He comes to Jesus and asks “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replies “you know the law…”
To which the Ruler responds “I’ve kept all the laws since my youth”
And Jesus’ response to that? “one more thing is needed – go, sell all you have, give to the poor and come and follow me”. Give up your security in anything other than your relationship with me.

Jesus’ message was not a comfortable one. It was an extremely uncomfortable one.  It challenged them to move beyond mere adherence to the letter of the Law. It challenged them to a change of attitude, a change of heart and mind. It called them to an openness before God which was prepared to admit that they did not have a monopoly on the truth, that they could not take confidence in their heritage or their history or their race or their wealth or their social standing or their total keeping of the rules of their faith.

It called them to an attitude of compassion and tolerance towards those who flouted the social norms – the loose-livers, the collaborators with the occupying forces, the beggars… the dregs and rejects of society. Jesus was also a devout, faithful Jew – but for Him, that led him to consort precisely with those who earned the disapproval of the worthy, high-standing members of society.

Jesus knew that the time was coming when individuals would need to make up their mind about him and about his real radical message which turned their preconceptions on their head.

People would be divided.
Households would be divided.
The nation would be divided.

Jesus was politically astute and could see the way things were going.
If he wasn’t prepared to water down his message, to be more conciliatory towards both Roman political leaders and Jewish religious leaders, it could only end in one way.

The Romans were ruthless in their squashing of any rebellion, and the Jewish authorities were appeasers – peace at any price, even at the cost of sacrificing an innocent man.

And as night follows day, this is always potentially the price to be paid by any true follower of Christ – opposition from friends and family, from neighbours and from the leaders of society.

Jesus doesn’t like what he can see ahead if the hearts and minds of the majority turn against him.

 

In the Gospels  we see a Jesus who is utterly human – God entering fully and deeply into the reality of what it means to be human.
Not just the joy of that, but also the pain.

We also see a Jesus who is utterly divine – God in Jesus holding fast to the truth of the gospel of love and tolerance and forgiveness whatever the consequences. And this is the Jesus who challenges us also to put His kingdom values first regardless of the consequences.

What are those kingdom values?
Feed the hungry
Clothe the naked
House the homeless
Welcome the outcast and the refugee
Heal the sick
Comfort the sorrowing
Stand up for the underprivileged
Speak truth to injustice
Forgive without counting

And do all of this, all of the time, for all whom we encounter.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

 

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.