Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
During the week I was sorting through some books and I found a book that gives a brief account about how each Suburb in Sydney got its name. Our congregation comprises of three churches in three different suburbs: Campsie, Earlwood and Clemton Park. Campsie is named after Campsie Fells and Campsie Glen in a beautiful picturesque part of Stirlingshire, Scotland. Clemton Park is named after Frederick Clements who lived in the area and manufactured a family health restorer named Clements’ Tonic. You can still buy Clements’ Tonic Liquid in pharmacies today. It is a herbal remedy that claims to assist athletes recover. Earlwood was a farming area first known as Forest Hill, then it became Parkstown and finally Earlwood in 1905. It was named after a former mayor of Canterbury called Earl and after two brothers called Wood who had a pig and poultry farm on Wolli Creek. I thought it interesting that Earlwood is a combination of two different names originating from two totally different stories: local politics and farming.
As I reflected over the last week about reconciliation, I have thought how little there is in Australian vocabulary, for example in place names such as the names of Sydney suburbs that mention or acknowledge the first nations peoples and the cultures that have been here from time immemorial. Many of the place names come from lands far away and from people who settled on land taken from the first nations people.
So many of our names only reflect the history of those settlers stretching back 232 years. Few names reflect the rich cultural history stretching back into time immemorial. Likewise, when I think of the vocabulary used in Christian circles today in Australia I see very little that reflects the coming together of First Nations peoples and their cultures and dreaming and beliefs with the religion of those who have settled in Australia since 1788.
I guess this does not surprise me because in the history of the Christian Church it has been the vocabulary and language of the dominant that has been retained and the vocabulary and language of the ‘heretics’ has been marginalised. From my own background the richness of Celtic Christianity and its deep connectedness in the environment in which humans live has been marginalised in favour of ‘right’ doctrines and creeds and dogma that emphasise what to believe rather than how to live. A Christian discourse that has developed in Australia over 232 years without the vocabulary and language and influence of first nations peoples and their cultures and dreaming and beliefs and without influence from the natural environment of Australia seems to show to me that we have a very much imported Christianity rather than an organic Christianity rising from Australian earth. We have brought our gods with us rather than finding our God is already here.
So called ‘Western’ thinking permeates so much of church life, saturated with colonialism, Christendom and empire. The history of the church in Australia is dominated by a story of church and state hand in hand destroying first nations peoples and their cultures. The church may have stepped back overtly from this relationship of destruction but covertly and embedded in the rhetoric of Australian Christian discourse are still woven themes that reflect the darker sides of colonialism and empire which are expressed in consumerism and lack of environmental care, growing divisions between the richest people and the most disadvantaged peoples etc. We may be rightly appalled with mining company Rio Tinto, whom we heard in the middle of reconciliation week had destroyed a sacred indigenous site that is thousands of years old; but where are our own deep connections to this ancient land and to the influences of the wisdom and cultures of its first peoples?
Sadly the church has often taken what is known as the great commission to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and in many ways enforced it as part of the programme of colonising culture upon colonised peoples all over the world. It seems to have forgotten that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Jesus)” and thinks all authority has been given to it the church to do as it sees fit and it has forgotten the Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus who loved and liberated people, the Jesus who promises to be with us always, to the end of the age and replaced that Jesus with a Jesus that demands all to leave behind their cultures and rich connections with the world in which they live and to leave behind their connections with the mystery of the Creator going back to time immemorial and to accept the Jesus culture riddled with consumerism and colonialism.
Just as the name Earlwood draws together two stories into a name and uses the names of three people to construct the name, the Christian Church refers to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit –three persons. The word Trinity is not used in the Bible, but the term to baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit comes from Matthew 28:19. In naming God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that does not mean putting a restriction on our faith around which we build fences that protect us from the dilution of our faith, rather it is an opening up the diversity of our understanding and experience of God, that God is not just found in the words of the bible or the doctrines and creeds of the church but in the world around us and in all people and in all creation. It tells us that God values relationship, loving relationships; that relationships are at the heart of God. Jesus says, “... and go teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. What is the commandment of Jesus? To love one another as I have loved you. Love is expressed through mutual relationships not through doctrines and dogma. We have a long way to go in Australia when it comes to reconciliation between our First Nations peoples and all who have come later. In reconciliation we may together discover that God was always here waiting for us to discover God here in this, God’s place.
(Photo: Tuggerah Lake, NSW)
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there,
he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who
believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart
hall flow rivers of living water.'" Now he said this about the Spirit, which
believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because
Jesus was not yet glorified.
This year Pentecost and Reconciliation Sunday are both celebrated on the same day. Today, I spent some time talking with one of the many wise people in my congregation. I was reminded of my first experiences of the Spirit and how those experiences were expressed in reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. As the Holy Spirit touched peoples’ lives many who had been virtually enemies stretching back for generations were transformed by the presence of the Spirit in their lives. When I came to Australia in 1987 I was disappointed or at least I could not relate to Christians who emphasised the power of the Spirit but who seemed to have no concern for reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples of Australia and those who had come since 1788. While my experience in Ireland was one of communities being transformed by love; my sense here was that there was still a long way to go before Christians would open their eyes and hearts to the suffering of the Indigenous peoples, much of which was caused by Christians who were sure of their own rightness before God and that they held the truth and knew God’s will. So much damage has been done to others by those who claim to know God’s will and act in God’s name.
Jesus stood at the Temple at the centre of Jewish religion and instead of calling people to the Temple, he called them to himself. Jesus said,
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in
me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall
flow rivers of living water.'" Jesus was referring to the Spirit.
Jesus described the experience of the Spirit to be like rivers of living water
flowing from one’s heart. I wonder what that might be like, to have river
s of living water flow out of one’s heart? My greatest experience of the Spirit
is that of being overwhelmed with love. Imagine a river of love, a river of
kindness and compassion, of understanding and acceptance, of inclusion
and oneness, of repentance and forgiveness, of grace and justice flowing
from the hearts of all people. What a wonderful world that would be -
where even enemies become reconciled, where the dispossessed are
restored to their land, where their cultures are treasured and protected,
where their spirituality and wisdom are woven into the lives and actions
of those who have dispossessed them.
May the Spirit flow like rivers of living water from all our hearts.
God of love, you are the Creator of all things.
We acknowledge the pain and shame of our history
and the sufferings of our first peoples,
and we ask your forgiveness.
We thank you for the survival of Indigenous cultures.
Our hope is in you because you gave your Son Jesus
to reconcile the world to you.
We pray for your strength and grace to forgive,
accept and love one another,
as you love us and forgive and accept us.
Give us the courage to accept the realities of our history
so that we may build a better future for our Nation.
Teach us to respect all cultures.
Teach us to care for our land and waters.
Help us to share justly the resources of this land.
Help us to bring about spiritual and social change
to improve the quality of life for all groups in our communities,
specially those disadvantaged.
Help young people to find true dignity and self-esteem by your Spirit.
May your power and love be the foundations
on which we build our families, our communities and our Nation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Wontulp Bi-Buya Indigenous Theology Working Group 13 March 1997 Brisbane, Qld).
Reflection Sunday 24 May 2020 Acts 1:1-14
As we think about the effects of Covid 19 in the world there are many harmful effects.
At this stage no one knows how many people will die from the corona virus and how long it will last.
No one knows what the full impact with be on world economies and on the lives of people,
especially the poorest and most vulnerable peoples in the world.
At the same time many people are also reporting many positive effects of the lockdowns
and are reflecting or their lives and re-evaluating their priorities.
How are the economic systems impacting on the way we live our lives?
Why are things the way they are? What can we change?
What are some of the things that I can change in my life to make it the life that I want to live?
In the church while many are greatly missing gathering for worship others are enjoying the space to reflect on their lives and the world we live in. This time has forced us into spending time reflecting on the life of the church. Why have we been too busy in the past to spend time in deep reflection? Why is this? What is it that we allow to drive the church? Why is it now that without some of those drivers that we are beginning to look at church life from a different perspective? Perhaps we are now beginning to look at church life more as outsiders look at our churches rather than as insiders?
One of the things that has worried me in recent weeks is to hear how ministers and lay people who hold responsible leadership positions in the church report that they are getting busier and busier as each week passes. There is new work to do. New ways of doing work are increasing. There are more meetings online. As well as sitting in front of screens attending online worship services we are also attending church business meetings online even on Sundays. I have scheduled two Zoom
meetings for this weekend: one on Saturday and one on Sunday
morning. Where is the day of rest?
For me these are warning signs. These are warning signs that we may swap one life of busyness
for another life of busyness. There will always be far more that needs to be done than we can
achieve especially if we are dealing in the needs of people. We may again miss the opportunity
o reflect, to set time aside for stillness and silence; to be alone with ourselves and to be alone with God.
Stillness and silence are so important for us, for our lives and relationships and for our relationship with God.
In the Scripture reading for this week, Jesus tells the disciples to wait, to wait for the promised Holy Spirit,
to stay in the city until they have been clothed from on high. Acts 1:4,5 While staying with them, he ordered
them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have
heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from
now." Similarly, in Luke 24:49 - Jesus says, “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay
here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." And so we read in Acts 1:12-14 - the
disciples returned to the city and went to an upper room and they constantly devoted themselves to prayer,
together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
I remember older versions of the bible using the word tarry – tarry a while in the city. The word tarry is often
used negatively in sentences. It is seen as wasting time. In a world driven by economic systems, there is no time
for tarrying, for dilly dallying, for day dreaming, for reflecting deeply, for stillness and silence; yet it is in the stillness
and silence that God is found. Look at Elijah’s experience of God in 1 Kings 19: 11-13 – The word of the Lord came to
Elijah saying,.. “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was
a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was
not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake
a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped
his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said,
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” To tarry a while in stillness and silence is never time wasted.
It may be purer worship; what God is longing for us to do and what our souls are crying out for.
We spend a lot of time talking at each other and listening to hurtful words that do not come from the well of life -
words that are spoken out of fear and desperation, words that are used to control and intimidate and to get others to do what we want. These are not words of life. These are not words that come from a place where one has met with the
source of life. One thing that I have learned from Narrative Therapy is that what a person really means or desires is not
always conveyed in words. What are the silences saying? What is it that is not being said? What is said between the lines?
The silences need to be unpacked gently and carefully; and coaxed out so that one listens with empathy and deeper
understandings are formed. Then in that stillness a richness grows between people. It is the same with stillness and silence in God’s presence. Like the disciples and Jesus’ family who devoted themselves to prayer, stillness and silence is a prayer in itself - waiting for the promised Spirit.
Prayer: Be still and know that I am God. Let your prayer this week be one of learning to sit still in silence. Perhaps focus on your breath or on the sound of the wind, watch the branches blown by the wind. Try it for one minute. Next time try it for longer. See where this prayer takes you.
Song: ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel
'In God we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28a)
What do we really need in our lives? Where are we searching for these things?
What is the cost to our life and to the lives of those around us as we try to have these things?
John O’Donohue in his book Anam Cara says, ‘The deepest things that you need are not elsewhere.
They are here and now in that circle of your own soul’
While Paul was in Athens he stood up on the steps of the Areopagus and commented
that he had noticed how religious the Athenians were. Amongst all the idols and
objects of worship in Athens, Paul said he had seen an altar with the words inscribed upon
t To an unknown God’. Paul went on to suggest that this unknown God is the
God who made the world and everything in it, who needs nothing because it is this
God who gives life and breath to all people and all things.
This God wants people to search and seek and find this God.
But Paul says that this God, whom we grope around in the dark looking for,
is all the time not far from each one of us. This God is
the one in whom we live and move and have our being.
We are all children of this God, for this God is our very life. The God whose breath raised Jesus from the dead is the same God who lives and breathes in us.
We have no need to go elsewhere or to beyond ourselves. There is a vast ocean of life teeming within us. There is an endless universe to explore and discover in the circle of our soul. Many of us think very little of ourselves and perhaps many of us have not allowed ourselves to live because we have been tricked into thinking that we have nothing of value to offer the world. John O’Donohue says, ‘If you expect to find nothing within yourself except the repressed, abandoned and shameful elements of your past, or a haunted hunger, all you will find is emptiness and desperation. If you do not bring the kind eye of creative expectation to your inner world, you will never find anything there. The way you look at things is the most powerful force in shaping your life. - The soul creates, shapes and peoples our inner life. The gateway to our deepest identity is not through mechanical analysis. We need to listen to our soul and articulate its wisdom in a poetic and mystical form.’
For further reflection - Spend some time with these words. Read them a few times, sit with them in silence, let them sink in, explore them. How will you respond to them?
'In God we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28a)
‘The deepest things that you need are not elsewhere.
They are here and now in that circle of your own soul’ (Anam Cara)
A Blessing (from Anam Cara)
May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do
with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your
May the sacredness of your work bring
healing, light and renewal
to those who work with you and to those who see
and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment,
inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert,
approaching your new day with dreams,
possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.
Photo: Kilmartin, Scotland
In John 14:6 - Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” That’s what Jesus said. These are the words of a song we used to sing in church somewhere in my past. Here is a link to the song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug1OrL57YhI
I can imagine Sunday school teachers or perhaps Scripture teachers
in schools drumming this into the heads of children – I can almost hear
them call out, “What did Jesus say?” And the whole class loudly
and enthusiastically responding in unison, “I am the way and the truth
and the life.” That’s what Jesus said!
Jesus said these words but what did he mean?
It seems to me that these words have often been used to exclude
people rather than to include people. We string a few texts together
and create the way to God as one that involves believing what we
believe and our interpretations rather than being open to the way to
God being defined in other ways. We narrow our definitions and back
them up with Scripture rather than pondering and wondering and
reflecting more deeply and broadly on what Jesus may have meant.
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the
gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there
are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that
leads to life, and there are few who find it.” How often have we heard
about ‘the narrow way.’ If we take these two texts together we can
further narrow and exclusively define our understanding of the way to
God, the way to life and what is truth. I am not disputing that Jesus
said these words, but I am questioning how we interpret and
understand them and how they impact our lives and the expression of
In the passage (John 14:1-14) Jesus speaks about ‘My Father’s house.’
Jesus says, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place
for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again
and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
And you know the way to the place where I am going."
There is a longing in people to find their way home; whether that is expressed as a longing to be at
home with God, or to be at home with oneself, to be at peace. We seek ‘the way’ and want to live
‘the life’ and to know ‘the truth’. John O’Donohue, in his book ‘Anam Cara’ (soul friend),
gives an illustration of walking home in the dark on an Irish evening through the bleak and cold landscape
and the longing within one to gather around the warmth of the fire in the hearth of the home.
John O’Donohue says, ‘I love the image of the hearth as a place of home, a place of warmth and return.
Jesus talks about preparing a dwelling place for us with God and the possibility of return.
Then Jesus says, “And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas responds, “…we do
not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” The way to God and that eternal longing
for home is not adhering to a set of beliefs about Jesus or God, but in seeing something in Jesus,
seeing that God lives in Jesus, that they are one, if one has seen Jesus one has seen God: that God
(the Father) is working in Jesus. Through Jesus God is drawing all people home. All that Jesus does,
his works of love, of healing, of mercy and forgiveness, of inclusion and restoration, are drawing people home.
Jesus says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
Perhaps rather than fretting about knowing ‘the way’ in words of explanation we might instead find ourselves
on that journey home as we still our ourselves and open ourselves to God coming to us and drawing us in,
rawing us home.
Prayer: Come loving God, draw me home. Draw me to yourself. Continue in me your work of love, of kindness,
of mercy and forgiveness, of healing, of inclusion and restoration; that your way and your truth and your life may
be experienced and known in the world. We pray for all who long for home. We remember especially all who are
feeling disillusioned with life and entertaining suicidal thoughts. May they be at home with you and with themselves
in this world. May your blessing rest upon all people and upon all things this day. Amen
Living with our self and with life abundant John 10:1-10
Some people just seem to hate themselves and do anything to run away from themselves and throw themselves into all sorts of activities and busyness: into drugs, alcohol, sex, work, another relationship. Here we are (many of us) for perhaps the first time in our lives, or in a long time, that we have so much more time on our hands; time for our minds to think deeply and broadly about life, about meaning, about ourselves, about our lives. Yet at the same time through the internet our minds have access to something that can divert our attention from perhaps the greatest opportunity we have had to think more deeply about everything. I guess while the internet is very helpful in keeping us in touch with one another it may also be the continuing barrier for us to get in touch with ourselves at a much deeper level and perhaps at points where we may begin to like ourselves more and accept ourselves and even love ourselves more.
In one of my favourite verses from John’s Gospel (John 10:10) Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John emphasises that Jesus came that we might have life. The abundant life that Jesus invites us to is not simply a belief in our mind about who Jesus is, nor a belief about his death on the cross, nor a belief about the next life, but an invitation to us, to all of us, to the whole world to have life and to have it abundantly. Who could the thieves be that steal and kill and destroy life? What steals our life away? Who steals our life away? Could we also steal our own life away? Could we deny ourselves life? Could we go through the whole of our lives without truly living? Could we be tricked into living a life that is not really life?
The only person we spend all of our life with is ourselves. All our running around will not lead us to ourselves somewhere out there. All our running away will not be able to leave the self we don’t like behind. All our running around will eventually lead us back to ourselves, back to stand still and then down into ourselves, into the mystery and wonder of who we are, into the mystery of our uniqueness, to letting go of all that we dislike about ourselves, to let go of all the memories that give rise to self-loathing; and to acceptance of ourselves, of our life so far: of our circumstances and mistakes, of our achievements and our dreams; and from that point of stillness and letting go and acceptance, from that little death within, we can begin to live, to experience the life that really is life and then rising again in acceptance of others and life as it is; and with eyes seeing and with all our senses breathing in that abundant life. This is where Jesus goes before us and invites us to follow.
John O’Donohue in his book Anam Cara says, To be natural is to be holy; but it is very difficult to be natural. To be natural is to be at home with your own nature. If you are outside your self, always reaching beyond your self, you avoid the call of your own mystery. When you acknowledge the integrity of your own solitude, and settle in its mystery, your relationships with others take on and new warmth, adventure and wonder. Through my reflections I have been encouraging people to go and sit in nature, to observe the natural world and our place in it. Do not be afraid to sit with your self, alone for a while.
Prayer: May you find that life, that abundant life which Jesus lived and of which Jesus spoke so often. May you be lead into life in all its fulness. May that life come to you. May the whole world live in abundant life. Amen.
Made known in the breaking of bread
Scripture reading: Luke 24:13-15
Aristotle thought of God as the prime mover, something that by attraction causes all things to move, but itself did not move, something that does not depend on anything else for existence. Yet, in the book of Genesis the stories tell of a God who moves toward people, who seeks people out, who comes close and meets with them, journeys with them, walks with them, eats with them, reveals something of God’s nature to them, communicates with them, and wants to be in relationship with them. The stories of the Old Testament continue to speak of a God who seeks people out and who comes to them.
In the story commonly referred to as the walk to Emmaus, on the evening of the first Easter day, Jesus comes to two of the disciples and walks with them. As they walk, Jesus explains to them what all the Scriptures say about himself and how the Messiah would suffer before being glorified; yet, they do not recognise him. It is only when he sits at the table with them, when he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, did they recognise him. It was then that their eyes were opened. Jesus had come to them as God always comes to us, as God always surrounds us, even though we may never recognise God’s presence. The Lord’s supper reminds us of God’s constant presence and God’s undying love for us, revealed in the suffering Jesus. God moves toward us in love and invites us to move too; towards God and towards others in love.
Prayer: O God in whom we live and move and have our being, may we recognise your presence, not only in the breaking of bread and in the gathering for worship but in every place and time and circumstance. May we know that you flow to us and to all creation in love and life. May our eyes be opened. May our hearts respond to your love. May we live. Amen.
The gospel for the first Sunday after Easter is John 20:19-31. Peace be with you.
Peace be with you is a very common greeting when people meet in many parts of the world today.
It literally means I come to you in peace. My intentions towards you are good. I mean you no harm.
In the last couple of weeks have you been spending time walking or sitting in the natural world or
even observing a potted plant for a while? Have you made any discoveries about the world
or about yourself or about God? Have you been listening for God in these slower quieter times?
Have you ever observed when sitting quietly in a field or park or garden, that when you sit still,
animals and birds draw closer to you? Cattle especially will come right up close, sniff you and even
give you a lick with their tongue. They no longer see you as a threat but as an object of interest.
They see you sitting peacefully and approach you in peace.
On the evening of the first Easter day the disciples had isolated themselves behind locked doors
in a house because they were afraid that those who had orchestrated Jesus’ death would come
for them next. They hid in fear. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus found them. They weren’t out looking for Jesus. Jesus found them.
An aspect of prayer and meditation is letting God find you, allowing God to find you, allowing God
o come to you, allowing the love of God come to you, allowing the peace of Christ to come to you,
allowing the breath of the Holy Spirit to rest upon you, filling you, refreshing you, restoring you.
Peace be with you. May the peace of Christ find you this day. Amen.
I appreciate very much living in a rainforest and being able to take long walks with our dogs in the green lush undergrowth. This afternoon the dogs and I went walking earlier than usual and there were others out walking with their dogs. I decided to deviate from one of the bush roads and head down a narrower track and then down an even narrower track I had not been on before. We came to an opening and a motorbike in the distance spooked the dogs; so we headed into a densely overgrown area where there were no tracks and came across what looked like a place where kids camped out, hidden from restrictions. The dogs were not keen on roughing it and wanted to be back on tracks where they could sniff other dogs. I thought how like people the dogs are; they like the safety and security of the familiar. But it is only when we stray off or deliberately leave the known tracks that we make new discoveries. I thought of how we stick to our creeds and confessions and doctrines, our routines like treadmills, like grooves on a record spinning around and around, playing the same old song, never straying from our orbit. In the midst of traversing tangled undergrowth, sliding on slippery slopes and lost in long tall grass that seemed like a sea stretching out before us, I thought about the longings for wildness and spiritual adventure in the prayer of Sir Francis Drake…
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely, because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life!
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision
of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas
where storm will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land,
we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes;
and to push us in the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our captain, who is Jesus Christ.
Short daily meditations for Holy Week by Trevor Jennings.
I will post a very short mediation each day in Holy Week 2020. I liken Holy Week to a long dark tunnel that we enter on Palm Sunday. We know it will get darker as we make our way and that the violence of Good Friday is to come. However, we know that Easter Sunday and the hope of resurrection is that glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel and so we begin our journey of contemplation. Rather than being a people who normally gather in buildings each Holy Week, this year we are free to encounter God outside our buildings. I encourage you once you have read the short meditation for the day to go outside, find a place to sit where you can see trees, grass, or even a pot plant or go for a walk. Breathe in the air. Notice the sounds – the music of nature. Spend some time meditating on what you have read and contemplating the natural world around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What is speaking to you?
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. (John 20:1)
And suddenly after a long week in a dark tunnel we come out into the light. When you walk in darkness for a long time your eyes adjust slowly over time and you can make out shadows and shapes. Then when you suddenly come into the light again you still have difficulty seeing. Now it is not darkness that is hindering your sight, but the intensity of the light. It takes time again for your eyes to adjust. Having walked in the darkness of death this Holy Week it takes times time to adjust to the idea of resurrection. Even the disciples took a while to believe. They had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. Their hearts were broken. Their hopes were dashed. And now it seemed that Jesus’ body had been stolen. Mary stood there looking and weeping. But Jesus came and said to Mary, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” This week we have looked for God in the darkness and in death, now is the time to look for God among the living.
May the light of Easter morning shine from our eyes, shine from our hearts, shine from our lives and shine all over the world, challenging injustice and transforming life. May the hope of resurrection not only calm our fears as we face death and eternity, but as we live now in the fulness of God’s presence and love. May you walk in the light of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath; God has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone God turns God’s hand, again and again, all day long. God has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; God has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; God has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. God has walled me about so that I cannot escape; God has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, God shuts out my prayer; God has blocked my ways with hewn stones, God has made my paths crooked. The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in God."
When everything is going wrong, when everything is going against us, when there seems to be no help, no end in sight, no answers; why do we blame God and why do we think God has forsaken us? Is this what a God who we experience as life, light and love would do? The writer of Lamentations expresses both our confusion and our hope, our quickness to blame God and our faith in a loving and faithful God. Why does God seemingly allow all this to happen to us and yet God is good?
This is something to sit with. Where is God? Who is God? Are my ideas about God too small? How were these ideas formed? Is there room in my life for a God who is larger than life and bigger than suffering and death?
Loving God, there is so much suffering and death in this world. In all that we experience and in the darkest of days, may we know your presence. Help us to be still and know that you are God. Amen.
Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, Lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Where are you God? We began Lent by asking this question as we thought about an elderly Palestinian woman passing through the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It was taking hours. It was tiring, frustrating and degrading. People were crammed in like sheep, forced through gate after gate under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers and CCTV cameras.
Where are you God is a question that many throughout the world are asking as we endure the restrictions and upheaval of life due to the Corona Virus. Does it comfort us or shake us that Jesus asked the same question from the cross? This is a question to sit with, not just today, but every day. Meditation and prayer are very much about wrestling with this question. Being aware of God’s presence is most difficult when everything seems to be going wrong and especially when facing death. Where is God when all around us there is death and destruction? Where is God when we are consumed by fear for the future? Today is a day to sit and wait, to listen for God. Where are you God?
Where are you God? Come close to us and to all people this day and in these coming days as we isolate from one another. We remember our loved ones. We remember those who have lost incomes and businesses and especially those who do not have access to financial and other support. We remember all who are ill and those who have died from the virus. In this day of death, may the first shards of light emit from the cruel cross and fall softly upon our faces. Amen.
We come to the night when Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples in the upper room. There Jesus broke bread with them and shared wine, telling the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In humility, Jesus washed their feet and told them to follow this example. Then they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed for hours before finally being arrested and taken away. It was a long night. As Holy Week progresses darkness encircles Jesus. Those who want to be rid of Jesus tighten their grip on his demise, but Jesus continues to speak of light and life and love. “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12,13). Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6a).
God of life, light up our lives with your love. As we face an uncertain future and as we continue the journey to the cross and to Easter morning; you are our source of life, of light and love. May your love, your life and your light be known by all people, by all things and in all places of the world through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen.
Wednesday in Holy Week
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning God wakens-- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. Isaiah 50:4.
John Callanan in the book ‘God in all things’ recalls how he asked a number of people what prayer meant to them. One person responded by saying that prayer had changed over time for them. First prayer was talking at God, then talking to God, then listening to God and finally prayer came to mean listening for God. When you are out walking in the natural world think about what it means to listen for God? Notice the sounds you hear and the silence.
As light gives way to darkness
and the busyness of day concedes to night’s stillness.
As conscious thought surrenders to dreams
and our bodies long for rest
we pause to listen
for the beat of your Presence in all things
pulsing in the light of distant galaxies
sounding in the depths of our soul
vibrating in each vein of earth’s body.
One Sound as vast as the universe
one universe filled with Presence
one Life within every life.
In the darkness of night
in the stillness that surrounds us
in the unknown depths of our being
we pause to listen.
-from Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace by John Philip Newell
Tuesday in Holy Week
Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. John 12:35, 36.
In the Gospel of John Life, Light and Love are three themes that are highlighted. What does it mean to believe in the light? If you are talking a walk in the natural world, what does it mean in to walk in the light? Perhaps, you can notice the way the light changes throughout the day? How does it effect colours and moods? Think of a time that you have been out walking in the dark? What was it like? Were you able to glimpse some light to give you hope?
We pray that all beings may walk in the light. May your light guide us this week and all through our lives. May light find its way into all the dark, violent and fearful places of our world. Let there be light. Amen.
Monday in Holy Week
Psalm 36:5-11 (Psalm for today)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart! Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away.
… you save humans and animals alike... all people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings... with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light...
For many people God is apart from the world, the creator who is separate from creation.
What if God is not that far away, but a breath away, a breeze, a warmth, a shadow?
What if God is in all life? What if God is life itself?
If God is in all life wouldn’t that mean that all life is sacred: all people are sacred, family, friends, neighbours, foreigners, strangers, even enemies are sacred and animals and birds and fish and insects and plants and trees and air and water and soil and microorganisms - all living things? All sacred?
As you walk in nature today or stare at your potted plant, breathe in that life... may the light surround you.
We pray for an awareness of the sacredness of all life and for that awareness to transform the world from its reliance on exercising power through violence. Show us the way of Jesus and help us to carry our cross. Amen.
"Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Matthew 21:5)
Imagine you are walking with Jesus into Jerusalem. Everyone is asking who is this? Remember, that even though he is lauded as a king, he is riding a donkey and comes in humility. Who is this Jesus? Who is God?
Prayer: Traditionally Palm Sunday is a day to call for peace and non-violent action. We pray for all who come in peace to make peace in the world. May there be peace in our homes and in our minds especially at this time when so much time is spent at home. May we keep the peace. Amen.