Friday, June 15, 2018

Light And Life For A Disenchanted World

Jesus Christ The Conqueror of Death At Dachau
Artist Unknown

(From a homily on 6/10/18)

Last week in the news there were two tragic stories of people, successful by our worlds standards, deciding for their own personal reasons that they could not bear another day here. It is heart breaking that there is such sadness and lack of hope. A couple of weeks ago on our youth trip we discussed that the statistics for stress, anxiety and depression among teens are staggering.  I have no doubt that these issues affect adults to the same degree. Without a doubt mental health issues are more common than we would think, and getting professional help if you are anxious or depressed is critical. Let the people around you know that you need help.

All of us suffer the implications of living in a fallen world.  

Mike Cosper in his book "Recapturing the Wonder" observes that the world we live in is "disenchanted". He says: 

"Perhaps to better underhand disenchantment we can look at its opposite, the "enchanted" world of a few centuries ago. In that world, men and women saw themselves as spiritual creatures, vulnerable to blessings and curses, to angels and demons, and subject to the god or gods who made and oversaw the world. This enchanted world was part of a Cosmos, an orderly creation full of meaning, a place with purposeful origin and a clear destination...full of mystery... an unseen spiritual realm is constantly at work. In disenchantment, we no longer live in a Cosmos, we live in a universe, a cold, hostile place whose existence is a big accident, where humanity is temporarily animated "stuff" that's ultimately meaningless and destined for the trash heap."

How did we get to this place of disenchantment?

In the lectionary today the first reading is from Genesis 3.  We find the aftermath of Adam and Eve eating from the tree and they were in the garden hiding from God.

God had given Adam and Eve all that was good. When God realized Adam needed one of his own kind to be with him, to share life with, He created Eve.   Most importantly God gave Himself, he would walk in the Garden with them. They had the blessing of being in the presence of their creator amidst the beauty of the creation.  God had already given them dominion of all that He had created, but in that moment in the garden, they wanted to be like God. They traded innocence for control. They traded obedience for autonomy.

A second reading today is in 1 Samuel 8. We drop into the point in history where Israel demanded a king. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations." 1 Samuel 8:4

In verse 7 God encourages Samuel:
and the LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

Then God warned Israel of the consequences through Samuel who reported the words of the Lord to the people:
The king who reigns over you will take your sons to serve in his army
He will take your sons to work in his fields
He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers
He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards
He will take 1/10 of your harvest
He will take your slaves and the best of your cattle and donkeys
He will take 1/10 of your flocks
And You will be his slaves

Does this sound familiar?  Does our world feel like this?

The struggle of man to rule himself has existed since the garden. Samuels warnings to the people of Israel hold true for us today. Kings of nations cannot bring peace, justice, life.  Earthly kings seldom hear our cry, it is only the exception that is not after power, wealth, control, at any expense.  These are all signs of a fallen and broken world. A disenchanted world.

I went to a concert last week. I got to see and hear an Artist I’ve loved since I was young.
Although many of her songs were made famous by others, she has had little recognition for herself. Through the evening I could hear her disappointment maybe even bitterness for lack of recognition for herself. As I listened longer I realized her songs are mostly of lost love and waiting for someone to come fix her life, save her. I remembered living that way, the excitement of new love, the certainty that there was one person out there who would make my life complete. There was a moment of sadness for the young girl I once was, and thankfulness that the One who could save me did. My yearnings for meaning and love were satisfied in Jesus.

So my prayer for this artist, and for all who have not experienced the love of Christ is that they would experience what the apostle Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3 & 4. When we turn to the Lord the veil is removed and there is freedom. 2Co 3:18 says "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

Because of grace given to us, the veil is removed, we see the glory of God and we are being transformed.

The light is in us for our transformation, but more importantly for God’s glory, and for the salvation of the world. Paul said:

We have the power in us that is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Not so that we can do our own will, but so that we can do the will of the Father.  2 Cor 4

What is the will of the Father?
We know this …  
John 3:16 - 17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

So having the power, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead; the Holy Spirit; we can do the will of the Father. The Father’s will is that the world might be saved.  We cannot save the world, only Jesus can. We can love the world. We can be light to the world.

God did not send Jesus to condemn the world - we cannot condemn it either.

As the church are we also experiencing the subtle disinchantment that Mike Cosper talks about in his book?   Are we stuck in the material world? Have we lost sight that we are of a different reality, a spiritual world?

God has removed the veil that we may receive His light, that we might be light in the world.
God has given us the HOly Spirit that we may not lose heart, we will be transformed,  so that we can see what is eternal.

Our world needs us to remember who we are, whose we are.
Our world needs the love and light of Christ that flows through us.
Our world needs Gods eternal perspective that brings hope and encourages our hearts.

So Jesus invites us in,
To collapse on Him
To bring our brokenness
To receive Him, To receive the Spirit

By the power of the Spirit within us we are rescued from disenchantment.  Our eyes are opened to the reality of the kingdom, here on earth, and in heaven

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago:
I was in a room with with someone I love and he was being encouraged and comforted by a group of people.  Everyone moved outside for a service of some kind.

People Reach Up
Evelyn Williams

We were in the country, on rock cliffs that went down to water, a river maybe  A strong wind came up. I was holding hands with someone and resisted the wind. The wind was blowing people down prostrate on the rocks ledges below us - but they weren’t hurt.  I felt the sense I should just give in to the wind. I knew it was the Holy Spirit. I closed my eyes and let the wind take me. At first I fell forward like I would fall on my face, then I felt it pick me up and hold me.  Holding me as though I was in someones arms and felt their arm under my knees and under my shoulders. There was a sense of flying, moving quickly, a long ways. Loving it, such peace, joy, never wanting to leave, stop. Vocalizing that.  But eyes closed. Slowing down. Feeling tree branches, sensing that I needed to reach out and grab the branches. No fear. I held the branches and gently floated down to earth.

Bringing his love and light to the world is:
Remembering that you once lived under the veil, and the veil was lifted.
Falling into the arms of the Spirit and going where He takes you.
Sharing your story / His story.

God has given the world the gift of the Church.   

The ordinary work of the church, gathering together. Worshipping, praying, passing peace, reading the Word, the Eucharist, in each moment we receive.  Sunday mornings are revolutionary in themselves. As we gather together in the power of the Holy Spirit, with Christ among us, worshipping our God, the darkness/disenchantment is pushed back. It is a declaration that this world is our Fathers, that we are our Fathers, that He will persevere until His redemption is complete. We carry that revolution out into the world with us.

The light of Christ in us, it is the light for the world.  

Go out and be light, be life, share freely the grace you've been given. By the Spirit the veil will be lifted. The spell of disenchantment will be broken. There will be transformation for the glory of God.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Epiphany - Disruptive Light

The Adoration of the Kings by Jan Gossaert

Today we are observing Epiphany. As the name suggests ( epiphaneia ), the festival seems to have focused from the beginnings on the “revelation” of God in Jesus. By the sixth day in January, the wider society has long moved past the celebrations of Christmas. The church, on the other hand, persists a full 12 days after Christmas Day to Epiphany to remember the visit of the wise men to the young Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s gospel (2:1–12). First noted in the fourth century,this celebration of the revelation of God to humanity called the faithful to reflect upon the awesome reality of the Incarnation. God became man; in Christ, the two natures were neither confused nor divided. The revelation of this unity prepared the way for another, for the Gentiles to be joined with God’s people Israel.  

In our gospel reading today we are told the wisemen - Magi who travel from the east, are following a star in pursuit of the newly born king of the Jews. How is it that foreigners, astrologers - scientists, see a star in the sky and discern that it is special, it has meaning, somehow knowing before they ever arrive in Jerusalem that this star is an indicator that the King - Messiah has been born?  You could speculate that because they are learned men of astronomy that the strange appearance and behavior of this star was obviously unnatural, supernatural, and in their culture meaning was given to stars. So possibly they did research to see what legends had been told of a star appearing in such a way and meaning behind it. But would that explain their long travels to find the place the star was leading to? Or that they would bring valuable gifts to this baby? Or that they would declare that their intent is to find this baby King and worship him?

Or could it be that light shown into their world of darkness and caused disruption? The light of a star. The light of Gods Spirit. This star caused them to pay attention, to move.

In the lectionary we also have a reading today from Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Paul, previously known as Saul himself experienced the disruptive light of God on the road to Damascus. Jesus engulfed him in light, stopped him in his tracks, spoke to him, and set him on a new path. A path that led him to the Ephesians, commissioning him by grace for them. Making the mystery known to him by revelation. The mystery that Jesus came for all men. Jew and Greek.

Light always disrupts the darkness.

All of our readings today speak of the light shining in the darkness. Isaiah long ago
As we move on from this moment of Epiphany, and move into ordinary time, may we always look for the light of God that will draw us ever closer to Him. May we accept the mystery of life in God and follow in faith. May we adore and worship our King, and receive the joy that only He can bring.

In that light the blessed Messiah was revealed, truth took root in their hearts. They were compelled to find and worship this newborn king.

All of our readings today speak of the light shining in the darkness. Isaiah long ago
foretold of the light of salvation.

Isaiah 60:1-6
In verses 5 - 6 Paul says “In former generations this mystery was not made known to
humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers
in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon
60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD
will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your
sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses'
60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the
abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to
In Psalm 72 David speaks of the kings of the world bowing down and worshipping the
one true king:
72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of
Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

I believe that in the disruptions that God brings, He always shines light in the darkness.
Grace is poured out, mystery is revealed, often our journey is diverted. Disruption often reveals our brokenness, and in our brokenness the light of God can shine into the dark places in our lives and our hearts. That light always illuminates who He is, and who we are. He is the one who loves and pursues us. He is the God who created all things; and gives us the boundless riches of Christ. He invites us to come in boldness and confidence through faith in Christ. He is our King and and in Him alone is our salvation.

And we are His beloved. We are the ones He laid His life down for. We are made
righteous by His blood, and are being sanctified by the Spirit. We are the ones who
have the same resurrection power working within us that raised Christ from the dead.
But we live in the already and not yet, and we are still sinners. And He shines the light
into our dark places and tenderly opens our eyes not only to wounds He wants to heal,
the sin He wants us to turn from, and journey He’s asking us to travel.

We have experienced a great deal of disruption in the last few years. As a church we
have had our founding priest leave. We’ve lost our meeting space, which led to a move
to a new community. And now another priest is gone. And this is just our communal
disruption. Each family here has experienced major disruptions of their own. So many
challenges, so much loss. We live in a disruptive world. There are the big disruptions in life; the loss of a loved one, the breaking apart of a family, loss of home or job. Circumstances that rock our world.

Everyday we experience small disruptions. A car that won’t start, a cancelled
meeting, a sick child needing to be picked up from school. On Friday as I was working
on what I would say today my computer froze and I lost everything I had written.
In each of those moments we have a choice. We can react in anger, fear, irritation or
we can pause and wait for the light that God will shine into that disruption and ask how
can I respond in a way that is true to what I profess to believe, how can I live the gospel
in this moment. How can I love. Am I willing to go wherever it is that the disruption is
meant to take me? Will I follow a star into a foreign land, or dare to reach out to
peoples who that God desires for me to carry the gospel to?

A book I'm reading discusses how theologians approach issues of faith and theology. Thomas Weinandy observes ” Many theologians today having embraced the Enlightenment presuppositions and the scientific method that it fostered, approach theological issues as if they were scientific problems to be solved rather than mysteries to be discerned and clarified. However the true goal of theological inquiry is not the resolution of theological problems, but the discernment of what the mystery of faith is. Because God, who can never be fully comprehended, lies at the heart of all theological enquiry, theology by its nature is not a problem solving enterprise, but rather a mystery discerning enterprise”
Does God Suffer by Thomas Weinandy

In a similar way, we, when faced with life disruptions, instinctively react as though they are a problem to be solved. We are a product of our times. But I believe that if we can watch for the light we will see these disruptions as opportunities to discern the mystery of the moment, an invitation to follow Christ just one thought, decision, step at a time.

In the case of the Magi the light called them on a new journey far from home. For Paul,
his travels, his mission of persecuting the church was transformed into a mission to
preach the gospel to the gentiles. Instead of tearing down the church he was used to
build it up.

But light shining in the darkness doesn’t just divert our path, or move us on to a new
place. Those things happen because in the light of grace the Messiah is revealed, the
mystery is opened to us. Jesus is saviour of all. Gods love was poured out for all the
world. His love is for us. He invites us to follow and share the light of his love.

John Frederick, Lecturer in New Testament Trinity College Queensland Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, said in his commentary of the passage in Ephesians:

"The Christian life is not made “successful” through the simple following of paradigms and pragmatic patterns for success. The only way to experience the words of the Bible as the Word of God, or to experience the message of the Gospel as the power of salvation, is by a God-initiated, grace-empowered leap of faith into a new world and into a new way of knowing, mediated by the Bible, empowered by the Spirit, in which we come to know Jesus to be the divine Son of God and the Savior of the world -- not by mere human evidence -- but by the disruptive, apocalyptic, supernatural saving power of Almighty God."


(I apologize for the formatting issues later in the post, just can't get them to go away.)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

God sees us.  He saves us.  He sends us.

In our verses in Exodus today Moses was tending the flock of his father in law Jethro, in the land of Midian.

Exodus 3:1-15

The Burning Bush
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Moses was born in a time in Egypt where the Israelites had become feared and hated because of how they had prospered there.  Pharaoh had decreed that all male babies born to the Israelites were to be thrown into the Nile and drown.  Moses mother in faith placed Moses in a basket in that very river.
God in His grace saw Moses there, helpless, unable to save himself.  He brought Pharaohs daughter along at that moment and She found him. Having mercy on him she pulled him from the water.  Moses sister Miriam was there and asked if she’d like a nursemaid for him.  Moses ended up back in his mothers arms to be cared for until he was weaned.  Moses father was a Levite, his mother from the house of Levi.  He would have been surrounded by their faith and prayer until the time he took his place as Pharoaohs daughters son in the household of Pharaoh. God saved him and gave him life.

As with Moses, God sees us.  And He saves us.

Ephesians 2
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

He comes and gives us life and purpose.  Through Gods grace we are given faith.  It is a gift.  And being his workmanship, He gives us identity, we are his children.  And as His children we are created in Christ for good works.  Paul says that “we should walk in them” Our life is not a series of random choices, in Christ we have our identity, a purpose, and specific works that God blesses us with.

Back in Exodus 3  - It says in Exodus that when he had grown up he went out and saw the burdens of his people. 
On seeing an Egyptian beating an Israelite, he struck down the Egyptian.  This became known and he fled to Midian. 
In Midian he found a wife and made his home with them.    The word says he was content. 

Too often, the burdens he’s placed in our hearts scare us.  They seem too big.  Or we may step out into what he’s calling us to, and we encounter resistance or failure.  And we retreat.  And we find contentment in a lesser life. 

We can’t run from God.  He comes to that foreign land and speaks to us and reminds us of who we are.  We are his, loved, made alive, created for good works.

God appears to Moses in a burning bush. 

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.  Exodus.

God comes to us.
God continuely pursues us.  And its in His presence we know who we are, our faith is renewed and we follow Him.
And the good works he’s prepared for us always have a part in Christs commitment to seek and save the lost.  To bring life and healing.
God hears the cries of the oppressed…

And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.

And He responds by sending us. And those he sends rarely feel qualified or prepared:
Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

This is something I have recently experienced.  Again.  I have felt unqualified, uneducated yet feeling called to ordination as a Deacon.  I went to winter conference struggling with those questions.  On the 2nd day Simon Ponsonby, a priest from England spoke.  He said many amazing things and then he told his story.  How even though he had spent years sharing the gospel, when approached to seek ordination as a priest in the Anglican church his response was that he was uneducated, unqualified.  But knowing that is what God called him to, he stepped out in faith, despite his fears.  And in hearing that, I knew that I could too.  That despite my fears, the call to ordination is real.   God confirms this is his call.  He is with me in this.

As He sends us, He goes before us, guides us, and provides for us.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 
            For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  

He goes before us and guides us as he guided the Israelites in the desert.  A cloud during the day to guide them and to shield them from the hot sun.  A pillar of fire by night to guide them and give them warmth in the cold desert.  And He provides for us the bread of life and living waters.

We know this by faith.
Hebrews 11
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

But we still need reassurances.
Moses questioned God, how would the israelites know that God had sent him? : 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Gods unchanging answer is:
 “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I AM WHO I AM.  Is our God. 
He sees us, He saves us.  He sends us. 

As we continue in this season of Lent.  May we remember with gratitude that God sees us.  May we ponder the road Christ took to save us.  May we open our hearts to where God is sending us.

Moses went on to lead his people through the waters to the land of  promise. We all pass through the waters.  The same blood was shed for our salvation.   God sent His Son for us.  As we remember in the Eucharist, His body was broken for us.  He is the bread of life.  His blood was shed for us.    Amen