Growth in patience

In chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel, we are presented with a series of 7 parables (of the 40 or so that Jesus tells during his recorded ministry) – which provokes a first question – what is a parable? For most of Christian history, parables have been treated as allegories – with many different interpretations available. What later scholarship realised, is that parables are so much richer than this. There can be a single interpretation, but parables are more like pieces of art, music or poetry – so their precise interpretation will always allude us – yet they constantly point to the breaking in of the kingdom of God. They take ordinary images from rural society, but twist this with the radical nature of what the kingdom is always calling us into.

Today, each of the parables invites us deeper into the experience of patience. No one enjoys waiting. Yet the Lord tells us today that waiting is necessary. It takes time for a crop to grow to harvest; for a seed to grow into a tree; for yeast to do its work in the flour. We want things straight away – we want God to deal with sin and evil in the world and in our lives – but he says to wait. This is not a cop-out. God has dealt with sin once and for all through the death and resurrection of Jesus. So this is waiting for the dawn when the first light of day has already appeared on the eastern horizon. The new day will come. All we need to do is continue to wait in hope and expectant trust.

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The secret of joy

Jesus makes today a series of fairly bizarre declarations about himself and his position. He tells the disciples – who at the beginning of this chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel are commissioned and sent out to share in his mission – that anyone who prefers ‘father or mother’; ‘son or daughter’ to me is not worthy of me. This must be read in context – because other places in the New Testament tell us how to have proper relationship with our family members – new and old. This is not a recommendation to ignore our family. This is about something greater. Jesus is not telling us these thing as some ego-filled dictator – but he is telling us this to prompt us along the way of life in the kingdom, and so that we are able to share in the absolute joy that he offers to us. Although it is not explicitly stated, these statements are claims about the divinity of Jesus and his share of life with the Father – and he invites us to share in this life by our placing the worship of Jesus as the first priority of our life. In this we are able to share in true joy – joy that abides in us, and not just at passing moments. There is only one way to experience this joy – and it is through having Jesus as the first gift of our lives. By sharing in his life, and receiving his love, then we have something to share and give to others and ourselves. Many years ago, someone shared with me the secret of joy – which is spelled out by the letters of the word: Jesus; Others; You. By remembering to keep Jesus first in our lives, then we open the door to true joy.

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Sunday 13, Year A. Matthew 10:37-41

Declare before God

Commitment Sunday

The Gospel today invites us as a church to ‘declare ourselves before God’ as good stewards. God loves giving – he gave no lesser gift than the wonderful gift of Jesus to ensure that we are not alone in this life. We are also invited to not be afraid – the most common commandment that the Lord tells us. When we think about our response to the Lord in the areas of time, talents and treasures, all kind of misconceptions and myths can get in the way. We imagine that (1) we need to earn God’s love – when we can do nothing that will make God love us more. We believe that if we (2) obey God we will not enjoy life and miss out on so many things – yet Jesus tells us that he came that we may have life in abundance (John 10:10). Finally, we think that God is angry and needs to be appeased, so we think that (3) we need to buy God off and try to do this at the least possible price – surely those few coins that we toss into the collection will be just enough!

In fact, giving shapes our hearts and lives. Giving is so much more about our need to give than God’s need to receive. He doesn’t need anything from us – but we certainly never grow until we learn to freely give. There are many places in scripture that teach the principle of the first fruits – beginning in Genesis 4 with the offerings of Abel and Cain – then the offering of a tithe from Abraham to Melchizedek (Genesis 14) and the instruction that God gave Moses to offer the first-born children to be redeemed by the Lord. This continues in the Exodus tradition of offering sacrifice, and culminates in the offering of the first fruits of the land once they take possession of the Holy Land (Deut 26).

Everything belongs to God!

When we think about our giving, we are invited to think about a few issues. The first is “How do I give?” – do I give intentionally, or only accidentally? The second is “What do I give?” – do I give my very best (the first fruits), or do I only offer the leftovers to God and the church community?

When we want to grow in any area of our lives, it is important to remember that it takes time to learn something new, and to become skilled and gifted in an area. So the first of the baby steps that we need to take is (1) begin to give regularly by making giving a priority in our lives. When St Paul teaches on giving (over several of his letters) he tells us that our giving should be Proportional and Regular (eg 2 Cor 8:1-3 and 1 Cor 16:1-2). As Jesus reminds us in the Gospel, do not be afraid of this. It takes practice to learn to do anything that is truly valuable.

If we have been giving for a while, then we may be ready to move onto baby step 2. Which takes the commitment to not just give something regularly, but to consider our finances and carefully determine how much we can afford to give – and then increase that amount by 1%. Remember, it is not the whole dollar amount that we give that matters – it is the proportion of our income. If we only give from our excess, then we have not even begun to really give. If it is too easy – perhaps we need to add another 1% to what we give – or maybe even 5%?

Finally, if you have been committed to giving sacrificially for sometime and you are willing to really trust in the Lord, then you can really level up with step 3 – which is committing to tithe on your gross income. There is a strange economics that comes into play once you commit to tithing. Even with a degree in Economics and Accounting, I am not sure why my finances have continued to do so well after I made this commitment many years ago to give what is already God’s back to God, his church and his people. But I know that this is something that we can always trust in – we can put God to the test in this area and he will be faithful. Guaranteed!

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All resources
Video Reflection: We Give (Dan Stevers)
Song Reflection: Open Up Our Eyes (Acapella by Bammel Church)

Corpus Christi – Lessons in Love

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ does not only draw to a conclusion this extended season of Easter Feasts – it also draws together the whole of the mystery and wonder that we have been celebrating since the beginning of Lent. The twin feasts of Trinity and Corpus Christi hang uneasily at the conclusion of the Season of Easter. We have already returned into the Season of Growth and Discipleship with the return of the green vestments as a sign of the new life of discipleship. But these two feasts, although described as feasts of the Lord in Ordinary Time, are really best understood as extensions of Easter, from which they derive their context.

What we discover is that these days are all about lessons in love.

Beginning with Holy Thursday, the Lord strips himself of his garments to be a slave washing the dirty feet of the disciples as an example. Then he continues to offer this example and choice on Good Friday when love refuses to say no, and the Lamb of God is sacrificed for us and for our salvation. The day of Resurrection joy is the day when love has the final say and sin and death do not. The whole of the season of Easter provides a continuing reflection for us as disciples to continue to grow and learn in the school of love. As Easter draws to a conclusion, we move into this series of four feastdays that together celebrate this particular gift of love.

The Ascension opens us to the reality of love as gift and return. Pentecost draws us deeper into love that is as close as our breath. The Trinity reminds us of the dynamic union of love that exists in the very heart of God – a circle-dance union that we are invited to join. But all of these beautiful and powerful feasts can remain too abstract and distant from our ordinary lives and experiences. Which is where the gift of such ordinary elements – bread and wine – which are transformed and changed to become for us these beautiful and precious gifts. If we should ever doubt that God is close to us, the gift of food that we can eat and drink should be enough to tell us that our God is never distant, never alien. God becomes this ordinary bread so that we can hold him, and take him in our hands and place him on our tongues, that he might become one with us at even a molecular level. We could not even imagine something so intimate?!

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Trinity Love

For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son…

The famous and beautiful Gospel today (from John 3 verses 16-18) is the last part of a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a man who is called a leading Pharisee and leader of the Jews. Even though he is a teacher of the law, it is clear that old Nic does not get some of the subtle distinctions that Jesus makes between earthly and heavenly realities and the clear gift that God wants everyone to have – the life of the age to come.

The whole approach of God to the world is rescuing it from its bondage to sin and death so that all human beings will be drawn into the communion of life and love that we can only find in God. Jesus tells us that this is the work of the Son.

Remember that in the Gospel of John, sin is not about morality – it is all about belief. So, judgement is not about some future reality or event, but about what happens in the here and now. Jesus brings it ‘down to earth’ and makes it present in himself.

Each person determines for herself or himself what their judgement will be. The only question that determines this is precisely the question of whether they decide or not to accept the revelation of God as a God of love, that comes to us through Jesus.

What we are seeing is exactly what God’s own love looks like. When Jesus died on the cross this was the complete and dramatic display of God’s own love. The cross was not a muddled accident. The cross was not God letting the worst happen to someone else. The cross is at the centre of this amazing new image of who God is.

He is now to be known as the God who is both father and son, and the son is revealed, ‘lifted up’, when he dies under the weight of the world’s evil. Evil which was and is in the world, indeed, which is deep-rooted within us all, was somehow allowed to take out its full force on Jesus.

When we look at Jesus lifted high on the cross, what we are looking at is the result of the evil in which we are all stuck. And we are seeing what God has done about it. In this amazing way, we are seeing what God’s own love looks like. We are seeing the gift of the Trinity of love – this community of love and life that we are invited to be part of.

Because evil lurks deep within each of us, for healing to take place we must each be deeply involved in the process. This doesn’t mean that we just have to try that much harder to be good. All we can do, just as it was all the Israelites could do, is to look and trust: to look at Jesus, to see in him the full display of God’s saving love, and to trust in him.

This, you see, is how much God loved the world: enough to give his only, special son, so that everyone who believes in him should not be lost but should have the life of the age to come.

The point of the whole story is that you don’t have to be condemned. God’s act in the death of Jesus has lodged a sign in the centre of history. And the sign simply says: believe, and live.

Recorded at St Paul’s, Trinity Sunday, Year A. John 3:16-18

Personal Pentecost

The Gospel today (from John 20 verses 19-23) takes place on the evening of Easter Sunday. Mary Magdalene, who is the first apostle to see the Lord tells them about her encounter with Jesus. Now these disciples also see him.

By saying it happens on “that day” perhaps the author also wants us to remember the understanding that the Hebrew scriptures had of ‘the day of the Lord’ – for example, Isaiah 52 verse 6 that says, “My people shall know my name; on that day they shall know it is I who speak.”

John tells us that it is the disciples who are gathered – not just the Eleven – or the 12 apostles minus Judas. Jesus then greets this larger group of disciples who have gathered with what had become the standard greeting within rabbinic Hebrew – shalom alekem – “Peace be to you.” Here, the words of Jesus are not just a wish – but a statement of fact.

Jesus then shows the disciples his hands and side and it is at this moment that they can begin to move from disbelief to belief and they are ‘overjoyed’ at seeing the master. Showing his body to them connects his earthly body to the risen Jesus and fulfils the promise that Jesus had made during the last Supper that their pain and sorrow will turn to joy (see John 16, verses 20 to 22).

After their recognition of him not simply as the risen Jesus, but also as their Lord, Jesus can now greet them again with shalom alekem – “Peace be with you.” Only now can they actually receive his gift of peace. And only now, after receiving that gift of peace, can they hear and receive the commission of the Lord: ‘As the father has sent me, so I’m sending you.’

All of these disciples, through their faith in the risen Lord, and with the gift of his peace, are now able to be sent, that is to become apostles of the risen Lord, just as Jesus had been sent by the father.

How on earth are the disciples to do such an extraordinary thing? Only with this precious gift from heaven – the gift that comes through the breath of Jesus – the gift of the holy Spirit. The Spirit is precisely that which empowers this fragile community to continue the work of Jesus. This is the only time that this word ‘to breathe’ is used in the New Testament, and it clearly evokes God breathing the breath of life into the first human in Genesis 2.

The Spirit-empowered mission of these disciples is to forgive sin – which in the Gospel of John is all about belief, not morality. To sin is to be blind to the revelation of God in the person of Jesus. So the commission that the disciples and the church receives in this Pentecost moment is to continue to make the love of God in Jesus known in the world. By doing this we are true to what Jesus said about the action of the Paraclete back in John 16 – “to prove the world wrong about sin – because they do not believe in me.”

The gift of the Spirit comes so that we can continue what God sent Jesus to do.

Ascension – Absence and doubt

The first question that emerges on this feast of the Ascension is why sometimes it is better for a person to leave. For parents, that day when a child leaves home to go to university or on their first big European back-packing working-holiday, the absence can be heart-wrenching. Yet we all know that there is a need to let a young person find themselves and their own identity.

In the case of Jesus, his departure is very different. He needs to be physically absent so that he can be present in even more wonderful ways – present not only in the word of God and in the sacramental life of the church, but also in the call to friendship and discipleship. The conclusion to Matthew’s gospel is fantastic. He carefully places the action back in Galilee, where it all began, and high on the side of a mountain (of course). The eleven disciples (with the absence of Judas) make their way and when they see Jesus, some fall down in worship – although some hesitated (distazo in the Greek, which could also mean ‘doubted’). Even though some hesitate – perhaps because as good Jewish lads they are still not entirely sure that worship of anyone other then the one and only true God, the LORD, is appropriate. But it is clear from Matthew, that he invites his readers to join those who worshipped. Even so, Jesus draws near to all of them – even those who distazo’d. 

It is then that Jesus offers to them his final commission, reminding them that “all authority on heaven and earth belongs to Jesus” so “Therefore, Go!” Go into all the world, not only to baptise (initiate into the sacramental life of the church) and teach (which the church has also very faithfully fulfilled) but primarily to “make disciples.” This call, which the church has sometimes resisted and often fails to fulfil today remains the heart of the great commission. But we are not alone in this. Jesus promises, as Emmanuel, God-with-us to be with us always, and that we will also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to provide all that we need.

View other resources: http://www.frrick.com/messages/eaa-28-may-2017/

Easter 6 – The odd power of God

As we move towards the great feast of Pentecost, the readings begin to focus on the expectancy and hope of receiving the holy Spirit. We have the first of four passages in the Gospel of John regarding the coming and promised Paraclete. As Jesus tells the still-misunderstanding disciples about what to expect, he makes a series of compelling promises about life in the kingdom, including the promises that we will do even greater things than he has done, and that any prayers that we make that are truly done according to the will of God will be answered.

But to make sense of all of these gifts, we do need to look at what the power and authority of God is really like. One way is to look at different kinds of powerful people, to see which one is most like our images of God and which is most like God in reality.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am.
Easter, Sunday 6, Year A.

Easter 5 – Living Stones

One of the interesting things about the season of Easter – and to a lesser extent, Advent and Lent – the ordinary pattern of our Sunday readings is changed. For example, in Year A, when we read from the Gospel of Matthew, our Sunday readings are taken (more-or-less) sequentially from Matthew’s gospel, and the first reading, drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures, bounces off the Gospel – either providing another example of a healing, or an allusion or incident that the Gospel somehow fulfills. But during Easter, the first readings are taken from Acts of the Apostles, the second reading is a semi-continuous reading of I Peter, and the Gospels are seemingly more random – chosen to highlight particular Easter themes.

Today, on this fifth Sunday, the second reading from the first letter of St Peter provides a powerful reflection on what being living stones is all about. Perhaps because Simon was renamed as Rocky – aka Peter – he had a great reason to spend time reflecting on what being a rock is all about. This dense passage brings together many scriptures from across the bible to provide the basis for the christian life and the call to worship God as a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation’ that has been set apart to sing the praises of God.

Easter 4 – An invitation to life

Whenever you read a gospel passage, one of the first things to keep in mind is that the division of the text into chapters and verses is historically recent – and sometimes is not the best. So in reading any given passage, we need to always begin with the section before our passage to get a better sense of what may have been happening to provoke the events in the section that we are considering. So in this case, when we are reading chapter 10 of John’s gospel, we need to see what has been happening in chapter 9 – which was the sign of the healing of the man born blind. The healing in turn had provoked questions in the man himself, who moved through various stages of disbelief through belief and ultimately worship (John 9:38). The question that is lingering in the air is – “who is this man Jesus?”

Jesus begins to address this by using the allegory of the good shepherd, the sheepfold and the gate. The shepherd is already a common image in the Hebrew scriptures, finding its height in the figure of the first (and only?) truly good king a millennium before – King David. Other key moments are the Psalm we read today – Psalm 23, as well as the great prophetic challenge of Ezekiel 34.

More significantly, Jesus is making an invitation to all of us today – an invitation to believe in the awesome promise of Christianity – that Jesus does not want us to live a half life, or to reduce the gift of life that he is offering to us to mere morality or religion. He warns us that there will be thieves who will try to steal and kill and destroy. What we sometimes forget is that those thieves are our own expectations, regrets and disappointments with our family and friends.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am. (8 mins)
Sunday 4, Easter, Year A. John 10:1-10.

Two on the road

The story of two disciples walking along the 60-stadia road from Jerusalem to Emmaus is rightly considered one of the greatest examples of resurrection life and discipleship-in-community ever written. One of the problems with this text is just how rich it is. There is so much material here that followers of Jesus are able to join Cleopas (the only named disciple) along the road many times in careful reflection and meditation without ever depleting the rich well of connections and spirituality. Today we will pause to consider five different aspects of this wonderfully rich resurrection scene.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (13 mins)
Easter, Sunday 3, Year A. Luke 24:13-31

I invited three different people to share their experiences of Alpha during term 1 and invited people to join the next session of Alpha which begins this week.

Easter 2 – Breath and life

On the second Sunday of Easter (or the eighth day of Easter), the church always offers before us John 20 for our Gospel reflection, commemorating both the first appearance of Jesus to the church on Easter Sunday, and then his second appearance eight days later, on the second Sunday. To appreciate the full beauty of this Gospel, we need to first look at in parallel to the first half of John 20 – the first scene of the resurrection. We will focus on the part of the Gospel that the church will again offer to us for our reflection at the end of the Easter Season, on the Sunday of Pentecost. In John’s Gospel, there is no need to wait for fifty days before the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the church. No, the Holy Spirit is the gift that Jesus breathes upon the group of disciples who are gathered (not just the 11 Apostles) on the day of the Resurrection.

Recorded at St Paul’s (15mins) 6pm, 8am & 10am available.
Easter Sunday 2, Year A. John 20:19-31.

Resurrection Is (Easter Sunday)

One of the limitations of celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus is that for so many people in the church, they still operate with a tri-part understanding of creation, even though they know that this is not the case in the physical universe or according to the laws of science and nature. So we still think that the world is divided into heaven above, the earth here and the underworld below, and then dutifully assign the various characters into their realms which are rarely breached. So we allow God to be safely locked away in the heavens where he can go about his business without disturbing us too greatly. But a fundamental problem with this understanding, which has allowed the church to function as an elevator – is that it is so deeply unbiblical. It is not just the role of the holy ones, or the designated ministers to ascend into the heavenly places to receive lots of information and experiences which are then imparted upon the uninitiated (and in this worldview that is most people). The whole power of the incarnation is undone and the effects of the redemption that Jesus won for us are belittled. Thankfully this is not the witness of scripture.

Even if we insist on relegating God to the heavens and we insist on situating the heavens to being up in the sky, one of the lovely insights that Diana Butler Bass shares (in Grounded) is that the sky in fact begins under our feet and is as close as the air that we breathe – which is pretty close indeed!

Recorded at St Paul’s, 9am
Easter Sunday, Year A.

 

A Resurrection Worldview (Easter Vigil)

This year our parish celebrated the Easter Vigil early on Easter Sunday morning (beginning at 5am) as a Dawn Mass, rather than early in the evening on Holy Saturday night as has been the custom. In part this was because I never liked the fact that during the Easter Vigil celebrated at that time, you would speak of Jesus dying yesterday afternoon – which made little catechetical sense of speaking about the resurrection happening on the third day. In addition, all of the Gospel accounts that speak of the discovery of the empty tomb say that the women, and then one or more disciples go to the tomb just before dawn, while it was still dark. So a year ago I began to investigate the timing of the sunrise in Wollongong in mid-April and spent several mornings in the church pacing through the Easter Vigil Mass to calculate the best time for the liturgy to begin, so that all of the first two parts of the Mass – the Lucernarium and the Liturgy of the Word – would take place in darkness, but there would be the first hint of light and then sunrise to accompany the third and fourth parts of the liturgy. Although those wonderful red-bits in the liturgical books indicate that the whole liturgy should take place at night, this seems to be more of a directive against those parishes that begin the liturgy too early and light a fire and then the candle when neither is needed as a counterpoint to the daylight or twilight that surrounds the participants. As we celebrated the liturgy this year, the prayer in the sung Exsultet that “this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star” could finally be fulfilled! It was also good to make the connection with the dawn services that will be celebrated around the country next week for Anzac Day.

The altar cross is obliterated by the rising sun.

The Gospel from Matthew began with “After the Sabbath, and towards dawns on the first day of the week” and this was precisely the time that it was being proclaimed in our church. By the time that the Liturgy of Baptism was being celebrated, the light surrounding the church was more pronounced, the bird calls were louder, and the sun rose as we began the Eucharistic Prayer (see picture on left). When I asked the congregation at the end of Mass if it was worth getting up early again next year, there was a resounding ‘yes!’

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Recorded at St Paul’s, Easter Day (5am)
View Presentation Slides (Resurrection Is)

 

The Gospel of Good Friday

Although we read the Passion story last Sunday during the Mass of Palm Sunday, that Gospel is always taken from one of the three Synoptic Gospel accounts, depending on the liturgical year. But on Good Friday, there can only be one Gospel that will be our guide and companion – the Gospel that shapes the whole of the sacred days of Easter – the Gospel of John. When you read or listen to the passion story in this Gospel, the experience is so different from what we had only days earlier with Matthew’s gospel. In John, there is no agony in the garden; there are no anguished cries; Jesus carries his cross himself, without any need for a passerby to be recruited. Jesus knows that his hour has come and he accepts and embraces it as a regal king. Jesus is always in control of these events and reigns as a king on the cross. He takes the vinegar to drink in answer to his cry that could equally be interpreted as a declaration for his love for humanity: “I am thirsty.” And his final words are a resounding declaration that anything that separated us from the love of God has now been abolished because death is now defeated and the holy spirit is now released into the world – “It is finished!” Even the events after his death should perhaps be more carefully understood. When the soldier comes to kill him so that his body can be removed before the solemn Jewish festival (which is far from the usual practice of allowing the naked bodies of the victims of crucifixion to remain on the cross for as long as it takes to suffer this excruciating and agonising death and then for their bodies to slowly begin to decompose and be eaten by rats and birds of prey) – they discover that Jesus is already dead, but to make sure a lance is pierced into his side. John describes how blood and water flow forth from the wound which mothers would recognise as an image of Jesus giving birth to a new family of redeemed children through the events of the cross.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 3pm Good Friday
John 18 – 19.

Passover Slave (Holy Thursday)

We begin these sacred days of Easter with this encounter on the eve of Passover – as we remember the meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples. The Gospel of John – which is our primary companion over these days – does not provide details about the elements of the meal itself – the bread and the wine. In the liturgy tonight, that role is given to the second reading from I Corinthians 11, which parallels similar accounts in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It is clear that although this community gathers to celebrate the Passover, what happens is a radical transformation of the meal into something that is no longer mainly historical, recalling the sacred events of the Exodus from Egypt, into something that is oriented towards the future. One of the ways that this transformation happens is when Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his clothes and begins to act in a most humiliating way as he washes the feet of his friends – something that is normally the activity of only the most despised of slaves.

Re-recorded at St Paul’s (original recording failed)
Holy Thursday evening, Mass of the Lord’s Supper 2017

The Gaze of the Crucified One

This week we were confronted by those horrifying images that came out of Syria of the chemical weapon attack on innocent civilians. This rightly appalled us and provoked a response. Yet, these horrors at one level are nothing new. We see this across human history, and especially in this part of the world. This basic disregard for a common humanity was certainly prevalent within the Roman Empire in the first century AD, especially if you were a slave or a rebel who had stepped outside of the appropriate public discourse. Crucifixion is probably the most heinous thing that any of us could ever imagine – and yet in the Gospel that we have just experienced, Jesus remains almost completely silent in the face of such horror. Our invitation as we move into Holy Week, is to look at the cross of Jesus. To be aware of the horror of the cross – but also to place ourselves in that silence before the Lord who launched a revolution on that cross. As we stare into the face of the perfect love that we find there on the cross, let us also allow Jesus to behold us. Let him truly gaze into us – and not just the good bits, the parts that we are rightly proud of. Let Jesus gaze also into all those areas of hurt, and disfunction, and addiction, and sin, and shame. Let the love of the crucified one gaze into that relationship that left such a deep wound in us; into that grievance that we cannot forgive; into that memory from the past that brings us such shame; into that hatred, and judgement, and racism, and greed that is slowly eating away at our soul. Let his gaze be enough for us as he invites us into the silence of his redemptive pain.

Recorded at St Paul’s, Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday (5 – 7 mins). All three Masses available.

Revolution 5 – The Revolution Continues

The early Christian message is not well summarised by saying that Jesus died so that we can go to heaven. That way of looking at the gospel and mission both shrinks and distorts what the Bible actually teaches. It ignores Jesus’s claim to be launching God’s kingdom “on earth as in heaven” and to be bringing that work to its climax precisely on the cross. It ignores the New Testament’s emphasis on the true human vocation, to be “image-bearers,” reflecting God’s glory into the world and the praises of creation back to God. Christian mission means implementing the victory that Jesus won on the cross. Everything else follows from this.

The “powers” gained their power because idolatrous humans sinned; when God deals with sins on the cross, he takes back from the powers their usurped authority. Sin matters, and forgiveness of sins matters, but they matter because sin, flowing from idolatry, corrupts, distorts, and disables the image-bearing vocation, which is much more than simply “getting ready for heaven.”

To say yes to Jesus’s resurrection is, by that very thought and deed, to say yes to the new world of forgiveness that was won on the cross, the world that was then launched into heaven-and-earth reality on Easter morning.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (12 mins)
Sunday 5, Lent, Year A. John 11 – the raising of Lazarus.

 

 

The Revolution 4 – Atonement

When Jesus knew that it was his time to go up to Jerusalem to face the passion and death – why did he choose the festival of Passover? Surely if his actions were going to bring about the ultimate covering over of sins, he would choose the great festival of expiation – the Day of Atonement? What does it mean to be atoned? And what was Jesus doing historically in offering his life in this way on the cross?

Recorded at St Paul’s (6pm & 8am)
Sunday 4, Lent, Year A (Laetare Sunday); John 9.

The Revolution 3 – New Goal, New Humanity

Paul is often accused of being dry and clinical in his writing – but sometimes he can open us to the most beautiful and stunning statements about the love and mercy of our God. The second reading today – from Romans 5 – provides us with such a statement. He tells us:

But this is how God demonstrates
his own love for us:
the Messiah died for us
while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

We can look at a number of different scenarios to help unpack what this might mean for us. Each one involves two people walking along a muddy path beside a swollen river during weather like we are having right now. We will then journey with two other people – this time the two disciples who were walking away from Jerusalem towards the village of Emmaus which we find in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24. These two people share with us many insights about the hopes and dreams of ordinary Jewish people in the mid-first century, and how Jesus who joins them along their journey addresses these questions about the significance of the cross and his whole life.

The hope of Israel was not for rescue from the world,
but a rescue plan where redeemed humanity
would once more play the role for which they were designed.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (13 mins)
Sunday 3, Season of Lent, Year A.
Romans 5:1-8; John 4:5-42.