We are invited deeply into relationship with a God who as a good father wants to give good gifts to all of his children – and especially the gift of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was a little child, as was the tradition at the time, his mother Mary would have taught him how to pray to God. She would have shared the many stories of God and God’s people that she would know by heart from the Hebrew Scriptures and her own experience of praying and trusting in this good father. As Jesus grew, prayer to the father becomes so characteristic of his whole life that it is remarked upon, and it provokes the desire of his disciples and followers to pray in the same way – teach us to pray. The prayer that Jesus teaches us in Luke’s gospel today is not just a prayer that we need to learn and recite word-for-word – but an invitation into communion with the same father – an invitation to rest in his word and rest in his love.
Sunday 17, Year C. Luke 11:1-13
In today’s gospel, we see Jesus arriving at the house of Martha, who in good near eastern tradition is very attentive to the hospitality of Jesus. But when Martha’s sister Mary is able to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him while he taught, Martha remains distracted by all the serving. Mary is commended for not multi-tasking and doing the one thing that was necessary – being attentive to Jesus in prayer. For this is what prayer is all about – lifting our hearts and minds in communion to God. Following on from out four weeks looking at discipleship, this week and next we will explore what prayer is – beyond simply saying formal prayers which use the words of other people – to begin to learn how to pray – to speak from our own lives and our own experiences and create the space for God to respond.
Recorded at St Paul’s, Albion Park (9.30am; 16 mins)
Sunday 16, Year C. Luke 10:38-42
A short prayer on the cross offered at the conclusion of the Stations of the Cross.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am service (1:47)
Good Friday, Stations of the Cross
When you learn a new language one of the things that you need to become familiar with are the rules of grammar and syntax. But the degree to which you have to continue to remember each of the rules in turn is an indication that you haven’t yet become fluent in the new language. Once you do, the rules can be left behind and you can get on with the job of enjoying the new possibilities. It is a similar situation with the Christian faith. There are necessary rules and frameworks that Paul understood the early church needed to know – and he shared some of them in eight short and simple declarations that form the first part of our second reading today – taken from his earliest letter. They provide ample fruit for our Advent reflections to guide us during these hectic and crazy days.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (I Thessalonians 5:16-24)
Advent, Sunday 3, Year B
“Be merciful O Lord, for we have sinned.” So much of this season of Lent is acknowledging how true this – that we stand before each other as sinners. This cry attempts to express something of our need for God – to be healed. By myself, I cannot do this; but with the grace and compassion of God, I can achieve the impossible – a life of holiness with God.
This response to the Psalm today in this Ash Wednesday marks the necessity of the invitation that every Christian receives today to return to the Lord, the God of mercy. We are invited into a way of life that acknowledges our own poverty – a poverty that the Lord himself knows about because he experienced it in his own life.
We are invited into the more during this season of Lent. So often we accept a vision that is too small, rather than the richness of his life – a life of holiness and purpose.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 9am (05’19”)
The parable that lies at the heart of our Gospel this week, from Luke chapter 18, seems at first glance to be describing a religious event. In reality, like the parable that begins chapter 18 which we heard last Sunday – the one about the widow and the corrupt judge – this parable also is really another lawsuit. Another way of saying this is that the Pharisee in the Temple has turned what should be an encounter with God into a contest. His ‘prayer’ – if we can call it that – consists simply of letting God know all about his various good points where he exalts himself by dumping on the tax collector.
The tax collector, on the other hand, because of his small and simple faith is able to see right through to the very heart of a great God, as he casts himself on the divine mercy. Jesus reveals what the divine judge would say about this: it is the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, who returns home ‘at rights with God.’ In other words he was vindicated before the judge. God finds in his favour.
The wider context of these two parables is the final law court, in which God’s chosen people will be vindicated after their life of suffering, holiness and service. Although each of us may have many enemies – both outside and inside – these parables declare that God will act to show us who his people truly are. At the present moment it is not enough to simply look for the outward badges of virtue or the observance of the small details of God’s law.
God’s intention is to put all the wrongs of the world to rights. If you want to see where this final vindication is anticipated in the present world, look for where there is genuine repentance, and a genuine placing of oneself on the mercy of God. ‘This one went home at rights with God’ – those are among the most comforting words in the whole gospel.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 5.30pm (8’17”)
Sunday 30, Year C.
Journey Radio Program recording
Although St Paul tells his young disciple Timothy that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, refuting error, guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy” (2 Tim 3:16) it is hard to see how that can be applied to our first reading today, taken from Exodus 17:8-13. Like so many other passages from the Old Testament it describes a bloody battle that ends with the line “with the edge of the sword Joshua cut down Amalek and his people.” (Ex 17:13) Charming. To which we all replied: The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
Like many other difficult passages the best way to understand and interpret this passage is by reading commentaries written by the Fathers of the Church – those saintly men who lived in the first few centuries after Christ and who spent their days pondering deeply upon the word of God. In addition to Origen, St Augustine and St Justin Martyr, there are wonderful insights by St Gregory Nazianzen, St Gregory the Great and St John Chrysostom. First, they point us to the other places where the Amalekites are mentioned, which give us knowledge of their origins, the meaning of their name – a sinful people – and their battle tactics. They also remind us that the whole of the Christian life is a battle and battle passages like this one speak into the truth of this reality. Let’s face it – there are certainly areas of our lives that we need to deal with. If we have a cancerous tumour, then to be told by the doctors after we have had surgery that they have successfully removed 60% of it would not make us completely happy. Likewise, when our state is faced with bushfires today that are burning on a 500km front, we would not be completely happy to learn that this has been reduced by only a few kilometres.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (10’44”)
Sunday 29, Year C. Luke 18:1-8
After my homily I played the reflection video Identity by Dan Stevers. Watch it and buy it here
There is a sense of urgency in the Gospel today as Jesus sends out this group of seventy(-two) disciples to prepare the way for him as he continues to make his pilgrimage journey to Jerusalem. He had already sent out the twelve apostles on mission at the beginning of the previous chapter (Luke 9:1); only this gospel records this second larger sending out. Using the principle of first mention, we perhaps are able to see something of the significance of the number seventy. In Genesis 10, we are told the origins of all the nations of the world, which in the Hebrew scriptures are numbered as seventy, and in the Greek translation are numbered seventy-two. So it is very likely that the Gentile Luke wants us to connect the mission of the seventy-two with the mission of the whole church, no longer confined to the people of a single nation, but now extended to the very ends of the earth. Next, in Exodus 24 there is the description of a group of seventy elders in Israel who are able to share in the presence of God on the mountain – and that there so happened to be another two who were not present and yet shared in the outpouring of the spirit. Finally, there were seventy members of the Sanhedrin.
So what then does the Church ‘s mission actually look like? What lessons can we learn from the instructions that Jesus gives to us today?
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (9’41”)
Recorded on my mobile phone at Zero Gravity 2012, a summer camp for 200+ teenagers held at Mount Tamborine on the Gold Coaast hinterland. The Sunday Eucharist was the culmination of the four-day camp. The readings of the second Sunday provided a great reflection on discipleship and evangelisation.
In the perception of the so-called general public, when people think about God – if indeed they ever think about God, the idea that will probably be conjured would be more like the idea of the force from Star Wars, then the biblical reality of God. Likewise, the idea of heaven as somewhere up there – a long way away from us – is a convenient place to store an inconvenient god. But this also is not the biblical vision.
As we celebrate today the feast day of Mary, the mother of God on this first day of the new 2012 calendar year, the readings that the church presents us with provide an opportunity to reflect anew on the place of God in our lives. (more…)