Daily Worship

Week of 28 February – 05 March 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

It is a comforting thought – albeit a false comfort – to think that goodness, health, and happiness are signs of God’s blessing, and suffering is a sign of God’s punishment. This week, though, Jesus makes it clear that this is not how God operates. When he was informed about Pilate’s murder of some Galilean worshippers, Jesus taught that it was not their sin that brought this disaster upon them. Then he spoke about people who had died when a tower had collapsed on top of them, and made it clear that it was not their sin that caused this disaster either. Then, in the tough words, “unless you repent, you will perish, too” Jesus declares that good fortune is not a guarantee of good spirituality, or of God’s reward. Suffering comes on the innocent, and even evil people can enjoy good circumstances.

The key here, though, is that, whether we are “good” or “bad” we all need to repent – we all need to turn from the ways of this world’s system (the grasping for power, wealth, and pleasure) to the ways of God’s Reign (justice, simplicity, generosity, grace, love, servanthood and peace). Then, as we begin to live according to the values of God’s Reign, we will be able to face whatever comes – good or bad – with the strength and grace of Jesus, and we will bear the fruit of bringing life to those around us.

This call to repentance and fruit bearing is the challenge of this week’s readings.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week of 21 – 27 February 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Today’s reading is a strange one, which takes some careful thought to understand. It begins with a group of Pharisees warning Jesus of Herod’s intention to kill him. We are not sure why they would do this, but their words are significant: “Get away from here if you want to live!” What they didn’t realise is that living was not the first priority on Jesus’ agenda – loving was. Jesus uses metaphors, in his response, that show where his commitment lay.

To begin with he refers to Herod as “that fox” and the people of Jerusalem as “chicks.” Of course, foxes are predators for chickens, and so this is a clear warning of the danger Herod posed to the people of Israel at that time. Herod ruled as king under the authority of Rome, and was seen as a traitor to his people. Any resistance to his rule would be quickly and ruthlessly dealt with. Jesus, on the other hand, seeks to be like a mother hen to the people – protecting them even with his own life. Yet, the people seem determined to avoid his way of peace and life, and embrace their own destruction.

Nevertheless, what is amazing here is the way Jesus, reading the signs of the situation very clearly, remained committed to love, knowing it would take him to his death. The challenge this raises for us this week is this: To what extent are we committed to love above all things? How can we embrace the call to love in a stronger way?

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week of 14 – 20 February 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

On the first Sunday in Lent we always meditate on the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness. Even as we read, though, we may find ourselves being tempted as well. We may prefer not to examine the content of the temptations too closely. We may find ourselves wanting to move on to how Jesus over came the temptations with little thought for what he actually overcame. Perhaps this is because we know, in some part of ourselves, that we are wrestling with the same temptations on a daily basis, yet we may be less effective at overcoming them than Jesus was. If we would prefer not to do the painful work of honest self-examination, we might turn repentance into a “spiritual” exercise that deals only with little outward “sins” that hardly matter, while avoiding the truly destructive sins of the heart, the attitude, and the mind. But, the truth is that what Jesus faced in the wilderness was no different from the great temptations that all human beings must confront. Jesus was tempted by his physical lusts, and the desire for immediate gratification with no thought for the consequences.

Jesus was tempted by the quest for power and the ability to influence and manipulate others to do his bidding, while using God’s power for his own ends. Jesus was tempted by the wealth and glory of the world, and the quest to find security and influence through easy accumulation. Lust, wealth, and power – these are the true temptations from which all others flow, and which bring really destructive consequences on the world. Yet, through his willingness to deny himself, his commitment to servanthood, and his embrace of simplicity and generosity, Jesus rejected these temptations and brought life to the world.

This week we will be challenged to confront our worst tendencies and follow Jesus into a way of being that brings life and justice to the world.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week 07 – 13 February 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

The story of the transfiguration appears in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). It’s purpose is to confirm, in the moments before Jesus starts his journey to the cross, that he really is God’s Messiah, the incarnate God, and the one who establishes God’s Reign among human beings. It is a watershed moment in these Gospels, because from this point on, Jesus predicts his death a number of times, and moves inexorably toward Jerusalem where that death will occur. The startling truth about Jesus’ Messiahship is not that he revealed God’s glory, but that an inherent part of this revelation was his death. All the Gospels agree that God’s glory shines most clearly through Jesus on the cross. And for us God’s glory shines most clearly through grace, compassion, forgiveness, and justice brought to those who are broken, marginalised and oppressed by sin and by human systems of power.

This moment also links to the start of Jesus’ ministry. At the beginning of the season after the Epiphany, we explored Jesus’ baptism. There are a number of parallels between that moment and this one. In both, God’s glory is seen. In both, God’s voice is heard. In both, Jesus is declared to be the fulfilment of God’s promise to save humanity and establish God’s Reign. The baptism was the start of the work of Jesus’ life. The transfiguration is the start of the work of Jesus’ death. And both of these moments were affirmations from God that would carry Jesus through great trials – the baptism for the trial of the wilderness temptation, and the transfiguration for the trial of the cross. In these last few days of Epiphany, and into the beginning of Lent we will explore the glory of God and how it sustained Jesus and can sustain us.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week of 31 January – 06 February 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

When Jesus read the scroll of Isaiah in his hometown of Nazareth, the people listened attentively. When he claimed that he was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, they were amazed and questioned how it could be, but they were still open to Jesus’ message. It was only when Jesus began to challenge their sense of entitlement, and when he pointed out God’s concern for outsiders, that they got murderously angry. The radical inclusivity of Jesus was scandalous and offensive to these people. They wanted to believe that they were “in” with God, and that meant there had to be others who were “out”. But, when Jesus suggested that outsiders were really the true insiders, they refused to let go of their stereotypes, their sense of privilege, and their need for exclusivity.

It’s tragic when God’s people are more like the people of Nazareth than Jesus. We love to talk about Jesus the Messiah, and to hear how God’s Reign has come to us. But, sometimes, when we are challenged by the Gospel to welcome those whom we believe are “sinners” or “outside” of God’s “chosen ones,” we may prefer to attack the messenger rather than do the difficult work of opening our hearts. We all have those we struggle to love. We all have those whom we believe are undeserving of God’s grace. But, if God’s favour could be earned – even by praying a “sinner’s” prayer – it wouldn’t be grace. The challenge of the Gospel is the way it calls us constantly to expand our welcome and inclusion until all people discover that they are actually “in” with God. This challenging journey into radical, inclusive grace is the focus of this week.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week of 24 – 30 January 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

One of the marks of Jesus’ life was his strong sense of purpose. Christian scholars debate how much Jesus, in his humanity, understood his divine nature, the high cost he would pay to accomplish his mission, or the resurrection that awaited him after his death. But they all agree that Jesus knew he had been called by God to fulfil an important purpose. The centre of Jesus’ message was the proclamation that the Reign of God was near and accessible to all. This week in the Lectionary, this mission of Christ to proclaim and establish God’s Reign is the focus. The Gospel reading from Luke 4 describes Jesus reading from Isaiah’s scroll about the servant of God who comes to bring justice and peace. When he finished reading Jesus proclaimed that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in him. This means that this passage gives us a clear idea of how Jesus understood his purpose.

As we explore the other readings for today, one of which is Paul’s teaching about the body of Christ, we realise that the purpose of Christ is also to be our purpose. We are called, as individuals and as a community, to embody the message and mission of God’s Reign as Jesus did. As we share our lives and work together to bring grace, love, peace and justice into our world, we become a manifestation of God’s Reign. This week we will explore what this means for us.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week of 10 – 16 January 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

The first Sunday after Epiphany always focuses on the baptism of Jesus. This year Luke’s version of this story is the main reading. You might notice that Luke gives a very sparse description of the events – just two simple verses explaining that Jesus was baptised and that the Holy Spirit descended and God’s voice spoke words of affirmation. But, in the reading that is set for this Sunday, a few additional verses are included before the baptism account. Here we find John telling people about the One who was to come, and proclaiming him as the one who would baptise others with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The other readings that you may hear in church this week all reflect on this “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and how it touches followers of Jesus. This means that the Scriptures for this week are inviting us to be more than spectators of Jesus experience of baptism. They are inviting us to be participants in the baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus brings.

As we face the challenges of each day, as we wrestle with the great crises of our time, we cannot help but recognise that we need resources beyond our human abilities and wisdom. We cannot heal our planet with human effort alone. We cannot bring peace to the world through human wisdom alone. We cannot eradicate poverty or dread disease, and we cannot provide homes, sanitation, water and food for everyone on earth through human ability only. Even on a personal level, we cannot find abundant life in our own strength. We need love beyond our own to keep our relationships strong and healthy. We need generosity beyond our own to ensure that our families and communities can have enough to live. We need grace and forgiveness beyond our own to find ways to reconcile with those who have hurt us or have been hurt by us. The Good News this week, though, is that God has provided us with resources beyond our human capacities. God has made available to us divine wisdom, strength, guidance, and love through God’s Holy Spirit. This week our reflections will help us to be ever more ready to receive this amazing gift.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.

Daily Worship

Week of 03 – 09 January 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This week our meditations focus on the celebration of Epiphany on 6 January. The word ‘epiphany’ speaks of a moment of sudden inspiration or insight. The goal of this celebration, and of the Sunday’s that follow it, is to take our insight into the incarnate Jesus deeper. To do this, the Lectionary offers two perspectives on Christ. Firstly, in the coming weeks, we will explore the way Jesus was viewed by those around him – John the Baptiser, the disciples, the religious leaders, the crowds, and even God. Secondly, we will also be invited to recognise the various ways that God’s glory was revealed in Christ. It’s one thing to proclaim that God has become human. It’s another thing to understand this human being, and to grasp his significance for our world. This is the work of Epiphany.

The Gospel reading for Epiphany, which we will read on Wednesday, is the famous story from Matthew of the magi’s visit. This account is a doorway to understand the mission and message of Jesus more deeply. One of the aims of Matthew’s Gospel is to convince its readers that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the “prophet like Moses” that the Old Testament promised. But, it also works hard to show that Jesus is a different kind of Messiah from the one the people expected. His mission included both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, insiders and outcasts. It expanded to embrace the nations, and the whole of creation. Jesus is a Messiah for all. As we begin our journey of understanding Jesus, this is a good, and challenging, place to start.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, click through to the downloads page.