Daily Worship

Week of 29 November – 05 December 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

And so we reach the start of a new year in the Church Calendar – Advent Sunday. The word “Advent” means “arrival”, and in the next few weeks, we will be learning to recognise the arrival of Christ among us. This season is both a preparation for Christmas – the celebration of the incarnation – and a reflection on the consummation of all things. The first Sunday in Advent always focuses on what we now call the return of Christ. This is to remind us that our world is going somewhere. There is a purpose, a direction and a meaning to the created order, and God is at work to fulfil that purpose – to bring all things into wholeness and unity in Christ. The Christmas celebration, then, is not a “stand-alone” event. The incarnation can only really be understood in terms of God’s saving purpose for all creation.

The key word for the Advent season is “watch.” God’s Reign is not just something we wait for. Our salvation is not just about going to heaven when we die, or about living until the glorious return of Christ. God’s Reign is always coming to us. Jesus is always being incarnated among us. Our salvation is a reality that we can embrace and experience now. For this reason, we are constantly called to watch, to be mindful and aware of God’s presence and activity among us. We are challenged to respond to God’s Reign as it seeks to enter our lives, and to become messengers who proclaim God’s salvation through our lives and words. This week we explore how we can become watchful followers of Christ.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 22 – 28 November 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

This week is the last of the Church Year. Next week a new cycle begins with Advent Sunday, but before we get there, we take a moment to reflect, one last time, on who this Jesus is, and on what following Jesus means for us. This last Sunday of the Liturgical Calendar always focuses on the Reign of Christ and seeks to remind us that Christ is a Monarch, but of a very different kind, who rules over a realm of a very different kind.

Through the Scriptures we see a growing awareness of what it means to call Christ “King”. In the early parts of the Old Testament, God’s Reign was seen as very much like human empires, but bigger and more powerful. The dominant idea in these passages is that God destroys God’s enemies, and crushes all opposition in order to create a world of justice and peace. In the prophets, the language employed to describe God’s Reign becomes “apocalyptic” (which means it is revelatory – revealing deep truths). This language is not to be taken literally, but employs metaphor, mystery, image and poetry to convey truths that are beyond human understanding. This is the same language that is used in the last book of the New Testament – Revelation. At first glance this language also seems to be about power through dominance and violence, but when we place it alongside the teachings of Jesus, we see a different picture.
In Jesus, the Reign of God is revealed to be peaceful, merciful, compassionate and just. Yes, evil is confronted, but always from a place of love for enemies. And, yes, God’s Reign is proclaimed as the ultimate authority that will over come all others, but not through violence and destruction. Rather, it is through the cross – the sacrificial, serving, loving way of Christ – that God’s Reign floods the world.

This week we will open our hearts to gain a new vision of this amazing Reign of Christ.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 15 – 21 November 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

How do we respond to the ways of power and dominance in our world? The most natural response is to retaliate, using force to overcome force and violence to deal with violence. It’s tempting to place our faith in bigger guns, more money, and better power plays, but there is no peace or security to be found in that course. It doesn’t matter whether it’s conflict between nations or conflict between individuals, when we allow violence to beget more violence, we bring nothing but greater destruction, pain, and death into our world. It may feel good to dominate another, or to get revenge on an antagonist, but ultimately, when we make the quest for power the guiding force in our lives, we lose our souls.

Jesus had a very different way of living. When his disciples admired the grandeur of the temple, which had come to represent both political and spiritual power and wealth, Jesus warned them that such human power systems would not survive. The temple, and those who enjoyed power because of it, would be destroyed. Human attempts to claim power – whether through war or pretending to be great spiritual leaders (messiahs) – would ultimately bring nothing but destruction. What lasts is the way of powerless peace that Jesus lived and preached. As powerful as the Roman Empire was when it destroyed the temple (as Jesus had predicted), it could not withstand the power of the Gospel. It took a few hundred years, but ultimately love and peace remained and the Empire collapsed.

Most of us will have little to do with the power plays of governments and nations, except as we use our vote or our voice to engage in political processes. But, we all have to face power dynamics in our lives, our families, and our communities every day. Here is where we need to make the choice either to embrace the power games of the world, or to embody the “powerless” peace of Jesus, refusing to retaliate, being quick to forgive, and quick to share whatever power we have with others. This is the theme we will explore this week.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 08 – 14 November 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

After last week’s focus on love, it is appropriate that the theme for this week is faith. Faith, or trust, and love always go together. When we love, we place our trust in our beloved, and as we live in faith, so our capacity for love grows. But, there is also a third dimension to this equation, and that is power. Both faith and love have a lot to say about how we understand and use our power. It doesn’t matter whether we have much power or little, if it is not rooted in faith and love, it becomes destructive.

It is all too easy for us to try and use our faith to control our circumstances. It’s easy to slip into thinking that, if we can just muster enough “faith”, we can avoid suffering, trauma and tragedy. When we allow ourselves to be seduced by this kind of thinking, we end up with something that may look like faith, but is actually far from it. What we’re actually doing is putting our trust in our own ability to manipulate God or other people or circumstances in our favour. But, this is a very dangerous place to put our faith. The quest for control is futile. The world is always beyond our ability to understand or steer.

The legal experts in the Gospel reading for this Sunday lived with this kind of false faith, and Jesus criticised them for it. Real faith is more like the poor widow who gave her all as an offering to God. This week we will explore how to let go of our need to control the world, and be open to real faith that leads us to life.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 01 – 07 November 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This week the focus is on the Great Commandment. We know Jesus’ words so well: “‘And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” But, sadly, in spite of the clarity of these words, in spite of Jesus’ claim that the whole of the Scripture is summarized in these words, we still struggle to make this commandment the focus of our faith and life.

The Great Commandment is not two commandments, of course. The original text suggests that the “second” is “like” the first – that is, it is the same as the first. This means that this is really one commandment in two parts. Loving God and loving neighbour are inextricably linked. The love that Jesus speaks about here is not an emotion. It is not just saying the words “I love you.” For Jesus, loving another person means to honour her or his value as a human being and as valuable to God, and to express this in actions of service, respect and kindness. Love is always expressed in action. Of course this is much harder than following the law. Legalism is attractive because it’s easy – you just tick each law off on a list. You’ve either done it or you haven’t. But, love requires true engagement with the other person. It requires sensitivity, curiosity, interest, compassion, and a willingness to extend ourselves for the other person. Love is messy and unpredictable and costly.

But, love is also the only place where life can be found. This is what we will be exploring this week.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 25 – 31 October 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Although it does not remove the scars of Job’s suffering – he would always carry the grief of his dead children, and the emotional residue of his sickness and humiliation – his story ends with God restoring him way beyond his original prosperity. It’s important to remember that Job is considered one of the books of Wisdom Literature along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. This means that it wasn’t meant to be a documentary of one person’s life, but a parable of human suffering and restoration. The message, then, is that when the innocent suffer, God will ultimately vindicate, heal and restore them. This is one of the readings for this Sunday. In Mark’s Gospel, as we will see, there is another restoration – that of the blind man, Bartimaeus. It’s good to be reminded that, although we will all endure suffering, God is in the business of restoration. Even when our suffering is the result of our own foolishness or wrong choices, there is always the opportunity to begin again. There is always a second (or third or fourth) chance. There is always the invitation to new life.

What is significant in the restoration passages this week is that God’s restoration is never just an individual thing. It always involves restoration to new relationships – with God, with family and friends, with our community, and even with ourselves. The wonderful gift of this is that, as our relationships are restored, our healing is sustained by a supporting and protective network. But, this renewal of relationships also means that when any individual is restored, the healing extends through that person to others.

This week we will explore the amazing, restorative, grace of God.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 18 – 24 October 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

We live in a world where the quest for greatness has become almost obsessive. Reality television offers the promise of fame and wealth to anyone willing to put themselves “out there”. Everything – from corporations to churches to individuals – is measured by the size of buildings, bank accounts or networks. And, while the growth of social media has connected us as never before, it has also created a whole new competition for greatness as we strive for ever increasing numbers of “friends,” followers,” or “visitors”.

This desire to be “special” or “exceptional” is not new. James and John wrestled with it as they secretly approached Jesus hoping to secure the best seats in God’s Reign. The other disciples had it too, which is why they got so upset when they heard what James and John had done. In the Old Testament, Job, who had perhaps become a little too obsessed with his own righteous suffering, was faced with a God who reminded him of his place, and, in the Isaiah reading we see this God revealed in the Suffering Servant who makes no claim to greatness, but saves his people.

This week we will be faced with two very important challenges. The first is to define greatness differently – in terms of service and sacrifice for others. The second challenge is to give up our quest to be extraordinary, and embrace the simplicity, the humility and the ordinariness of following Jesus just where we are. In a world driven crazy by the quest for greatness, embracing the glory of our own ordinary lives may be one of the most significant contributions we can make!

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

Daily Worship

Week of 11 – 17 October 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Two words come together in the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary this week: compassion and suffering. You may read about Job’s feeling of being abandoned by God this Sunday, or possibly the call of the prophet Amos for God’s people to live with compassion. Alternatively, you may hear the story of the wealthy ruler who was told by Jesus to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. Whichever reading is the focus for your worship this week, they all highlight what theologians call “God’s preferential option for the poor” – God’s deep concern for justice, equality and the end to poverty and unnecessary suffering in our world.

It’s tempting, when confronted with suffering, to intellectualise it. We can debate for hours why God allows suffering, and what we should do with those who suffer. But all of our theories simply create distance between those of us who are not suffering and those of us who are. Suffering is not a problem to be solved. It’s a reality that every human being must face to a greater or lesser degree. Suffering is a call to compassion and connection. When we are the ones who suffer, we are invited to experience God’s presence and grace within our pain, and through those who show compassion and support. When others are suffering, we are called to be the embodiment of God’s compassion as we serve and care for our struggling sisters and brothers. Either way, the most appropriate response to suffering is loving action.

This week, we will explore the Gospel’s challenge to embrace suffering – for the sake of our faith, for the sake of others, as a normal part of human life, and as a call to be Christ’s hands and feet to others.

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