Daily Worship

Week of 20 – 26 March 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This week we journey through Holy Week – the time when we meditate on Jesus’ final days before his death. In these last moments, Jesus faced strong opposition from the religious leaders as he offered some of his most challenging teachings. But, he also demonstrated to his disciples the grace and love that characterised his ministry. One central theme that runs through the entire week is the meaning of Christ’s death. This is a subject that has been the source of much debate through the centuries, and there are a number of different ways to understand the sacrifice of Jesus. Sometimes it’s best to simply allow the Scriptures to speak without trying to analyse too much, especially during this important season.

As you journey through Holy Week, try to make some extra time to reflect on the life, death and message of Jesus. Meditate on the cost he was willing to pay for the sake of God’s Reign, and on his commitment to love and service above all. Notice how his values challenge and undermine those of human systems of power, wealth, and instant gratification, and investigate the extent to which your own life follows the values of Jesus. If your church is offering services of worship through this week, you might want to make an extra effort to attend in order to allow this significant season to touch your life more deeply.

May this Holy Week bring you closer to Christ, and draw you deeper into the revolutionary reality we call the Reign of God.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 13 – 19 March 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

The Lenten season is often viewed as a sombre time. Few people celebrate or enjoy repentance, and the word “discipline” is seldom associated with celebration. Yet, this week, as we enter the final stretch of Lent before the Holy Week journey through Jesus’ suffering, the Lectionary calls us to celebrate. The Gospel reading from John tells of Mary’s extravagant display of devotion to Jesus as she anointed his feet with expensive perfume and dried them with her hair. The Old Testament reading from Isaiah, and the Psalm which is set for this week, call God’s people to celebrate God’s salvation. It may feel strange to speak of celebration in Lent, but all the heart-searching, discipline, and repentance is about becoming whole, living up to our best selves, and enjoying the abundant life that comes from the loving, sacrificial way of Jesus. Mary’s offering is a challenging example of such celebratory devotion.

It can be easy, when faced with the suffering and evil of our world, to lose the capacity to celebrate. It can be easy to become cynical, pessimistic, and despairing as we wait for God’s justice to fill the world. Yet, if we allow ourselves to lose hope and joy, we also lose our capacity to experience God’s life, and to contribute to bringing healing and justice into our small corner. When we live from fear, we become self-protective hoarders who try to hold on to what we have in case things go wrong. Yet, in her love for Jesus and her trust of his way, Mary easily let go of what little wealth she had in order to give herself to the Reign of God that Jesus proclaimed. Following Jesus is not about becoming overly serious and sombre, and it’s not about clinging to survival. Rather, the way of Jesus is the way of extravagant sharing, joyful celebration, and trusting love. This is the call of our meditations this week.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 06 – 12 March 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

The parable of the Prodigal Son is so well known that we may easily skim over the surface of it thinking we already know everything it has to tell us. However, the central teaching – of forgiveness and reconciliation – is never easy to learn. We need to review what repentance and restored relationships mean many times before we really learn to put these basic principles into practice in a real way.

One of the problems with our approach to this passage is that we have almost forgotten the brother of the Prodigal. We focus on the forgiveness of the father, and the restoration of the son, but we miss the fact that the two brothers had to learn to find each other again. This was not an easy task, since the brother who had remained at home would now have to split some of his inheritance with his returned brother who had lost everything. His resentment is natural and understandable. But, the question he needed to face was how much he valued his brother, how much he was willing to sacrifice for reconciliation, and how much he would rather be right than be in relationship. It must have been a tough choice, and the Gospel does not tell us what he finally decided to do. We are left to decide for ourselves the appropriate response in such a situation.

This week we will explore both the costs and the benefits of repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness.

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

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.

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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.

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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.