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.

Daily Worship

Week of 27 December 2015 – 02 January 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This week we have been celebrating the incarnation – God becoming human. It’s one thing to proclaim that God has been embodied in human flesh, but it’s a completely different thing to understand what that means for us today. If the incarnation is nothing more than an interesting quirk of history, it really makes no difference to our lives. But, of course the incarnation is far more than that. If we can believe the radical idea that, in the man Jesus, God was present and active in our human world, then that says an awful lot about God and about us. It tells us things about who God is and what we can expect from God, and it tells us things about who we are as human beings, and what we can expect of ourselves.

This week you may have heard about the boy Samuel who was dedicated to God and who lived in the Tabernacle with the old priest Eli. You may also have heard about when Jesus was forgotten in the Temple when he was twelve years old. If you put these two stories next to each other, you can’t help but notice some parallels. Both Jesus and Samuel were dedicated to God from their birth. Both boys were very comfortable in the worship centres of their time. Both grew wise and strong and gained favour with people. And both came to influence God’s people greatly. While there is one significant difference between the two – the Gospels proclaim Jesus as God in human flesh – there is a clear message in this resonance between the two boys: Jesus was not really different in his humanity, his experience of life, his need to grow and learn, from the rest of us. His divinity did not make him somehow “supernatural”. When the creeds proclaim that Jesus was “fully human” they mean it.

It is important that we understand the humanity of Jesus, but also learn what his humanity says about his divinity. This is the tough challenge of this week.

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Daily Worship

Week of 20 – 26 December 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

At the centre of this week, of course, is the Christmas celebration for which we have been waiting and preparing throughout Advent. Much has been said and written about the sentimentality of this season, and of the various ways in which it is abused or misunderstood. But, the truth is that even the call to “put Christ back into Christmas” misses the point. Christmas is not, essentially, the celebration of a baby, no matter how divine. What we celebrate is the new order that is marked by this baby’s birth. In Christ the first signs of God’s Reign, which has invaded our world, are seen. In Christ God’s Reign is now available and accessible to us. In Christ the world of God’s dreams – the world we long for – is becoming a reality among us. Even for Jesus, his mission and message were never about himself. It was all about the Reign of God.

The readings this week, including those for Christmas Day, seek to move us away from any picture postcard illusions about this season. They refuse to leave us in a happy, comfortable celebration that asks nothing of us. Rather, the Scriptures on which we will meditate this week will challenge us to choose between the “kingdoms of this world” and the kingdom of God. They are subversive, revolutionary readings that call for a radically different way of being in the world. The point of this celebration is not so much that we worship the baby, but that we follow the baby in his mission to establish God’s dream on the earth. As Richard Rohr says, that’s why Jesus never says, “Worship me”. He only ever says, “Follow me”. This is what we will explore this week.

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