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.

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

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.

Daily Worship

Week of 13 – 19 December

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

It sounds strange to see, in the last verse of this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the words “warnings” and “Good News” in the same sentence. For John the Baptiser there was no contradiction between warning people about their injustice and proclaiming the Good News of the coming One. Preparing for God’s coming was not just about having some nice feeling in the heart, or agreeing with some theological ideas. Preparation for John was about changing every facet of life – attitudes, belief systems and behaviour. This remains true for us as we hear the Advent call to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.

It is tragic that the season of preparation and incarnation has become one of the most unjust times in the human year. It is devastating that the time of “Good News” has become about consumption, materialism, and self-indulgence. If there is any preparation at all, it is in nice feelings of “goodwill” which may cause us to give a few coins to a beggar, or be nice to someone we would rather reject. But, what Advent calls us to is a far more radical preparation of our hearts and lives. It calls us to become people for whom justice is a core value. It calls us to be people who have been captured and consumed by the principles and mission of God’s Jubilee Dream – which is about economic equality, freedom, and caring for the earth. John the Baptiser is the embodiment of this alternative way of living – humility, commitment to the poor, sacrifice, simplicity, challenging corruption, and integrity.

This week we will allow these values to challenge us to be true Advent people rather than just those who use the season as an excuse to pander to our addictions.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 06 – 12 December 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This second week of Advent we focus on John the Baptiser, but specifically on his message, which was for the people to “Prepare the way”. Advent always calls out words like “waiting” and “preparation,” and they are important words because, in our instant world, we are not good at practising them. Too much of our lives are spent in reaction to events, people, ideas, and circumstances. Too much of our time is filled with busyness and noise. It is hard to slow down, to listen, to wait, to prepare thoroughly for anything, let alone God’s coming. Yet, John’s message remains true – God is coming to us and we need to prepare our hearts, and make a way into our lives for God to enter in.

Many spiritual teachers through the centuries have recommended silence and stillness as a way to prepare. These are good habits to nurture, but for many of us, our fast-paced lives make it very difficult to carve out time to be still and silent. For this reason, it is important that we also learn to do the work of preparation within the activities of our lives. When we can slow our minds and hearts down in the midst of conflict, we can find more helpful ways to communicate and find solutions. When we can slow down and prepare well for projects, events and people, we can ensure that we don’t have to repeat work that wasn’t done properly, or we can ensure that we have the necessary resources at our disposal.

Preparation is a big subject, and one that is crucial for our spiritual health. This will be the focus of our meditations this week.

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

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.