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.

Daily Worship

Week of 04 – 10 October 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This Sunday, if one of the Lectionary readings was used in your worship, it may have struck you how concerned God is about relationships. This week the readings ranged from God’s creation of men and women to be companions for one another, to the pain and brokenness of divorce; from Job’s struggle to be faithful to God and his bitter wife, to Jesus who humbled himself in order to serve human beings, whom he considers his brothers and sisters. Today’s readings are just a fraction of the biblical teaching on relationships. For God, in the end, it all boils down to loving God and loving one another.

But this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. People can be extremely difficult to love. People can be antagonistic, selfish and arrogant. People can disagree with us and mock us for our faith. Some of this very human sinfulness was reflected in the disciples as they rebuked those who brought children for Jesus’ blessing. They probably thought they were helping Jesus – protecting him from trivial things. But, they were getting beyond themselves, and they needed to learn the humility, spontaneity and openness of children – which is why Jesus tells them that his followers must learn to receive God’s Reign like children.

You can’t follow Jesus without facing the challenge to be in relationships. Our families, friends, strangers, companions in faith, and even our enemies, are all included in God’s love, and in God’s call for us to love. The truth is, it is only when we learn to embrace love to this extent that we really find the abundant life that God desires for us.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 27 September – 03 October 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

We love to make faith about who is “in” and who is “out”. We love to believe that we know how God works, and that we can easily discern when something is “of God” or not. We like to feel that we are in God’s inner circle, and that we are beloved by God while others are not. We may say out loud that we know that God loves everyone, but in our hearts we easily start to feel like we, and those in our group, are God’s favourites.

But this week, the Lectionary challenges these exclusive views of God’s work. Just when it looks like we have God all worked out, God does something completely unexpected. If we don’t keep our hearts and minds open to this surprising work of God, we may just find ourselves missing out on what God is doing. In the Old Testament, the story of Esther reveals how God can use serendipitous events and unexpected people to save those who are being oppressed and persecuted. In the Gospels, the disciples tell Jesus that they found someone casting out demons in his name, and they told him to stop. But, Jesus tells them not to stop him because “anyone who is not against us is for us.” Certainly God seems to be less worried about credentials and the right connections than we are!

This week, why not try to open yourself a little more to the surprising work of God in your life and your world?

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

Daily Worship

Week of 20 – 26 September 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

The challenge of our faith is to recognise our choices and choose wisely. One temptation is to make faith about what goes on in our heads, making righteousness about right ideas and wickedness about wrong ideas. Usually this temptation leads us into legalism, finger pointing, angry debate, and exclusion. Another temptation is to strive so strongly for inclusion and acceptance that we become naive about wickedness, and forget that there is true evil in the world. Usually this temptation leads us into a watered down form of faith in which we stand for nothing, accept everything, and pretend that all ways of living and believing are equal – which they clearly are not (just ask anyone who has been the victim of religious violence).

So, the challenge we face is to identify what righteousness and wickedness really are. The Scriptures are very helpful in this quest this week. James speaks of righteousness in terms of humility, peacefulness, gentleness, mercy, fairness and authenticity. Jesus speaks in similar terms in the Gospel of Mark – the greatest in God’s Reign are the ones who are willing to serve and to welcome the least and most vulnerable. To live righteously, then, is to allow our lives to reflect the character, the integrity and the servanthood of Jesus. Wickedness would be to do the opposite of these things.

Once we’ve identified the choice, we must make our decision. It may seem easy – we all want to be righteous. But, when it comes to the tough challenges we face in our world – when we are attacked by others, when we are judged and misunderstood, when we are weighed down with the busyness and routines of every day – it can be hard to live with the integrity and love of Jesus. This means that the choice to live as righteous Christ followers is not a once-for-all decision, but a daily commitment. This week will help us to practice making that commitment each day.

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

Daily Worship

Week of 13 – 19 September 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

There are so many ideas that come together in the Lectionary readings for this week: wisdom, the power of the tongue, and taking up the cross. What holds all of these ideas together is the call to live with integrity. Integrity is not the easy choice – which is why it so easily gets put aside when we face the tough moments in our lives. Perhaps the greatest threat to our integrity is the siren call of expediency and consumerism. It’s far easier to seek out “sexy” worship services that make use feel good, but leave our garbage unchallenged, than it is to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel. It is far easier to “go with the flow” than to stand up for truth, justice and love, especially among our own family members and friends. But, we all know the power of a life of integrity. We have all been touched in positive ways by people of integrity. This week, the Scriptures will call us to raise the “integrity quotient” of our lives.

We live with integrity when we embrace God’s wisdom and live it out, rather than just speaking words that we do not put into action. We live with integrity when we stay faithful to God’s ways, and speak God’s message, even though it may result in suffering, struggle and sacrifice. We live with integrity when we acknowledge who Jesus is and proclaim him as the Christ, while understanding that he is a crucified God who calls us to take up our own crosses. We live with integrity when our lives reflect the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and when our words are filled with praise, blessing and wisdom, rather than cursing. When our words, our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions all align with one another, and with the ways of God that were taught and lived by Jesus, then our lives are lives of integrity and they are lives that add value and make a life-giving contribution to the world.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, right click on the link below and select “Save As…”

Week of 13 – 19 September 2015

For downloads of Previous reflections in PDF format click through to the Daily Worship Downloads Page.

Daily Worship

Week of 06 – 12 September 2015

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Most of us who are reading this have access to technology that qualifies us as, at the very least, “middle class.” This can make talking about God’s passionate concern for the poor more than a little uncomfortable. Part of the problem is that we tend to frame the conversation in either/or terms. If God is “on the side” of the poor, then God must be “against” the wealthy. Or, if God “blesses” the wealthy, then God must be “punishing” the poor. There are theologians on both sides of this debate, and, as long as we keep viewing things this way, the debate is not going to end soon.

But, the Scriptures do not really enter this debate at all. There is no question that God loves and welcomes whoever seeks relationship with God. There is also no question that God seeks justice wherever there is injustice – which means that where people suffer, God will send prophets and activists to work for healing, restoration, and transformation. The challenge for us is to learn to share God’s passion for the poor, and to become more and more comfortable with the tough conversations around bringing justice into our world.

One thing we cannot avoid, if we are serious about following Christ in our daily lives, is becoming involved in God’s work of justice and compassion. What this might mean for us practically is part of this week’s journey.

To download this week’s reflections in PDF format, right click on the link below and select “Save As…”

Week of 06 – 12 September 2015

For downloads of Previous reflections in PDF format click through to the Daily Worship Downloads Page.