Archive for November, 2009

4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (27)

November 30th, 2009
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Scripture of the Day: Luke 7:14

Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (NIV)

In touching the coffin. Jesus made a very powerful statement that no religious rules or ceremonial obedience would ever get between him and human beings. All human beings. No matter what their status was.

The church cannot hide behind its theology, its priorities, its commission, its structures and not act out of unconditional compassion for the least who is suffering –whether in health or in the emotions caused by the sufferings of this fragile existence.

When we are really following Jesus there is no demarcation between spiritual worship and caring for humanity.

Message for the Day

4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (26)

November 29th, 2009
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Scripture of the Day Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
       to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(NIV)

This past week I reflected on the anguish of the orphans who suffered harshness in institutions as I enjoyed a happy secure childhood. Why were religious organizations complicit in this? Was their view of God distorted? A detached, authoritarian judge who is angry at our sins? A cold disciplinarian who is above and unapproachable?

Why would you tell people not to hug or touch small children, denying them warmth and security when the God Jesus revealed picked up children, is moved from his heart with unconditional compassion? Is it because the life of God within himself as a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit had been replaced by a big God, we don’t really know, who is above all as the final judge, and a smaller god, who is different from this harsh judge, and who tries to bridge us to him, nice but subordinate in the final count and a fuzzy force that is a neutral power holding things together?

To describe God as love and to say if you have seen me you have seen the Father, and to know the Comforter who comes to shed abroad the love of God into our hearts would make a very different emphasis to the one of cold detached control and distance.

If you were following Jesus at this time would you have seen the Father — that Jesus behaviour is the life of God within himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

And would we now begin to understand Jesus’ Jubilee message.

That indeed there was only good news in Jesus agenda: he wasn’t out to condemn or impose? His relationship with this widow woman was motivated purely out of compassion.

And more so in that she was a marginal person – on the outside. There was nothing to gain for Jesus. There was no other agenda or condition.

Message for the Day

4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (25)

November 28th, 2009
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Scripture of the Day: Hebrews 4:14-16

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.(NIV)

Recently we have emphasized being free to be really human.

Elmer Colyer: And the way I help seminary students and laity think about this is to think about the time in your life when you were most profoundly aware of the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the presence of God in your life, when God’s love and forgiveness were so real that you knew that you are a beloved child of God. It may have been at your conversion experience, in a worship service, or some other time. In that moment of time when you’re so aware of the love of God, can you even begin to imagine going out and living a lackadaisical life? In that moment of time, living as a disciple is the easiest thing in the world. It’s the most natural thing of the world. Because that really is what it means to be a human being – to allow God to live God’s life, Trinitarian life through us, in a way that frees our humanity. All of grace never means a diminishing of humanity. All of grace always means all of humanity.

 In the same way in the incarnation. When the second person of the Trinity becomes incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, does it in any way diminish Jesus’ humanity? Does he become less human than all other human beings? He becomes more human. He’s a character. You know, he takes a whip of cords and drives the money changers out of the temple. I love John’s Gospel. Jesus first miracle according to John’s Gospel, remember what it is? Turns water into wine at a wedding. Not simply wine but wine – six jugs that I think held like 28 gallons apiece. I mean there was enough wine for quite a party. Is it not interesting that the incarnate Son in his humanity is such a human being – more human than all of us are. So, God’s presence in our life, the grace of God never negates our humanity, it frees our humanity. We become more personal, more human. And so a 100% God doesn’t lead us to live a lackadaisical Christian life, it actually leads to the very opposite. It leads to the kind of freedom in the gospel that sets us free to be in love with God and neighbour in a way that we can’t otherwise.

What we actually see in Jesus is this freedom to be fully human. It is so spontaneous and responsive to the immediate human condition. We worship and praise God because this is the way he is.

Thus the Christian life is not a separation or being on some rock.

You may remember the illustration in the last Newsletter:

 The three stages of maturity in ministry

Back in the seventies I came across a book called “Ministering to Alcoholics” by John E. Keller. In it he wrote: “The story is told of the retired pastor who, looking back upon his ministry, divided it into three phases. In the first phase the people were in the river and he was on the bank telling them how to get out of the river and up on the bank where he was. In the second phase, he was on the edge of the bank reaching down and out to help the people get up on the bank where he was. In the third phase, the phase of real wisdom and understanding, he ministered with the realization that he was in the river with the people, they were holding him up, he was holding them up, and underneath them all were the everlasting arms of God.”

One can reflect on that many times and the truth of it becomes more real as one experiences more of life. It is amazing how clear everything can appear when we are helping someone else and we haven’t experienced the circumstances they’re going through. But, somewhere in life – and life is a great leveller – we go through a crisis or a very difficult challenge and suddenly it all isn’t so clear. We think dark thoughts, or have anxieties and doubts that are not very noble. And it is in moments like that we sometimes remember how “above-it –all” we were to the person we were helping or advising years ago.

It is then that we can come to see that we are all in the river of life together and we all need God’s rescuing.

Jesus had the compassion of an incredibly mature person – one who is aware of the suffering of others, not wrapped up in his own mission.

People can become so purposeful, so filled with the importance of what they are doing as to be totally unaware of ordinary people and their pain and suffering. We can walk right pass them.

It really is a matter of entering fully into our own humanity and recognition that we share this vulnerability. In fact whatever losses, grief, disappointments we have been through actually can become a blessing to others, because they help us to be free to be human without having all the answers. They direct us to trust in the one who is Lord over all our lives.

Message for the Day