Sunday, October 31, 2010
1 Praise the LORD, my soul.
LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
2 The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers, [a]
flames of fire his servants.
5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
24 How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, my soul.
Praise the LORD.
I’m using Tyndale’s ‘The One Year Bible to (strangely) read through the bible in a year and Psalm 104 was part of my bible reading for today. It’s a creation Psalm and focuses on God’s great creation and also his providence; that God acres for and provides for all his creation. It’s a Psalm that invites us all to give thanks to God for his goodness shown in this care for creation. I love the image of sea monsters; Leviathan frolicking in the ocean as they were made to do. It is great to see the wonderment and bounty of what God has made, eco-diversity expressing Gods creativity. Likewise it is good for us to remember that God is able to care for our needs. As Jesus says in the Sermon On The Mount
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?”
The Psalm also gives God’s people a solid foundation and challenge to care for and protect the ecosystem and environment that God has given to all creatures.
Creatures’ habitats are given as a gift from God, for them to live in and flourish. Be it the craggy mountain tops for mountain goats, right down to crags in the rocks for rodents like the Hyrax. Alongside that is the affirmation that humanity has been given land for cattle to graze and for crops and even the blessing of vineyards and to make oils to make the face glow (I think this is as close as it gets to a biblical mandate for the cosmetics industry. I fell asleep one time on holiday and woke up to find my kids taking this passage literally and shining my head with olive oil. Fortunately I was in the shade at the time otherwise I may have fried my brains (too late I hear some of you say).
The Psalm sees a God intended balance, our needs and the needs of creatures that express are expressions of God’s great power and love. Sadly as we read this psalm we can even see the way in which humans have had an adverse effect on creation. With lions in the Middle East being extinct and other animals mentioned here equally having their habitat and existence threatened. I live in a country that is very beautiful and has a clean green image, when I'm out driving across it (well more up and down it) I am amazed at the beautiful rolling hill country. But then I wonder how much more amazing and wonderful it must have been when it ws virgin native bush, barley 150 years ago and I am aware of the many native bird species that have disappeared or are on the endangered list. We have been guilty of thinking of our position in creation as being privileged and that giving us the right to pillage and misuse creation. To not be mindful of God’s creatures and the balance he has put into the world. To see empty land or non productive (for humans) land as waste land not realising that such places are part of God’s provision for all his creatures. We have been guilty of worshipping the creator and not being considerate of his creation.
Psalm 104 invites us again to consider the whole of God’s creation as gift and an expression of his creative power and goodness. Serving and worshipping God and rejoicing as also having an element of care and custodianship.
Thank you for the wonder of your creation,
the way you have provided for all your creatures,
you provision for us,
help us to see it and give you praise
to enjoy it and never loose the wow factor
In our worship help us also God to care for what you have made
to see it as gift,
to treat it with respect
to live in a way that all may have their share
to live in a way that all your creatures receive theirs.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
What words can comfort, what help in Christ? a reflection on Mary and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross
Nothing compares with this pain,
This grief, This sorrow
Enduring the cruel death of a son
This O so special one
This light of the word
Not the pain of childbirth
Forgotten in the joy of a babies cry
the grip of a small hand
the first suckle
Not the pain of having to flee
To be a refugee in Egypt
With the wail of other women crying for lost sons in your ear
Nor the loss of a husband, although that came near
Or the doubts about Jesus as he said and did all those radical things
Yet he is the messiah the one promised
That old man Simeon had come closest all those years ago
“ a sword will pierce your heart”
“A sword will pierce your heart”
This was God’s plan all along
In those words God prepared me for this pain, this sorrow...
It is part of God’s plan
I grieve but I believe
A widow who will now care for a widow
Without husband and eldest son
No welfare state, children are our pension
Our widows benefit, our health insurance
There is other family but none here
And Jesus a good son,
Who honoured mother and father?
What can be done?
Woman of faith yet bereft and alone
Counted blessed amongst women
Yet in need of care
A woman of faith with so much to share
“yet a sword has pierced her heart”
What words can comfort
What help in Christ?
The disciple that Jesus loved
You had said this would happen
You told us and told us
Yet as we marched into this city
It seemed as if all was well
They cheered you, hailed you king
It was quite a scene
Then they turned on you
Better that one man die rather than bloody rebellion
The sign says it well ‘King of the Jews’
Even the others have vanished
They had been with us these three years
They could not come
They are Hiding, disillusioned and afraid
But I could not, I love you so
We’d talked and laughed and I’d watch you cry
You had spoken and our hearts became alive
Even though we struggled to understand it all
That last meal I lay with my head on your shoulder
More than disciple and teacher, as you said we are friends
You’d said this would happen
And in the midst of my tears and my grief I hope
I hope in a God who is stronger than death
Yet I feel lost and bereft
In you I had found a mentor, a Rabbi
Someone I would follow anywhere
When you’d started saying the hard things about your death
People had left us in droves
Yet when you’d turned to us and asked if we’d go
We said where can we go, you have the words of eternal life
I am with you here as well and cannot abandon you
Where would I go you have the words of eternal life?
Where will I find someone with the wisdom to help me live for you?
What can I do for you my beloved friend?
If just a simple thing to ease your pain?
I feel so alone?
Are there any words of comfort?
What help in Christ?
Jesus words from the cross
“Woman, here is your son”
“Here is your mother”
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Just a simple prayer/poem/reflkection I wrote based on the simple word Beyond... based on ephesians 3:20-21
Beyond, the senses of touch, sight, smell and sound
Beyond our ability to comprehend and fathom
Beyond, the swirl of galaxy and spender of star field
Beyond the observable the vastness of time and space
You O God, are eternal, with no beginning and end
Beyond the dictates of science and reason
Beyond our wildest imagination
Beyond our greatest hopes
Beyond our not deserving it
You O God sent your son to be one of us, through his life and death to save us.
Beyond, our church buildings and worship
Beyond our skin and the masks we put up
Beyond our physical material being
Beyond our souls to the very core of our being
You O God, dwell in us by the Holy Spirit, closer than our own shadow
Beyond the fences and walls of our houses
Beyond the restraints of our civilised culture
Beyond the limitations we set on our selves
Beyond the comfort and numbing stupor of our consumer society
You O God call us to follow Jesus, to love as he has loved,
Monday, October 18, 2010
|Maclaurin chapel and surrounds|
It was a typical spring day in Auckland city, which means that it is what the crowded house song says ‘four seasons in one day’. As I sat in the sun the weather changed it got cold again and the wind began to howl through the trees and the leaves which have just begun to grace the trees again (this was one of the things new things I had noticed) shock and rustled. The tall trees not in the leeward side of the chapel began to bend and creak. In response to that I started to pay attention what I could hear. There was a lull in the wind and I became aware of the back ground hum of traffic, this dull rumble that permeates a urban landscape like the bass rumble of the soundtrack of our western world. An anthem to what we have achieved. Then the wind blew again and the traffic noise was drowned out by the rustle and whistle and roar of what was not really more than a strong breeze. The soundtrack of humanities march of progress disappeared behind this and I found myself surrounded by other sounds. I was aware that just like in Psalm 29 where the people in the temple cried Holy in light of the storm which swept up the Mediterranean, over the hills of Lebanon and onto the city that here was a demonstration of the power of God.
Did I feel God say anything profound in that... No. Beyond a real demonstration of his presence and his power: a real sense of the sovereignty of God. At the same time almost in a Elijah on Mt Horeb way that God wasn’t in the storm but being surrounded by this wall of wind noise that God was with me in the stillness as I sat there. The first time I went out with Kris, who is my wife for twenty three great years, we went out to the west coast of Auckland, we went out to the top of the Ahuahu cliff between Piha and Karekare. We sat together for an hour or so just watching the waves break far below us and the gulls and gannets swoop and play with the wind currents as they came of the Tasman sea and impacted the Waitakere rangers. Kris still talks about that time because we didn’t really talk but there was a real sense of companionship and being relaxed together and I sensed the same sort of thing as I sat surrounded by the wind, a sense of comfortable companionship.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
I’m involved in a church plant in Auckland city called StudentSoul at the moment I’m on a vision quest working with others to find what is at the heart of what we want to be as a church and community.
In an early discussion in one of our worship on Wednesday meetings (we’ve become fourth day Adventists and meet for worship on Wednesday evenings) I was working through some of the features of the young adult stage of life. I was talking about the process of individualisation, becoming an autonomous adult and in particular the process of owning one’s own faith. The process that late teens and twenty something’s go through to develop their own faith over and against the faith of their community and family, either finding that existing faith, worldview, value system is for them and gives them meaning and purpose for life or discarding it and finding something new. In what was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity one of the people present said ‘I’d like to have a faith worth owning’. That really struck home and you could almost feel the sense of collective agreement yes we would all like that. Yes we would all like to have something that at our very core gave us reason and purpose for life, something worth living for and even something worth giving it all up for.
Since that time we’ve tentatively flirted with saying we are a church that is about helping people find a faith worth owning. I’ve tried to expand on that and say for us a faith worth owning is a Christ centred faith, a faith worth living out and a faith worth sharing together and with the world outside our small community. But in what has developed as a sense of divine coincident as I have been working through a process with a friend to clarify my sense of vision and leading I have also been reworking an old sermon and made reference to Jesus parable of the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in a field, and this has helped to clarify my thinking or at least blown the horizons of my thoughts.
So this is just an attempt to articulate some of my thoughts (to get some clarity). Jesus wants people to have a faith worth owning as well. He tells these two very short parables in Matthew 13 as part of a wider section of parables about the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. He says that it is like a pearl of great value that a merchant sees and then is prepared to give up all they owns to possess it. Likewise it is like a person who goes out and finds a buried treasure in a field and then sells all he possesses and buys the field so they can possess the treasure.
Perhaps here is the difference between owning your own faith and finding a faith worth owning. It’s the degree in which you are willing to give up everything to own it. It’s finding something of surpassing value, surpassing worth that all else seems to pale into insignificance in the light of it. It’s something that you are willing to empty yourself for and that fills you up. That in coming to possess possesses you. Jesus is saying that the reign of God is such a pearl such a buried treasure, Jesus is that treasure, that pearl . This is at the heart of what discipleship means Peter in Mark 10 says ‘But Jesus we’ve given up everything to follow you”, later Paul will give an account of all the benefits he had as a Jewish man and a Pharisee and then say in Philippians 3:8 I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things...’
As I reflect I think this is an ongoing process, Giving up all we have to possess the pearl of Great price. Maybe we’ve seen it as a simple one off transaction like in an auction put your hand up and come get it ...but I find myself asking myself have I given up everything to possess the kingdom of God?
Being a church that is a place and a space where people can find a faith worth owing is being on a journey to give up all we have for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, for the sake of surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ.
It is a challenging endeavour because it invites us to look more and more closely at the personification of the reign of God in Jesus Christ and an invitation to put him more and more at the centre of our existence.
It is a community endeavour, because by myself I’m not sure I can do it, i need people on the journey with me to help and support and be part of that emptying myself to be filled with God.
One of the dangers I think of talking about owning ones faith is that the people whom Jesus seemed to be most upset with were not the people outside of faith but those who thought they owned the faith and could say who was in and who was out. The people who took great delight in saying I’ve arrived I’ve found it. But in Jesus parable there is something almost weird about the actions of someone who would sell everything they own just to possess one thing, it is as if instead of saying I own it, it is more that they are captivated and owned by the kingdom of heaven.
Having a faith worth owning in Jesus language calls for so much more than a belief system that fits in with a comfortable western lifestyle, more than a add on, or even a large part of one s life but something that in demands everything.
In the world of my favourite hymn ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”
“love so amazing love divine
Demands my life my soul my all”
A faith worth owning is one worth giving up all to possess.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the LORD,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits' end.
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for humankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
Psalm 107: 24-32
One of the oldest stories in our Christian European literary tradition is the ‘Navigato of St Brendan. It was used as a teaching tool in monasteries and towns from about the 5th or 6th century. It’s the story of an Irish Abbott Brendan who sets out on a sea journey across the north Atlantic in search of the kingdom of God. It just maybe that Brendan and his group of Irish monks in their leather hide coracle discovered America a thousand years before Columbus. They set off into the open sea and the Navigato tell of their amazing adventures.
They come close to a land of fire where Giants throw rocks at them. A place that they called the gates of hell, that sounds like a good description of the volcanic activity on the Icelandic coast.
They must have reach America because they come across a giant crystal cathedral although this one floats in the middle of the sea not California and if we are going to be scientific about it sounds like an ice berg.
They arrive at an Island to be welcomed by a large monk covered from head to foot in white fur, a polar bear perhaps, who knows them by name and has prepared a meal for them.
They encounter long period of being becalmed when they sit and swelter under the vicious unrelenting sun and they go through days and days of stormy seas.
They celebrate Easter on the back of a giant whale and the sea birds join in the harmonies of the psalms they sing. It’s a wonderful story, if you’ve read the voyage of the drawn treader by CS Lewis it is I believe where he got a lot of his inspiration.
Fanciful I here you say well Tim Severn a modern day explorer followed St Brendan’s voyage in a coracle in the early 1980’s and found that he came upon whales sleeping on the surface and that the traditional tools and foods that the Irish monks would have used actually stood up to the journey better than high tech stuff he had bough along with him as well.
But the whole story as I said before was used to teach: To teach that the thing that sustained the monks on their epic sea voyage through the storms was that they kept their monastic disciplines. They set aside time each day to sing psalms and pray and recite memorised scriptures. They observed the disciplines of the church calendar as the journey took them many years. The key to surviving the storms of life is the key that the psalmist tells us calling out to God and the “Navigato of St Brendan” shows us that this is best done not as an emergency measure but as a regular discipline for life.
The lifeboat crews along the same rugged coast line as the Irish monks or the IRB crews we see in shows like ‘Piha rescue’ don’t pull off life saving rescues by simply being there to respond to the call they regularly train and go through the routines that sustain them and save others in times when lives are not at risk. Peter Blake and other great sailers from our country don’t start with round the world adventures they grew up and spent many hours sailing the bays and harbours and foreshore of our island home. Likewise it is regularly keeping good spiritual health disciplines that will keep us through the storms of life. That will enable us to go into the deep to follow Jesus.
Here are a couple of prayers one from St Brendan and the other attributed to Sir Francis drake that I love and that sum up a willingness to venture out into the wild seas to encounter the wonderful deeds of the Lord.
Prayer of St Brendan
Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honour? Shall I throw myself wholly upon You, without sword and shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on? Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?
Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?
Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean? O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?
O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?
Sir Frances drake
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
When we arrive safely because we sail too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when in the abundance of thing we possess
we have lost our thirst for the water of life...
Having fallen in love with life we have ceased to dream,
We have allowed our vision of a new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery,
Where losing sight of land we find the stars,
we ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes
And to push us into the future of strength courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our captain, who is Jesus Christ.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Lord God we are so surrounded by the wonders of your awesomeness and love. We don’t worship creation but it is wonderful and constantly reminds us of its creator our great God.
Standing on the hilltops we are humbled by the beauty of this land we live in.
The greens and browns of the hills that go on and on disappearing into the distant heat haze.
Vistas and views that sing of your great creative power
And a glimpse of your eternal nature,
They remind us of the profound truth that just as the hills surround
Jerusalem and these hills surround us so you enfold your people in your mighty love.
We praise you for the wonder of the wind in this place,
The embraces of a gentle breeze remind us of your presence,
The still day reminds us of your peace,
The storm and winter wind that blows right through us
reminds us of the wind of your spirit disturbing us from our complacency and calling us onwards to new places new people to love and adventures with you.
You are not a tame God but the spirit blows where it will
As JK Baxter says ‘both inside and outside the fences’
We thank you for the profound truth that you who created it all became one of us. You lived in the valleys and laboured up the hills of Judea,
Meet with loved, taught and called people of the land and towns to follow you.
WE praise you Lord Jesus Christ that you know what our lives are like and that you gave your life to pay the price for all that we have done wrong. Lord God in this great gift of compassion we have found forgiveness and new life.
Thank you for the life that comes from you.
Holy Spirit you re the real presence of our real God in the up hill slogs the exhilarating summit experiences, the dark valley trails of our lives.
You have given us the comfort and companionship of our family both physical and the brothers and sisters fathers and mothers you have given us in our adopted heavenly family.
You teach of God’s love and open our minds and hearts to what our saviour calls us to
You convict of our sin and you lead us from them into new life
We do pray that you, O God, would forgive us for what we have done wrong and the good we have left undone.
For the times we have been unloving to each other and forgotten to show the grace that we have received from you. When our hands and our words have caused hurt. When we have allowed injustice to grow like weeds by our silence.
Thank you that as we have confessed our sins you have been just and faithful and forgiven us and cleansed us from all unrighteousness.
You work in the midst of our everydayness to produce your fruit
You equip us and provide gifts that enable us to point people to the wonderful wellspring of life we have found in Christ.
From the hilltop from the up and down slopes and from the valley floors Oh lord we join your creation to praise you: Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen