Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Prayer of thanksgiving and confession in the midst of life's churn and blur

In the book 'Soultsunami' Leonard Sweet talks of the way in which change has changed in our world. He says that it has just got faster and everything changes. Like it does with still photography when you are able to take more than 24 frames a second it becomes moving pictures and the rules change. Sociologists use the term churn and blur to talk of the way in which change happens now. This prayer was written in light of the changing world we live in. Be it the uncertain earth of my New Zealand home with its quakes, floods and slips or the rapid march of technology. which moves at such a pace that it I am aware that I often have more in common with dinosaurs than the new emerging world of my children. In the midst of this in this prayer I have tried to capture the presence of God in the midst of change and in an almost grand prayer if thanksgiving way retell the timeless unchanging story of God's grace in Jesus Christ.  As with all prayers I post please fell free to use all or part of them privately or publicly.

Holy, Holy, holy Lord God almighty.

We do raise our voices to praise you today o great and faithful God.

From the shore of our shaky island home we acknowledge that even when the world around us changes that you are constant in your character and your love.

More solid than rock; such a sure foundation.

In our times where as soon as we’ve got our head around something it seems to be out of date

or get something off the shelf its obsolete

that we can rely on you  that you lead and guide us

that you hold the future in your hands that you are constant in your love

You are gracious and full of mercy

Not only in moments of rest and tranquillity

But in the midst of the storms of life

In the midst of struggles and conflict

We can be still and know that you are God

That you are the one who is sovereign and in control

That you are eternal and transcendent

But also with and for us and so close

In this we find strength and hope

We praise you 

That even though you were the one who spoke and it all came into being who has no beginning or end

That in Jesus Christ you’ve also walked in our shoes

Experienced our highs and lows, joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain

Jesus we praise you

That you became one of us and showed us God’s great love

Revealing God as our heavenly dad

Healing with a touch

Embracing the outcast

Calling people not servants but friend

That because of your death in the darkness and violence of Calvary

We can have forgiveness, a clean slate and a fresh start

In your being raised back to life we can have new and abundant life

Eternal life that steps through the veil of death into your light

That as you’ve sent your Holy Spirit

We have a guide and enabler who leads us into all truth and empowers us to witness to the hope we have in you.

Thank you our most wonderful God

We also ask today O God

That you would forgive us

We admit we have sinned and confess them before you this morning

We have acted as if there was no God or even if we were God

We are full of pride and have chosen to go our way not your way

We want to turn again and follow you

We have put our hands to things that have been wrong and unjust

We have not loved, as you would have us love

We have been so concerned with our stuff and our agenda that we have been impervious to your call to care in our world

Forgive us O God

Thank you that you are faithful and just and as we have confessed our sins you have forgiven us and cleansed us from all unrighteousness

The slate is clean and the stain is gone.

O gracious and caring God in the midst of our still moments and our chaotic days, When things are going swimmingly or we feel like were just treading water we pray you would fill us afresh with your spirit that we know you presence, your comfort and your guidance. That we may testify to the great light and life we have found in you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bringing a Friend To Jesus Mark 2:1-12 Close Encounters OF The Jesus Kind Part 5

Mark’s gospel is primarily concerned with showing us who Jesus is. It’s sort of a mystery novel at the beginning we are told that this is the good news of Jesus the messiah. In Mark’s version of Jesus baptism and temptation we are given a heavenly perspective of who Jesus is then in Jesus ministry we glimpse what it really means that Jesus is the messiah and the Son of God. Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God and we see that this means that Jesus has authority to heal, he has authority to free people from demonic possession and in this encounter with the paralysed man we see that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Not only does Jesus deal with the consequences of our fallen world he also deals with the root problem as well. “Your sins are forgiven’. It’s a gift freely given.  And as we hear from the teachers of the law, people who know their scriptures only God can do that. 
The other thing that this passage does is that for the first time we see that Jesus comes into conflict with the religious authorities and leaders, this is going to be a theme that repeats itself through out the gospel. When Jesus says to the man ‘your sins are forgiven’ they immediately realise that he claiming authority that only God has and this is blaspheme, only God can forgive sins. The jewish religious system had a well defined sacrificial system to make atonement for sins but to freely forgive sins this was not for man to do but for God to do. Like all people when confronted by Jesus claims about himself or what he showed by his actions and teaching they had to ask the question who is this person Jesus. Is he a liar, or mad, or bad or is he the messiah. Jesus shows his authority by healing the man.

I want to focus on some other people in the story, because I think we need to see their example for us today. That’s the group of people we only know as friends.  We don’t know their names we don’t even know how many of them there were, there we at least four. But we do know they had a friend who was paralysed and they hoped that Jesus could offer healing and wholeness to their friend, so they decided to bring him to Jesus. We don’t even know if he was a willing participant in this venture, maybe when Jesus said your sins are forgiven he knew that deep down inside this man was saying all along ‘I’m not good enough for this, I deserve to be a cripple for the things I’ve done wrong, who is God to have anything to do with me’. But they brought their friend to Jesus and he was healed and made whole. I want to look at what these friends have to tell us.

The first thing we know is that they had faith in Jesus, when Jesus looks up probably with dust and dirt in his hair from the tiles and mud from the hole they had made to lower their friend through. It says that Jesus saw their faith. It’s the first time in the gospel that faith and healing are connected. They believed that Jesus would be able to help their friend. Maybe they didn’t fully understand who Jesus was, they may not have been able to give their paralysed friend a detailed understanding of Jesus they just knew he could help. They had faith and as it’s a good illustration of what James says about faith, that you see a persons faith by their action. They didn’t just have a set of beliefs about Jesus a set of confessions about Jesus rather their faith moved them to want to bring their friend to Jesus. It spurred them to action. We can believe a lot of things about Jesus be devoted to him yet how does it spur us on to want to see Jesus bring healing and wholeness into the lives of the people in need around us. Does our faith in Jesus extend to seeing him as a source of help and healing and life for people we know even those who seem to have no need.

Secondly, they were a people of love. They must have loved their friend, honestly hoped the best for him . They knew him, perhaps they had been people who brought him food, carried him out to the place where he could beg for alms which was the only avenue of revenue open in their society for him.  Possibly given him money themselves and cared for him, done the things that he could not do for himself. When Jesus came back to the town, they could have been like the other people and rushed to hear what Jesus had to say, but instead they thought of their friend and went to get him. I’ve often heard many impassioned pleas for evangelism and mission but at the heart of seeing people come to Jesus is not that we believe its our duty to so these things rather its our love for other people. The great commission, ‘Go into all the world and make disciples out of every nation teaching them to obey all I have commanded you and baptise them in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit’ is not just a cold order but rather an expression of the love that Jesus has for us and his great commandment that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. The most effective form of evangelism is not mass evangelism or door to door or street evangelism its showing love to people around us in need befriending them and loving them enough in the context of a friendship to bring them to Jesus.

Thirdly, they worked as a team to get their friend to Jesus. They pooled their resources, their skills their determination and their energy to see this person they had cared for get to Jesus. It took four of them just to move him. Often we tend to think that sharing our faith with others is a personal thing, it up to the lone ranger super Christian type. But you know maybe you and I will simply be the person who finds the rope we’ll need or who points to the stairs and allows the other people to carry a friend up to get to Jesus, it’s a team effort.  But some of the greatest things we can do is to welcome people to be part of us to belong before they will believe, to invite them to make friends with us and then they will make friends with Jesus. As a church you know I hope we are here for each other and able to be with each other to show Christian love and bring our friends to Jesus.

Fourthly, it wasn’t easy to get their friend to Jesus. AS they got to the place where Jesus was they found that the door was blocked and the place crowded with other people. Maybe it was like the one day Cricket games this summer and there were security men at the door checking bags and the size of drink containers. But there was no way through the crowd to Jesus. When we bring our friends to Jesus we will meet obstacles. You have to say that there are many people who are kept away from Jesus because of the people standing round him. We need to live with the criticism that the best advertisement for Christianity is Christians and at the same time the worst advertisement for Christianity is Christians. People often can’t see Jesus because we are in the way. You know its not easy brining friends to meet Jesus but he is the one that we know is a light for them and its worth the effort.

Fifthly, To get their friend to Jesus they needed determination, ingenuity a plan and the right tools. In the near east the roof’s of the houses are flat and there is a staircase up the side of the building, in the heat of the day people will live in the breezy air on their roof, Sort of an ancient near eastern version of outdoor summer living. The BBQ not on the patio it’s on the roof.  So they thought what if we went up there and broke though the roof and lowered our friend down. And in the reply of a well known Kiwi beer billboard may be we’d say “yeah Right”.  But they loved their friend so much they thought of ways of getting round the problem. They would have needed to get either some sort of tool to break through the tiles and mud and rope from somewhere and they did. They maybe even would have thought about well whose going to pay for the damages to the house, we don’t know.  We often fail in bring our friends to Christ even when they have a need that Jesus can meet because we don’t have plans we get put off by obstacles or we don’t have the right tools. We don’t have enough holes in the roof for them to go through.

There are lots of good tools available like Alpha and pamphlets that set out a gospel message or good books and bible study groups available, but you know they in themselves don’t bring people to Jesus and often we get caught up in thinking about the tool rather than the goal of getting people to meet Jesus and be made whole. We think we’ll you know people are suspicious of the tools, people who use them come across as insincere used car salesmen. Notice the use of plans and tools only comes well after having faith and showing love.  Do we think of the tools in the hand of a great craftsman making a table or a sculpture a thing of beauty and say man you used those tools on that piece of wood rather than you have a vision of beauty and you know how to apply the tools with love to create it.

Finally, the friends were rewarded that when they bought their friend to Jesus it was Jesus who ministered to him and made him whole. In fact Jesus did so much more than they expected. He not only met the man’s presenting need his paralysis he also healed his soul and his relationship with God and the community round him. They brought their friend to the place where he could see Jesus and Jesus was the one that ministered to him. It was their faith that enabled that to happen.

There were three groups of people in this story who gathered around Jesus. The crowd who came wanting to hear him preach the word and maybe they too were hoping that Jesus could meet the needs they had in their lives. There were the religious teachers of the law, who were there to check Jesus out and see if he would fit in with their religious understanding of the world and then their was this group of friends who saw someone they knew who was in need and brought them to Jesus and the challenge for us this morning is well which group do we fit in which group around Jesus are we going to be.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jesus Guide To Success Mark 1:35-45 (Close Encounters OF The Jesus KInd Part 4

One of the distinguishing features of the twentieth century, which is following us into this new millennium, is the fascination that we have with fame and success. It’s a product of electronic mass media that people can become famous all over the world. They can become celebrities whose faces and name sell everything from movie tickets to cameras, shoes, perfume and clothes.  The often sordid details of their flawed and broken lives sell new papers and magazines. We all want to know their secret to success or the details of their fall.

In the west many of us have reached a level of success and material wealth that was unheard of 100 years ago let alone in the history of the world, and we tend to live lives of some comfort because of it or at least try to catch up with  to the expectations of comfort that our consumer society pushes on us. Into this world as we read the gospel of Mark this person Jesus Christ walks and invites us to follow him. Today as we look at how Jesus handled the growing success of his ministry and work in Capernaum and Galilee. I pray that we might have a close encounter of the Jesus kind that would enable us to look at our lives and how we handle success.

Jesus had preached in the synagogue in Capernaum and had delivered a man of an unclean spirit. The people had been amazed at the authority with which he taught. He had then gone to the house of Simon Peter and had healed Simon peters mother in law. The town folks had waited till after the Sabbath was over and brought all their sick friends and relatives and people suffering from unclean spirits and Jesus had healed them and set free.

Then in the passage we had read out to us today we see that after this Jesus gets up early in the morning and heads out to a desolate place to pray by himself. His disciples come looking for him because as they say when they find him ‘Jesus everyone is looking for you’. Perhaps my imagination runs away with me but you could imagine in our days reporters wanting to interview him, perhaps the local radio or TV station wanting to talk about a show, a clothing store wanting his endorsement “Nike gospel shoes a blessing on the feet of him that spreads good news. Definitely the people wanted to know more, hear more and see more healing from Jesus. But Jesus tells his disciples that its time to go to another village and preach that the kingdom of God is near. His purpose is to preach the good news in all of Galilee. You don’t get the idea that this is Jesus doing a McDonald’s and wanting to open a franchise in every town, rather as he has been alone with God he has sensed that this is God’s purpose for him.

As he preaches in other towns he encounters someone with the dreaded skin disease leprosy, a disease that has caused him to be ostracised from the rest of God’s people. He takes the risk of approaching Jesus against all the customs and laws of his culture and Jesus is angry and then reaches out and touches the man a move that would have been seen in his society as making Jesus unclean, but Mark tells us that with Jesus touch the leper is made clean he his healed. Jesus tells him not to say anything, rather to go and show the priests and give the appropriate sacrifices. But the man can’t contain himself and goes and tells everyone what Jesus had done. He has healed the unhealable and as a result of this we are told that Jesus can no longer openly go into the towns for risk of being mobbed he stays out in the wilderness and people come out to him.  

What is there in this passage for us? How can we say that in these short verses and this brief encounter with the leper is Jesus guide to handling success? Three things.

Firstly, He does not stay with the acclamation of the crowd even when it is laced with the demands of the needy, rather he comes out to find solitude to connect with God, to pray. 

 In the face of Jesus success in the town of Capernaum his focus is not on what he has achieved but rather the core relationship in his life. Jesus knows or at least will come to know how fickle the adoration and the acclaim of the crowds will be.  In the last week before his death the crowd that cries hosanna, hosanna blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord will become the crowd who chant crucify him, crucify him before Pilate. Jesus knows that the most important thing in life is our relationship with God so he goes to pray.

In our world be it in the busyness or in the business of being or looking for success, in the demands of our life we too are confronted with the same dilemma. To stay or to go and pray. In our world today people are talking about re-evaluating what it means to be successful. People know see wealth not  having the most things or money but rather having the time to invest in the important relationships in their lives. Success is being able to have the lifestyle you want, people work hard to get a lifestyle block so they can spend time with their families. Yet many find that in actual fact they just have to work harder to maintain that life style. Jesus shows us that in the face of the demands of success he is willing to be disciplined to make a priority on that most important relationship with God. To do that always means that we make priority time for what should be a priority. That we will walk away from other things sometimes important things for something which may not always seem important and urgent but is of the greatest of value.

Secondly, Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to other towns in Galilee, you’d think that maybe he’d head back to Capernaum and clinch the deal, build a solid base from which he could then expand his ministry when the time was right but Jesus in his solitude with God has reflected not on what is successful but what is the purpose that God has for him and he chooses to go that way. We may find ourselves doing well at many different things in our life yet we find meaning and purpose not in our success but in doing what God calls us to do. Which may not be successful in the eyes of the world, but it is in God’s. Jesus knew that God had called him not just to Capernaum but to all the other towns in Galilee so he is prepared to walk away from success to do what God desires.  In Mark chapter 9 after Jesus disciples have made the great affirmation that Jesus is the Messiah he tells them that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer and die. They are obviously totally shaken up by this, in Peter’s response you all most hear him acting as Jesus publicist “you know Jesus can I just say that’s not a good career move’. But it tells us that Jesus set his face to Jerusalem, knowing what lay ahead of him and knowing what God’s will was. The challenge is the same for us today to find purpose and meaning in the purposes of God rather than success and a comfortable life style. They are not mutually exclusive by the way but we can mistake one for the other.

There is of course then the question ‘well what is God’ will for my life?’ Rick Warren’s book ‘the purpose driven life’ is very helpful in this because he points out that God has already revealed his purposes for human beings through scripture and it as we work to fulfil these that we find God able to direct us to the specifics of our own circumstances.

Rick warren points out five purposes that God has for his people.

Worship: To know God and love him, love the lord with all your heart and soul and mind

Fellowship: to love others as I have loved you

Discipleship: to grow more like Jesus. If you love me you will keep my commandments.

Ministry: To use the gifts and talents that God has given us to serve his people in the church. We are the body of Christ. 

Mission: to go into all the world and make disciples teaching them all that I have taught you and baptising them in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit.

Thirdly, Jesus success did not lead him to hob knob with the rich and famous like in our time and day rather it leads him to encounter with compassion the least in life, those ostracised and outcast from society. He encounters a leper who comes and begs him to heal him. Scripture tells us that Jesus was angry, not because this man had dared to come and get near him, risking contaminating him with this disease, but rather angry with the way this disease had effected the man and caused him so much grief and pain. He does the unthinkable in his society reaches out and touches the man and the man is healed.

We often find our selves fascinated with the rich and famous or even the rank and infamous but the Jesus guide to success calls us to the poor and lowly.

I was moved by two things I read this week that challenged me about the lepers in our world. One from a novel I am reading by Geoff Thompson. It’s raw and violent and hard to read. His main character says.

“I never trusted God. Never. God was for posh kids. I knew that that much. God didn’t come to houses where the mum’s had faces permanently bent from too many drunken beatings, and dada who had crippled minds , and kids who wore plimsolls through winter and summer because the family allowance was fighting on too many fronts.”

From an interview with Bono the lead singer of the band U2 in rolling stone magazine, Bono is a Christian and a man who is at the forefront of justice issues in the world. He says this about the church and aids.

"I'm wary of faith outside of actions. I'm wary of religiosity that ignores the wider world. In 2001, only seven percent of evangelicals polled felt it incumbent upon themselves to respond to the AIDS emergency. This appalled me. I asked for meetings with as many church leaders as would have them with me. I used my background in the Scriptures to speak to them about the so-called leprosy of our age and how I felt Christ would respond to it. And they had better get to it quickly, or they would be very much on the other side of what God was doing in the world.
Amazingly, they did respond. I couldn't believe it. It almost ruined it for me -- 'cause I love giving out about the church and Christianity. But they actually came through: Jesse Helms, you know, publicly repents for the way he thinks about AIDS."

Jesus success leads him not away from such places and people but towards them and the call to us is to follow.

Possibly the most famous Christian in the last century, an old nun in the cluttered and dirty streets of Calcutta summed up her Christian faith by saying “ I meditate on Jesus and then go and find his face amidst the faces of the dying of this city’.

Here are some questions I want to leave you with for your reflection. In them I hope you will have an encounter of the Jesus kind.

In what ways is Jesus calling you not to stay but rather to go to the solitary place and pray?

How do our lives our priorities and time and successes align with God’s purpose for us?

Who are the lepers that Jesus is inviting you to risk reaching out and touching with his healing hand?

 In the answer to these we may not find success as the world defines it but Jesus and things of eternal value.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hey Jesus Do Something About My Mother In Law (aka Jesus Heals) (Close Encounters Of The Jesus kind part 3/ Mark 1:29-34)

AS we are looking at a passage where Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and I though we could start by telling a few mother in law jokes. But then I realised that church is a very mother-in-law rich environment so they might not go down too well. I did search the Internet for some son in law jokes but I couldn’t find any.. I did find one however: ‘Behind every successful man is a good woman and a surprised mother in law’. And here is another

“ A man was really struggling to know what to buy his mother-in-law for Christmas so he decided that he would buy her a plot in the local cemetery. The next year he didn’t buy her anything for Christmas and when she complained he replied well you haven’t used what I brought you last year”

As we look at this passage today we see that Simon wasn’t that kind of son in law, he cared for his wife and her family. Simon’s mother in law had a close encounter of the Jesus Kind and was healed of a fever and returned to full health. This led on to many more healings in the town of Capernaum and as we encounter Jesus in the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God that Mark wrote we too I hope will know the reality that Jesus heals.

 Jesus had been at the synagogue in Capernaum where he had astounded the people with the authority of his teaching and had delivered a man of an unclean spirit. In Mark’s typical fast paced narrative style we are told that right away Jesus went to Simon’s place.  Simon’s mother in law was ill with a fever and Jesus goes up to her and raises her up off the bed and the fever breaks and she regains her strength. While it was the words of Jesus that had freed the man of his unclean spirit in the synagogue here it was through an action of Jesus laying hands on her and lifting her up that she was healed. In Christian healing we follow Jesus example by praying and laying hands on the sick hoping that Jesus will heal. 

Both these miracles took place on the Sabbath which we will see latter in Marks’ gospel will lead Jesus into conflict with the Pharisees. They were miracles that occurred out of necessity however after the sun had gone down and the Sabbath was over people brought their sick and family members suffering from unclean spirits to Jesus at Simon’s house and he healed them.  The healings and deliverances were not just one off unique events but were typical of Jesus ministry. Jesus heals.

Traditionally Mark has been connected with Simon Peter and in this event we catch a glimpse of Simon’s personal memories. The healing of his Mother-in-Law would have had a great impact on him and his family and so Mark has recorded it. We are told that right away as Jesus came into the house he was told of her illness, I jokingly titled this sermon “Jesus please do something about my mother in law” and that may have been taken the wrong way but Jesus was informed of her illness out of concern.

Probably your also thinking that when she is healed that it’s just typical of those men to get the mother in law up to get the meal ready and wait on them. But firstly it shows us that she had regained her complete strength, she has been restored to health. Secondly, the word wait on tables is the same word we use for minister. She does this as a way of showing her gratitude and her faith in Jesus. Just as we all in gratitude for what Jesus has done for us want to serve him so she does. Strict Jewish Rabbi’s would not let women serve them at the table but Jesus accepts her service not out of cultural expectations but as a sign of her devotion and gratitude.

Again for Mark the healings are designed to show us first and foremost who this person Jesus is. That’s the focus of Mark’s gospel. Jesus has the authority not only over the demonic as we looked at last week but also over disease and infirmity We are to see that in Jesus the kingdom of God has broken into the realm of man and sin and darkness are defeated and all the consequences of those things problems with unclean spirits, illness and disease are also to be put right.  The passage we had read out to us today from Isaiah points to the hope that the prophet talked of when the kingdom of God would come and in Jesus miracles and healings the hope of the kingdom is shown. Later we will see that hope in the outcasts being included into the people of God: in salvation.

When we say that disease and illness are a result of sin it does not mean that people get sick because they have sinned rather death and decay, illness and afflictions are a result of our fallen human condition, we live in a fallen world and even the good suffer the consequences. When Jesus came not only did he deal with the root problem our separation from God through sin but also its consequences as well.  Does this mean everyone will be healed? No it doesn’t while the Kingdom of God came with Jesus we await its consummation when Jesus returns. Then we will see an end to these things not now, as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26.

Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be defeated is death. 

However as we look at the gospel and the rest of the New Testament we see that Jesus heals and he delegated this authority to heal to his disciples in his name. In Mark 6: we read of Jesus sending out the twelve to proclaim the kingdom of God and as they went and proclaimed they cast out many unclean spirits and anointed the sick with oil and they were cured. Christians also anoint people with oil sometimes when they pray for them today. In Acts we see that Jesus disciples saw God heal people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul and Peter had similar experiences to Jesus where people would bring all the sick to them to be healed. The spirit used these events to show the truth of their proclamation of the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus heals. IN James chapter 5 we are told that the prayers of the righteous accomplish much and if anyone is sick they should call the elders to lay hands on them and anoint them with oil.

Some people have taken this passage to mean that only really holy people can pray for others and see them get healed. In the catholic tradition it is one of the proofs when they make someone a saint. However when it says the righteous it’s all who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, because we have been made right with God through faith not our own holiness. In fact in the passage in James the example that is given is Elijah in the Old Testament who prayed and it didn’t rain for three years and then prayed and it did rain. James tells us that Elijah that hero of the faith was a human being just like us. It’s Jesus who heals by the Holy Spirit.

It can happen as we pray for people today and well. I remember when I was working at St Columba in Tauranga an elderly women with a degenerative disease came to a service we had with a women called delirious winders She was prayed for to be healed. A week or so later one of our elders went round to visit her and she said watch this and went into the bathroom and started standing up onto her tiptoes and back down again holding on to the towel rail. She did about twenty of them and the elder didn’t really know what she was seeing. The women explained that before the prayer service she had struggled to even do five of these simple exercises that the physio had set for her. She would be exhausted and have to go have a rest. She continued to improve. One day we were very concerned because she seemed to get worse again but she when she went to see the doctor he said that she was suffering from side affects of the drugs she was on and as she was so well she didn’t need to be on such a high dosage. She didn’t evert run a marathon after that but there was a great increase in her standard of health for the rest of her life.

There are also times when people tragically don’t get better and they die. I’ve shared with you the story of Belinda a girl in our youth group at Titirangi who had leukaemia and twice she went in to remission when we prayed for her, which was unheard of, and finally she did have a third relapse and die. You all probably have people close to you who you have prayed for who have not got better.

Like we talked about with demons last week there are a lot of excesses that have put people off the idea that Jesus heals through our prayers.  Some people are fakes and charlatans, some people are showmen and the shouting and dancing round that seem to accompany such prayer put us off. We live in a time when we are once again inundated with alternative medicines and quacks who claim to heal and we don’t want to be associated with them. We live in a time where we want and even expect ‘healing at all costs’ when we expect miracles from scientific medicine or from God or anyone just as long as we overcome the illness. I don’t know if that is healthy.

In Jesus day they didn’t have the medical science that we have and even the fever that Simon’s mother in law had could have been fatal. We don’t know what it was by the way. Know we do have an amazing medical science. Perhaps in the midst of all this our overt need for God has decreased we pray for the Holy Spirit to be with the surgeons and doctors as they treat people. In New Zealand we don’t realise just how much of the healing arts have Christian origins. In the US and Europe a lot of the hospitals and clinic were established by churches and Christian groups because Christians were concerned about seeing people get well. Our public health system hides then in our country although we still do have the catholic hospitals. Presbyterian Support in the Bay here is at the forefront of plaietive care in new Zealand, not healing but working to care for the dying. Jesus healing ministry has lead many Christians to work in the health fields and in many third world countries it is the Christian missions that are at the forefront of providing medical care.

I have a friend who is very involved in Mission work in the Sudan, in particular with the tribes in the south of that country that are persecuted by the more powerful Muslim tribes in the north. One of their church leaders came to speak in New Zealand and shared how when the western doctors were taken away from the region they found an increase in the number of people who were healed when they were prayed for. Again in desperation they turned to God and God was gracious to many of them. Like with Simon’s mother in Law they discovered that Jesus heals.

John Wimber was the founder of the vineyard church moment in Anaheim California and he is also known for the books and seminars he wrote on the healing ministry. He talks about the horrible track record he had when he first decided that the Holy Spirit was calling him to pray for the sick to be healed. He had come from a denomination that believed that healing and miracles were for the first century only and not for today but as he had read and studied scripture he had felt the spirit prompting him that Jesus heals even today. He started to pray for people and they seemed to get worse, but after a while he saw some significant healings take place. I always remember his comment when asked by a reporter about what he did, he said that more people got healed now he prayed for the sick to be healed that when he didn’t because he believe in it.

In the end our focus is that of the gospels it is to look to Jesus. To encounter and know Jesus, God’s son who has power over sin and death. Today I want to invite you to have a close encounter of the Jesus Kind: To meet with Jesus again in a new and fresh way in the midst of your real world.

Here are some questions that I hope will act as a doorway to meet with Jesus like the door the people of Capernaum gathered round to encounter Jesus and receive wholeness and healing. Is there something in your life that you need to bring to Jesus for healing? Is there someone in your life that you want to bring this morning to meet with Jesus the healer that he may touch them and make them whole?  Do you want to recommit yourself to serving Jesus in response to what he has done in your life? Jesus heals.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cell Phones And Ceremony and The Black Humour Of A video on Cell Phone Karma

The secretary here at Maclaurin Chapel sent me this video on Cell Phone Karma. Making fun of a situation many of us have experienced.

It's a modern phenomena that we have to deal with cell phone interruptions. I have to admit that often forget to turn my cell phone off during worship on Wednesday and have on two occasions have had my phone go off.

One funeral I took the lady who had died had learned to use her cell phone to keep in touch with her grandchildren. They had placed her cell phone in the coffin and at the end of all the eulogies the kids txted a final farewell to 'Nana'. It was rather unnerving, and a bit humorous to hear her phone go off in the coffin. I did say "Boy! we're in trouble if she answers" . After the service the undertaker said he'd better remember to take the phone out again before the cremation otherwise their could be an explosion.

We used to follow the "Willow Creek" cell phone rule at meetings in Rotorua. If your phone goes off in  meeting then you had to buy everyone there a pizza. Of course with my youth leaders, they all wanted a frese pizza so instead of turning off their phones when the cell phone rule came into affect they would txt bomb each other in the hope that someones cell wasn't off.

Maybe these days the most common line in calls to worship in services needs to be 'Please turn off your cell phones".

It does I guess give a whole new meaning to the idea of Cell Phone Service.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Close Encounters of the Jesus Kind (Part 2/Mark 1:1-13): Every Story Has Its Begining

In September 1998, in theatres all over the world the media reported a rather strange phenomenon people paid good money to see a movie and then two thirds of the audience stood up and walked out after the ads and movie trailers choosing to leave even before the feature began. They didn’t even demand their money back in fact many of them simply waited around paid some more good money and then repeated this bizarre behaviour. The reason was that the two minute trailer for episode one ‘the phantom menace’ had been released and a whole generation of Star wars fans flocked to get their first glimpse of the prequel to the much loved science fiction series that they had been waiting fifteen years to see.

At the heart of this two-minute preview were the words every generation has its legends and every story has a beginning and then a clip from the film where Obe-Wan-Kinobe is introduced to Anakin Skywalker; the epic story of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker better known in the second series as Darth Vader had begun. Every story has its beginnings.

All four gospels chose to start telling the story of Jesus life and death at different places. It’s helpful because it enables us to view Jesus from different perspectives. Matthew starts with Jesus whakapapa, his genealogy, linking him back to King David and Abraham, focusing us on Jesus as the fulfilment of the covenants made with these people. Luke starts with Angelic foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus himself. There is a sense of continuity between the Old Testament and what is about to happen. The Holy Spirit works in the midst of human history continuing the work of God’s salvation.  John starts by painting a picture of cosmic beginnings reminiscent of the first chapter of genesis, focusing on Jesus divine origins before the beginning with God and as God.  Then he like Mark introduces Jesus to us at his baptism.

Mark like the other gospel writers chooses to start in a way that reveals to us information that for him is vital to understanding this person Jesus.

There is a contrast between the prelude to Mark and the rest of the gospel. Scholars have identified what they call the messianic secret in Mark. Just who Jesus is seems to be a secret and as people encounter Jesus they are left wondering who he is? We are supposed to gain an understanding of Jesus as God’s anointed one and Son through his actions and teaching. But here at the beginning it’s as if we are let in on the secret we get to see Jesus from a Heavenly perspective and we know who he is.

Mark’s account of Jesus baptism and temptation are so brief they feel like they could be part of a movie trailer. We don’t get the detail or explanations of these events that would help us understand them. We may be left wondering about why Jesus came to be baptised and about the details of his temptation in the wilderness. But Mark simply uses these events to tell us what he wants us to know about Jesus.

Mark’s prelude is full of witnesses to Jesus as the messiah and as God’s son. The scriptures call us to prepare the way of the LORD and point to the coming of the anointed one. John the Baptist the epitome of the Old Testament prophet in the wilderness, an Elijah figure announces the one who is coming and is far greater than he. The one who is coming will do what only God can, baptise people with the Holy Spirit. Then in Jesus Baptism we have a divine sign that is out of character with the everydayness of Jesus miracles in the rest of the gospel as the heavens are torn apart and the spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. We hear a voice from heaven say ‘this is my Son in Whom I am well pleased’ words from Psalm 2 that God speaks of the King he has placed on Zion his holy hill. These very same words are spoken in Isaiah 42 of the figure people call the suffering servant who through his suffering achieves God’s salvation for others. Here we have the ultimate witness to Jesus. In one of the most Trinitarian verses in the New Testament the Father and the Spirit testify to the identity of Jesus as God’s own Son.  We are not left wondering. We see God revealing Jesus identity to us.

Then ‘right away’, words we will encounter again and again in Mark’s fast paced writing, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. All we are told is that for 40 days he was amidst the wild beast’s images that Jewish writers in their fear of the wild equated with demonic forces and that angels sustained him. Here we have a pattern that repeats itself in the Christian life. We have great spiritual experiences and then we are led into dry desert times where the reality of what we have experienced is tested. But this is not the focus of Mark. In Luke and Matthew’s account Jesus temptations are recorded and he uses scripture to defeat these temptations. But this is not the focus of Mark.

Rather Mark shows us that the Son of God, the messiah has come and that this leads him into conflict with the ruler of this world, Satan. Jesus has come to usher in God’s kingdom and to defeat Satan and the power of darkness, sin and death. In Mark Chapter 3 Jesus is accused of casting out demons by satanic power but he replies that you must first defeat and bind the strongman before you can plunder his house. You get the feeling that here in the desert Jesus has defeated the strongman and as he meets with people who are ill, maimed or afflicted by demons in the rest of his ministry he is simply plundering the strongman’s house, setting free those who have been held captive by the power of evil.

How do we encounter Jesus in this passage? How do we have a close encounter of the Jesus kind?

Yes there is some very solid Christology in these two events. We meet Jesus very much a human being and a servant of God willing to come and be baptised and who can be tempted. We also see the divine nature of Jesus attested to by the other two persons of the trinity. We see that in Jesus the kingdom of God has entered into the kingdom of man and of darkness. As Philip Yancy says ‘Jesus has come to lead the fight against evil in the world’.  

But there is more. Being a follower of Jesus is more than just knowing about Jesus. It is knowing Jesus! It’s not just creed and confession. It is relationship.

It’s apt that Mark introduces us to Jesus at his Baptism because Baptism is the starting point of the Christian life. Or rather it is the outward sign or marker of the inward reality that we have come to know Jesus Christ and choose to follow him. In the case of infant baptism it is the mark that our parents commit to bringing us up knowing Jesus until such time as we own that relationship for ourselves.

All our stories have a starting place as well. We meet Jesus in as many diverse ways as the four gospels choose to introduce us to Jesus. Many of you have known Jesus all your lives. Others of you have meet Jesus in the wilderness and desert conditions of your life. Jesus has begun walking with you and brought water and new life in the dryness. For others of you it’s as if Jesus has walked on to the scene a complete surprise and unlooked for and you’ve come to see that he is the Son of God. For others it is as if you have been snatched from the very house of the strongman.

But you know it’s not how the story starts that’s the key thing its how it continues. Its how it grows and develops and ends that makes it a great story. With ‘Star wars’ what makes the prequel so interesting is that we know the outcome at the end. Any story and journey with Jesus needs to develop beyond the start and to grow. At weddings I say that the best metaphor for marriage that I know is that that marriage is work. Not very romantic but apt and the only better metaphor I know is that marriage is hard work. But what great work committing yourselves more and more to one another and seeing your love grow richer and deeper at life’s end than it is today at the beginning. And so it is with our relationship with Jesus. Jesus whose meeting is signified at baptism invites us to journey on with him. To know him more and more, to get to be closer to the one who loves us, that we the bride of Christ might grow in our love for him.

Secondly, that as we continue on that journey with Jesus it is a continuing process of the kingdom of God coming into our lives. It’s a continuation of the defeat of the kingdom of darkness that Jesus won for us. Both in our lives, a life long journey of becoming more like Jesus as we with his help over come the temptations of Satan and in the world in which we live as we are salt and light taking the Jesus we know into the darkest corner of the places and world in which we live.

I want to leave you with a couple of questions today that I hope will be doorways for you to have a close encounter with Jesus:  The first is have you started your journey with Jesus, have you meet him? Has Jesus walked into your life and have you responded? Is the spirit calling you today. 

Second question, Is what ways is Jesus inviting you to go beyond the start or to have a fresh start today? What way is Jesus calling you to meet him and know him in deeper ways? For some of you the dryness you are experiences in your souls at the moment is Jesus inviting you into the wilderness with him where he will walk with you.

Finally, are their areas that the Son of God is pointing to in our lives that are holding us back from continuing on our journey? Places where Satan has got a good foot hold. Allow the spirit the freedom to speak to you about such areas. They can be overcome through confession and turning back to God.

Close encounters of the Jesus kind invite us to continue on in our relationship with Jesus. AS Paul says in Philippians 1:6 ‘we have confidence that the one who started a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ’.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Close Encounters of The Jesus Kind (Part 1/Mark 1:1-9) Are You Prepared to Encounter Jesus?

A few years ago I preached a long series on Mark's Gospel. I've been rereading it recently as part of  preperation for looking at parallel passsages in Luke's gospel with people at our "Worship on Wednesday" and I am going to post a highlights package over the next month or so (along with other bits and pieces on my blog, in the hope that it may help you to have "A Close Encounter OF The Jesus Kind"

- Blessings

Howard Carter

Leonard Sweet starts his book “Out of the Questions and into the Mystery”, ironically, by asking the question ‘how could we have got the point and missed the person?’ He maintains that Christianity has allowed  itself to become a religion of creeds and belief statements and even rules, rather than relationship. We talk a lot about Jesus, we sing a lot about Jesus, we confess a lot of things about Jesus but at our very heart do we know this Jesus? We live in a world that is crying out for genuine authentic relationship and it will not be satisfied with knowledge about a person they will want to meet this person, introduced by people who know him well.

 In this series of posts I want to work my way through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s son that Mark wrote.   Mark himself calls his book the good news of Jesus the Christ, Son of God.  The series is called ‘Close Encounters of the Jesus Kind. The tile comes from the 1977 blockbuster film ‘close encounters of the third kind ‘. A Stephen Spielberg movie about making contact with beings from another world, a close encounter of the third kind is a face-to-face meeting. In the movie it was a meeting that transforms the life of the main character played by Richard Dreyfuss. My hope is that as we look again at Jesus and his life and death we will have fresh close encounters of the Jesus Kind we will meet Jesus in new ways that will transform our lives.

I chose the gospel of Jesus Christ that Mark wrote for several reasons. Firstly out of all four gospels it seems to be the one that we know the least, most of What Mark tells us is repeated in the material that Matthew and Luke uses and we are used to hearing Jesus words as recorded by Matthew in particular and Luke or the unique approach of John. Hopefully as we look at Jesus in this book it will allow us to get some fresh insights.

Secondly, Mark focuses more on what Jesus did and peoples encounters with Jesus. It’s why I hope that as we read and work our way through these encounters it will lead us to encounter Jesus a fresh for ourselves. 

The third reason that I want to use Mark is that apart from the strong affirmation of who Jesus is in the preface here in Chapter 1:1-13 people who encounter Jesus are left rather dazed and confused as to who Jesus is. I love mystery novels and Mark is like a mystery novel. People have referred to the ‘Messianic Secret’ in Mark: That apart from here, where we are let in on the secret from the beginning people are left wondering “who is this Jesus”. Even when Peter as spokesman for his disciples makes his great affirmation  ‘You are the Messiah’ in chapter 9:29 Jesus tells them not to tell anyone and then after he talks of the messiah having to suffer and die he has to tell Peter to get behind me Satan because Peter’s understanding of the Messiah doesn’t line up with his. ‘Who is this Jesus’ is a question that will lead us to fresh insight.

Mark chooses to start his Good News of Jesus Christ Son of God, not with an introduction to Jesus himself, but to two witnesses to Jesus, firstly the scriptures. He quotes from the prophets.   While he is writing to a predominantly gentile audience Mark starts with the fact that to understand who Jesus is we need to have the God Frame that the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament)  provides. You get the idea that there is both continuity and something new, and as the Old Testament affirms, before God does a new thing he declares it to his people.

We are then introduced to a second witness the rather enigmatic person John the Baptist. The way John is described his clothes, his habitat in the wilderness and his diet are meant to paint the picture for us of an Old Testament prophet in the vein of Elijah. The Jews have from a long time back believed that Elijah would be the one who was sent as a forerunner for God’s salvation of his people. At their Passover feasts they leave a seat vacant and an extra place setting for Elijah.

John's message was two fold he calls people to repent and turn back to God and proclaims the one who will come after him. One who is greater than he is. Luke fills this out for us by saying that the one who comes after John is greater because he has come before him, he has been pre-existent but Mark leaves us with the idea that the one who comes after him is so much greater that John wouldn’t even be worthy to untie his sandals, the most menial act of the lowliest servant. This is a veiled reference to Jesus divinity. He goes on to say that while John baptises with water the one who would come after him would baptise with the Holy Spirit’. Here John is telling his listeners that this one would do what only God is able to do fill people with God’s own spirit. For his Jewish listeners there was the expectation that the messiah would bring in the kingdom of God, which would be a time when God would pour out his spirit on all who believed. It looks forward to what Luke would write about in Acts Chapter 2.

As I read this passage what Jumps out at me is ‘prepare ye the way of the LORD’ it raises the question ‘Are we prepared to encounter Jesus Christ? I want to share six thoughts on how we can be ready to encounter Jesus.

1. We need to be looking to turn afresh to God. 

AS you can tell from the quotes in the order of service today many people find Jesus fascinating and appealing. However John called people to be prepared themselves by turning to God and repenting this gives us the attitude we need to adopt. It’s realising that we are broken sinful people who need God’s love and forgiveness. In Jesus own words  ‘Blessed are the poor of heart for there is the kingdom of God’.

2. We need to be willing to confront our preconceived images of Jesus.

In his title Mark calls Jesus the Christ, the Son of God and we have almost lost the sense of this being a title for Jesus and it has simply become his second name. Jesus Christ or as some will want to profane Jesus H Christ. Christ is the Greek word meaning anointed one, the Greek version of the Hebrew word that means the same thing Messiah. It encapsulates the idea of priest and king. Even the term Son of God has been one we use so often in our songs and confessions that we often say it with out thinking about it. Jesus doesn’t use these titles of himself in the book, he prefers the title son of man, into which he can infuse his own meaning. To get ready to encounter Jesus afresh we need to be able to go beyond these familiar words and our own images of him. .

Philip Yancy in his book ‘The Jesus I never knew’ says that he has had many different images of Jesus in his life. He at one time had a Sunday school image of Jesus in his mind. Associated with pictures like the one on the cover of the order of service today. He identified Jesus with flannel graphs, weak cordial, sugar biscuits and gold stars for attendance. Later in life he found himself with images of a cosmic spiritual Jesus encapsulated by a picture of Jesus as disembodied spirit emblazoned in the sky above the UN building in New York. He was at a very conservative Bible College at the time and would later reflect that Jesus was always shown as having Long hair and a beard both of which were banned in that institution. Then in the height of the Jesus freak movement of the late 1960’s he said he had an image of Jesus as a social radical very much like those he was surrounded by. The book ‘the Jesus I never knew’ was written as he again wanted to rediscover Jesus. If we are to be ready to encounter Jesus afresh we need to be ready to allow Jesus to grow past the images of him we already have.

4. We need to be open to new vantage points on Jesus.

Brian Mclaren in his book Generous Orthodoxy talks of meeting seven Jesus in his life.  Not like my Sisters ex partner who was on the emergency psych team in West Auckland who told me that he could not believe in Jesus because in the course of his work he’d met him four Jesus, along with five Elvis’s and Jimmy Hendrix and he wasn’t that impressed. But Brian McLaren talks of meeting different understandings of Jesus from different strands of the Christian faith. He says he was enriched at being able to look at Jesus from the traditions of Protestants both liberal and evangelical, from Pentecostals and Catholics, eastern orthodox, Anglican and Anabaptists. It was as he began to appreciate those different viewpoints a fuller richer picture of Jesus came into focus for him. The question are we ready to encounter Jesus invites us not only to realise that we come to Jesus with our own set of images and from our own context but to be prepared to hear the voices crying in the wilderness and have our relationship with Jesus enriched and deepened by the reflections and understandings from all our different brothers and sisters. Even then Jesus is so much more that the sum of all this.

5. We need to be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

It is only with the help of the Spirit that we will encounter Jesus. The one who is coming will baptise people with the Holy Spirit. The Same spirit that had been looking forwards to his coming in the scriptures of the Old Testament and had inspired John the Baptist to preach and baptise has been sent on us as Jesus says in the gospel of John to lead us into all truth. It is openness to the Holy Spirit that makes us ready to encounter Jesus; A willingness to let the Spirit work in our lives and to touch us with the very hands of Jesus.

6. We need to be ready to encounter Jesus today.

Many of us have followed Jesus most, if not all our lives, and I don’t want to sound like I’m saying we don’t know him, my hope is that as we look at Jesus we are ready for Jesus to meet us today. He will meet us at our points of need, just like in the gospel narrative. He will meet us at points of challenge, where we may need new insights and strength for the next steps in our journey as disciples.

I want to say right here at the start of this journey through this gospel by reiterating what Mark says first about Jesus: that Jesus is good news. Jesus is good news for all of us. In  Jesus there is Hope for those without hope, Light for our darkness, purpose for life, new beginnings, forgiveness and wholeness, healing for body and soul, strength for the future, challenge and the power to be transformed and bring transformation, and eternal friendship with God. This is truly good news "Prepare ye the way of the LORD."  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flying Rats and God's Providence and Care

I had a couple of encounters with Pigeons today. Not the majestic native wood[pigeon's of New Zealand (Maori name Kereru) but the common garden variety, urban nuisance, flying rats.

It is the spring equinox at the moment which means unpredictable weather and high winds. So there are a lot of (or a flock of) pigeons sheltering behind the chapel today. AS I walked down to pick up a gluten free bun for communion tonight (Worship on Wednesday) I had to step my way through about ten pigeons that decided with the wind it was easier to walk, and they scurried round my feet, bobbing up and down in that comical way they do. I had to stop and look at them, or risk scrapping one of f my boot and once again I was amazed at how different and unique each pigeon was. Normally you just think pigeons! flying rats! eating and crapping machines! but each bird had a different pattern on their wings.

It reminded me again of a passage in the Sermon on the Mount... (Matthew 6:25-34)

25 “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 than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Reminding me again of God's ability to look after us: To care and know even each of these vermin individually and care for them.

On the way back to the chapel, I was walking with my head down wrestling with decisions I have to make and how they might impact on the family and I, and  almost like I needed a reminder not to look down but to look up I found myself in the midst of a flight of pigeons, leaving the chapel as the storm winds calmed down. I was a moving obstacle in their way and I was forced to look up and see them flying all around me.

Thank you God for your provision and care,
I put my trust in you
Thank you God that even if on of these should fall you know
Help me continue to look up and put your kingdom first.

Addendum: The day after writing this blog I opened my email and read  the verse and voice email from Sojourners and found this quote

"If you're going to care about the fall of the sparrow you can't pick and choose who's going to be the sparrow. It's everybody."- Madeleine L'Engle
A reminder from the Lord that while my focus has been on my own situation we need to remember that the fact that God knows even when a sparrow falls to the ground is a call to remember God's care is for everyone and his call to put first the Kingdom of God  is to do the same.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In the storm... encountering God in the midst of a nature miracle in Luke 8

This week at Studentsoul we are looking at Luke 8:16-25. dealing with some of Jesus teaching on listening, a shocking story about who is Jesus family and the story of Jesus calming the sea.

Once again as I have prepared for Worship on Wednesday I have felt God's Spirit speaking into my situation, and this stormy period of my life. As people who read my blog or are acquainted with me will know I am having to make decisions about my future direction. I've been dealing with grief and anger as the church plant I am have invested three years of my life into comes to an end, and in the midst of that having to look to the future... where to from here? With all its difficulties and concerns.

Just like with Jesus saying 'hey lets go over to other side of the lake... I know that God is calling me away from here. (see my encounter with the greasy stain of a wood pigeon) But where that will lead is shrouded in the distant darkness as sure as the far shore is hidden on a night journey into a rising storm.

It's a rocky journey. An emotional roller coaster, wrestling with simply seeking the nearest safe haven or solution or being prepared to be patient and look in the midst of storms where is the spirit leading.  Looking at the whole sense of call, looking beyond the boundaries of the denomination. Wrestling even with family or gospel first? ...really how to keep the two in perspective... and now quite a few different options to consider!

AS I have done reading on Jesus calming the storm I have sensed God speak through the commentaries I have been reading.

NT Wright comments of the disciples faith " They have had their faith tested but have not preformed well" Well I guess I can relate to that.

Darrell Bock says

"God has never promised our lives would be empty of pain, disappointment, or storms. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not teaching about a true walk with God. What God does promise are resources to journey through the raging water. Like the disciples who cry out in 8:22-25... stillness comes after the fierce storm."

 " The passage is a call for deeper, trusting faith, even in the midst of circumstances beyond our control. There is no telling how often some of the disciples , as former fishermen, had been on the lake in the midst of a storm. Yet it is clear that they were powerless to deal with such forces. Thought their faith is weak, they did the right thing in turning to Jesus for help. Only their cry that they were perishing was in error. Had they understood God's care, they would have realized that divine care never takes a break, even when it leads into rough waters. Jesus' call for faith is also a call to reassurance that God is aware of whatever storms we are going through and is watching over us."
(Bock , 1996, 238)

While Auckland is close to the sea I haven't been surfing since I moved up here and I guess I have forgotten what it is like to wait for the storm and then to go out in the sea to ride the waves. I've  even
got too unfit to paddle out on the wild west coast here (the image with this post comes from the keyhole at Piha Beach, used at low tide to get out the back where the big waves are)  but the challenge is to have a faith that is firm enough to be prepared to trust and ride the storm. As I often quote from that B grade movie 'In God's Hands' surfing 40 ft waves (not that I ever have) is to put yourself in God's hands".

O Lord its stormy but I will trust in you'
O Lord it stormy, and it deels like I could be swamped, but I trust in you'
O lord its stormy, but I trust you to get me to the otherside'
O Lord its stormy, I don't need the waves stilled or the wind calmed
O Lord its stormy, I will follow and trust you to see me through