Wednesday, 31 March 2021

2 poems for Easter 2021

 

A poem for Easter 2021

 Sometimes silence

The space while Jesus scratches meaning 

In dust upon the ground 

 

Sometimes silence 

After raging storm has ceased and they are

Clueless Who's before them

 

Sometimes silence 

Deafens for He's laid in borrowed tomb

And soldiers guard the stone

 

Sometimes silence 

Of breaking hearts first morning of the week

and He's no longer there

 

Sometimes silence 

Gasping inhale when Risen is among them 

and opens blessed wounds

 

©JCV 01 April 2021

 

Un poém pour Pâques 2021

 Parfois silence

Pendant Jesus écrita par terre

Dans cette poussière

 

Parfois silence

Après l'avoir calmé la tempête

Tout surnaturel événement

 

Parfois silence 

Pendent la fermeture finale

D’une sepulchre banale

 

Parfois silence

Des femmes si éttonnées que

Leur Seigneur resussité!

 

Parfois silence

Entre tous qui ont surveillent

ses blessures frâiches, sacrées

 

©JCV 01 April 2021

Monday, 29 March 2021

When you can’t see… LENT 2021: Gospel of John, chapters 14-17

 LENT 2021:  The gospel according to John, chapters 14-17

When you can’t see the forest for the trees…

It’s been necessary for me to wear glasses since the age of 11, and now in my late 40s, the slow but sure decline of my vision continues a preoccupation with seeing clearly - seeing well.

The interactions of the disciples and Jesus during the final discourses of his life give us a glimpse into how hard it is to see, even when something, or someone, is right in front of our eyes. 

We can imagine that scene where John 14 onward, takes place:  Jesus was before them, in rabbinic traditional pose for teaching, and they – loyal followers of Jesus – were around him listening intently.

Disciples had been called to follow this man, and they had done so. They - and others - were there when he turned water into wine, when he fed thousands of people, when he calmed storms and opened blind eyes, and yet, the recorded conversation shows that they still could not “see” Jesus.  They were those of whom demons had been cast out, who had received healing, and who had donated towards the ministry, and now, who were hanging on his every word.

Here, Jesus was concluding his earthly ministry, heading to Jerusalem and to the cross as he had told them, and here leaves the incredible words of John chapters 14 to 17 to comfort his disciples, and ourselves.

In this beautiful passage, we get an interruption from Philip who piped up and asked the question on the minds of them all:  Show us, please Jesus! Let us see who you are talking about!  Who is this Father, and how does it all fit together?

Clearly, there was another picture in the minds of the disciples, something that they saw that blocked their view of Jesus.  Were they still dreaming of a Jewish revolution to overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel?

Jesus had refused to be made a military leader.  Now, he reiterated that knowing him is the same as knowing God the Father, and having seen him (Jesus) is the same as having seen God. [Jesus already outraged the religious leaders by calling God his Father, John 5:18]. 

For the religious leaders of the day, that meant he must be removed – killed - as necessary to keep their observances calm from disruption.  For the disciples, this meant confusion and anxiety as to when and how the “kingdom” Jesus had proclaimed was going to come about. Neither group could see Jesus.

Philip and the others were following Someone who had up-ended their lives. They had given up everything for him – some their fishing boats and livelihoods; women regularly gave of their wealth to support Jesus, and one poured out a costly perfume. They followed up and down the dusty roads of the region, and they heard his words and saw what he could do.

Who was Jesus, if not a food provider, a magic worker, a mystical healer, or a purveyor of pleasant distraction from the harsh realities of life, or a leader to bring an end to Roman oppression?

The disciples both ‘saw’, and did not ‘see’.  There was something going on, and now Jesus was talking about leaving them. Right there, they could only see a gloomy future without this amazing man... they despaired of their teacher moving on and leaving them without a plan and without guidance.  The passages in John’s gospel show how much Jesus saw and felt for them in their pain and confusion.

There is no shame in asking questions, and the honesty of the accounts found in all the gospels and through the New Testament declare that real people met a real man who was really God. 

What about you and I today?  What clouds our vision of Jesus?

Do we come with glasses fogged by assumptions that he is just a nice moral teacher - not God, and not the Saviour?  Do we see the gospels as a bit fanciful - merely interesting or amusing? 

Or, do we come with eyes of faith, asking for help to see clearly as we put daily trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour?

The solution to our problem of seeing Jesus is firstly in recognising that we cannot see – we are blinded by sin to our own sins, and that is our fundamental issue. As hard as it is to admit, our lenses are scratched and our eyes are clouded by a variety of preconceptions and fears. The Bible is clear - all is not right in the world, and the name of this is sin.

Secondly, accepting that there is a Hope that is so much more than corrective lenses – there is transformation power that happened at the cross where sin was dealt with, and when we accept this - repent, and let Jesus in - we have our eyes opened.  Then, we can see and know and live for God, because of what Jesus did that first Easter.

Only in the salvation provided through Jesus Christ’s life, brutal suffering and death on a cross, his burial, resurrection to life on Easter morning, can we live for God, now and always – only in this Way can we truly see.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Cracks in the wood...

 What if your faith 'cracks'?

What if what you were hoping for - in a person, a movement, a moment - does not eventuate?

As the Donald Trump illusion fades, many people are questioning their faith in him as the "one" who would right the wrongs of the USA and 'Make America Great Again'.

***

No human can right all wrongs.  No political party has it all together.

Having "enough" faith, or faith to believe that things can be different, is just not enough.

***

"Faith", by itself, is nothing.

Faith is always a bounded concept, which has worth only in the 'what' or 'who' of its grounding.

Faith in a chair fails when a leg cracks off.

Faint in an office, or position, fails with the character of the incumbent.

Where is your faith? Who, or what, is your faith in?

***

If its in yourself, you had better be sure to live worthy of that honour, for you would not want to put your faith in something or someone who fails.

***

If you are tired of fallible human leaders, broken promises and 'doing it all' yourself, you are in good company.

If you cannot muster up "enough" faith to keep going - even as COVID-19 looks like menacing 2021 just as it did 2020 - then think about who or what your faith is grounded in.

What if there was more to this life... more than just humans who fail and our own selves which cannot hold strong to 'the faith' in ourselves?

Why not ask the Good God who makes a Way for all to approach and find strength for this life's journey?

"The Lord God is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance..." from The Bible: 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 9.

May the cracks that we see in our fragile faith lead us to the One who never fails, never falters, and who longs to see wholeness and healing for all.


penned 25 November 2020.   edited and blogged 16 January 2021




Sunday, 23 February 2020

The Final Journey

There was a recent post on Facebook somewhere, asking if you could be a character from the 'Narnia' tales, who would you like to be.

Well, I have been in love with Prince Caspian since I was 9 years old, and until recently may have said "Mrs Prince Caspian"...

Many commenters responded that, no matter who we *want to be*, we are all really Eustace - and I agree.

However, I would now definitely chose to be Mrs Reepicheep:  to stand beside the brave man (in mouse form) who fought for Narnia; who was *prepared to* live without his tail, but wouldn't dare come before the great and perfect beast Aslan without it; and who was gratefully cured (new tail!) by Lucy's magic cordial... 
who stuck firm in the battles against evil, and who committed to the 'Dawn Treader's' last voyage though it may sink:  whose parting words on the final journey were that even if that happened, he would then keep going - swimming towards Narnia and Aslan the king - until he died.

THAT bravery, loyalty, courage and devotion I would love to walk beside... I pray to BE that myself, regardless.

We are all actually on that "final journey", and we all have the choice to follow Aslan or not.
May we chose to be one who serves the mighty lion.

God bless us all!!!  Narnia awaits!!!!

[I'm going to re-read all from the beginning - the analogies have limits, but oh they have wonders!]

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Self-love, and "scratching your own itches"...


"Love your neighbour AS YOURSELF" says the Scripture.

Well, bad luck Neighbour, because I'm fighting scratching raging to get my own needs met!!!

The social justice call for love, care and concern for the other - and to stop "othering" them is right!!! Great ambition and right thinking here.

Yet, where is a person to start, for if most people treated their neighbours as they treated/Love themselves, there would be LESS quoting of this verse.

See, this verse doesn't just 'appear' in a vacuum, on a list of good suggestions from a cool dude named Jesus...

It's from a context of community, and from a place of possibility in and only through  surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, Son of God and Saviour. 

When you and I have to keep ensuring that certain parts of our lives - emotional, sexual, relational, identity - are "looked after" by ourselves, then that is self-focussed. 
How then can we be loving to the others - just scraping off a bit of our spare energy and emotion after we are sorted?

Isn't this what social justice concern has been RIGHTLY critiquing in a church where Jesus is not Lord, and not allowed to be everything, resulting in scratchy grabby Christians who have ignored the poor and allowed systemic injustice to go on?

The big picture is that my self and my personal issues are connected to the wider whole... 
An example:  I feel threatened by being fat/divorced/single/whatever so I take care of myself and buy myself a holiday, a massage, new clothes and shoes. These things are not wrong - but what is my inner motivation?

I want to FEEL good - something, anything - for a moment, a minute, an hour, and this is fine --- if one believes that "the moment is all we've got".

Yet, if we are made for something more, and if true love of self is not just a minute of pleasure, status, or happiness, but a progression to BEING known and loved and accepted, then surely True Love of the other - neighbour/refugee/spouse - will not come from grabbing moments for myself.

It is being known, embraced, and secure as a child of God - through Jesus - that "enough" is present for me and OVERFLOWS for my neighbour.
Then, I can live out The Golden Rule.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Describe the air you are breathing, and tell others...


Reflection after reading: Acts 10

As Christians, when we start to describe God - the indescribable - we are at risk of 
– nothing, actually!  

For as we need air and are often totally unconscious of it entering and leaving our lungs, we grapple to try and describe the amazing and the mundane of breathing.

When we turn and think of GOD --- GOD just is, and who God is will not be changed by our frail attempts at understanding (theologising) or describing.

From the Bible, from creeds and confessions, though ultimately in the Incarnation – when God came down to be with us in the Person of Jesus Christ – we can see and understand some things, and therefore take heart about a few things that God is not:

-             God is not a ‘bulldozer’ set on destruction but One who wants human flourishing and wholeness;
-             God is not malicious or vicious, just waiting to watch us trip up, but One who lifts us out of the  
         darkness of sin and trouble;
-            God is not without a plan or purpose, and is working towards a good end, desiring that no-one 
        should perish but all come to eternal life through Jesus Christ --- The Way, The Truth, The Life.

An apophatic approach regarding what God is “not”, may lead down many interesting paths of meandering.  But we are not without direction.  God's word clearly shows us so much about who God is, and how God’s work in the world with humans is so amazing and transforming and challenging. 

So, let us for a minute look at one major aspect of God:
  God is a missionary God – a God of calling, moving, disruption, danger and daring…. God enters ‘human space’ [for all space is God’s, really!] and this has effects.

The missionary God is DISRUPTIVE
§                         Abraham, get up and go!  Genesis 12:1…
§                        Peter, get up and go! Acts 10; and --- many others throughout the Bible.

The missionary God is DANGEROUS
§                     Old Testament prophets, “you [Israel] stoned, put to death” many – Jesus; Hebrews 11...
§                     Jesus, they wanted to put him to death…and we too must take up our cross and die daily.

The missionary God is DARING
§                   God ‘took a chance’ on humanity - his creation – to send Jesus and to call followers who would  
              give their all.  The disciples in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, were transformed.
§                    Stephen dared to speak and act, by the power of God the Holy Spirit
§                    Paul's speeches and actions were enabled by the power of God the Holy Spirit

When we put our trust in Jesus Christ and commit to live for God alone, we are setting out on an adventure with the One who wants to disrupt our lives in good ways, for us to have life to the full.  

When we look at the New Testament, we see that following Jesus is not without cost or danger --- it is just as Jesus said it would be.  The last thing Jesus commanded was, in our going, to tell and teach everyone all that he had said, and to baptise these who would also become his disciples (followers).

There are so many waiting to hear this message:  do we dare to live it like it’s true, and to share in whenever and wherever possible?