Thursday, January 31, 2008

Other Authors -- The Nativity of Christ

I suppose I should have posted this for the Christmas season, but hey, the Incarnation is relevant all year round! This is an old favourite, Southwell was a Jesuit priest in Elizabethan England, who ended up being caught, imprisoned, tortured and put to death for his catholicism. But this poem proclaims, in the "clever", wordplaying language which was the fashion of the time, truths about Jesus which belong to all Christians.God's highest gift to us truly is Himself, there is nothing more that could be better ..

By Robert Southwell

Behold the father is his daughter's son,
The bird that built the nest is hatch'd therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls! behold your living spring!
O dazzled eyes! behold your sun of grace!
Dull ears attend what word this word doth bring!
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace!
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than Himself God doth not know,
Gift better than his God no man can see;
This gift doth here the giver given bestow,
Gift to this gift let each receiver be:
God is my gift, Himself He freely gave me,
God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me.

Man alter'd was by sin from man to beast;
Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh;
Now God is flesh, and lies in manger press'd,
As hay the brutest sinner to refresh:
Oh happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew!

Been feeling ..

very uninspired this past week. Hence the dearth of blogging. The last few days were taken up with preparing for and participating in my daughter's 23rd birthday. And it's been hot and muggy .. I love summer, the extra hours of daylight are a bonus, and I like being able to get out of bed in the morning without freezing. but summer has a mean streak, and warm weather with the humidity above 60% is not for wimps like me. But tonight it's raining, and tomorrow should be cooler. now if only my brain would start working again ..

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You do all things well

These lyrics are on my mind tonight, they express something very dear to me. I have always found the beauty of creation a very direct path to worship, to me, ever since I was a small child, the loveliness of clouds and stars and flowers and waters shouts aloud the glory of its maker. I remember as a young teenager struggling to write a poem of which I can now remember only a fragment: 'I believe there is a God / Because the grass looks greener in the rain.' OK, it made sense to me (and still does!) So these chris Tomlin lyrics are speaking my language:

You do All Things Well - by Chris Tomlin
Mountain maker
Ocean tamer
Glimpses of You
Burn in my eyes
The worship of heaven
Fills up the skies

You made it all
Said, "let there be"
And there was
All that we see
The sound of Your voice
The works of Your hands
You do all things well
You do all things well
You do all things well

Star creator
Wind breather
The strokes of Your beauty
Brushed through the clouds
Light from the heavens
Touching the ground

Imagination runs wild
And breathes the breath of life
Across the fields
Across the miles

Seeing Jesus: by faith

I quoted this in my last sermon as an example of how it takes the work of the Spirit and the gift of faith to see Jesus aright. It was written by someone called Gregory of Nazianzus in the year 381.

He began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life.
Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water.
Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest. Jesus paid tribute, yet He is the King.
Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons.
Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears.
Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world.
Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tonight -- a prayer

Tonight I will rest on Your peace. I will not tear myself to shreds in the desperate search to find some value, some justification, for my own existence. I will choose to believe that You love me anyway.

Tonight I will let You love me. I will not dwell on the ones who failed to love, who lured my soul with the promise of friendship, only to mock and reject me when they had backed me into a corner where I admitted that their goodwill mattered to me. I will choose to believe that Your love is real.

Tonight I will entrust my heart to you. I know it isn’t worth much, it’s so pathetically self-centred, and fearful, and it’s been broken so many times that the sticky tape of my willpower can barely hold it together. Yet I believe You want it anyway.

Tonight I will share my dreams with You. They’re so secret I don’t tell anyone else, I know they’d only laugh. But You made rainbows and stars, and the lift of a bird’s wing against the sunset, You know why You made me me, and one day You will teach me how to fly. I want to know what Your dream is for me, to catch a glimpse of the possibility that will become in that place where Your grace makes these incongruities graceful.

Tonight I will trust that You really mean it when You say that You forgive me, that there’s no secret hoop You’re waiting for me to jump through before You take me in Your arms. I do not need to keep struggling with my shame, You bore it all and have borne it away for me.

Tonight I will not be afraid of all the holes in human love, even if I fall through them, I cannot fall out of Your hands. You always understand, even when I cannot understand myself. I will never understand You, but I know that I love You: feebly and foolishly, but that doesn’t matter, because it is so real, You are my only life. And You call forth this tremulous love, because You first loved me.

Tonight I will remember that every promise is Yes and amen in You.

Whose child?

This is a story I used in my last sermon to illustrate that God's love isn't limited by our human measures of respectability.

Fred Craddock is a lecturer at Phillips Theological Seminary in the United States. He tells of a time he was on holiday in Tennessee. He and his wife were having dinner at a restaurant when an old man started talking to them, asking them how they were doing and if they were enjoying their holiday. When the old man asked Fred what he did for a living Fred saw the chance to get rid of him - "I'm a preacher."
"A preacher? That's great. Let me tell you a story about a preacher." The old man sat down at their table and started to speak. As he did Fred's annoyance was changed to one of profound humility. The old man explained that he was illegitimate. He was born without knowing who his father was, a source of great shame in a small town in the early twentieth century. One day a new preacher came to the local church. The old man explained that as a youngster he had never gone to church, but one Sunday decided to go along and hear the new pastor preach. He was good. The illegitimate boy went back again, and then again. In fact he started attending just about every week. But his shame went with him. This poor little boy would always arrive late and leave early in order to avoid talking to anyone. But one Sunday he got so caught up in the sermon that he forgot to leave. Before he knew it the service was over and the aisles were filling. He rushed to get past people and out the door, but as he did he felt a heavy hand land upon his shoulder. He turned around to see the preacher, a big tall man, looking down at him asking, "What's your name, boy? Whose son are you?" The little boy died inside, the very thing he wanted to avoid was now here. But before he could say anything the preacher said "I know who you are. I know who your family is. There's a distinct family resemblance. Why, you're a child of God!"
The old man sitting at Fred Craddock's table said "You know, mister, those words changed my life". And with that he got up and left.
When the waitress came over she said to Fred Craddock and his wife, "Do you know who that was?"
"No" they replied.
"That was Ben Hooper, the two-term governor of Tennessee."

Where have I been?

I feel like I owe my poor neglected blog an explanation for my absence, but I'm not sure I really have one. First there was Christmas. I preached Sunday 23rd (on "unto us a child is born" -- God's gift to us is himself, our response must be to fully give ourselves to Him). Sunday night daughter and I went into a city church for a traditional 9 lessons and carols service -- that was beautiful. Christmas Eve husband and I went to a church in a neighbouring suburb for a 10pm communion service, so 11:30 before we got to bed. Christmas morning we had to be up early, because the kids were coming in at 8am for presents (some things don't change, even when they're all grown up) then the whole family went to the Prezzy church to be with A's widowed dad for Christmas morning church. Then lunch at A's sister's place (my job was to provide cold turkey breast meat for 22 people) and then my family came to our place for dinner in the evening. (we gave them a BBQ) my Christmas is best described as exhausting!
A was on holidays for the next week (Australia almost shuts down between christmas and new year -- it's peak holiday season here) and we played tourists in our own city. Then, the first weekend in January, we spent friday night in a city hotel (last minute rates)and enjoyed ourselves around Darling Harbour, one of the city's main tourist precincts. Then I had a sermon to write up for Sunday morning. I spoke on Epiphany, how, in the coming of the wise men, we see that Jesus had come for Gentiles as well as Jews. If God is inclusive and calls everyone to His table, regardless of their human differences (race, gender, age, social status, educational level) then we need to seriously deal with our own hidden prejudices and be welcoming and loving to all in His name.

Then, we went out last friday night to celebrate our wedding anniversary, which was actually this Monday (Monday is not a good night for restaurants) 31 years married!! how did THAT happen??? (I'm still in beginner's class some days)

This Sunday I'm preaching again (the last time for a while)This time it's on Seeing Jesus.

What art movement am I?

Well, considering I love Impressionist art, especially Monet and Van Gogh, this one was exactly right. but then the questions they asked were the reasons i love Impressionism -- I love to make the most of the beauty of each moment, and I'm impatient with details and technicalities. And I really believe that the natural world is charged with the glory of God.

You Are Impressionism

You think the world is quite beautiful, especially if you look at it in new and interesting ways.
You tend to focus on color and movement in art.
For you, seeing the big picture is much more important than recording every little detail.
You can find inspiration anywhere... especially from nature.