Sunday, 30 September 2018

Angelic hosts celebrating

The apocalyptic visions that come out of the scriptures can be somewhat overpowering and leave the modern person with a question "What on earth were these people smoking?" to give them such stupendous visions (Ezekiel 1.4-12; Rev. 12.7-12; Dan 7.9-10, 13-14). Most likely younger generations may want to find a similar experience through the use of what we now fear synthetic and man made drugs. Some may even be driven towards more natural substances such as marijuana, peyote, etc. All of these natural substances have cropped up in religious induced ecstasies of one sort or another through out history. So the question with regards the visions of the scriptures is not such a poor one after all. Can we afford to dismiss these as the ravings of a drug induced mind or are they something that we need to pay attention to and celebrate?

In esoteric literature through out the Western world and indeed with variations through out the world there is an understanding of the fight against the good and the evil. Even when we look at books that are grounded in fiction many of them that deal with the esoteric borrow and expand on this suppressed mythos. We can perhaps see it in the Star Wars franchise or even in the books of people such as Katherine Kurtz  and others. The whole perspective is shifted into a glorious technicolor vision of the unending battle that we as humans participate in at one level or another. In the scriptures it is the glorified Son of Man who is the hero or the Archangel Michael and his angelic host who is celebrated in the Church's calendar. In typifying the hero we are able to raise our hopes towards the eradication of evil and evil intent within our lives. Our goal is not apocalyptic destruction of the earth but rather the apocalyptic destruction of evil and its consequences. We are shown the archetype in the lost heroes of mythology and cinematic glory but it is we who need to personify that archetype in the conduct of our lives.

In the absence of God we descend into instant gratification and chaos

What we term evil / corruption etc. is our understanding of how we should behave towards others. Christ is our path towards refining our own lives to live them in harmony with the understanding of good and evil. The rampage of  "evil" is allowed because we enable it in the way we live our lives in jealousy, hatred, etc. The visions that we read of in the scriptures is the undoing of this thinking. Their apocalyptic nature is a result of the apocalyptic devastation that occurs when we turn away from these darker aspects of our own lives. The explosion of emotion and turmoil that results in our lives as we turn towards or away from the darker aspects is enormous and impacts on the lives of those around us. As Christ followers we need to become aware of the enormous positive backlash that comes when a person changes their outlook from a negative one to a positive one. It is almost as if we are always on the search for the opposite and celebrate that each day. Our news headlines and our social media are always concerned about the negative not the positive.

Our lives should be like the prophets of old who had these visions. They took them as signs of the positive involvement of God in our midst. When the youth and not so young turn to the psychedelic dreams of synthetic drugs they close their minds to the reality of God's blessedness in their lives. In our chasing of the new or the vibrant in modern society we encourage others to devolve into our cultures happiness pill rather than to seek the glory of God. We celebrate Michael and the archetypal angelic host as they overcome the temptations to follow the short term highs of mortal synthetic hope for the longer term and greater high of God's presence in our lives. It is not the quick release but the longer effervescence of the Spirit's presence. This is more work for greater gain rather than the modern quick fix for an immediate but short high. Only when we realise that it is through constant contact with God that we find our greatest delights will we be able to put aside our short term solutions for a long term challenge.

Sunday, 23 September 2018


How many people have we, each of us, hurt with the use of our tongues? Speech as the letter to James is extraordinarily clear about, can so easily harm our neighbours (James 3.1-12). We react with a verbalisation quicker than we can process the effect our words will have on those around us. I have spent a greater portion of my life being shown the error of my ways for it is not only what we say but it is also the tone in which we say it or the attitude in which we deliver it or the silent communication that attends it. I spend a whole session with prospective couples prior to their marriage delving into this aspect of a true partnership Communication upsets whilst sometimes due to an obvious irresponsible word is more often than not a result of our inability to understand the effects of all our other communications have on the words we use.

Whilst James rightly spends time on the role of the spoken word, there are other dimensions of communication that affects what we say that need to be seriously considered. Proverbs can be seen as being rather misogynistic there is at the end of the book some valued words that need to be attended to not only, as implied by the text, by women but also by everyone without exception (Prov. 31.26, 30). We concentrate very hard on an acknowledge our skills in the verbal arena. Thus, when Proverbs praises the wife who opens her mouth to speak wisdom this should be our goal as well. Yet if we do utter wisdom we sometimes utter it in a manner that is unbecoming of the God we hold sacred. We use our ability to shower scorn on others by changing our tone and our non verbal communications so that the good words we speak become the words of destruction. Yes, we need control of what we say but we also need control of how we say it. This is the true measure of wisdom in our language and our lives.

It is not only our tongue that becomes overheated

In our speech we tend to forget that we have other ways of communicating and more often than not it is our non-verbal communications that constantly create the challenges that we find in life. How many times have I wonder, we heard the cliche from an grieved person "I didn't say anything wrong". We scratch our heads and nod wisely when we actually hear the words agreeing that yes they did not say anything wrong. The issue is in how or in what manner that they stated the innocuous words. We can say I love you in so many different ways that some are loving and others convey our utter distaste. Children say what they mean without any form of or degree of attitudinal change as this is a learnt behaviour. Sometimes the learning is unconscious as this is how they obtained what they wanted and were not chastised as a youngster. However, when we begin to acknowledge that we need to be aware of non verbal communication we can begin to correct our own behaviours as well as those around us. We need to mirror the attitude of the young child with their innocence rather than manipulate to obtain what we want through tone, and misplaced attitudes.

In participating in an act of communication we need to be aware that all our ways of conveying information are open to abuse. We just need to look at the Evangelical Christian voice as they criticise the Graham dynasty to see how easy gaffes create issues. In receiving others as a young child we welcome the unconditional love which is God's and begin to convey it to those in our community, we begin to prove our words by the wisdom and action of our hearts. It is not just the sleight of hand produced by our tongues. In controlling our communication we are more able to convey God's love and the Christ that lives within us.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Wisdom in applying faith

There is something to be said about not mixing politics and religion but there is also something to understand about this statement. In suggesting that we must not mix politics and religion it says nothing about mixing politics and faith. These two are integrally entwined and cannot be divided as the one informs the other and without it there is little wisdom in politics. Most recently this debate in my mind has been sparked by our readings and by an article referring to Archbishop Justin's speech regarding economic policy. If we are to act in the community to bring God's presence closer to those around us we need to be aware of our own faith and how it interacts with our politics.

Our faith should by its very presence in our lives guide our decisions. Politics is about making decisions that affect the community. If we are to utilise our faith in works that enable God's presence then we must operate at the political level. However, there are an infinite variety of ways that this can take place and the choice of our intervention must conform with the faith that we hold. We can see this taking shape in the discourse outside Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8.27-38). Peter jumps in immediately following his announcement and belief in Christ. His faith is right but his actions that follow are wrong as they are politically motivated but do not conform with the faith he has just announced. It was his own agenda that was being followed or his political agenda and not his faith. The two must marry up in a complete conjugal joining. Our centre is God's call to us to participate in the Eucharist and to take this out into the world in the form of action. Eucharistic action that is filled with the wisdom of God and brings justice, peace and God's presence into the lives of the other.

This should not be a crossroad. We should merge into a single road.

We are often too quick to respond by using our own thinking rather than responding in Christ to which we have been baptised. Faith without works is too inward and leaves the practical wisdom of God behind closed doors. However good works that are without faith  have no life and do not bring light into the world. They may temporarily ease the pains of those we minister to but do not ease the soul which is slowly dying behind the false gratitude that is displayed. How can it  be anything less? To bring faith into our works we must spend the time to discern and walk with the other, it cannot be a quick fix either of faith or of good works. The quick fix of faith leads to a shallow religiosity often found in mega churches were there is little time for the individual or else we spend our time in retreat from the world pretending that what we are doing is spiritually rewarding but leaves us dry and unrewarded so that we move onto the next incarnation. The quick fix of works leaves us flitting from one good agency to another trying to help everyone by spending our money.

God's wisdom should pervade everything that we participate in. If we lock God out and rely on ourselves we become cold and heartless. Only when we are able to encompass the wisdom of God that is freely offered into our hearts we can then become true people of God integrating our politics and our lives into one. By divorcing the one from the other we make the misery of the world rather than bringing the light into the world. At the end of the day the question that we must ask ourselves when we throw ourselves into our good causes and our never ending cycle of programmes and  works is: does our decision conform to the faith that we believe in or does it arise out of what we perceive to be the right thing for ourselves? Are we making a name for ourselves or are we actually following what God would have us do?

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The exclusive inclusive club

How often has the church been labeled as being exclusive and not welcoming of the other within its doors? I was listening to the interview with Fr Rod Bower with Sarah Kanowski on Friday which started of by him explaining why he started the Billboard sayings outside the Church in Gosford. An account of the perception of exclusion, which was turned into an account of inclusion. His illustration (Go to the interview for more) is a Godly reminder to us that the Church while being perceived as being exclusive (which it is) is actually extremely inclusive. How does this work? and how do we undo the work of ages to break down the barriers so that we who are within can see that our exclusiveness is not a barrier and should never be a barrier to inclusiveness.

This seems to be getting very complicated but is in actual fact very straightforward. The reading from James tells of a congregation that privileges those that they see as being themselves (James 2.1-3). This is what we do regularly in many Christian congregations we place a barrier up to say you are not welcome. Indeed the first barrier that we put up is that of baptism. Then we note those who are acceptable to our criteria, you have to speak in tongues, you cannot be LGBTQ, you can not be divorced, you have to accept..., you have to deny...and so our rules multiply much as the pharisees made rules. In doing so we make our selves an exclusive club as you cannot be part of us unless you fulfill the criteria. Our rules are required otherwise there would be no order. It would be a farce as we actually would not know who belonged and who did not. Yes, sometimes rules are required but the rules are there to guide us not constrain us when they are given to us by Christ and God.

Who are we kidding when we say we are inclusive?

The two commandments are simple love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. In trying to do the latter we create our comfort rules. God requires us to be inclusive because how can we love our neighbour as our selves unless we are inclusive. That means that our petty rules need to be abandoned for God's ever present love. We like, Rod Bower found himself reflecting, need to reflect on our own inbuilt barriers to inclusiveness. These can range from not accepting someone because of who they are to something simple like telling someone not to sign a card because they haven't contributed. God accepts all people including, and probably more than anyone, those who are outside of the system. We just have to look at Mark (7.24-30) to know that it is irrespective of who someone is as to whether they are loved by God or Christ. Is it right to set our barriers to the norms that we require? No, its not. Yet sometimes our institutional community requires it of us. In these cases we exclude but we need to work around the corners to show that God includes them all.

No matter how we look at it some denominations are more exclusive than others. Simply because they adhere to a stricter form of human laws. If we are to truly to follow Christ we will be the includers in a regime that is fully inclusive of the whole of humanity. That is who we should be but we often see the wood rather than the trees. We keep to the rigid patterns of inclusion and exclusion thinking and perceiving that we are correct but not realising the fact the God has changed all the rules on us. Baptism is asked of us not as a requirement but as a choice. Membership is asked of us not as a requirement but as a choice. We do not exclude as a result as we are more than willing to accept all people, it is only a perception of yours that we exclude. In that perception we create the division that is the barrier to inclusion.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

A persistent darkness

The flaws of our political system were highlighted to such an extent last week that I think the world was left wondering what on earth are the Aussies up to. Yet, if we think about it this is an age old issue which we as Christians have not been able to overcome.The Church is not immune to this but rather is more than likely to harbour it within their gatherings like no other. Christ is very clear on this in Mark (7.14-23) but it is something that the average Christian has not taken to heart. I can see the shock and horror on each face as Mark is read but at the end of the day there is truth in this statement. Power, authority, and the need to express my own agenda and not the agenda of God is the motivating factor. If we do not understand this as a political manoeuvre than we do not understand ourselves and understanding ourselves is of paramount importance if we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.

The first thing that we do if we do not get our way or if we think that our understanding is not being considered or if we are feeling sidelined is to look for dirt. If we want to undermine, destroy or otherwise remove objectors from our path, note it is our path, we use innuendo, smear and outright lies to bring the other down. We only have to look at the political aftermath in our own country to see that this is the case let alone any other country. Unfortunately, we also do this as part of our innate freedom, the freedom of speech, but only when it suits our purpose. No matter who we are we are responsible for the words that we speak and we are responsible for the consequences of what we speak. The letter of James gives us the direction that we need  (James 1.26) as do the words of Christ in Mark (7.14-23), We are given words of life and truth in the faith of Christ. In living as Christ and speaking as Christ with truth in our hearts we then reveal God's love to the world.

Are you prepared to speak love or will you continue to sprout hatred?

Yet, we forgo the understanding of love the moment we open our lips with words that are created to harm. We leave Christ on the corner as we turn away to deliver words of spite and hatred. In listening to others we are also apt to pick up on their hatred and perpetuate the spite in the community that surrounds us, especially if it fulfills our own agendas. We try to find power by undermining others and if we obtain access to privileged information we must be very careful that we actually know from whence that information comes, If we are gullible enough to believe in our hearts everything that is told to us then we are likely to fall from Christ. In repeating what others have said to us we repeat the un-truths that come from their mouths without first ascertaining the truths for ourselves. In this way we undermine others and gain power for ourselves. This means that we are not looking at the consequences of our actions but rather at the gain for our own egos / power bases / political agendas. In turn we perpetuate the darkness in the hearts of others without seeking the truth in the love of Christ. Only when we have truly understood how we utilise our own words to bring disharmony and disruption in the lives of others can we begin to preach the love which is in Christ.

Our hearts and our wishes are the well spring from which our actions and words spring, No wonder that Christ tells us that it is not the food that we eat that defiles but the words from our hearts. The only worthy thing that should be in our hearts is the love of God and of neighbour. Unfortunately, looking at the world around us we can only see the idolatory of our hearts in the blackness of our words as we perpetuate darkness rather than light. Remind our minds that our tongues destroy more people than our wars.