Sunday, 28 October 2018

The categorisation of blindness

Blindness is often associated in the Gospels with the inability to perceive Christ and when the blindness is alleviated the person often either praises God or follows Christ (Mark 10.46-52). It is quite useful to use this category, without being detrimental to those with poor vision, as we look at ourselves and our lives in Christ. The very first thing that we actually need to do is admit our blindness. What! I am not blind. Well as soon as we open our mouths and state this it is obvious that we are. We are all well aware that for many things the first response is denial and once we have denied we have actually admitted that we have the issue, challenge, etc. It is only when we are honest with ourselves about our own perceptions and our own knowledge can we begin to fashion a comprehensive plan of action that enables ourselves and those around us to come into the light and see for the first time. Our challenge then is to freely admit that we are blind and need God's grace to heal our blindness and lead us into a new world; a world that God has deemed ours.

At the beginning of Job's trials we can see that he was blind to the truth and yet held on to his faith. At the end Job's eyes are opened to the truth and sees how his faith has assisted him in his trials (Job 42.1-6). It is only when Job confronts and is confronted by God's presence does he realise the truth of his faith. It is only when we allow ourselves to confront God and come into Christ's presence are we able to understand the truth and how this affects our faith. We can so easily give up; we can so easily give in; we can so easily rest in the lies that surround our everyday lives. These are the friends that console us on our journey, these are the friends that lead us away from our journey, these our the friends that lend their worldly wisdom to our trials with God. We bitch and moan at every turn of our lives because things are not how they should be. Yet, if we hold to the path that God has set we are able to overcome so much, just like Job, and we are able to forgive so much just like Job (42.9-10). In doing so we are given so much by God's grace who has asked so little of ourselves.

Have you chosen your attitude towards Christ?

Yet, our attitude is one of the age, the miracle of the secular age is ours to play with and to re-invent our lives forgetting the miracle that is God's grace promised to us forever. Ours is not the attitude of thanksgiving it is the attitude that it belongs to us; the attitude of the age. If you cannot pay your way in today's society you are nobody. Well, this is where we are asked for our sacrifice if we want what we have to continue. Only when we begin to understand the sacrifice that God has given will we begin to appreciate our need to sacrifice ourselves fully and totally to God's purposes. We find it excessively hard to speak of God in our lives just as Job does; we find it excessively hard to make a sacrifice of time, talent and tarnished gold to fulfil God's purposes in today's world.

What does it take to change our hearts from stone to flesh that holds love of the other above all? What does it do to remove our own parochial blindness to see Christ in our neighbour and enable ourselves to sacrifice our lives to God? It takes the one thing that we control ourselves. The one thing that nobody can take from us no matter what they do to us. We need to approach life with one thing knowing that it cannot be changed irrespective of what is thrown our way. It takes us acknowledging and owning the attitude that says the God is in my heart and I find joy in God's presence. It takes us changing our hard attitudes to each other and to the other from the blankness of granite to an attitude that encompasses everyone with the softness of a lovers embrace. It is ours to undertake, it is ours to do, it ours to control. Once we have changed our attitude we have begun the process of removing the blindness that we all suffer from, the blindness that allows us to say "we are not blind."

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Joy or happiness

One is permanent and is found even in the depths of despair. The other is fleeting and is found wherever one can for a moment. God responds to Job by asking him questions not through levity and laughter but questions that are fundamental to our understanding of God's presence and joy in our lives (Job 38.1-7). Even when we are in our deepest depression, when all the world around us abounds in horror we can and do experience the joy that is God's presence in our hearts. It overcomes our deepest dread and our inability to give of ourselves to God in the most meaningful and sacrificial way that we can. Whilst it is an emotion that is deeper even than happiness it is without doubt an emotion that is linked to our attitudes and our hearts.

Happiness is an emotion that is available to us at the most trivial level. It is levity and laughter that is generated by others around us. We chase happiness the same way we chase our standing in society. We want only the best so that we can be happy. We want our friends around us so that we can enjoy the moment and be happy. All of these things are ephemeral and fleeting in our lives. We will find this feeling and often we are so obsessed with our need for happiness in our lives that we forget that it comes from outside not from inside. Just like a drug that gives us a momentary high. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with being happy, of course we should achieve happiness in our lives. We do however need to realise that happiness is fleeting and can easily be destroyed. It is something that others can assist ourselves in achieving or destroying through their attitudes and actions. Whilst happiness will lead us into joy, joy is much more than the fleeting insubstantialness of happiness.

Only when we accept ourselves at the deepest level do we find joy

Joy does not come through the antics of others. Joy is generated in the heart that is willing to sacrifice itself for others so that others may come to find joy in their hearts no matter the circumstances of their lives. It is a much deeper emotion and one that is understood through our own attitudes rather than through the attitudes of others. It is a fundamental change in our hearts so that we too may experience the suffering others feel to bring joy and love into the hearts of the other. Christ understands this when he his requested by the Sons of Zebedee to bring them happiness by elevating their status (Mk 10.35-37). The sons of Zebedee are looking for temporal happiness they are not looking for the deep joy that comes with the presence of Christ in our hearts.

This deep joy is also alluded to in the Hebrew scriptures and in the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 1.1-10). The greatest joy to be found is in the sacrifice of the Priest Melchizedek, thought to be the son of Moses. It is not a simple sacrifice but a sacrifice of dedication to God beyond everything. It is our sacrifice when we allow ourselves to go the extra mile and not hold back our hearts and our efforts. It is Christ's sacrifice for us on the cross to grant us the grace of God's presence and salvation. If we are to find joy we need to adjust our attitude towards the other and not towards ourselves. If we are looking for Joy because we have lost it we are looking for the ephemeral happiness of the everyday rather than the deep joy of God's presence. It is our attitude towards each and every person who build up the community of Christ that expresses joy in the midst of disaster or destroys its presence. God asks us at our baptism and confirmation to sacrifice ourselves totally. It is only when we do this on a daily basis that we begin to experience the true joy which is God's presence in our lives.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The extent of faith

One of the ongoing words that I often speak about is "commitment". In today's society this word surfaces almost daily within the faith community usually accompanied by words that are negative, i.e. "not", "fails". "under", etc. Yet no matter what portion of the scriptures we read the word comes up time and again in a positive light. Often associated with praise or at least as an example for those that are hearing, seeing the story develop around them. Mark's gospel is graphic and forms a delightful picture, no matter how we interpret its origins (Mk 10.25), on the need for us to be committed. However, the wider passage that this small sentence is embedded in is so full of our need to ensure that we are fully committed to our faith and its journey in our lives (Mk 10.17-31). If we still think that this is a passage that holds up only on its own then we need to look further to see that there are a number of texts that speak to this commitment in faith (Job 23.1-9; Heb 4.12-16).

A small total commitment means that we share the greatness of faith

The commitment we make is a commitment from baptism onwards, it is not one off, it is persistent throughout time as we grapple with our own faith journey. There are times when we are right on the edge such as portrayed in the passage from Job there are others which are not quite so knife edged and yet we fall back from that full commitment that we make within the promises of baptism. In embracing our faith journey, irrespective of what that may look like, whether it is enjoying the presence of the Spirit and singing with manic delight or sitting quietly contemplating God's presence it requires a total commitment to our life in the journey towards the Christic indwelling in our hearts. This is not a simple commitment to say a date. The whole provision of our faith is a journey towards God and a movement towards becoming Christlike. For Job this is the culmination of his faith to speak to God and demand answers of the most puzzling questions that we can think of.

It is also a commitment that is beyond the petty. We can quite easily commit to one thing and at the end of the day say well done we have achieved the goal through our single commitment. However when we are talking about our own journey in faith this a a work of a lifetime not a single moment. It is a total culmination of the whole of life rather than a small piece of life. It does not discriminate on who we are but is totally inclusive of all believers. It is this wholeness that makes the faith journey something to undertake for our selves and our community. It is simple, we do not have to undertake a journey, we do not have to undertake a fast, we do not have to undertake any of these things. All we have to do is to ensure that our whole life is part and parcel of God. That means that no matter how rich or how poor in financial, time, or even talents we place everything to the fore for God's use. Our commitment must be such that not one thing is left to the vagary of chance but our whole life is placed on the line. A commitment such as this is seen in people like Theresa of Calcutta and the other saints. This is what makes them saints.

We are not loose change people when it comes to our giving. We should not be the type of person that gives out of the loose change that they find in their pockets. In other words we do not give to our faith the small amount of time we have spare between our round of golf and the family dinner party. Our commitment in faith must be greater than this for it to achieve the desires of our hearts for the community of God. It is only by committing our greater resources and only leaving the change for ourselves that we are able to achieve that which God desires.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Complaints - The Good and the Bad

Have we learnt anything over the past 2000 years or more? Probably not, even if we are meant to learn from history. Job was and is held up as a person of supreme faith within his community (Job 2.1-10) and yet as a result of that faith appears to have everything go wrong. On the face of it we are always confronted with some form of disaster or another and are asked to overcome it in some way through our faith. The disaster may be a natural one such as the recent earthquakes in the Indonesian peninsula or the threat of extreme weather events. It may on the other hand be a change in our lives that has upset our equilibrium or it may be that our faith community is in the throes of struggle in an unending series of setbacks. Consider our response in each of these cases and any other that we may confront. We actually have a series of decisions that we personally have to make and these decisions impact on our lives and the lives of the community that we belong to.

What do you see? Despair, hope or picture

Response: Positive energy. In the midst of doubt when disaster strikes it is possible to find a path which consumes us with positive energy. Such a path is one that is generated by God's presence encouraging us to not only give of ourselves in time and expertise but also to give of ourselves to the greatest possible sense. This is the path of Job; the path of integrity to our faith and to our baptismal vows. It is a remembrance that irrespective of the good and the bad we are committed to the presence of God in our lives. We give thanks to this presence by in turn, dedicating our lives to the presence of Christ. This means that we give fully of ourselves in everything to our faith our work, our time, our finances, our lives, etc. It is not a part time commitment that is only as deep as our interest in the present time. It means that if we have committed to giving 100% of ourselves to God then we can not and should not fall away from that commitment. Often when we financially or time commit ourselves we often vary our commitment depending on our own circumstances in the world. Yet, God commits 100% of God to ourselves irrespective of the circumstances. Can we not do the same in our own faith commitments? If we say we will commit time to our faith can we not continue this no matter the circumstances or is our commitment to our faith journey but a move towards the supermarket? This is the hope seen in Job's response; the hope that is embedded in the shema. If we lose this, we just trash that which we do not use and move on to some other thing that becomes important to us allowing our faith to slowly become beached in the narrow shallows of some forgotten creek.

Response: Leave everything as it is. This is a very Australian way of looking at life. She'll be right mate, just leave it be everything will turn out ok. It has worked in the past it is guaranteed to work in the future. God does not give us the opportunity to grow God just allows us to be. We can keep on repeating and repeating the mistakes of the past and not worry because God will keep it going. Yet, God is the God of change and metamorphoses. God continually draws us forward so that we can willingly follow as children follow their inquisitiveness to discover the next thing in their growth. Just like children we are encouraged to explore the depths and heights not just sit and do nothing whilst surrounded by possibility. Christ blesses the children (Mk 10.13-16), not in indolence but in activity. In exploring the children invest themselves in the future so we to as members of Christ body, as children of God, need to invest ourselves in our faith journey and those instruments that assist us to grow. We cannot just leave things be but rather invest time, money and work into our tools and places that help us to look to God.

Response: Give up. This for some is the natural response. To lie down and roll over so that nothing bad will happen. For us as people of faith to do this means that we give up our response at baptism to Christ. We declare that every single vow or promise that we have made is void. This means even those promises that appear to be secular in nature. We give ourselves up to the void of depression and an endless cycle of grief and sadness. We all know of someone or some structure that has appeared to give up. Job in his response to disaster is also tempted by his wife to just give up (Job 2.9). This can never be our response as people of faith rather like Job we need to respond with an understanding that all things are possible even recovery in the deepest of disasters.