Recent Reflections and Articles

BISHOP ROB'S REFLECTIONS

Reflection Advent 3 Luke 3:10-18

As Christmas draws near it is an ideal time to reflect on the preparation God put in place for the birth of His Son, Jesus. John the Baptised, the last of the great Old Testament Prophets, draws people to himself in the wilderness area outside Jerusalem. He lived a very simple life, living on honey and wearing clothing of animal skins. On the surface, a most unlikely figure to proclaim the coming of God’s Son, Jesus. His message was simple but profound: “Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.” Many people came out to see and hear him. Some heard and then left unmoved, but others heard and responded by being baptised by John in the River Jordan. John was at pains to take the lime light from himself and fully focus it on Jesus; “I baptise with water, but He will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Reflection: Am I motivated enough to “Go into the wilderness” and listen for God’s call to follow more intentionally.

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Advent 2 Luke 3:1-6

We are well aware of the necessity to make very good plans for an over-seas trip, a wedding or a host of other activities which are very much helped by a smooth execution. Today’s Gospel highlights the importance John the Baptist played in preparing the people for the coming of the Son of God. In a wilderness setting he proclaimed the need for preparations for Jesus’ entry into humanity. Many came out to see and hear him. Of these people a large number were baptised in the Jordan. He was very much sought after and could well have been puffed up with importance. But never did he waiver from the message that he must diminish in popularity to allow the Saviour (Jesus) to rise in importance far beyond himself. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance and forgiveness for their sins. Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit and proclaim salvation for all the people of God.

Reflection: How much thought do I give to my own Baptism/Confirmation promises?

Blessings and best wishes for the coming week, +Rob

Reflection Advent 1 Luke 21:25-38

Today we begin a new year in the Church’s calendar. What does this mean for us. At the beginning of the secular year many make resolutions which endeavour to sharpen up their behaviour for the next twelve months. Usually these do not make it to the end of the first week! What a wonderful spiritual exercise it is to take Advent as a time to make plans to review our relationship with God and each other. Today’s Gospel calls us to focus on the Day of Judgement. For many this is not an issue. They are happy in their secular world. However, God gives us the opportunity to use Advent as a time to seek a deeper relationship with Him through the witness of Jesus who came into the world to give us an insight into our destiny. We deny this opportunity at our peril. Find encouragement and purpose in today’s Gospel.

Reflection: How do I make time to set my heart and mind on things eternal? What resolution shall I make, and keep, to grow closer to God in this coming year?

With best wishes and blessings, +Rob

Reflection Christ the King John 18:33-37

Today is the last Sunday of the Christian year. Traditionally many parts of the Christian Church pay special homage to Christ the King on this day. It is also the last Sunday before Advent – the pre-Christmas Season when we are called to make closer relationships with our King. It is like a “spring clean”. It is when we clear ourselves of clutter. Not physical clutter but the non-spiritual type. In today’s Gospel Jesus enters into a dialogue with Pilate regarding The Kingdom. Jesus makes it clear his is not like any earthly realm where kings come and go but rather it is the eternal kingdom of God that He proclaims.

Reflection: What dark corners are there in my life that need a good “spring clean” to clear out the trash, the dirt and grime?

With best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 26 Mark 13:1-11

As Jesus’ earthly life was drawing to a close, His disciples were perplexed by the many unanswered questions they wished to have Jesus, the God-Man, answer. In this reading there is a discussion about the magnificence of the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus startles them by speaking of the Temple’s destruction. The four inner circle disciples ask when this will be. He does not give a date or time. Theologically, Jesus answers by telling them God is not limited to the human sphere. Much more is it about God working on behalf of humanity. It leaves God totally free and open to the future. God is not limited by human questions. We, as the community of faith, are required to watch, stay faithful and go the distance.

Reflection: How good am I at letting go and letting God?

Blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Ordinary Sunday 25 Mark 12:38-43

Today’s Gospel reading begins with Jesus warning those who make a big show of themselves. Their lives are centred around looking important and neglecting the areas of life they should engage in. As I reflected on this attitude I thought of Micah 6:8, “ What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus illustrates his point by telling of the poor widow who was down to her last two small coins. She generously places both into the Treasury collection vessel. Jesus tells his listeners that she has given much more than anyone else. The others had given out of their abundance, she out of her exceeding generosity. This widow represented the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

Reflection: How generous am I with my time, my wealth and my abilities?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 24 Mark 12:13-17,28-34

The attempts of interviewers to trap the one being interviewed goes back a long way. Even Jesus, as we see in this week’s reflection, was the victim of such a trap. Pharisees and Herodians thought they had Jesus cornered by asking about the payment of taxes. Jesus responded by saying they were required to pay their taxes to the emperor and they were obliged to pay all that was due to God. The second part of today’s reading has Jesus answering the question posed by a scribe, “Which is the first commandment?” Jesus put the question back into the court of the enquirer: “What do you think?” The scribe replied that loving God and loving others is the first and primary requirement for those who wish to do God’s will. The scribe is praised by Jesus for his knowledge and wisdom.

Reflection: “What would it be like if I loved God with all strength? Would I appreciate that by actions I would come close to God’s Kingdom?

With blessings and best wishes for the coming week. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 23 Mark 10:46-52

Today’s reading tells of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, seeking help from Jesus. As there were no social security payments he, like many others suffering from physical or mental illness, needed to beg for survival. It was believed that such people had been very sinful and were being punished by God. Jesus, as usual full of compassion, called the man to come to Him. Jesus asks, “What do you want from me?” The reply was, “My teacher, let me see again.” The man’s sight was restored and he followed Jesus on the way. Each of us, if we are truly honest, suffer from some form of “blindness” (envy, hatred, pride, greed…..).

Reflection: We need to listen to Jesus as He asks us, “What can I do for you?” and then respond by asking, “Let me see again.”

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection: Pentecost 22 Mark 10:35-45

When you reflect on a portion of Scripture it is useful to read it through once at a normal pace. Then reread it, this time slowly, looking for a word or phrase which stands out. Then quietly and deliberately seek ways to apply that particular thought to your Christian journey. For example,"What do you want me to do for you?" In the context of today's reading the apostles' request pointed to their desire to be approved of and rewarded for their actions in a worldly way. Jesus tells them that it is not all about them, rather how their actions should be directed towards others. This is at the heart of community. As Jesus serves us we need to serve others through loving care, compassion and concern.

Reflection: Have I experienced Jesus serving me? How might I imitate Jesus in my community life?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 21 Mark 10:17-31

Today’s reading offers a wonderful example of being invited by Jesus to share in life-giving activities. The western world particularly has become engrossed in the accumulation of money and possessions. Both are important but when we become preoccupied by them we run the risk of failing to see the needs of others. Our primary purpose in life should be to worship God and to live lives of love to one another. I read recently that it is a great blessing to be free enough to use things for the purpose of loving. Jesus invites us to be generous with the riches we possess: our money, our health and our abilities. This is not easy but we are assured by Jesus that the ultimate result of such living is eternal life.

Reflection What do I fear God is asking me to give up? I pray for the grace to trust with open hands.

With best wishes and blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 20 Mark 10:2 – 16

This is a rather difficult text for people of the 21st century. In recent times, in many parts of the world (including Australia), the former definition of marriage was a celebration of a loving, sharing, equal and mutual relationship between a man and a woman. For many in the church this was a very hard change to accept and embrace: many cannot. The word “relationship” is of central importance when we speak of marriage. In Genesis the creation of woman begins with God’s authoritative pronouncement, “It is not good that the man should not be alone”. God’s decision is to make a helpmate like Himself.

Reflection. Do I think it possible that God treasures all loving relationships equally?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Saint Michael and All Angels - John 1: 45 –51

Today we celebrate the festival of Saint Michael and All Angels. Angels are amply attested in the Bible, both Old and New Testament. They are represented as an innumerable multitude of beings, intermediaries between God and man.*

Saint Michael, our Patron Saint, along with many angels, is reported to have been the one who drove the rebellious saint (Satan and his followers) out of heaven. (Revelation 12: 7-12) Generally Michael is depicted in art with a sword, standing over, or fighting with, a dragon. Angels are spiritual beings charged with the responsibility of serving and worshipping God, sometimes by acting as God’s messengers to human beings eg. Archangel Gabriel who told Mary she was to be the Mother of Jesus.

Reflection. What do I think about angels and their purpose in God’s plan for me? Who might I share my thoughts with? Best wishes and blessings, +Rob.

*The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

Reflection Pentecost 18 Mark 9: 30-37

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus’ disciples react in a very strange way when He tells them He will be betrayed, killed and rise again. They did not understand. Instead they changed the subject and began to argue among themselves – who amongst them was to be the greatest? Were they unable to comprehend that Jesus was to die? Or were they trying to establish who would be their leader after His death? It was obvious they were still thinking in human terms. To help them overcome that hurdle He tells them that whoever wishes to be first must place themselves last. As Jesus was called to be a servant so were they.

Reflection: When am I guilty of sliding into the worldly way in which influence and honour mean more than humility and kindness?

With blessings +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 17 Mark 8:27 – 38

When Jesus asked his very close friends what people were saying about Him they found it easy to respond by repeating what they had heard others saying about Him …… “you are John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the proph-ets.” Jesus asks, “But who do you say I am?” Peter rushed in with, “You are the Messiah”. A little later when Jesus spoke of the suffering and death He must follow, Peter could not cope with such thoughts. Jesus responds by telling him he needs to think in spiritual ways and not earthly ways. Peter needed to learn that Jesus’ way required complete obedience, even when he didn’t fully understand. Eventually he got the message and went on to be a wonderfully faithful servant, even unto death.

Reflection: When I reflect on this passage how might I find more intentional ways of being faithful in my responses to God?

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 16 Mark 7: 24-37

This week’s Gospel reading tells of two healing ministries. For people with any affliction to be cured was wonderful: it liberated. This was very true in Jesus’s lifetime. The blind, the lame, the crippled etc relied on charity to survive. Often the victim was driven to begging. It was humiliating and isolating. The first healing tells of a Greek woman’s child being cured. In Jewish eyes she was no better than a dog! At first Jesus did not respond to her request. However, the discussion between the two of them revealed to Jesus her great faith and her daughter was healed. The second healing is of a deaf mute. For him being healed was truly liberating. Both, the woman with the sick girl and the man who could not hear or speak clearly, were told not to tell anyone about the healings. They could not be constrained and thus told as many as possible of their encounter with Jesus.

Reflection: What do I learn about Jesus from these stories? Am I bold in telling my own Jesus story?

Blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 15 Mark 7:1-8,14-23

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus constantly teaches (us) the importance of acting on His words. Our worship needs to be backed up by the way we behave. How we act is noted by those around us. If we are seen to be a church-goer on Sunday and then spend the rest of the week acting in a way which is not Godly, we shall soon be exposed for what we really are. Today we find the Pharisees and some scribes bringing to Jesus a charge against His disciples. They do not practice the rules set by humans (Scribes and Pharisees). Jesus reminds them that their behaviour does not marry up with the actions. In doing this Jesus charges them with dismissing God’s laws and replacing them with made up rules. Jesus tells the gathered crowd it is not what goes into the body (meaningless rules) but rather what comes out ( Godly actions). We are judged by what we do rather than by what we say.

Reflection: Am I good at honouring God but careless about the way I act upon His word? With best wishes and blessing, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 14 John6: 56-69

This week’s Gospel begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. He tells those who claim to be followers that it will be in the eating of his flesh and drinking of His blood that they will be welcomed into eternal life. Taking this literally, many walked away. They failed to recognise that the things Jesus was speaking about were to be understood in a spiritual way. This must have been a very hard moment for Jesus. After all His painstaking planning, careful teaching, deep prayer and effort many walked away. He then turns to His closest friends for their affirmation. He was to sacrifice His own life so that others would have a foretaste of a future life. Peter and the other apostles were allowed to minister to their Lord as they firmly assured Him of their undying loyalty.

Reflection: Do I truly accept Jesus as the Holy One of God? Through my thought, word and actions do I witness this acceptance?

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 13 John 6:51-58

Today’s Gospel begins with the last verse of last week’s Gospel (John 6:51). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” In Hebrew, the expression “flesh and blood” means the whole being. In the Eucharist we are told that we become a part of Jesus. This for many is too hard to comprehend. For the Christian it in our faith in God that we believe it to be true. The reality of Christ’s presence at the Eucharist is beyond our comprehension. We are asked not to understand but to experience. Queen Elizabeth I put it this way: T'was God the Word that spoke it, He took the Bread and brake it: And what that Word did make it, That I believe and take it.”

Reflection. As I ponder this mystery do I rejoice in God’s coming to me in this sacrament?

With blessings and best wishes +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 12 John 6:41-51

When the Israelites fled Egypt to dwell in the Promised Land, they suffered great hardship resulting in extreme hunger. God heard their plea for help and provided daily food in the form of manna (bread). Throughout the Old Testament we find references to this gracious gift from God. When life was not going well for them these writers would remind them of God’s saving grace. Jesus came, not just for the Israelites (Jews) but for the Gentiles (us). Today’s Gospel tells of Jesus claiming to be, “The bread that came down from heaven.” This “bread” was for the whole world! Unlike the bread in the wilderness, Jesus is the bread of heaven. He brings new life to all who have ears to hear. In the Eucharist Jesus is present as the Body of Christ.

Reflection. Do I give God my full gratitude for this “Bread of Life?” Blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 11 John 6:24 – 35

How often have you taken up a new hobby or activity only to grow tired of it? Remember the story of the Israelites in the desert praying for God to satisfy their hunger! At first the manna (bread) was welcomed. But soon they grew tired of it and began to complain. Jesus knew how fickle human nature can be. How often the most uplifting signs will become tiresome! Today’s society is geared to seeking things which give them pleasure or rewards. (Think of advertising – “here is a special offer …… but that’s not all. Have a dozen steak knives as well!!!”) In our Gospel today, Jesus uses what seems like a weakness to be a starting point for teaching. The “special offer” becomes the real thing – Jesus himself.

Reflection. When do material things take over my life rather that drawing on the “true bread from heaven?”

With best wishes and blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 10 John 6: 1 – 21

Jesus’ ministry was always on the go – teaching, healing, restoring life. No wonder He created a large crowd of followers. Today’s Gospel records a crowd looking for Jesus. Having compassion for the multitude He ordered His disciples to buy food to feed them. How were they to find enough money to obtain sufficient food? What Jesus did next amazed everyone. In essence, He took what was available, five loaves of bread and two small fish. This meagre offering was sufficient to feed about 5,000. Jesus was teaching His disciples that when they were confronted with a seemingly impossible task, they needed to look first at what they already had!

Reflection: Daily, God provides me with many opportunities to bring gifts of love, compassion and healing to others. Am I aware of these gifts? Do I take care of these daily treasures?

With blessings , +Rob

Reflection Pentecost 9 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Jesus was an exceptional “giver”. Constantly teaching and healing He, like any of us, experience the draining of His energy. There was a constant expectation upon Him for hours and days at a time. And His apostles had to keep pace with him. But Jesus recognised the need to take time for rest and solitude. As Jesus needed to take time to recharge not only His energy levels but to also stay in tune with His Father. He models this to His disciples – and to us. There are times when we also need to “come away to a quiet place and rest awhile.” This time gives us the chance to be refreshed and therefore more beneficial to others when their needs are to be met.

Reflection. Do I readily take time out to refresh my spirit? What steps can I take to ensure I remain spiritually awake and useful?

Blessings , +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 8 Mark 6:14-29

Today we continue on from hearing last week of Jesus commissioning the twelve apostles and sending them out to minister to the people. The news of healings and other miraculous powers reached the ears of King Herod who thought John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. We know the story of Herod making a promise to Herodias’s daughter, the dancer, that he would give her anything she wished. She requested the head of John on a platter. Sorry as he was, he felt he could not break his promise and had John beheaded. When Jesus’ disciples heard of this tragedy they went and collected John’s body and laid it in a tomb.

Reflection. Have I ever made a promise which I regretted making? What was the consequence? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 7 Mark 6:1-13

The gospel today begins on a very positive note. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in His home town. All seems to be going well as Jesus teaches the scriptures with a knowledge and authority which only He would have. We are told the crowd was amazed, spellbound and profoundly struck by what they heard. It seemed the assembly felt God’s chosen one was their next door neighbour. Then something happens and there is a marked change. They openly begin to reject Him. Jesus is amazed at their lack of faith. How is it that the boy next door has all this knowledge! Ignorance, jealousy and resentment turn them against Him. Jesus is suddenly challenged, saddened by their lack of faith.

Reflection: Do I ever feel I know it all; that my Christian education has finished? Or do I benefit from an open, enquiring mind as I meditate on His word. With best wishes and blessings, continuing to search for new insights. Blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 6 Mark 5:21-43

Today’s Gospel reading speaks of two healings. The story begins with Jesus surrounded by a great crowd. Some were there out of curiosity others because they felt Jesus was a special person. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his daughter. There was urgency in the request. As Jesus sets off a woman, inflicted by a twelve year old haemorrhage, touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. She is healed through her act of faith. For her just to touch Jesus’ clothing was going to be sufficient for her healing to be complete. Meanwhile Jairus receives news his daughter is dead and that he should not worry the Master any longer. Jesus overhears the conversation and encourages Jairus to have faith. Upon arrival at his home Jesus goes to the child and commands her to arise and requests food be brought to her. Jesus ministry involved many miracles. We need to be open to the possibility of such miracles.

Reflection: Do I believe in miracles such as the two miracles above? Have I ever experienced a miracle personally?

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 6 Mark 5:21-43

Today’s Gospel reading speaks of two healings. The story begins with Jesus surrounded by a great crowd. Some were there out of curiosity others because they felt Jesus was a special person. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his daughter. There was urgency in the request. As Jesus sets off a woman, inflicted by a twelve year old haemorrhage, touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. She is healed through her act of faith. For her just to touch Jesus’ clothing was going to be sufficient for her healing to be complete. Meanwhile Jairus receives news his daughter is dead and that he should not worry the Master any longer. Jesus overhears the conversation and encourages Jairus to have faith. Upon arrival at his home Jesus goes to the child and commands her to arise and requests food be brought to her. Jesus ministry involved many miracles. We need to be open to the possibility of such miracles.

Reflection: Do I believe in miracles such as the two miracles above? Have I ever experienced a miracle personally?

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 5 Mark 4:35-41

Today we hear Mark’s account of the calming of the storm. We can sympathise with the disciples in their fear. The boat was small and a long way off shore. The waves were big. The men were terrified. In the midst of all this terror Jesus is asleep! He awoke and calmly said to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” There was peace. Often in our lives we can feel as though we are sinking in a “storm-filled sea”. There are many things that bring on such feelings – illness, broken relationships, financial issues, death of loved ones……… At such times it is very calming to have someone say with authority, “Peace! Be still!” It is even more effective when we believe it is Jesus who says it to us.

Reflection: Can I recall times when it seemed everything was closing in on me? Can I recall having the insight to reach out to our ever-present God on such occasions? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 4 Mark 4:26-34

As we know, Jesus was a master at telling parables (stories) which contained much more than that which appeared on the surface. In today’s gospel reading about a grain of wheat and a mustard seed, Jesus is teaching us that the Kingdom of God is planted in His people (us) and quietly grows into maturity. We, as baptised people, are called to be patiently active in allowing and encouraging God’s seeds to be planted in our hearts. The result does not need to be instantaneous – it may take years to reach maturity. But little by little we can become great proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. With God we need to exercise a patient waiting, even accepting set-backs along the way. Our goal must be in the end the reaching of maturity under God’s loving hand.

Reflection: What seed has God planted in me? Am I patiently waiting for that seed to reach maturity.

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 3 Mark 3:20-35

Today we hear how Jesus’ found how ministry was almost impossible in His home town. How could this person perform such miracles? How could he speak with such authority? Why was he able to cure the sick, raise the dead? They “knew” where he came from. Unable to accept and recognise that Jesus, the Son of God, was standing in their midst, they tried to discredit Him. The Scribes who copied out the scriptures for others to read, claimed he was possessed by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. No reasoning offered by Jesus was going to convince them otherwise. When Jesus was told by the crowd that His mother and family members were calling Him, he asks who is my mother and my family? Looking at the crowd be makes the con-fronting statement, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God are my brothers and sisters and mother.” Jesus was not criticising His family but expanding it by walking with those who walked with Him.

Reflection: Do I feel held back by my family or closest companions?

With blessings, +Rob

Reflection Pentecost 2 Mark 2:23-3:6

Reflection: There are two important points presented in today’s Gospel reading. The first is that from time to time rules and regulations, long established, are not always useful for the present time. The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest. This freed people to think of God and to give thanks for all His blessings. The day was meant to be a day of refreshment for the soul. Over time the religious authorities added so many regulations to the way the Sabbath was to be observed that it risked its original purpose. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath it was just too much for the synagogue rulers. We can imagine them huffing and puffing as they grew redder and redder in the face!! Jesus wants to know what all the fuss is about. What is wrong with bringing wholeness to someone on the Sabbath?

Reflection: Do I sometimes exercise too much control over other’s lives? Jesus can heal me but do I stand in the way of that healing?

With Blessings. +Rob

Reflection Trinity Sunday John 3:1-17

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Why night? Perhaps he did not want to be seen engaging in conversation with Jesus. After all he was a Pharisee. There was a vast difference between their teaching, which was founded on the Law (much of which had been enacted by them), and Jesus’ teaching which opened up a new era centred around a loving God. John 3:16 tells of a relational change in the way we are to participate in the Father’s love. This love is central to Jesus’ teaching.

He opens up, for all who wish to hear, a new way of being in relationship with the Father through the Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is in the cross of Jesus that a new freedom comes. No longer the rigid Law but now a personal loving way.

Reflection. If the Cross is God’s gift of healing love to me what do I need to reflect on and change? With blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Reflections on Lent and Easter 2018

Reflection Pentecost John15:26-27, 16:4b-15

As we reflect of the festival of Pentecost we should experience both a sense of astonishment and joyfulness. Often called the birthday of the Church, it is the day we celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to the world. Today’s Gospel reading is a foreshadowing of what the early disciples were to experience. Jesus tells them that their sorrow caused by His leaving them will be replaced with an exceptional power: God the Holy Spirit. This mystery was solved when the Day of Pentecost came. Transformed from people without hope they each were filled with an extra ordinary gift. No longer timid and frightened, they become the power-house of God on earth. Their courage to proclaim the Gospel had no bounds. This same Spirit has been given to us at our baptism.

Reflection: Do I believe I am filled with God’s Spirit? How does this manifest itself in me? With best wishes and blessings. +Rob.

Reflection Easter 7 John 17:6-19

This is a beautiful passage. We read of Jesus being at prayer with His Father and can gain an insight as to what prayer is like. Jesus pours out his heart to his Father. It is very “chatty”, such is the relationship between them. He expresses the fears He holds for His friends. His prayer is not selfish or possessive but rather reveals His wish for them to be protected and cared for. He does not pray for them to live safely. Far more importantly the prayer is seeking their faithfulness. He wants them to be true to the Father, consecrated and set apart right to the end. This prayer assures His friends (His disciples and us) that love is stronger than death. They (and us) are to live a life that will never be destroyed.

Reflection: Reading this passage do I gain a sense of God’s loving will for me.

With blessings and best wishes for the coming week. +Rob.

Reflection Easter 6 John15:9-17

This is a wonderful section from John’s Gospel. It gives an excellent summary of what love is all about. Not a sloppy, sentimental love. It is genuine love which all of us should long for. It is love of ultimate commitment and self-giving. The great Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin described love as: The most universal, the most tremendous and the most mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic energy. Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.” We need to come to Christ with an openness to receive and to give this divine love. A love which passes all understanding.

Reflection: How willing am I to submit myself to this wonderful, self-sacrificing love of Christ? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Easter 5 John 15:1-8

In John’s Gospel there are seven “I AM” sayings. Each represents an everyday activity in a way which illustrates Jesus’ expectation of those who wish to follow Him. Today we hear the words, “I AM the vine, you are the branches”. Jesus is telling His listeners, very definitely, that if we wish to be disciples our lives need to exercise practical, active caring centered on our belief in Jesus. He is the vine and He invites us through our Baptism, to be the branches. The vine is the core of the plant. From it the branches spread out. Receiving nourishment from the vine enables the branches to do what they are meant to do: bear fruit! To continue to be productive the vine needs, from time to time, to be pruned. Jesus is telling us that any side shoots of distraction, or bad habits or any sin needs to be cut off. Then the vine (us) can become extremely fruitful and grow the Kingdom of God.

Reflection: What activities, thoughts or omissions do I need to prune from my life to become highly fruitful for God? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Easter 4 John 10:11-18

The Gospel for today is such a well known passage from John’s Gospel. Because of this it is easy to say to ourselves that we have heard this story many times before. But it is not just a matter of hearing it, it is also an opportunity to ask ourselves how it relates to us in today’s world? Each Sunday reminds us that we do not come to God alone: our worship brings us into a community and identifies us as the sheep of the Good Shepherd. This makes our community very important to us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, shows us that we achieve so much more when we are working together and not drifting off by ourselves. If we isolate ourselves we can easily end up in a lot of trouble!!

Reflection: Am I prepared to heed the voice of God and, in trust, allow Him to lead me to where He draws me and not to where I think I would like to be?

May your week ahead be filled with new insights into God’s will for you. +Rob.

Easter 3 Matthew 24:36-48

Easter is more than one Sunday each year. This year it runs from Sunday 1st April through to Saturday May 13th. But the truth of Easter does not end when we move into another season. The events of Easter should continue to develop our faith and witness for the rest of our lives. That means that at some time we need to move past the event of the resurrection and begin experiencing the resurrection. When this happens we recognize and celebrate the risen Christ among us. This was a difficult transition for the early disciples, so we can be strengthened in our formation journey in the knowledge that they too were challenged. Coming to a point where we begin to believe is like falling in love. It is something which has to be experienced. It is very personal. Each of us is at a different point in our journey into faith. In falling in love there are usually times when it feels more real than at other times. This is a natural part of loving. So, too, with our growing in the resurrection faith. We need to persevere in our search.

Reflection: Which parts of my faith journey do I need to work on? With blessings and best wishes on your journey with Christ as your guide. +Rob.

Reflection Easter 2 John 20:19-31

The Gospel today is so human. It is easy to be told something which seems impossible, no matter how sincere the person telling the story might be. Thomas finds himself in this position. For him the fact the other disciples had moved from doubt to absolute belief does not help Thomas to believe.: “Unless I see for myself I will not believe!” How many times have you said exactly the same words when a friend has told you a story which is unbelievable? Thomas is present when Jesus appears again to the disciples. He offers His peace and then invites Thomas to feel the wounds in His hands, feet and side. Thomas discovered the truth because he put himself in a place where he would most likely encounter the truth. It was in the same room where the other disciples meet Jesus at an earlier time. Although still in doubt, Thomas was coaxed by Jesus’s love to a place where he would most likely encounter the risen Christ for himself.

Reflection: When have I felt an opportunity to respond to Jesus’ coaxing to grow and blossom in my faith?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Easter Day John 20:1-18

What a beautiful reading this is! It is the story right at the heart of the Gospel (Good News!). Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning, the first day of the week. On arrival she finds the stone rolled away. Puzzled she ran to tell Peter and John. Having been told the body was gone they sped to the tomb to see for themselves. They found linen wrappings and the cloth which had been on Jesus’ head, but no body. Puzzled they returned to their home. Mary stayed outside the tomb, numb with shock and wonder. Weeping, she looked inside and saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been. They asked why she was weeping and she told of how someone had taken the body away. Turning, she saw Jesus, but did not recognize Him. She asked where his body was laid. Jesus replies, “Mary!” The moment of recognition – “Rabbouni” (teacher). Jesus tells her not to hold Him but rather to go and tell His disciples, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”. She announces to the disciples that she has seen the Lord. This the beginning of the greatest story ever told!

Reflection. What changes in my life as I acknowledge the resurrection of Jesus? Am I good at sharing that news? Christ is risen! With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday

Matthew 26:36-27:60

The Gospel reading we are hearing today gives us Matthew’s account of the events from Maundy Thursday (Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane) through to burial of Jesus (Joseph of Arimathea). This is a long reading filled with drama and action and involving a number of different ‘scenes”. It does Matthew’s account justice if we take our time reading it. I suggest a pause for reflection on each of the mini stories contained within the whole. It is when we place ourselves personally within the various detailed events that we can enter into the emotions and truths which the Passion provides.

Reflection: Which part of the Passion story do I associate with most closely? Why?

With blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Reflection Lent 5 John 12:20-33

Today’s reading tells of some Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover Festival. They told Philip they wished to see Jesus. Philip finds Andrew and the two go to tell Jesus. Jesus tells them that he is about to be glorified (killed). He then reminds them that a grain of wheat must be put into the ground and die so that it can then spring into a new and productive life. Jesus is referring to His own death and resurrection.

The point being made is that in serving we die to the things of this world and then we too are born into eternal life. In dying Jesus was foreshadowing the need for His followers to follow His example. This is summed up in an old prayer: May we see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.

Reflection: Can I become intentional in my prayers to be like that seed which needs to die so that it may produce new life in others?

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Mothering Sunday Lent 4 John 3:14-21

Verse 16 of today’s Gospel reading is one of the best known and much treasured quotes of the New Testament:- God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life. These words are very much part of every Christians belief. Jesus, who suffered so much knows what can face us during our lives. No one can go through life without meeting with adversity, sickness, death, broken relationships, fear, doubt and other painful emotions. These words for St John remind us that in the deepest moments of despair Jesus is with us, we are not alone! It is when we truly find the “light of Christ” that we are able to feel the God-given strength to deal with any circumstance. This does require a very deep trust and belief that through Jesus’ own self-sacrifice we have someone who understands how we are feeling when all seems black and hopeless.

Reflection: When have I felt the very presence of God? Have I felt the unconditional love He has for me? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Lent 3 John 2:13-25

What an extraordinary scene it would have been. The Passover, being near, brought people from surrounding towns and villages to Jerusalem. The very centre of the city’s activities was the Temple. It was usually a busy place but the visitors would have made it even more so. Jesus went to the Temple to offer worship. He was distressed by what he saw. People buying and selling sheep, cattle and doves, money changers doing a roaring trade and this sacred place being used for the wrong purposes. No wonder Jesus was angry! His Father’s house was not a place of devout worship but a den of rabble.

What was Jesus doing?“What sign can you show us for doing this?” In response to this question Jesus foreshadows his pending death and resurrection.

Reflection: How would I have reacted if I was in the Temple when Jesus drove the traders and money changes out? How do I respect God’s house of prayer?

With blessings and best wishes for the week ahead, +Rob.

Reflection Lent 2 Mark 8:31-38

This week’s Gospel reading has Jesus gathering his disciples and members of the general public. What he says to them is disturbing. If we want to be His disciple we are told we have to change from being self-centered and instead become Jesus-centred. This is our pathway to a life in Christ, not just for the present, but for eternity. This is a message which was hard for people to stomach, both in Jesus’s earthly time and in our day. People of the western world are good at collecting, saving, preparing and gathering. Jesus has a better way to live out our life – let go! We can become so dependent on material things, our possessions, opinions, relationships that we end up pushing Jesus further and further away from our centre and replace Him with things which, one day, we will leave behind! Jesus calls us to put Him first, not for His sake, but for ours.

Reflection. Where are my life’s priorities? Will they take me into God’s loving eternity?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection: The First Sunday of Lent Mark 1:9-15

The Gospel reading for today begins with Jesus coming out of the waters of the Jordan after his baptism. He heard the voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” What does Jesus do now? He felt driven to go into the wilderness, for forty days, to reflect. Here he met temptation and overpowered it! Many Christians find great value in going into the desert – either literally or figuratively. It is in deserted places where we can seek God and find Him.. He is found in emptiness as well as fullness. Lent is an annual part of the Christian’s journey. God can be found in old age, disappointment, sickness, failure and solitude.

Reflection: Am I prepared to take myself into a desert place this Lent, and in the quietness, allow God to fill me with “new life”? With blessings for this Lent. +Rob.

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Reflection:The Transfiguration Mark 9:2-10

Today we celebrate The Transfiguration of Jesus. This event takes place just after very intense discussions between Jesus and his chosen disciples. “Who do people say that I am?” Jesus asks. They put forward answer which tell of what other people think about him. Jesus narrows down the question, “But who do say I am?” Peter, for the first time, verbalises whom he thinks Jesus is – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”. For the first time Jesus tells them what His future holds for Him. It is a very distressing piece of news. A few days later Jesus takes three of his special disciples with him the top of a mountain. It is here that Jesus is transfigured. The witnessing of the Transfiguration by the three, Peter, James and John, was the moment of total commitment to Jesus. It was God’s gift to them – a gift which revealed the glory of the Father through the Son. From that moment on they were emboldened to take up their cross and follow Him.

Reflection: Have I ever had an experience which has changed my understanding of God? With blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Reflection Epiphany 5 Mark 1.29-39

For the first 30 years of Jesus earthly life he lived as a “normal” human. With His baptism came an intensely rapid change. He turned towards a three year period of preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God. Much of this ministry involved healing: restoration to full health, raising the dead, driving out evil spirits, honouring the poor, the needy, the marginalized. He turned things upside down. He disturbed the powerful and honoured the weak. He went into battle, head to head, with the kingdom of evil. This was a demanding ministry.

People were searching for him and yet he found time to be with His Father in the early hours of the morning. This was His time of pray. His ministry was fulfilled in teaching the ways of God and doing battle with the devil (evil spirits). He came to disturb those who misused their positions powers, who had little regard for others. He began building communities of people who loved God. The Church had begun!

Reflection: How might I be Christ-like in disturbing any complacency in my relationship with God? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Epiphany 4 Mark 1:21-18

There are multitudes of reasons for people to experience times of depression or anxiety. Fortunately, for people living in Australia there are many avenues of help available when such afflictions strike. Not so in Jesus’ day. No social benefits or medical skills to assist the sufferers. In today’s Gospel we hear of a man with “an unclean spirit”. To survive he would need to beg and live off the generosity of others. Jesus meets such a person whilst preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. Believing Jesus had come to destroy him the man challenged Jesus. Jesus’ response was to heal the man by driving the “evil spirit” out of him. When the man was seen to have been healed, the onlookers marvelled at the authority exhibited by Jesus. “What is this…….? He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” In Mark’s Gospel this is the first sign of the power of Jesus’ ministry.

Reflection:

Have you at sometimes felt you were being overpowered by urges and forces too strong to bear? Did you think to call on the Power from above and beyond yourself? If not, why not?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Epiphany 3 John 1:14-20

There are times in my life when I wake up with a well-planned day in front of me. An unexpected phone call phone changes everything. Today’s Gospel relates a moment very similar to this.

Jesus, walking on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, sees two brothers, Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew. They were fishermen. Jesus speaks to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people”. Without hesitation they leave everything and follow Him. A little further on Jesus sees James and John and invites them also to follow Him too. Without hesitation they obeyed is invitation, left everything, and followed Jesus. In that moment of obedience their lives were changed forever.

Reflection. Have I ever experienced a moment when I felt Jesus calling me to do something right off my radar? How did I respond? With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Epiphany 2 John 1:43-51

Today’s Gospel reading is but a part of St John’s account of the early ministry of Jesus after His baptism by John in the Jordan River. (To put it into the right context it is wise to read verses 19 to 42. These verses tell of Jesus setting about gathering His disciples. Andrew finds his brother, Simon Peter, and brings him to Jesus.) Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael (Bartholomew) to follow Him. They are impressed by what they saw and heard. Their response to join up with Jesus was spontaneous.

From time to time we meet people to whom we too are instantly drawn. We see in those people things like wisdom, compassion, strength, care or a host of other emotions with which we wish to associate. Such people give us life. The greatest life-giver of all is Jesus, the Son of God. When we recognize Jesus’ presence in our own lives we experience life-changing moments.

Reflection: Can I recall such moments in my own faith journey? Might I be an inspiration to others?

With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection The Baptism of Jesus Mark 1: 1-14

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the Four and begins with an account of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan river. His account of Jesus’ earthly life gets right to the point, “The beginning of the good news …..” Note at the Gospel’s end he does not say “this is the end of the good news!”

John was the last of the great prophets. He was preparing those who wished to find a new and wonderful way to new life by proclaiming a baptism which had its roots in repentance. Did Jesus need baptism? No. He sought it to proclaim he was ready to meet any human circumstance. It opened the way for God’s voice to be heard, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The path which opened up was not one of easy going. The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness where he met with temptation, but God’s angels ministered to him.

Reflection: How am I inspired by this reading? What discovery of myself do I encounter? Do I appreciate the “desert moments” in my life as a source of Godly strength?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection: The Epiphany of Our Lord Matthew 2:1-12

Today we celebrate the arrival of the Magi, or Wise Men, from the East who followed the star, the sign a new King had been born. The Bible does not tell us how many Magi there were, nor their names. Tradition says there were three (based on the number of gifts they carried to present to baby Jesus). An ancient Bavarian custom was to mark with chalk on the wall of each room of the house the letters CMB (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar). These are the names that tradition assigned to the Magi. Today, at Epiphany, we are invited to welcome the Magi into our hearts and homes to celebrate with them the birth of the universal King, Jesus Christ.

Reflection. When visitors come to my home do they find love, justice and peace? With blessings and best wishes as we contemplate God’s presence. +Rob

Sermon from Fr Bill Crossman on the occasion of The Epiphany of Our Lord Sunday 31 December 2017

31 Dec 17 – Epiphany (Moggill- Mt. Crosby)

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3: 1-12; Matthew 2: 1-12

Four or five years ago, there was some publicity about an ancient document in the Vatican archives. According to researchers, the document casts new light on the story of the Three Wise Men who come to offer gifts to the infant Jesus – and we celebrate that today as Epiphany – or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as it’s also known. Its actual date is 6th January, but the lectionary provides for it to be a Sunday celebration today.

The document has been in the Vatican Library for more than 250 years and is called “The Revelation of the Magi” and is reputedly a first-hand account of their journey to pay tribute to the Son of God. It was written in ancient Syriac – the language spoken by early Christians from Syria - and has only been translated recently. A Professor of Religious Studies from the University of Oklahoma has taken two years to do the translation. The document is an eighth century copy of a story first written down less than 100 years after St. Matthew’s Gospel was written. St. Matthew’s account is the only biblical account we have of the story but the translated tale differs in many respects from Matthew’s brief account. The three wise men have traditionally been associated with Persian mystics, but those in the “Revelation of the Magi” are from much further afield – from a semi mythical land of Shir, now associated with China. (Maybe a Deacon in the Episcopal Church of the United States, The Rev’d John Henry Hopkins Jr. knew something when in 1857 he wrote a carol as part of a Christmas pageant for his nieces and nephews. It’s called “We Three Kings of Orient Are”) The wise men are said to be descendants of Seth, the third son of Abraham and to have belonged to a sect that believed in silent prayer. In a departure from the traditional story, it says there were “scores” of Magi. Matthew of course doesn’t give us any number – the assumption all along has been there were three wise men because there were three gifts. The document says basically, according to some reports, that Jesus Christ and the Star of Bethlehem are the same thing. The star guides them to Bethlehem and into a cave where it transforms into a human infant who tells them to go back and be preachers of the Gospel.

Now, I don’t know if you find any of that convincing or not. It’s interesting. I ‘m certainly not convinced about Jesus and the star being the same thing, and it’s hard to do the document full justice on the basis of some reports in the press. But the thing that really caught my eye was something the translator said. He commented “Somebody was really fascinated by the wise men to have created this big, long story and tell it from their perspective. A great deal of thought and imagination has gone into it……..Nobody knows where Matthew got the story from, so along with Matthew’s Gospel, this is as close as you can get to the Magi.”

There has, I think always been a fascination with the story of the wise men – Google “Star of Bethlehem” and you get an impossible number of results for it. “Star of wonder, star of light” as we sing in “We Three Kings of Orient Are” appeals to wonder and imagination and they take us into that realm. Their gifts and the visit are full of symbolism. They look back and forward – back to Isaiah’s prophecy of the restored Jerusalem of the new and glorious age of the Messiah for whom people waited. Gold and frankincense will proclaim the praise of the Lord, Isaiah says – as gold and frankincense proclaim that the infant in the manger is the Lord. The myrrh used for anointing the dead looks forward to the passion and death of Christ. And then there’s the light of the star – Epiphany has always been associated with bringing light into darkness.

And the story sets forth, almost right at the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel, that God can appear to all, not just to the chosen ones. In fact everything is upside down in the story. The magi are foreigners from another religion. They don’t belong in Judea, nor should they necessarily be looking for God in the Jewish faith tradition. The star they follow leads them to a humble dwelling place, and not a royal palace, not a corporate tower or boardroom, not even a temple or cathedral or basilica. God is present everywhere, but most present in the child of an ordinary humble family; a family who must soon run for their lives and become refugees to escape murderous violence.

Epiphany is the season of God’s revealing.. There’s a star in the sky, guiding magi from the East, spiritual leaders maybe, but certainly spiritual seekers from another faith tradition. God’s revelation is to all people, and not just for chosen people or nations. There is no predestination here, but a calling to all people. Salvation comes to all creation, without exceptions. God has no outsiders; all are welcome in God’s realm of peace. So Epiphany can give us hope that all of us are loved, all of us are nurtured, all of us are welcomed, and all of us given light for the journey.

And the theme of light – light for the journey is especially relevant for us this morning as we stand on the very threshold of a New Year. Most of us make New Year’s resolutions, or at least think about them. But the reality often is that as we go through a new year, we find ourselves doing many things we did in the old year. We might follow pretty much the same pattern of things as we’ve followed in the past. We will probably think many of the same thoughts we thought before. We will probably face many of the same challenges we have faced before at personal, local, national and international levels. And yet, by God’s grace things can be different, things can be new. There are certain moments when God, who loves us, shows himself, manifests or reveals himself, to use Epiphany language. God steps into our time and into our lives. The light does shine in the darkness. Sometimes that can be reassuring, sometimes disruptive. There are times maybe when you’ve stood before a closed door or a dead end, and then to your surprise God intervenes and you have a future offered that you could not have created on your own. Often, I think, we only realize this in hindsight.

So as we begin the New Year, we begin with faith. We begin with faith that God does not leave us in our own time, but that God shows himself to us, makes time for us, takes time for us. God doesn’t leave it all up to us, thank goodness. It isn’t our primary task by resolutions whether they be well-meaning or wishful thinking to make the New Year turn out right. Sure, there is a place for our own good honest reflection and soul searching to identify aspects of our lives we would like to be better – but God comes to us, reveals himself to us. Few of us know for certain exactly where our pathways are going these days. Sometimes, we get to choose the direction. Other times, it is thrust upon us by unexpected election results whether locally or in world leading economies. There can be unexpected job loss, illness, bereavement, divorce, national upheaval, or natural disaster. We find ourselves having to ditch some resolutions, rewrite our carefully made plans, consider alternative futures, and go forward not fully knowing where our path will lead. You often hear conventional wisdom saying maybe it’s just as well we don’t know the exact course of our lives. But Epiphany reminds us that our trust is that we are being guided by a star, the light of Christ in our hearts.

O Star of wonder, star of night

Star with royal beauty bright

Westward leading, still proceeding

Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Amen.

(PS Further sermons from Rev Bill Crossman are listed from February 2017 and 13 August 2017 if you continue to scroll down the pages after Bishop Rob's reflections on Lent and Easter last year.)

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The Journey of the Magi

The Journey Of The Magi by T.S. Eliot

Hear Sir Alec Guinness read The Journey of the Magi by putting the link below in the Search Engine or by Clicking Here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlEQYueIQJU

(The poem is based on the text “Behold there came wise men from the East”)

A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.'

And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems, 1909-1962 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991). This poem has been shared here under fair use guidelines provided by The Poetry Foundation. To hear T.S. Elliot read his poem aloud, go to this link: Journey of the Magi from Poetry Archive

David Brooks writes in the New York Times about

How Would Jesus Drive

David BROOKS

How Would Jesus Drive?

Over the past several years we have done an outstanding job of putting total sleazoids at the top of our society: Trump, Bannon, Ailes, Weinstein, Cosby, etc. So it was good to get a reminder, from Pope Francis in his New Year’s Eve homily, that the people who have the most influence on society are actually the normal folks, through their normal, everyday gestures: being kind in public places, attentive to the elderly. The pope called such people, in a beautiful phrase, “the artisans of the common good.”Small deeds, he said, “express concretely love for the city … without giving speeches, without publicity, but with a style of practical civic education for daily life.”

The pope focused especially on driving, praising those people “who move in traffic with good sense and prudence.” As Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution points out, driving is precisely the sort of everyday activity through which people mold the culture of their community. If you speed up so I can’t merge into your lane, you’re teaching me that the society around here is basically competitive, not cooperative. If, on the other hand, you give me a friendly wave after I let you in, you’re teaching me that this is a place where a kindness is recognized and gratitude is expressed.

If you feel perfectly fine doing a three-point turn in the middle of a busy street, blocking everybody else going both ways, you teach me that people here are selfish and feel entitled. But if you get over to the right and wait your turn in a crowded highway exit lane, rather than cutting in at the last moment, that teaches me that there’s a sense of fairness and equality, and that people feel embedded in the group.

Driving is governed by law, but it’s also shaped by norms. If enough people adopt the same driving style, then that behavior hardens into a communal disposition. Once people understand what is normal around here, more people tend to drive that way, too, and you get this amplified, snowball effect. Kindness breeds kindness. Aggression breeds aggression.

We all know that driving cultures vary widely from city to city. My impression is that people in Seattle dawdle, people in Los Angeles get right up on your tail but are pretty skilled about it, and those of us from the New York/ New Jersey area treat driving as if it were foreplay to genocide.

Studies have been done, of course. According to Allstate, the most accident-prone drivers live in Boston; Baltimore; Worcester, Massachusetts; Washington; and Springfield, Massachusetts. (Way to go, Massachusetts!) The safest drivers live in Kansas City, Kansas; Brownsville, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; and Huntsville, Alabama.

A company called Automatic makes a device that measures how cars race through traffic. It finds that drivers in Phoenix; Tucson, Arizona; and Memphis, Tennessee, are the most aggressive and those in Honolulu; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle are the least.

The cultural gaps among nations are even more stark. According to a 2003 Gallup survey, 65 percent of American and Russian drivers thought they’d been subjected to aggressive behavior from others, compared with only 26 percent of Japanese drivers. There are significant differences in driving culture between disciplined northern European countries and the more permissive southern ones, where lane markers are regarded as dubious suggestions.

Some traffic patterns require a tradition of deference to central authority. According to The Economist, half the world’s traffic circles are in France, where they work well. In Nairobi, they are a complete disaster.

Driving means making a thousand small moral decisions: whether to tailgate to push the slowpoke faster, or to give space; whether to honk only as a warning or constantly as your all-purpose show of contempt for humanity.

Driving puts you in a constant position of asking, Are we in a place where there is a system of self-restraint, or are we in a place where it’s dog eat dog?

Driving puts you in a constant position of asking, Are my needs more important than everybody else’s, or are we all equal? BMW drivers are much less likely to brake for pedestrians at crosswalks. Prius drivers in San Francisco commit more traffic violations. People who think they are richer or better than others are ruder behind the wheel.

Driving also puts you in a position where you are periodically having to overrule your desire for revenge. When somebody cuts you off, you want to punish the jerk and enforce all that is right and good. But that only leads to a cycle of even worse driving, so it’s better, as Francis would say, to turn the other cheek. How would Jesus drive?

In short, driving puts you into social situations in which you have to co-construct a shared culture of civility, and go against your own primeval selfishness, and it does so while you are encased in what is potentially a 4,000-pound metal weapon.

Of course, we are all appalled at the clowns who are bespoiling our culture from the top. But I’m going to try to remember one lesson when I hit the road: Though I may be surrounded by idiots, I’m potentially an artisan of the common good.

David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times.

MORE REFLECTIONS FROM BISHOP ROB

Reflection Advent 4

Luke 1:26-38

Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” What a wonderful profession of faith! An angel has told Mary she would conceive and give birth to God’s Son (Jesus). Her response is one of complete trust and obedience – total unconditional love.

It is this type of love which we centre on as we light the fourth Advent Candle. This love is not only the motive principle of the perfect relationship between God and humans, but also constitutes the essential nature of the Person of God. We need to shroud ourselves in this love as Mary did when she proclaimed, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Reflection How willing am I to surrender my whole self into the loving arms of God? This year, will my celebration of Christmas have a deeper significance?

With blessing and best wishes for a safe and Christ-filled Christmas. +Rob.

Reflection Advent 3

 

There would have been little doubt that this man, John who was sent by God,was something out of the ordinary. In spite of his strange ways he was chosen by none other than God to prepare the people of the Judean countryside and Jerusalem. He caused a puzzle for the leaders; who was he?He assured them he was not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. John claimed he was a voice crying in the wilderness. "Make straight the way of the Lord". He made it clear he was the forerunner to the far greater person (Jesus) who would come after him. With deep humility he was able to move from the lime-light and allow Jesus to take centre stage. John was quick to answer when asked who he really was. He was simply God's messenger.

Reflection: Who am I? What is my purpose in God's scheme? How do I respond to God's loving plan for me? With blessings as Christmas approaches +Rob

Reflection Advent 2 Gospel reading Mark 1:1-8

Last week (Advent 1) our theme was Hope. This week we centre our thoughts and prayers on “Peace”. To live in peace is a beautiful thing. Peace takes away hatred, envy, fear, jealousy and many other negative emotions. A wonderful sense of peace infiltrated the lives of the early Christians and has continued to do so up to the present. John the Baptist was the one who immediately preceded Jesus. His call was to repentance, a turning back to the values which God wills us to live by. To find true peace we need to examine our own lives and commit ourselves to be people of the light not darkness. God’s peace enables this transformation. When we walk in the Light of Christ we experience a “peace which passes all understanding”.

Reflection: What burdens do I carry which inhibit a good relationship with the Triune God? How might I resolve to cast off these burdens and return to Christ?

With blessings and best wishes as we seek God’s peace. +Rob.

Reflection Advent I Mark 13:24-37

Today we begin the Church’s New Year with the first Sunday of Advent. Throughout the coming year the majority of Gospel readings for our Sunday worship will be from the book of Saint Mark. Not only does Advent prepare us for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but also for his appearing on “The Last Day”, commonly known as the Day of Judgment. Jesus reminds his hearers (us) that it is absolutely essential to be always prepared for this day

We must live so that it does not matter when He comes. We need to live our lives ever mindful that we need to be ready at all times because we do not know the day or the hour when He will return.

Reflection: Do I live with anticipation for the Lord’s coming, or do I dread it? How might I be more intentional during this Advent to walk with Jesus? +Rob.

Reflection - Christ the King Matthew 25:31-46

It is fitting that on the last Sunday of the Christian year we should hear of Jesus speaking as “The King of the Universe”. We are reminded that at the end of time we shall be judged on how well we responded to Jesus’s call to be mindful of all God’s people.

We cannot be selective about those we care about. Jesus has given us a universal command to honour all people:- the poor, the refugee, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned and the stranger. When we choose to ignore such people we are casting aside God’s call to us. The message is simple: our Lord will judge us on our love and service to others.

Prior to Jesus coming to earth the Jews were considered to be God’s Chosen People. His incarnation and earthly ministry changed all that. Jesus says that at his coming to earth all people become a “chosen “person. Jesus is already present, but in disguise, in every living one of us.

Reflection: What do I see when I see the needy? Do I focus on the hidden glory of others? How would I be judged if earthly life stopped tomorrow?

With blessing and best wishes as we prepare to enter into a new year. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 24 Matthew 25:14 – 30

Today’s Gospel reading is a wonderful lesson in stewardship. Each one of us is gifted by God to be able to somethings well. Not everybody has the same gifts. Thank goodness for that! We are encouraged to take what God has given to us and to use it wisely. Anybody who says they are useless is offending God. There may be a variety of gifts which we are called upon to exercise. Are we prepared to do so with confidence and generosity? Even in old age when the body is unable to do things of the past, we can then look for new ways of serving God and His world. For example, people who are confined to a chair or bed can consciously set about being good prayers. For many years I have encouraged those who are no longer physically fit to become intentional prayers. Often this suggestion is life-giving for those, who through infirmity, feel inadequate. This means that each and every one of us has a God-given treasure to invest, no matter what stage of life we are in.

Reflection: What are the talents God has given to me? Am I utilising them to the full? With blessings and best wishes for the week ahead. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 23 Matthew 25:1-13

When people wish to make a particular point they often repeat the message a number of times. Today’s Gospel story is almost a carbon copy of one which Jesus gave to us on October 15th – the story of the wedding feast. The core message is about being prepared and ready. The first tells of the man who refused to wear the traditional wedding garment (which would have been provided if he didn’t have one of his own). In today’s telling, Jesus presents us with ten bridesmaids – five wise and five foolish. Again the story highlights the necessity to be on guard, be ready. The purpose in telling these two parables is to remind us of the need to be constantly awake to God’s presence in our lives. The wise bridesmaids took with them oil in reserve enabling them to keep their lamps alight.

Reflection: Do I look to the “oil and lamps” of my life and ask God to replenish and restock my reserves? With best wishes and blessings. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 22 Matthew 23:1-12

As we approach the end of the Christian year (Christ the King November 26th) the Sunday Gospel readings from Saint Matthew reveal a Jesus who is not afraid of anything temporal but completely devoted to the message of God’s supremacy as the ruler of all. Jesus is unrelenting in his attack on the hypocrisy shown by the Scribes and Pharisees. They do not practice what they preach. They do not do what they tell their people to do. They are proud, conceited and place themselves above the Law. Jesus teaches his followers to obey the Law but not to act above it. The Kingdom of Heaven is to be filled with those who humble themselves. Jesus calls us through our Baptism to be as servants to one another. God judges us by our actions not by our words. We are to exercise humility, care, generosity, forgiveness, compassion and above all true love.

Reflection: Who might I deliberately set out to serve this coming week by displaying some of the attributes above?

With blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 19 Matthew 22:1-14

This week’s Gospel reading contains a parable which Jesus told to an assembled crowd. In it he gives an insight into the nature of the Kingdom of God. The king in the story invited all the “right people” to his son’s wedding feast. Each invitee did not respond to the invitation. Some made excuses for their non-attendance. Others ignored it completely Enraged at their lack of respect the king sent his slaves to gather in the most unlikely people to the feast. When the party was about to begin, the king noticed one person not wearing the traditional wedding robe. This was a sign of great disrespect and insult. Obeying the king's orders he was thrown out into the darkness. O Lord, how we need your constant invitation to come to you and learn from you. Rid us of our garments of selfishness, our judgmental attitudes, our stubborn hearts, and clothe us instead with your garments of salvation.

Reflection: Have there been times in my life when I have taken God’s invitation for granted? May my heart respond as best it can and prepare me to receive God’s gifts. With blessings. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 18 Matthew 21 33-46

This week we hear the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard, made it safe with a fence, dug a winepress and erected a watchtower. He then leased the property and went away. When the grapes were harvested he sent his slaves to collect his rent. The tenants refused to pay and dealt badly with the slaves. He sent a second group of slaves and the same lot befell them. Finally he sent his son, believing they would treat him with respect. But they killed him also. When the owner comes he puts to death those who refused to pay him what he was owed. He then engages tenants who will pay him. In the parable Jesus is referring to the kingdom of God. We are called to be tenants with the expectation we shall do the works of God. Jesus reminds us that the kingdom does not belong to us - it is a gift of God and brings responsibilities.

Reflection: What is it that God asks me to be a tenant of? What are the fruits of the kingdom that I am able to achieve? With blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 17 Matthew 21:23-32

Today’s Gospel reading is inspired by the chief priests and elders questioning the authority Jesus had to do be doing great signs and wonders. Jesus answers their question by asking another question: “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or is it of human origin?” They were not able to answer him. “Yes” would raise the question of their lack of faith in John, “No” would have the crowd turn against them. They took the easy way out, “We do not know”. Jesus then presents them with a parable concerning to sons. Their father asked each to work in his vineyard. The first said he would not go but later changed his mind and went. The other said he would go but he did not. Jesus asks which one was it who did his father’s bidding? They answered the first. Jesus then reminded them that they did not listen to John the Baptist but that tax collectors and prostitutes will be going into the Kingdom of God ahead of them.

Reflection: Jesus asks us, “What do you think?”. Where do I stand in relation to God? Do I give God time to show me the things which really matter? Blessings and best wishes for the week ahead. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 16 Matthew 20:1-16

Anyone reading this Gospel account of the landowner and his workers for the first time may well be filled with a sense of anger at what seems to be a great injustice. It is normal to expect a payment equal to the value of the work done. Surely those who work for eight hours are entitled to eight times the amount paid to someone working just one hour. Not so in God’s kingdom! God is a God of generosity and extreme compassion.

We need to appreciate this fact when we examine our lives in relationship to the time and effort we put in to serving God. No matter how little or insufficient it may be, God treats us with a generosity far beyond human expectation. God cannot love by degrees. God’s love is always given in totality.

Reflection: How might I be more generous with what God has given me? Help me, Lord, to let go of presumptions so that I may see as you do and act freely from a full heart. With best wishes and blessings, +Rob

Reflection Pentecost 15 Matthew 18:21-35

Peter asks Jesus a reasonable question - “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how many times should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus responds by virtually telling Peter there is no limit to forgiveness. Then Jesus teaches a salient lesson by means of a parable. Those who follow Jesus need to be people who are not only forgiven but, just as importantly, forgiving. Such is God’s patience and generosity to us. Whenever we come with a penitent heart and with an intention to do better in the future we can be assured any debt of sin is written off. However, just as God forgives us, so too are we to forgive those who offend against us. We are to model the life of Jesus in our daily lives.

Reflection: How easily do I forgive others? Gracious God help me to be generous as you are generous.

Blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Pentecost 14 Reflection Matthew 18:10-20

Today’s Gospel reading is all about community. It gives a blue print for Christian living. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. He is the centre-point of our church community. The message He proclaims is one of reconciliation, not retribution. We are asked to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters. Sometimes this requires disciplinary action to regain our healthy community. It is not just a matter of stopping some one’s bad behaviour. It is a process of enabling a true change in attitude. This brings about a harmony which is central to our community health. Whenever I am at prayer there are thousands of other Christian souls praying too. We belong to a world-wide community.

Reflection: How does my prayer time change when I consciously join with the thousands of “unseen others” who are praying with? Blessings +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 13 Matthew 16:21- 28

This week’s Gospel reading tells of Jesus outlining his pending death and resurrection to his disciples. This was hard news to hear. Peter took Jesus aside and told him that none of what he was speaking about was to happen. Jesus rebuked Peter by pointing out that he was not focusing on divine things but on human things. Jesus was showing Peter, and the other disciples, that trust and faithfulness would bring its reward.

We too, as modern-day disciples, need to put our total trust in Jesus. We need to hear his word and seek to be loyal and dedicated followers. When we accept this way of living we will not necessarily be lead us away from suffering, pain or difficulty. However, it will enable us to grow in trust of God’s love for us.

Reflection: What areas of my life do I need to strengthen so that I might place my utmost trust in Jesus? With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 12. Matthew 16:13-20

Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do people say I am?" They answered, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." But then Jesus changes the direction of the question. He asks who then it is that they think he is? Peter names Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus could trust Peter to be honest - he would say what was on his mind and in his heart. "

Reflection: If Jesus asked me this same question ("Who do you say I am?") what would be my answer? Lord, I linger with this question: What are you to me?

With best wishes and blessings for the week ahead. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 11 Matthew 15:21-28

This reading seems, at first, to be totally at odds with the Jesus we have been exposed to in other parts of the Gospel. An agitated Canaanite women comes to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon. Jesus ignores her plea for help. His disciples wanted to send this “pest” of a woman away. Her reaction to such treatment was not to cures and stamp her feet! Jesus states that His ministry was to the lost sheep of Israel, not some outsider. But she was not going to be put off. Her plea is, “Help me”. Jesus’ response seems cruel. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” What an insult! But still the woman persists in seeking help. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus recognises the woman’s faith which was not destroyed by all that had been said to her. Jesus recognised this faith. Her daughter was instantly healed.

Reflection: What a load this woman carried in her life. She was handicapped (a) by being a woman in a man’s world, (b) she was an unclean gentile and (c) she had an afflicted daughter. Do I sometimes give up hope because God does not seem to be doing what I ask for in my prayers? With blessings, +Rob

Reflection Pentecost 10 Matthew 14:22-33.

Today’s Gospel reading follows on immediately after the feeding of the 5000. We hear he dismissed the crowds and made the disciples get into a boat whilst he remained. He went up a hill to pray. By evening the disciples had sailed a long way from the shore. The waves became intense, threatening to sink the boat. They were filled with fear. Early the following morning Jesus was seen by the disciples walking towards them. As He approached the boat even more fear filled their hearts. Jesus’ words of assurance, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid” were very powerful. Peter asks Jesus to enable him to walk out to meet Him. Jesus invites him to walk towards him, but fear overtook Peter and he began to sink. “Lord, save me!” was his cry. Jesus reaches out and takes him by the hand. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat the wind stopped and the water settled. Those on the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Reflection: Are there times in my past when, like Peter, I have doubted the powerful presence of God? Has this enabled me to recognise Jesus in a different way? With best wishes as you continue your journey. +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 9 Matthew 14:13-21 Sunday 6 August 2017

When Jesus was told of John the Baptist’s death he went in a boat to a place of retreat. Some where he could sit quietly and reflect on this very sad and personal news. When Jesus came ashore a large crowd from the nearby towns confronted him. They didn’t think about his need for peace and silence. They were preoccupied by the families and friends who were sick.

They turn to Jesus to cure them. In his compassion for them he cured many. As the sun was setting and the location was isolated the disciples wanted to send them into nearby villages to buy food. Jesus startled them by requesting them to feed the multitude. How was this to happen when there were just two small fish and five loaves? To their surprise and wonderment Jesus took the meagre offering, blessed it, and asked the disciples to distribute the food. When all were satisfied there remained twelve baskets full. Jesus does not produce food from nowhere. He takes the little and multiplies it many times over. All who ate were contented.

Reflection: What do I have (time, gifts, money) which I can bring to Jesus and ask him to use to his glory and the benefit of his people? With blessings. +Rob.

Pentecost 8 Matthew 13:44-5 Sunday 23 July 2017

The message from today’s gospel is asking us where it is that we place our values. What is it that we hold so very important? How do we prioritise our time, our gifts, our love? Jesus indicates to the crowd (us) that it is the “Kingdom of God” which needs to be paramount. Jesus is inviting us to search our hearts for the important things which we hold dearly and then to look for the treasures hidden in our life. In doing this we are to jettison all that prevents us from entering into a special relationship with God. Perhaps God looks at us and sees hidden treasure, wondering when we might discover it.

Reflection: What treasure do I need to search for in my life. How might I bring it to my Heavenly Father? With blessings and best wishes +Rob

Reflection Pentecost 7 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Sunday 16 July 2017

The gospel reading for today continues on from last week by speaking in agricultural language. This parable would have been easily understood by the hearers of Jesus’ day. There was a weed called “false wheat” which often grew in with crops of genuine wheat. Trying to remove it when it was young was difficult. The false wheat and the true were very similar in appearance and so it was impossible to distinguish between the two. Added to that the roots of both were interwoven. Thus if one plant was pulled up it would kill nearby plants: good and bad. Only at maturity could a good plant be distinguished from a bad one. Jesus is saying that good and bad cohabit. It is at the end of time when there will be separation; one to eternal peace, the other to eternal misery.

Reflection: What do I do in everyday life to maintain a healthy and productive life with God? Is there room for improvement in my prayer life, acts of worship, care of neighbour, gift giver. Blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 6 Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Sunday 2 July 2017

Jesus was a master at taking everyday events and giving them a spiritual relevance. The story of the Sower and the Seed is a fine example of a simple story being the foundation for a great theological truth. The people of the day could relate very closely with this pastoral story. After all they were people of the land. They grew and gathered crops for their daily food. In the second half of today’s reading Jesus explains in clear detail the different outcomes, depending on various circumstances. Most important is the grain which falls in fertile soils: it germinates, grows and produces. The crop is able to sustain human life. So too the Word of God sustains our spiritual life.

Reflection: Different people react differently to this Word. Jesus does not condone or encourage what is not of God, simply that different motivations and spirits are at work.

+Rob

Reflection Pentecost 4 Matthew 10:40-42 Sunday 18 June 2017

Today’s gospel reading is very short (3 verses) and yet it contains much to reflect upon. It really centres around courage to stand with Jesus even when it means letting go of things we quite like. It requires a conscious way of behaving which is worthy of Jesus. Jesus teaches us about the cost of discipleship. This may appear to be very difficult, and even daunting. After all we are only human. We fall prey to temptations often. The ways of God can seem impossible for us to achieve. But our loving God constantly holds out hope for us. The simple action of giving a drink of water may seem like a trivial action, but to God it becomes an act of valuable discipleship. It is life-giving to the recipient and to us.

Reflection. Isn’t is strange that I am told I gain my life by losing it? How can I direct my energies into doing good for others? With blessing, +Rob.

Reflection Pentecost 3 Matthew 10:24-39 Sunday 11 June 2017

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus makes some very strong claims. If we wish to be disciples we need to focus on Him. To be worthy of Christ we must put Him first in all our family and other relationships. If we are faithful in this it may place us in some difficult situations! Jesus is our role model. He shows us what God is like. We need to take seriously Jesus words which are at the very the foundation of Godly living.

We need to appreciate we are made in God’s image and likeness. He knows each of us intimately. He is constantly by our sides as we walk through our daily routine – even when we have no thought for Him. Jesus encourages us to seek God in all that we do. We are to be people of faith and hope. He will not desert us even if we give up on Him. He constantly calls and then allows us to make up our own mind.

Reflection: How might I strive more diligently to have Jesus as my role model? What might I need to change?

With blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Bishop Rob's Reflections on Easter

Reflection Trinity Sunday Matthew 28:16-20

Matthew’s account of the post resurrection events is very concentrated. Even so the great significance is very clear. Matthew leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is God of heaven, earth, time and eternity. He will never be out-classed. He is the Second Person of the Trinity. He is supreme and almighty. Jesus’ message to the commissioned men, the Apostles, is clear. As this commissioning refers to the Apostles it also applies to all of God’s peo- ple. We, like them, are bound together under the new covenant to witness, teach, preach and baptise wherever we live. This commissioning is not an option. It is a very serious requirement of being a part of the Body of Christ. All baptised people are called to renounce evil and to be vigilant in our study, worship, witness and service. God has important work for us to do!

Reflection. Is there a gospel activity which I could become more diligent and intentional ?

With blessings for the week ahead. +Rob.

Reflection Easter 7 (John 17:1-11)

These verses contain the words of a deep and meaningful prayer. Chronologically, it follows immediately after Jesus delivers to his disciples some final words of assurance and comfort. For them this was an immensely spiritual, life-giving moment. To be so closely enveloped by God in such an intimate way is to experience something of what eternal life will be like. Jesus prayed for his disciples, and now prays for us, giving reassurance that God holds each one of us in the palm of his hand. That experience drew the disciples and now draws us ever more personally into His friendship.

Reflection: When, during the past year, did I experience a close encounter with God? Do I treasure that moment with a thankful and joyful heart?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob

Reflection Easter 6

John 14:15-21

Today’s Gospel reading continues the Farewell Discourse delivered at the Last Supper by Jesus. He is giving his disciples some very deep and important teaching. It contains spiritual truths. At the time this would have been confusing for them. However, from the resurrection onwards the significance and meaning became abundantly clear. In today’s section of the Discourse Jesus’ words begin and end by connecting love to obedience. Our obedience is an indicator of our love. Faithfulness to Jesus’ teaching to the disciples (and us) is the defining mark of discipleship. It is the faithfulness which leads to love - “agape”. This agape love which Jesus demands of us is not a sentimental feeling, which cannot be commanded, but loving action, which can be. Jesus speaks about being alive even after his death. We can experience the living Christ in the love of others. There is an energy of love that is connected to the energy of God.

Reflection. Who are some of the people who awaken a sense of God’s loving presence in me? Do I give thanks for these people?

With best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Easter 5

John 14:1-12

This reading contains one of the most popular Gospel readings used at funeral services. It is a passage full of compassion, recognising our hesitations, doubts and questions. Jesus gives us very clear instructions on how to deal with the grief associated with the death of a loved one.

He offers reassurance that under Him all things find their fulfillment. He explains to the disciples (and us) that He is the one who leads us into eternal life. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

We are assured that he is the pathway to the Father – “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” For each one of us there is a place prepared for us by the Father if we are prepared to trust in Jesus.

Reflection: Today Jesus reminds me that he has a place for me. A place of peace. How do I perceive this peace that comes from God? With blessings and best wishes as you begin to experience this peace. +Rob.

Reflection Easter 4

John 10:1-10

Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd would have generated an intense understanding about his nature in relationship to his interaction with the people around him. The eastern shepherd was recognised as being totally devoted to his own flock. He knew each one by name. He would care for them by day and by night. He sacrificed his own interests and activities to be totally at one with them. He would even sacrifice his life for the safety of his flock. The flock knew the shepherd would lead them by day to food, water and shady rest. By night he would sleep in the gateway so that any wild animal or person with evil intent would need to deal with him before they could get to the sheep. His devotion to each sheep was absolute. The sheep trusted him.

Reflection: What comfort and strength do I gain by believing Jesus offers me every need? How often do I give thanks to God for this great gift?

With best wishes for the week ahead as we journey with the Good Shepherd on the pathway of total trust and commitment.

Blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Easter 3

Luke 24:13-35

Today’s Gospel reading relates the well-known story of the two disciples on their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion they believed it possible that he really was the Messiah and not just a great prophet. The hope was he would liberate the people from Roman oppression. With his death all hope of that seemed to disappear. As they walk Jesus catches up and walks with them. He does not abandon them for getting it wrong but rather He works to redirect them. They listened to Jesus as they walked along but did not recognise Him until He broke bread with them. Suddenly everything began to fall into place. They were filled with great joy and raced back to Jerusalem to witness to His resurrection. Christ did not abandon them for their foolishness. He taught and explained the truth. We can expect the same revelations when we listen even if we do not recognise it at Jesus who is speaking to us.

Reflection: What are some of the “aha moments” I have experienced and which revealed Christ’s true to me?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Easter 2

John 20:19-31

Fear destroys rational thought. It blinds our sight. It puts us in dark places. From our own experiences of fearful experiences, we can begin to appreciate something of the disciples’ fears after Jesus dies on the Cross. They meet behind locked doors on the first day of the week for fear of the Jews. Into this terror-filled room comes Jesus. “Peace be with you” was the calming message offered to them by the Risen Christ. Then in John’s account He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit…….”

When Thomas, who was not with the others when Jesus appeared to the others, demanded that he too would need to see with his own eyes before he could believe. How much like Thomas we are! Always looking for more evidence to confirm that Christ is truly risen.

Reflection. Is the door to my heart locked? Do I not expect Jesus to come knocking on my door? Do I fear what might be expected of me if I acknowledge His presence and open the door?

With blessings and best wishes. +Rob.

Reflection Easter Day (1)

Matthew 28:1-10 “He is not here, for he has risen”

When Jesus was born at Bethlehem he couldn’t tell people the good news himself. It was conveyed to shepherds by angels, who told them not to be afraid, but directed to the stable where they would find him.

We know from human experience that birth and death both involve helplessness and vulnerability, and in many ways death is a kind of birth. Now at the resurrection-birth the angels are here again, calming the women’s fears and directing them to where Jesus can be found. Just as the shepherds fell down and worshipped the baby in the manger, so both the Marys fall down and worship at the feet of the risen Christ. In both cases there is great wonder and immense joy.

Whenever we are confronted with the tragedy of death, and the terrible aching sense of loss, this account of the resurrection can help us to see in the light of eternal (or unending) life. Jesus has achieved this by breaking through the wall of death and rising to new life which lasts for ever.

Since that victory, death is no longer the end, for our loved ones, and angels direct us, too, to where we can find them still: in Christ.

Reflection: How does this message help me come to terms with death?

With Easter blessings, +Rob. Reflection Easter Day

Matthew 28:1-10 “He is not here, for he has risen”

When Jesus was born at Bethlehem he couldn’t tell people the good news himself. It was conveyed to shepherds by angels, who told them not to be afraid, but directed to the stable where they would find him.

We know from human experience that birth and death both involve helplessness and vulnerability, and in many ways death is a kind of birth. Now at the resurrection-birth the angels are here again, calming the women’s fears and directing them to where Jesus can be found. Just as the shepherds fell down and worshipped the baby in the manger, so both the Marys fall down and worship at the feet of the risen Christ. In both cases there is great wonder and immense joy.

Whenever we are confronted with the tragedy of death, and the terrible aching sense of loss, this account of the resurrection can help us to see in the light of eternal (or unending) life. Jesus has achieved this by breaking through the wall of death and rising to new life which lasts for ever.

Since that victory, death is no longer the end, for our loved ones, and angels direct us, too, to where we can find them still: in Christ.

Reflection: How does this message help me come to terms with death?

With Easter blessings, +Rob.

Reflection Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday

Matthew 26:36 – 27:60

Today marks the beginning of the most solemn week of the Christian year. We participate in the telling of Christ’s Passion. From being welcomed into Jerusalem as a King we progress through to The Last Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist, the agony in the garden, his disciples’ inability to watch and pray with him, the betrayal by Judas, arrest, trial (which was a sham) and finally his crucifixion, death and burial.

What a wonderful opportunity for each of us to take time out this week to reflect on all of the above. Where do we see ourselves fitting into the story? Are we part of the adoring crowd welcoming our King. Do we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist? Do we fail to stay alert and take in the significance of all that is happening? Do we become part of the crowd calling for his death?

Reflection. Please read from the beginning of Chapter 14 through to the end of Chapter 19 of Saint John’s Gospel. Click here. How might this help me to come to Easter with a more loving heart?

With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflections on Lent 2017

Reflection Lent 5 John 11:1-45

This well-known passage relating the raising of Lazarus is filled with human emotion as it tells a human story of death and grief on the one hand, and the hope and joy of a resurrected life on the other. It also contains those wonderful, life-giving words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life”. In this short scriptural passage we are invited to reflect on the great truth – we are born to eternal life. Physical death is not the end but the passageway into God’s eternity. Soon we shall be celebrating Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. On the fifth Sunday of Lent we are invited to put our spiritual minds into gear and seek the wonderful disclosures of this most holy time.

Jesus invites those present at the tomb of Lazarus to, “Unbind him and let him go”. Even a man resurrected from the dead required the help of community.

Reflection. How does this story help me to prepare for Easter? Can I find a way to participate in others’ unbinding and freedom?

With blessings and best wishes for the coming days. +Rob

Reflection Lent 4 John 9:1-41

The opening part of today’s Gospel has the disciples asking Jesus who it was to be blamed for the man’s blindness, this man or his parents? A very common question in today’s society! Litigation seems to be a primary response whenever anything goes wrong.

Jesus’ response was that there are times when no one is to blame. Believing this gives each of us an opportunity to be drawn into the presence of God, and to be exposed to new spiritual insights.

Amazing Grace is a well-known hymn. It contains these words – I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. The man’s blindness was cured because of his faith in Jesus. Many who have physical sight are spiritually blind. Not our man of today’s reading. His belief in Jesus allowed him to see much more than just the things around him. He was gifted with an insight into God’s wonderful world.

Reflection. What are some of my blind spots! How may I allow Jesus to open up to me wonderful spiritual truths. With blessings and best wishes, +Rob.

Reflection Lent 3 John 4:5-42

There are two main stories in this week’s Gospel reading, firstly the Samaritan women at the well.

Traditionally a Jewish man would not enter into conversation with a Samaritan women. However, Jesus was not a traditionalist. He asks the woman to draw water for him to drink. From this unorthodox beginning a great spiritual teaching evolves. The water in the well was physical and temporary, the water Jesus had to give was spiritual and everlasting.

Secondly, he told his disciples that the food he had to offer was not like the water in the well – temporary. The food Jesus had was spiritual food. It too, like the living water, was the living food which came from God.

Reflection: Do I thirst for the living water and spiritual bread?

How might I refresh myself with God’s spiritual gifts?

With blessings and best wishes for the week ahead. +Rob.

Reflection Lent 2 John 3:1-17

This week’s Gospel reading contains one of the best known of all Bible texts: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. This passage comes at the end of a discourse Jesus has with Nicodemus. The story follows a pattern which is common in Matthew’s writing. It begins with a person asking a question. In response Jesus gave a rather obscure answer which is misunderstood by the questioner. Rather than making the meaning easier to understand, Jesus’ answer is even more cryptic. This leads to an in-depth discourse and terminates with the above quotation. Regardless of how God is treated by his supreme creation, He perseveres with us. We are reminded that God did not send his Son into the world to Judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him - an act of perfect love not retaliation.

Reflection: As I contemplate all this am I drawn into a closer relationship with God? How does this change me?

With best wishes and richest blessings, +Rob.

Reflection: Lent 1 5 March 2017 Matthew 4: 1-11

Immediately after his baptism, which marked the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus goes off into the desert, retreating from the secular world and enter-ing into a deep spiritual relationship with the Father. What a wonderful model he gives by this example. When God calls us to do something in his name, what better way to begin the task than to take “time out” to reflect on what it is we are about to do! The more common response is to immediately rush of and begin the task.

Naturally when Jesus had been in the desert for forty days fasting and pray-ing he was extremely hungry. It would have been very tempting to take up the devils offer to turn the stones lying around him into bread. But with the temptation came a condition. Jesus was being asked to do the devil’s work, not God’s .

Reflection Our real hungers are fed not by earthly things but by the meaning and the love of the word of God. How may I be more aware of the craftiness of the devil who so often tempts me to do things which are contrary to God’s will?

With best wishes as you begin your 2017 Lenten journey on the way to the Cross and Empty Tomb.

Blessings, +Rob.

POSTED SERMONS

Rev Bill Crossman Sunday 13 August 2017

Pentecost 10 (Year A – Moggill-Mt. Crosby)

Readings: Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22; Romans 10:4-15; Matthew 14:22-36

I’d like to reflect this morning at varying length on all of the readings. For the most part they are about God’s grace and God’s safekeeping of wayward, fallible people – so that should give us all some encouragement and heart. God responds to all who call on him – it’s God’s good purpose to raise up those who experience all sorts of distress and we can have faith in this. Still this is no easy promise nor wishful thinking. Life is simply not that straightforward or easy. It’s often complex and circuitous. We have to grapple with the reality that prayers often appear not to be answered. We have to grapple with the reality that violence takes the lives of thousands of innocent people often at the hands of religious extremists of all faiths. We have to grapple with the reality that hundreds of innocent people, almost all of them women die as a result of domestic violence – their pleas for rescue often not heeded or believed. We have to grapple with the reality that undisciplined and unchecked expressions of international bluster might soon envelop us in awful conflict. Where does it all end, where is God in this?

The lectionary for the last few Sundays has been following the story of Jacob. In fact the Jacob/Joseph story is one of the great story cycles of Genesis and I think, of Scripture as a whole. This morning we’ve reached the point of transition between the story of Jacob and the story of Joseph. For generations the family has been what we might call dysfunctional. Jacob unwisely favours Joseph; Joseph has a cockiness and maybe youthful arrogance about him that perhaps reminds Jacob of himself in younger days. To make matters worse, Joseph knows he is the favourite and plays on it. He sure knows how to get under the skin of his brothers.

His brothers conspire to do away with him. “Here comes this dreamer. Let us kill him”; they say. Maybe an aside, but in every age, dreamers have been suspect. Martin Luther King, for example, had a dream, and he was killed. The brothers don’t go ahead with their plan. Instead, they sell Joseph into slavery. It’s evil, but you could make an argument that it’s preferable to killing him. Sometimes we can be so limited by what has occurred before in life; for example bad choices we have made; being consumed by anger or old hatreds or prejudice, maybe limited spiritual or ethical understanding, that no truly good decision seems possible. I think all of that is at play in the story contained in the reading this morning. Well, as you probably know Joseph survives and eventually saves all of his family and there is a reconciliation. But it takes years and years. God somehow works through all the bad decisions, evil actions and family dysfunction to bring good. What the brothers planned for evil, God turned to good. In fact the culmination, if you like, of the story comes in the last chapter of Genesis when Joseph says to his brothers “Even though you intended to harm me, God intended it for good.”[1]

The Psalm is chosen by the Lectionary compilers as a response to the first reading and I think the choice of Psalm 105 is a terrific response to the first reading. It’s a hymn of praise to God’s goodness, God’s good purposes and God’s faithfulness in all sorts of circumstances. We only have a few verses this morning, but it takes Joseph and his forbears, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as exemplars. God is at work in all the details of their lives, large and small, to ensure that God’s good purposes are eventually brought to fruition. The psalm does urge its readers to “seek the Lord and his strength: O seek his face continually, Call to mind what wonders he has done…”[2] No less important for us a modern day readers as it was for the original readers of the psalm.

Paul writes to the Romans “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”[3] This passage has led to a variety of interpretations, some of which imply that God only loves some, that God predestines others to some kind of terrible fate, or that those who don’t explicitly believe are left out of God’s good purposes and will suffer the consequences of divine abandonment. The passage raises different interpretations, inclusive and exclusive in nature. It can be viewed as some kind of doctrinal litmus test, or it can be viewed more inclusively if taken in its fullest context. Perhaps no prizes for guessing which context appeal I go with. Verses 12 and 13 express that context, I think; “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[4]

While we can’t fully ascertain Paul’s exact intention, the passage makes clear, first, that salvation and wholeness are for all people and all nations and not exclusive to religious and ethnic Jews. This is really a radical statement that challenges any parochial images of God or divine favouritism. God’s grace extends to all people and all who call upon God will be saved – that is brough to wholeness and fullness of life – however long that may take. Any who ask for divine help, even if they lack the words or theology, will be welcomed into God’s realm. God looks to our hearts not our theology. Without love and grace, doctrine is lifeless; faith without works is lifeless; doctrine without compassion and welcome is destructive.

The Gospel this week begins with Jesus at prayer. After a day of preaching and teaching Jesus goes to a quiet place. It’s a model for our life of worship. We need to gather as a community and to reach out to the world, but we also need to be still to be able to listen to God’s voice in the stillness. Jesus is soon back in action, as we should be too. Remember we go from here, in peace, to Love and serve the Lord. The disciples are crossing the lake known for its sudden and sharp storms and one blows up. The disciples are afraid, physically and spiritually. In the worldview of Matthew’s time, the sea was the home of dark forces, monsters, chaos and evil. Only God had power to control tese forces. Jesus in figuratively trampling over all them reveals his true identity. That’s why the disciples say “Truly you are the Son of God.”[5] He reassures the disciples that all will be well. This inspires Peter, impetuous as always, to try as well. The moment he is overcome by fear, he begins to sink. When he cries out “Lord, save me!” Jesus rescues him without judgement or recrimination. “God help me!” or “God save me!” is sometimes all we need to say.

So the readings urge us back to God, and to God alone, for our deliverance, wholeness and salvation. When we keep our eyes upon Jesus, we gain a right perspective on our own lives and see the storms and the trials of life in terms of God moving, often mysteriously, in our lives, and not in terms of our own individual and often fallible efforts. I have Libbie’s permission to tell this story; just this week she’s had an example of this. Not so much a trial of life, but nonetheless something that caused her some sleepless nights. You may know that she is one of the Zone Trustees on the world wide board of the Mothers Union. She was asked by one of the branch heads at Mary Sumner House in London if she could find two facilitators from her zone (which encompasses Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Melanesia) to travel to Barbados for training in implementing a new focus of Mothers Union worldwide. Various approaches by email etc. yielded no result and as the Barbados meeting is in September she was getting quite worried. She began to pray about it. In the space of a week she has been able to identify two people and to confirm their availability, one from Brisbane, the other from the Solomon Islands. They are really interested in the project, have the ideal backgrounds for it and are available to travel at fairly short notice – there are no visa complications. She said to me only yesterday “I really must listen to God more.” Our prayers do touch the heart of God and God responds. Being open to God gives us faith that a way can be made and that even in situations we can’t change, God is still with us.

[1] Genesis 50:20

[2] Psalm 105: 4-5

[3] Romans 10:9

[4] Romans 10: 12-13

[5] Matthew 14:33

POSTED SERMONS

Epiphany 7 - 19 February 2017

The Rev’d Bill Crossman

Readings: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119: 33-40; 1 Corinthians 3: 10-17; Matthew 5: 38-48

When I was at theological college, we had a lecturer who in a biblical studies class one day said that for him, Proverbs was the most boring book of the Bible. Well, that was his view - mine is different. I think Leviticus is perhaps the most boring book of the Bible consisting as it does of the whole list of dietary and other laws – some 623 of them I think – but don’t quote me. However, within the book of Leviticus is a key verse to which the same lecturer drew our attention. This verse goes to the heart of our relationship with God, and we have it his morning. It’s Leviticus 19:2 and the words are put into the mouth of Moses. It says – “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” And these words are mirrored by Jesus in the gospel reading this morning – “Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

This phrase – you shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy – is the whole basis of Israel’s relationship with God – the basis of what came to be called the Holiness Code. So when you hear this word “holiness”, what does it mean to you? What images, thoughts, reflections, remembrances spring up in your mind? Have you ever met someone whom you thought was genuinely holy? What was it about them that caused you to think this? I suppose at this point I could set the questions for you to think about as homework, sit down, and we could go home early. Come to think of it……

Firstly – what holiness is not. Holiness is not bowed head, eyes closed piety – nothing wrong with that in its right context as long as it leads to some Christian action in the world. Holiness has nothing to do with some sort of preferred status. It’s not to do, in the Leviticus context, with Israel being the chosen people, any more than it is in our context. Holiness is sometimes used, isn’t it, to designate some kind of rank – usually for some aged male religious leaders and not only in Christianity. For me, that’s not holiness. Neither is holiness to do with almost slavish obedience to strictures governing personal conduct in the hope that one will somehow become sinless – there was a whole movement called the Holiness Movement which sprang up in late 19th century fundamental Protestantism in the United States which had this as its basic premise. Well, that’s not holiness for me either.

Holiness is an attribute to do with God’s complete “otherness’ for want of a better word. There is a sense of mystery about this and I think that if we ever lose that sense of God’s holiness, God’s otherness, God’s mystery we’ll run into strife. We can never define it completely, but at the same time, the wonder is that in some ways, and at some times we can come closer to it. There’s a hymn by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American poet, the first verse of which for me catches something of this notion:

Lord of all being, throned afar,

thy glory flames from sun and star;

centre and soul of every sphere,

yet to each loving heart how near![1]

But holiness means more than just that which is unapproachable. It’s a positive thing – it’s an inspiration, a goal associated with the nature of God and God’s desire for human beings to be holy. We know that because of our human frailty, brokenness, sinfulness we can never be fully holy, but nevertheless God calls us to that ideal, God inspires to that ideal us through the Spirit who dwells within us, we’re told in the reading from 1 Corinthians.[2] God commands us to emulate that quality of holiness by living lives of godliness. How can we possibly emulate or imitate God? Well, in Leviticus this morning the answer is given in a series of ethical and ritual commands above which soars the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. In our reading today, those harvesting fields or vineyards were to leave something for the poor to collect. The people were urged to right conduct in all areas of their lives. The phrase “you shall not” occurs 16 times, dealing with, stealing, lying, false dealing, defrauding, underpayment of wages, belittling of those with disabilities, slandering, injustice, hate, vengeance. These are examples of how we can begin to approach holiness grounded in the positive - but you shall – but you shall love your neighbour as yourself. And of course Jesus picks up this phrase in second of the Two Great Commandments we’ve already heard said as part of our Liturgy this morning.

As Jesus so often does, he is reinterpreting the Law or the Torah in a radically different way in his Sermon on the Mount, and part of this re-interpretation is the use of six case studies if you like which take up verses 21 – 47 of Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel. There were four of them in the Gospel last Sunday and the remainder today. They’re characterised by the phrases “You have heard it said……………….but I say to you” emphasizing Jesus’ authority over against the Torah and the tradition of the Pharisees. These case studies are not an exhaustive list – they’re illustrations which bear on how we relate to each other. And common to almost all of them is the sense that right or righteous behaviour has to do with the heart and with one’s attitude rather than slavish obedience to some external commands. It has to do with what’s in here (heart).

The two case studies we have this morning are to do with retaliation and love of enemies. The old prescription of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is cited often as an example of Old Testament harshness or vindictiveness – it’s even cited today as some sort of justification for retaliatory violence. But in tribal ancient Israel, there were no institutions of justice as we would know them, and “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was a law of strict reciprocity to limit the spiral of violence. One commentator of whom I usually take note writes that what Jesus is commending is a readiness to disarm violence by being prepared to accept double what the perpetrator requires.[3] We need to think deeply about this. It may be so sometimes, but surely we can think of all sorts of examples where this cannot be the case – domestic violence springs immediately to mind. We can’t take examples and make them law, but we can apply the principle, and that. It seems to me is to have an attitude of heart and mind which abhors retaliatory and vengeful violence.

Jesus re-interprets the ruling from Leviticus 19 which says “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”, but nothing about enemies. I guess it can be a natural human tendency to not love one’s enemies, but Jesus rejects that tendency in the context of the nature and action of God who “makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” The members of the community to whom Matthew was writing know themselves to be children of God, but they are being reminded that God shows no partiality.[4] It’s easy for them to love others who they think are just like them, members of their own family or community, but they’re being reminded that they will truly show themselves to be children of God if they reflect the divine nature, if they try to imitate God by loving all people. In a sense that’s the definition of “perfection”; being perfect as one’s heavenly Father is perfect, that is, acting towards others, including one’s enemies, as God the Creator acts toward all.

So we’ve come from “holiness” to “perfection” and now back to “holiness”, not that there’s all that much between them – both depend on willingness to try to be imitators of God in all of our relationships. Of course we can never reach that, but we can have it as our inspiration. Around about the same time that Matthew’s Gospel was written, a disciple of St. Paul would write to the church at Ephesus; “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”[5]

Holiness really is not about following a set of rules or religious obligations so we might “get to heaven.” Holiness is about our attitude to life and the disposition of our hearts so that heaven can shine through us, cracked vessels that we are. Malcolm Guite is an English priest and poet. Lent is approaching and he has just published a book titled “Word in the Wilderness – A poem a Day for Lent and Easter”[6] and both Libbie and I are looking forward to getting to into it this Lent. One of his other volumes is “Parable and Paradox – Sonnets on the sayings of Jesus and other Poems.” In this volume, he has a sonnet on Matthew 5:42 “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Which I think beautifully illustrates this idea of heaven shining through us:

Here it is:

The Giver of all gifts asks me to give!

The Fountain from which every good thing flows,

The Life who spends himself that all might live,

The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,

Call me, as if I knew no limitation.,

As if I focussed all his hidden force,

To be creative with his new creation,

To find my flow in him, my living source,

To live as if I had no fear of losing,

To spend as if I had no need to earn,

To turn my cheek as if I felt no bruising,

To lend as if I needed no return,

As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,

As if I too could body forth his heaven.[7]

[1] Methodist Hymn Book No32 Oliver Wendell Holmes 1809-94

[2] 1 Corinthians 3:16

[3] Byrne, Brendan Lifting the Burden – Reading Matthew’s Gospel in the Church Today St. Paul’s Publications Strathfield NSW 2004 p61

[4] see Acts 10:34 or Romans 2:11

[5] Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2

[6] Guite, Malcolm Word in the Wilderness – A poem a Day for Lent and Easter Canterbury Press Norwich 2014 (ISBN 978 1 84825 678 1)

[7] Guite, Malcolm Parable and Paradox – Sonnets on the sayings of Jesus and other Poems Canterbury Press Norwich 2016 p31 (ISBN 978 1 84825 859 4)

A Response from one of our parishioners:

"During the sermon we were asked if we knew someone who we thought was genuinely holy. I knew someone like that, his name was Eric Talbot-Smith. My Dad was President of the Blackwood RSL for a time when I was growing up in Adelaide. Eric was on the RSL committee.

A World War Two veteran Eric had been taken prisoner when Singapore fell and held in Changi prison. While incarcerated in Changi a leg wound Eric sustained became gangrenous and (his leg) was amputated. Eric suffered terribly in Changi and returned from the war a physically weakened survivor. Back in Australia he was provided with a tin leg and a war pension. He worked very hard as a volunteer, visiting war widows and veterans to cheer them up. Dad would come home from RSL meetings saying how worried he was about Eric's health. Ironically in 1974 Dad died suddenly making Mum a war widow and me a Legacy boy. This meant we had caring visits from Eric to cheer us up and see how we were getting on.

Eric would drive up to our house in his specially modified Holden Torana, stop and slowly climb out with stick in hand. He would have a cup of tea with Mum, then he liked to sit with me for a chat. Mum and I could tell that Eric really cared for both of us. We knew he had a deep Christian faith.

Mum and I went to Eric's funeral in 1988. I remember one of the many speakers saying that Eric was the most Christ like person he ever knew. Another who was at his bedside when he died said Eric closed his eyes and his last words were "I am going home".