WE ARE GOLDEN
We are stardust, we are golden
Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
when you took Abraham by the hand
and showed him the depths of the heavens
and the endless stars
whose numbers none can count,
you had already known and named
his descendants who would outnumber
As the psalmist says,
“all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
We are billion year-old carbon
reimagined, knit together,
fearfully and wonderfully made.
A miracle indeed,
yet more miraculous still
made in your image
as golden as the stars.
We are not worthy
to be called your children
yet through our Lord, Jesus Christ,
you count us worthy!
Lead us as you led Abraham,
to dream dreams,
to see visions,
to step out in faith,
to be swept up into your great purposes,
to be worthy of our inheritance
as heirs of the promise.
My old school song was in Latin. And when I was taught it in primary school, we weren’t even given a translation. So, even today, I can recite it at break-neck speed without the first idea of what it means. A tribute then to the memory of youth. A similar feat can be the ultra-swift recitation of the 23rd psalm. Since many of us were forced to learn it by heart. Yet the danger is the same as with the school song, words without understanding.
By Xxinvictus34535 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Let us then take time today to tease out this, the most famous of psalms. Let us take time to meet it afresh not as a memorising chore but as a friend. Let us indeed find within its refreshing depths, meaning that will get us through to those green pastures and quiet water flowing by.
Of course, the key word in the 23rd Psalm and indeed our lesson from John’s gospel is ‘shepherd’. Now this conjures up those overly sentimental portraits of Jesus carrying a lamb in his arms. Yet this meek and mild image is somewhat misleading. For, in the Old testament, the descriptor ‘shepherd’ was often used for a king. Therefore, we should perceive from our psalm not just God’s promise that we will get through that valley of darkness but that he has the means of doing so. In fact, it is his rod and staff that comforts, protects and gives us peace of mind. In our personal reflection on this psalm, then, let’s swap the shepherd motif for one of a commanding power guiding us into righteousness. The right way of helping to spread tables with food, of providing overflowing cups of clean water and of ensuring safe dwelling places. That indeed means restoring the soul of a community so that we all fear no evil.
Let us now leap forward many centuries to meet the mind of the writer of John’s Gospel. Here again the image of the shepherd is invoked. And once more, the picture of a rather strangely Anglo-Saxon Jesus carrying an adorable lamb comes flooding into mind. Yet, once again, I must counsel caution. Ok we should continue to hold onto the powerful king concept, but I am also aware of a fly in the ointment. Since, the 1st Century Jewish listener to Christ’s teaching would have other views on shepherds. It a point I don’t often raise at Christmas. The reason being no nativity play would complete without the traditional appearance of small boys adorned with mums’ tea towels.
But a two thousand years ago in the Holy Land, shepherds were viewed as outsiders. They lived rough wandering lives in the hills, they didn’t go to the synagogue and they could not observe Jewish rituals.
Therefore, we could make our lesson from John more contempory by reading Jesus as saying – I am the good bouncer. No one comes through to God expect via my security. Some other places have real thugs on the door but with me you are safe and will be secure inside.
At first this reading is disconcerting. But then with some thought, not least of the events of the past few weeks, we can get a fresh feel for that level of comfort Christ is offering. Put directly, he is someone who rushes towards danger when everyone else is running away. Someone who will fearlessly intercept the bad before injury is caused. The person who will push into the smoke and flame to carry us to safety no matter the pain and risk to themselves.
Here then is an image for us to carry into the next week. The vision of a powerful and courageous Christ as our rescuer and protector; the idea of him being our fourth emergency service.
Talking of the fourth emergency service, I believe that the Automobile Association used that catchphrase in their advertising a few years back. I have to say, I have just paid my annual subscription that organisation and it wasn’t cheap. But when you need them, you need them. So it is with Christ the king Shepherd and Christ the guard Shepherd. Therefore, we do need to pay our subscription. We do need know what Christ offers and be part of his security team. Moreover, need to keep in touch ready to call in any emergency.
There is a story told of an old vicar being asked to party. He went along but to his dismay the other guests were the rich and famous. Not surprisingly, he felt like a fish out of water. Suddenly someone had the idea that all should take part in the entertainment. A well-known pianist played entrancingly, a celebrated singer gave full voice and a great actor recited. He had just played the role of a saintly missionary and repeated the 23rd Psalm version from the script. Then it came to the minister’s turn. He protested he knew nothing except the 23rd Psalm and that had already been done. Everyone demanded he did something. Then our actor stood up and said – I knew only the Psalm’s words but you know the Shepherd himself.
Let us then know words less and the shepherd more. Let us talk less shepherding and rely more on the shepherd. Let us dine now with the shepherd as King and protector. For then alone will we not want for more.
How long is a piece of string? When we go into the garage and ask how long it will take to fix the car – we don’t expect that answer. We don’t expect the mechanic to shrug his shoulders and say – how long is a piece of string? When we put an order in to Amazon we don’t expect that answer. We don’t expect an email saying we will deliver when they get to the end of piece of string. Yet when we talk to a doctor or a minister or even a politician we often get that answer. How long is a piece of string?
Because the unvarnished truth is that often the most important questions we have, begs that answer. Put more bluntly still, our key questions in life have no answer here on earth.
This was also the point by David in his psalm. It starts with that yearning even distraught question – how long O Lord? Moreover, it is amplified in its dismay by the next questions how long will you forget me and hide from me? He concludes his dismal interrogation by seeking a time-line for his thoughts and sorrows and defeats. David then is asking a ‘how long is a piece of string ‘question and in return what did hear? – silence.
Here then is the time honoured conundrum. Since with the events of the last few weeks in mind we can sympathize with David. With the terrible fire in London scarred into our memories, we too can ask the same set of questions as David. More to the point, with so much trouble around, we are equally unable to accept the answer of how long is a piece of string? Indeed, we find the silence to be – unbearable.
Have you noticed that as you get older, time seems to go more quickly? Our perception of time also differs depending on whether we are waiting for a bus on a bitterly cold day or watching our favourite telly programme. In fact, Einstein’s theories tell us that time does go past quicker on the space station than it does down here. Or, in simplistic terms, our heads are older than our feet.
This also answers questions of string lengths. For time is an entirely different thing for God. It his creation and his tool. He stands outside it and so he controls it. Therefore, he does know the length of every piece of string, of every human life and every joy and tribulation. It’s just that we cannot perceive it or understand it or command it – we just must take it on trust.
David too came to the same conclusion. He came to rely on God’s unfailing love alone to put the twinkle back in his eye, bring victory to his efforts and rejoicing in his heart. Ultimately, he came to rely on God’s own time and not his own. Because he knew that to be not the good time or better time but the right time.
My step-father’s aunt did wonderful tapestry. In all honesty, the reverse was as beautifully sewn as the front. But it is not always the case. For frequently, when we see the back of some great work of art it looks, politely, a bit of a mess. Yet when we turn it round our breath is still taken away at what we could not see before. And so, we are stunned by the bigger, better and truer picture.
If then in this week you like David are challenged by imponderable questions, let us pray we can have faith like David. On this day, when our nation seems to have multitudinous questions, may we all have patience to trust in an answer. And in this moment, across our globe we hear continually questions of how long? But to each we must say – I cannot answer – but God knows. Because God’s time should always be our favourite and favoured time. Because, God does know the length of every piece of string!
#mobile #day #addiction #survive #happiness #etc
A day without mobile. Can you..? ?
Today’s world not allow you to pass a day without mobile/net etc. There are many people in this same world living a happy quite life without these all. So just try it out atleast one day. And make it a habit. And see how free you are.., how happy your home is…, how happy your heart is..
Be happy with your loved ones.
If you not ready for a try to cure your addiction, then who ‘ll?
Just imagine if there won’t be any notifications to trouble you, no tweets to argue, No messages to tension you, no calls to make you anger etc etc etc. Enjoy your day to its fullest. What you are waiting for is so near you.. you can..
You all can…
Your body need a change. Your mind needs rest. Your life…
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Well worth think through for our walk with Christ…
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in [union with] Him [reflecting His character in the things you do and say—living lives that lead others away from sin],having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7 Holy Bible Amplified Version
Do you walk in union with Christ every day?
Now how you gonna do that?
For me it begins with morning prayer and Bible reading. I begin by saying a prayer of thank you which then proceeds with a prayer for Divine providential care and guidance for myself and for others. Yes it is just as important for you to have a prayer list where you pray for brothers and sisters as well as for yourself. Yes make it personal…
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Kathleen O’Sullivan tells of meeting Jesus as a tramp in a Fish & Chip shop. Where did you see him last?
I suppose it depends where you are looking and for whom.
Please read on…
Allow me to rant about my biggest pet peeve when it comes to Christianity. I’m talking about how mainstream Christianity has photoshopped Jesus into a marketable brand.
Mr. Christ is not a product.
Yet in this era of commercialism, our Lord and Saviour has been reduced to something of a commodity.
When marketers want to sell something what do they do? They doll it up and advertise. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not bashing the Christian responsibility of sharing of the gospel.
I’m referring to all advertisements of Jesus as a blue-eyed Anglo Saxon.
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I surprised myself last Sunday by sitting down and watching the last hour of the Ariane Grande concert from Manchester. Although I knew few of the artists or their songs, it was clear that the audience did. And so, despite that this great musical event as the result of the evil atrocity of a few weeks earlier, you could see there was healing in the music. Indeed, the global superstar Justin Bieber spoke not just movingly of the power of love but also brought up the subject of faith. The incorruptible faith that is of a good God yearning for his creatures to treasure their own individual lives by treasuring our common life. To be frank, he did a better job in front of those young people, than many a preacher.
And it is this joy – joy of worship – joy in music – joy in coming together even in adversity that is the heart of our psalm of this morning. For Psalm 100 gives voices to an unalloyed joy at being the people of God against the odds.
Yet it must be said, few people beyond our doors would think it a joyful treat to come to church. Moreover, they would not consciously take part in an act of worship. At best, they may offer the odd prayer in times of trouble or thanks in moments of sublime peace.
And why is that?
Well we could spend hours beating ourselves up about offering new hymns, differing forms of worship or even services at all sorts of hours and days. And don’t get me wrong the result of our deliberations would be useful. But ultimately, there is much resistance to worshipping because it is neither a spectator sport nor a couch potato pastime. Because the unvarnished truth is good solid worship is hard work. Many, therefore, are not up for the effort.
But why must worship take mental, spiritual and even physical exertion?
Well, to achieve the joy of worship, we need to do the hard work that is quietly hinted at in the psalm. We need to strive to put our buzzing brains full of concerns and cares aside so that we can be surprised by joy. We need to press the pause button on all our interests and desires to find contentment in being with the one who made us. We need to put our whole self on hold to see the bigger picture and then be overawed by it.
Moreover, it is not only that. For, as it is often said – the things that give us greatest satisfaction are the things we must work hardest to get. And so, if we do the hard graft of worship we are rewarded by a sense of joy that is beyond our understanding. We also get a sense of why we should be thankful for our own uniqueness and potential inner beauty. More to the point we get a sense of communion not with a distant and uncaring maker but an attentive father. And it is in that moment of unconsciousness to self, we win the medal of consciousness of God’s unbounded love.
Put then maybe a tad simplistically, the joy of worship is not of the adult who has achieved adulthood but an adult who has achieved their renewed childhood.
And who would not work for that?
Who would not want to sell this health tonic to others?
Who here can doubt that if we enjoy the wellbeing of strenuous worship that we should get our friends and family to sign up as well?
A famous preacher recounted his visit to the home of Leo Tolstoy in Moscow during 1971.
Here is his account.
There, tied in bundles and stacked against the wall, were Tolstoy’s handwritten manuscripts for all of his great novels – War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and Resurrection. For an hour, I leafed through the mountain of paper, seeing the man’s handwriting, his strikeovers, and even the doodles he made in the margins.
An elderly Russian woman, the curator of the museum, noticed my deep interest and began to talk to me. “He was a friend of the people, Leo Tolstoy was,” she said. “Would you like to see his desk where he wrote?”
She didn’t have to ask me twice! And the next thing I knew she had me seated in Tolstoy’s chair leaning over his desk and holding his writing pen in my hand! I tell you, it was an awesome moment for me!
Our clergyman goes on to say that often during the rest of his college days, his mind would wander back to that study in Moscow. He’d see himself sitting at that same desk, holding that same pen as the bearded Tolstoy himself opened the door and strode in. “Stephen,” he’d say, “I’m working on a new novel and I need your help! Let’s get down to work!” And our narrator would then sit up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “Yes, Leo, I’ll work with you.”
Well if that was one worship leader’s great commission, how much more so is it our commission to preach the joy of worship. For yes, we can try new ideas and offer a wide-open welcome. But, ultimately, we will achieve our task by talking about joy. The joy of finding the true answers to important questions in life. The joy of knowing that this is not a universe indifferent to our existence but a temple to one who is our shepherd, our pastor and our friend. The joy indeed of working with him, even in times of trial, on the greatest and truest story ever told.
May then there be the song of joy in in your hearts in the week ahead.
A minister put a job ad in the local paper. The plan was for an all-round handyman who could fix things around the church and do the routine maintenance.
The very next morning after the ad ran, a well-dressed young man came and asked to speak to the minister. The pastor “sized up” the chap… and then asked him a flurry of questions:
– Can you start the boiler? “Yes!” Can you be here by 7 a.m. every morning? “Yes!”
– Can you polish the silver and do woodwork “Yes!”
– Can you keep things tidy and mow the grass? “Yes Sir!”
And the minister continued: “And, of course, there will be electrical problems and unexpected leaking pipes and toilets overflows and…
Wait a minute! The young man interrupted, “I came here to make arrangements for my wedding. But if it’s going to be like that, I think I’ll just forget the whole thing!”
Well, the Holy Spirit’s coming was a bit like that story. You knew there was a punchline coming, but not what it was.
So, my question – what was the Holy Spirit’s punchline?
Well, the day that the spirit came gives us a clue. For Pentecost was the Jewish festival of harvest long before it had Christian significance. The name itself means 50 days – or 50 days after the Passover. Let’s then look for a harvest within the punchline of the Spirit. Let us look for a good harvest after Easter.
Our reading today from the Book of Acts tells of one fruiting of the Spirits’ bestowal. It was the gift of languages. Of course, we cannot fully understand how all the various Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem could understand the words of the apostles. In fact, it would serve little value to speculate. Nevertheless, the why of the bestowal of tongues is obvious. Since, it was to show that the divisions in humanity were coming to an end. It was to illustrate that the message of the life of Jesus is of everyone. That the power of the risen Christ is available to all humanity. For, the spirit comes to aid, comfort and encourage all who is God-fearing. The tongues then of the Spirit are indeed of fire.
Certainly, this was the very type of language that Paul was using on the Galatians. As we have talked about over the last few weeks, this nascent Christian community was riven down the middle with the desire for rules and regulations. As a result, they were divided one from another. And so, Paul gives them a telling off as we heard last week. Because he writes to them – there is neither Jew or Greek, male or female or slave or free in Christianity only brothers and sisters in Christ.
And to make his case, Paul uses an argument that would have been strange to the pagan ears of 1st century. For they were used to gods being arbitrary, very human and decidedly unruly. This concept they used to explain the vagaries in their lives. Since, to them, this was the natural outcome of being the gods ‘playthings.
Even the Jewish people who knew the true God felt that there was a divine law had to be kept if they as a people were to show devotion.
Paul, however tells the Galatians the good news. For the gospel is always that we are not subject to any perceived divine law. We are not the slaves of a quixotic God. Instead we are a family under a God. Moreover, through his loving concern, we can call him – Abba – daddy in our parlance.
Why is that important. Because no truly loving parent constrains a child with silly boundaries. No mum or Dad express their power through insignificant rules. No father stifles their offspring with shackles simply to show their own control. No- every parent with their salt uses only rules for a child’s safety and well-being. They only direct for the benefit of whole family and its members.
So isn’t then a matter of ‘nanny knows best’ but the Spirit knows better than we do. Moreover, we usually need all the advice we can get.
What then might the Spirit be guiding us into today?
The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a thought-provoking story. A few years ago, he was a guest teacher at a theological college. Just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, “Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal.” The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean! He was nowhere to be found.
The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, “Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?” He said, “No, I mean are you Pentecostal?” Craddock said, “Are you asking me if I am charismatic?” the student said, “I am asking you if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?” He said, “I want to know if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “I don’t know what your question is.” The student said as he stomped out, “Obviously, you are not Pentecostal.”
Well that story reminds in this week, in particular, there are many who would seek to exploit our divisions. There are those who would rather drown out the quiet voice of sense with their own raucous tongue. Moreover, there are even some whose only message is to give a lie to us claiming we are living in a post-truth age.
So, let us again be energised by those tongues of fire. Let the Spirit guide us through the storm of noise to the voices of those who need us most to hear. Let the Spirit aid us to look beyond language, creed or race to what we, the Church, can do and be for them. Let the fiery spirit embolden us to speak for that truth which cannot be superseded; that gospel truth that under Christ we are not slaves but children of God and heirs to his kingdom.
Let then this week, each bare the fruit of our common language. Let each light up with the Spirit’s fire. Let us each be the gospel’s child.
Offering while Don plays
On Tuesday morning, one traumatized mother and daughter in Manchester said – they just wanted to get home where they would be safe. We too tend to think of home as a place of safety even of peace. It is our castle, refuge and fortress. Or as Mary Jac wrote:
May angels fly with you wherever you roam,
And guide you back safely to family and home.
Yet if we leave it as a citadel, we may find that we only have a house and not home.
Since a home is not directly equated to walls, roofs, patios and double glazing. In truth, we all know that our homes are much more than that. For we turn houses into our homes by making them places of happy memories. Places of growing and celebration and reunions. Buildings usually become true homes where people feel included and include.
Paul knew that. And that is why he corrects the Galatians so firmly. Because not only were some needing utter obedience to the Jewish law to be a Christian, there also seems to have been racial and social barriers being thrown up as well. Put bluntly, their house was not a place of inclusion for all. It wasn’t a place of welcome for all. And so, it wasn’t a home to all.
Well, Paul mentions several divisions in his text. In Christianity, for him there are neither Greek nor Jew, male or female, free or slave.
Let’s think about the later – neither free or slave.
Now strange as it may seem to us today, Paul does not directly comment on his slave owning culture. In fact, we cannot be certain about his feelings towards slavery; it may well be he accepted it as just part of ancient Mediterranean life. But what he would not accept was that there was a different degree of humanity between free and slave. To him, Galatians whoever they were, had become one in Christ. They had been forged into one home congregation not by their rule keeping or social status but by including and being included by Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.
Well of course we do not live in a society with legal slavery nowadays. Yet whilst we cannot see that extreme division in our community, there are many other divisions. There are many who are included and excluded due to various unspoken rules and regulations. There are many who do not feel hugely home across our nation.
What is to be done?
I don’t know about you, but I do feel God close by when I am in the countryside or some great cathedral. But it is at home that I feel most intimate with him. For there is a great truth in the tapestry sampler so often seen on the Victorian wall. It said – Jesus is the silent guest every room and witness to every conversation.
If then we are to make our community a home, we need to include and be included, we need to help others grow towards their celebrated reunion with their creator. Above all, we need to free the slaves of loneliness, fears and difference. And we do that by welcoming them into a building that Christ is not a guest but the home-owner.
Something of this sort of welcome can be envisaged by the response to Steve Jones, one of the two homeless men who rushed to the Arena in Manchester on Monday night to help the wounded and dying.
I am pleased to tell you not only has a public appeal raised £20,000 for him but the owner of West Ham Football Club is giving him 6 months’ rent-free accommodation and he has even had a job offer.
Let us then rebuild our common community with inclusion for all. Let’s not get bound up in rules and practices and offer a safe harbour to neighbours in Christ. Let us not wait until evil strikes again in any place before we are angels of good, apostles of welcome and heirs to another sampler saying – Home is where your day begins.