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.