Category Archives: Uncategorized

Godliness

The notion of Godliness found in the scriptures is a difficult one and was reduced by the banality of the saying, “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.  This banality might reflect something of the reality of the situation that way in which any individuals perceives or understands or encounters God varies.  This also means the notion of Godliness varies because the perception, understanding and encounter of God varies.

One common thread in terms of Godliness is the capacity for love.  God is love so to be Godly is to be loving: love for others; love for those easy to love; love for those difficult to love; love for enemies.  Love though should not simply be thought of as an emotion but as a deed.  In being loving Godliness might look like putting the needs of others before ourselves, doing random kindly acts, practicing generosity and graciousness, and adhering to Christian principles within your daily life.

Godliness also extends to God’s love and care for the creation.  Simply sitting in nature and appreciating it as created and loved by God can transform us into being more Godly in our interaction with the natural world.

Godliness does not have to be achieved in our own power.  Athanasius once said that Jesus became human in order that we might become God with him.  This idea is sometimes spoken of as deification or theosis.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we are drawn into the very life of God.  This is more than asking ‘what would Jesus do?’ as a kind of moral imperative but is a process of living out of the relationship we have with God who dwells within us.

What does it mean for you to live a Godly life?  For me it is far more than cleanliness!

Pursue Contentment

Contentment

Paul encourages Timothy to pursue contentment in life as an expression of his discipleship. (1 Timothy 6:6)  In finding contentment the desire to have more, and do more, and be more is put aside.  As much as Paul’s focus may be on self-control around material wealth and simply accepting our basic human needs of food and culture there is also a deep spiritual and psychological edge to Paul’s injunction.

Shakespeare portrays Richard III as man filled with discontent as the play opens with the famous words, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious”.  The discontent of the character fed by bitterness leads to war and conflict.  Yet the discontent of Richard has become the discontent for all of us as we are taught in our modern culture to be discontent with what we have.

In our modern culture contentment is a mood and state of mind that is almost impossible to achieve.  Being satisfied with what you have, with material possessions, means not giving in to a culture that teaches us that we are incomplete unless we have more and own more and do more.

Our modern culture is a culture that is built on coveting – consumerism.  For those of us bought up as natives in a culture of plenty it is difficult to understand that our attempts at contentment are constantly being eroded by a culture that is obsessed with growth.

The constancy of the demand for more infiltrates our lives in so many ways.  For example, I recently renegotiated my download size because we need more capacity to cope with the amount of TV and movie access. Through this purchase I can create a personal sense of contentment in the enjoyment of my life but when more than half the world’s population do not have access to the internet at all, let alone the wealth that would allow them to have the technology, I am left looking within myself for what it means to be content.

Our society teaches us we cannot be content unless we have new clothes, new shoes, eat at the best restaurants, have a better car, a bigger house, a new phone, some beautiful china, more technology, an overseas holiday, and the list goes on and on.  As natives in this culture we have come to take so many of these things for granted – we are consumers par excellence.

How then might we begin to pursue contentment arising out of our faith and relationship with God in Jesus?  Maybe beginning by finding a greater depth of gratitude to God in our lives: taking the time to be thankful each morning, and through moments in the day, and as the evening comes.  Maybe by trying not to be seduced into the next purchase or being jealous of other people’s possessions and opportunities.  Maybe by appreciating the small things a bit more: a meal on the table; time for rest; entering deeply into our relationships with people by having fun with people and spending time with family.  Maybe by taking the time out to be at ‘peace’ with yourself, God and others, to meditate and pray. Maybe learning to savour each present moment no matter what it brings.  Maybe it can be helpful it we can remember that “this is my lot in life (and maybe that this life has given me a lot!) And, to make the most of it and be content that God walks with me.”

Whatever happens our faith is that God is with us.  Recognising the deep and generous gifts we have received and accepting the spiritual gift of faith let us pursue contentment with what we have so that we might practice generosity and love in the name of Jesus who has given us peace with God.

Not in the abundance of possessions.

It is difficult, almost unfathomable, for those of us brought up in the shadow of consumerism to understand Jesus challenge to people of his own era when it came to money, possessions and greed.  We live with the dream of owning our own home and filling it with things.  It is our way of life, it is expected.  It is how I live too.  But what are we really spending.  In this brilliant reflection from the documentary Human Jose Mujica gives us some perspective on the issue: “When you buy something you’re not paying with money. You are paying with the hours of your life you had to spend earning that money.”  You cannot get those hours back.  He does not advocate for poverty but for sobriety – for balance.  If we are to be people of the coming kingdom now what does it mean for you and I to live a more balanced existence in a world obsessed with buying and owning more and more and more?

Bread for the World

For those churches who still follow the practice of saying the Lord’s Prayer each week we pray “give us this day our daily bread.”  As a child I can recall thinking this was about me getting lunch, almost another version of saying grace before a meal.  But it was a prayer about me and my hunger.

As I grew up I came to a new understanding that bread was also a symbol of life and gradually the words came to be about God’s providence of the basic necessities of life: food + water + shelter = bread!  In the Western culture in which I am embedded I have no doubt that this prayer of providence was shaped by what else I thought I might need to operate as a citizen in the affluent culture.  The words expanded in their meaning and I possibly thought they applied to the others who prayed them with me but really it was about me.

As me spiritual understanding deepened a new layer of meaning was added to the words when I began to think about Jesus words to his disciples “I am the bread of life.”  Give us this day Jesus?!  The appeal for daily bread was an appeal for sustenance in life that was both physical and spiritual.  Layers of meaning being added on and my insights were growing.  The connection of bread to Jesus and sustenance also began to have an overtone of communion when we share the bread and wine as signs of Jesus presence.

Yet still God had more to teach me about this prayer as I stopped being focussed on the word bread in the prayer and began to toy with who the ‘us’ might be.  Jesus presence in the world is all about breaking down barriers, it is as Paul says about the “reconciliation of all things in Christ.”  Who is the ‘us’?  Not just those who pray the prayer because we are called to priests, intercessors, a light to the nations. Surely the ‘us’ is everyone, all people, all religions, all places, all times.  “Give us this day our daily bread” becomes a petition for physical and spiritual sustenance for everyone.

How important are these words in a world where the consequences of physical and spiritual hunger can be dire?  How important is it to understand when we receive that bread, spiritual or physical, that it is there to be shared with others not simply protected?  Is the prayer not also a call to share our daily bread as well?!

Think about the tensions in our globe and in our communities.  How often can war, violence, fear, prejudice, discrimination, protectionism, ignorance be attributed to a lack of bread?

Let us pray “Give us this day our daily bread” give us all, everyone, bread for our bodies and our souls. Amen

Pokemon Go! A Spiritual Hunger?

“When I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8:11

During the week a new craze has swept across Australia called Pokemon Go!  The speed at which this new game has been picked up is astonishing.  It is what is known as an altered reality game.  As you look through the camera on your phone or tablet Pokemon, which is a shortening of the phrase ‘pocket monsters’, appear on your screen for you to capture.

The thing which stands out to me about this concept is the game promotes an altered view of reality, a notion that that there is a hidden world or life going on around us we cannot see.  It suggests that there is something more to this world than meets the eye.

For me it raises memories of books and films that have a similar idea of a hidden world around us.  Films like “The Sixth Sense” which has a boy able to see dead people – ghosts everywhere around him.  Teen books including the Harry Potter series and “The Spiderwick Chronicles”.  Fantasy novels like “Faerie Tale” by Stephen Donaldson or “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman.  There is a sense in all of these things that we want there to be more, we want a mystery to life.

For me it recognises a spiritual hunger that continues to lie within people.  In a world dominated by science and logic, a demythologised world, people continue to seek new myths.

As Christians we believe in the presence of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.  We hold to a revelation and belief of there being something more.  Yet at the same time the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus affirms our earthly mundane lives (sometimes our drab, difficult, and/or boring existence).  In world where people are hungry for something more, for mystery, how do we continue to both affirm life as it is, as well as point people to the promise of a life beyond our current experience?  What markers of our faith matter in this life and what promises can be offered as an alternate reality?

On the absence and presence of God in Orlando.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (1 Kings 19:11-12)

In my estimation there is nowhere that God is not present, absolutely nowhere.  Yet sometimes it would appear working out how God is present in God’s absence is important.

This week as I read these words of God’s absence in the wind and the cacophony and the earthquake and the fire I had a strong sense of the moments of violence that unfolded in Orlando earlier this week.  God was not in the thunder and fire of that tragic, unconscionable moment when that man entered the night club and pressed his trigger.  God was not in the storm of death and violence.

Yet to say that God is wholly absent is not enough when such tragic events occur.  Does God not care?  Do we have to wait for the sheer silence after the violence to find God?

When Jesus hung on the cross he cried “My God, my God why have you forsaken me!”  These words from Psalm 22 capture the desolation as the storm of death rages.  In the violence of humanity against Jesus we find the echoes of God’s absence as once again there is a sound like thunder and an earthquake and a darkness that descends.  Jesus experiences the absence of God.

Yet, Psalm 22 goes on to give us hope saying, God “has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one, God has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”  God is present in the absence because God is in Christ himself for as Jesus says “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Trying to make sense of the violence that has occurred, trying to justify or blame, is too hard.  Sometimes, it is simply beyond out human capacity.  What hope does our faith gives us? Possibly, it is that in the storm and violence of death God is with us in Christ on the cross.  That though it may seem God is absent there is always a presence, even unto death.

Moreover, the promise of faith is that death is not the last word.  In the still, sheer silence of the resurrection morn, when Jesus rose again, bearing the scars of his death he says to this violent world, “Peace be with you!”

So, for those who morn, for those who ask why, for those who find this act and some of the responses incomprehensible, let us hear and encounter the hope in Jesus words which transcend the violence of death and darkness of the grave: “Peace be with you!”

Peace be with you.