Tag Archives: Ephesians

19 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Day II. “Abide in me as I abide in you”

smart

Ephesians 3:14-21 May Christ dwell in our hearts
Luke 2:41-52 Mary treasured all these things

The encounter with Jesus gives rise to the desire to stay with him and to abide in him: a time in which
fruit matures. Being fully human, like us Jesus grew and matured. He lived a simple life, rooted in the practices of his Jewish faith. In this hidden life in Nazareth, where apparently nothing extraordinary happened, the presence of the Father nourished him.
Mary contemplated the actions of God in her life and in that of her son. She treasured all these things in her heart. Thus, little by little, she embraced the mystery of Jesus.
We too need a long period of maturation, an entire lifetime, in order to plumb the depths of Christ’s love, to let him abide in us and for us to abide in him. Without our knowing how, the Spirit makes Christ dwell in our hearts. And it is through prayer, by listening to the word, in sharing with others, by putting into practice what we have understood, that the inner being is strengthened.
“Letting Christ descend into the depths of our being … He will penetrate the regions of the mind and the heart, he will reach our flesh unto our innermost being, so that we too will one day experience the depths of mercy.” [The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 134]

Holy Spirit,
May we receive in our hearts the presence of Christ,
and cherish it as a secret of love.
Nourish our prayer,
enlighten our reading of Scripture,
act through us,
so that the fruits of your gifts can patiently grow in us.

Questions
• The Bible tells us very little about Jesus’ youth and early adulthood, when he seems to have lived an ordinary life in Nazareth. How are you conscious of God’s presence with you in the everyday things of life?
• In your church or group of churches how do you nurture your children and young people to walk with God in their everyday lives, and how could you do this better?
• What does the churches having a ‘presence’ together in the community look like in your area?

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27 January: My unwary sentences: Brownings II.

ams.postbox
Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, masters of words both, still contrived to misunderstand each other in the early days of their friendship. It was a friendship largely based on letters since Robert could not risk arousing Mr Barrett’s suspicions as to his motives for visiting Elizabeth if he did so more than once a week. The penny post had been inaugurated five years before, and there were several deliveries per day, so misunderstandings could be sorted out quickly. A lesson for us, with our smart phones, Skype, Whatsapp and so on:
Never let the sun go down on your anger, don’t let resentment set up shop in your heart! (see Ephesians 4:26)
“Do you receive my assurances from the deepest of my heart that I never did otherwise than ‘believe’ you … never did nor shall do … and that you completely misinterpreted my words if you drew another meaning from them. Believe me in this—will you? I could not believe you any more for anything you could say, now or hereafter—and so do not avenge yourself on my unwary sentences by remembering them against me for evil. I did not mean to vex you … still less to suspect you—indeed I did not! and moreover it was quite your fault that I did not blot it out after it was written, whatever the meaning was. So you forgive me (altogether) for your own sins: you must.
For my part, though I have been sorry since to have written you such a gloomy letter, the sorrow unmakes itself in hearing you speak so kindly. Your sympathy is precious to me, I may say. May God bless you.
Write and tell me among the ‘indifferent things’ something not indifferent, how you are yourself, I mean … for I fear you are not well and thought you were not looking so yesterday.
Dearest friend, I remain yours, E.B.B.”
An old Dutch pillar box at Amsterdam Centraal Station. MMB.

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January 19: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Day 2: Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’.

50.40. pilgrimage

 

Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’ (Matthew 5:37)

  • Ephesians 4:22-25

  • Matthew 5:33-37

Starting point

The letter to the Ephesians presents a call for Christians to be honest and accountable to each other, so that we may grow in community. There is no place for deceitfulness, for it serves only to impair our relationships and so destroy that community. We are called to live an authentic life of faith and stand up for the truth. Our yes must mean ‘yes’ and our no must mean ‘no’ – with no equivocal language or dishonest behaviour. Dishonesty disrupts the unity of the Church for which we are called to pray and work.

Reflection

If I am to speak truth to power,

whose truth do I speak?

Whose justice do I seek

in the space between my right-ness

and that of the ‘other’?

If I say ‘yes’ to justice,

does that make it all mine?

What of the grey between the emphatics?

‘Let me declare boldly,

sure-footedly

that my yes is

a “yes-yes”, and my

no is “no”.’ Says Jesus.

‘Let me draw clarity

in the sand that

defines and refines

knowledge, truth and tales

in such a way

that all are sure.

‘Let me dwell deep

in the place within

where, regardless of the outward form

you know beyond doubt’s shadow,

that truth and justice,

peace and righteousness lie.

‘And let me,

in my boldness

turn widdershins

the hypocrisy of

those who confuse integrity with fake-ness,

who obscure truth with falsehood

and call it news.

‘Let me boldly be good news.’

Prayer

God of justice,

grant me the wisdom to see right from wrong.

Let my heart be guided by honesty and my lips speak truth.

In times of doubt, cloak me in courage the colour of trust.

Birth in me the passion for unity and peace

so that I may be a good news bearer for all.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Questions

  • What does it feel like to have your words distorted?

  • Look at on-line or paper copies of current news items. Can you distinguish spin, or ‘fake news’ – what are the markers of such items?

  • How, in our churches, do we tell, or re-tell our own stories in order to set ourselves in a good light?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Not everything we read or see in the news is true. ‘Fake news’ has become a catch-all term for stories that are deliberately made up and also those that have some truth to them but are not reported accurately.

Hold a newspaper reading breakfast for the churches in your area and take time to discuss the headlines and equip yourselves with the skills to discern what is true in this ‘post-truth’ age. Visit Go and Do to find out some steps for identifying fake news that you can discuss over breakfast.

Visit Go and Do to find out about and join the campaigns challenging the negative and scaremongering reporting in the media.

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November 1, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: i – Creeds, Codes and Dogmas

relief-1Chichester Cathedral

Reading the Book of Acts we see clearly how different was the Apostles’ sense of mission to that of today’s Church. We have Creeds, Codes and doctrines – systems to follow to preach the Word – they had none of this. They went out and shared their experiences of living with Jesus, especially after the Resurrection; what it was like to be with him. This mission hasn’t changed, though how we go about it has. We no longer have people to listen to who lived with him – nor even do we know of people who were with him.

We are weighed down with centuries of doctrine and speculation. The theologian speaks a language strangers do not know. So much of what is said and written seems far removed from everyday life. Can we do anything to recapture the powerful simplicity of those early days? The answer is the same – it is Jesus whom we share. The first Christian profession of faith was not I believe in God… but Jesus is Lord! Is this my experience, or is it what I am told to say? The Jesus they shared was a man they had known and lived with – they had experienced his enthusiasm, witnessed his frustrations. He enjoyed his life, along with him they knew excitement and disappointment – he wept on hearing of a friend’s death; and died violently while still a young man – with hope seemingly shattered and promises gone.

But here was not just a young man, full of promising potential – here was the reality of what being human means. Made in the image of God, the perfection of the human consists in the degree to which it truly reflects its origin. He claimed to be one with the Father, indeed he said to see him was to see the Father – he didn’t simply reflect divine perfection, he is this perfection. His disciples – even on Good Friday – knew they had seen the premature death of a man in whom they saw no trace whatsoever of evil. They saw the question all of us ask – even the best of lives must end, even the most special people must die, is life meant to be so absurd? Are our ideas, hopes and visions a promise of something wonderful to come or is it all a delusion?

These questions were answered by the Resurrection. This man, who had lived an exemplary human life, trusting himself entirely in the providence of Abba, was not deluded; and the chasm of death was no longer impassable. His friends remembered how they first met him, when he invited them when they asked him where he lived – come and see, he said. We may not know what they actually saw, but we know what they discovered from his passing from this life into a new world was not for him alone, but a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth – Ephesians 1.10.

Just as his death asked the vital question about the meaning of life; so the Resurrection provided the answer. God’s saving plan has finally earned the response in the most perfect way possible. The human Jesus has shown the fidelity which is the only reply God was waiting to receive. Now the human race began to be glorified through one of its members entering in to the new heaven and new earth. The way was clear for the disciples, our destiny and how to achieve it is wide open to anyone sharing the same humanity. Hopes and longings were always present for some kind of happiness beyond death – but God’s plan was recognised only in vague ways. Like a group of weary and hungry people lost in a forest; hopes were occasionally raised by some who set-out to find it, but there was no news of how they got on.

AMcC

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17 May: The Renewing Grace of Stargazing.

 

stars.constantina
The Beehive Nebula

Reading for None:

Let your spirits be renewed so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:23-24)

Renewal is a central truth in our fellowship with Christ. Daily we have the opportunity for renewal. In the text above the word ’Let’ is the first. We can choose to be renewed or not. How can we do this? How do we know we have been renewed?

When I am weary, I desire an early night. Before I venture upstairs I am in the habit of going into my garden to see if there is a clear night sky with a good sprinkling of stars and a few planets to gaze upon. If there are, I will get out my Makutsov telescope with the battered azimuth cog that makes it judder and begin my astronomical observations. What joy and happiness I feel at such times. I see my old friends, Jupiter and four of his moons: Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io; then there is bright Arcturus; the baleful red giant Betelgeuse and if the atmosphere is clear I can see the nebula in Orion’s sword. I pay especial attention to the Seven Sisters and once I have tracked down my other familiar friends I start looking in earnest for something I have not found before.

Most recently, I discerned the Beehive Nebula, so named because it looks like a hive of busy bees.

It is also called the Manger, as, with some imagination, it does seem like two donkeys munching from a manger. Once you know where to look it is easier to find the next time. It took me months to find the Andromeda galaxy. She had been hidden by an overgrown apple tree but I found her eventually. A blurry smudge in the blackness. So distant, yet now present in my humble back garden. What is far is so, so near!

My joy is made complete when looking at the stars in the sky. It has been a lifelong interest but only recently have I been able to indulge in a good telescope. After stargazing I am renewed, refreshed, not tired and filled with a lightness both spiritually and physically. The universe visits my humble garden, impinges on my consciousness and refreshes my soul. I am renewed with love for all creation.

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May 15: Pentecost: The Breakthrough

56Pentecost'86 (519x640)

 

Many years ago, in my hometown, I had a powerful experience while riding on a bus. I don’t know why I was taking the bus that day, as at that time I drove a motorcycle, nor do I recall where I was going…but, really, all of that is beside the point. The experience I had, while staring aimlessly out the window, remains fresh in my memory, even decades later.

Now, please, don’t misunderstand what I am about to write – as if it were a claim to some privileged mystical experience. Rather, it came in the form of a daydream; a sparkling thought, caught up with an image, all in an instant…that made me blink then smile and begin the first of many re-plays. What occurred was a kind of visualisation that I have come to call the ‘breakthrough’; a great, shattering, re-arranging, expansive, irresistible, all-encompassing force pulsing through a billion shards of what seemed like brightly coloured stained glass, all rushing forward and constantly re-configured in near-endless patterns of dazzling complexity and creative expression. It was also immediately apparent that the thrusting force was purposeful, even rational, and, above all…exuberant.

I reckoned right away that it must have been a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Over the years I have remembered and cherished that image, tried (with varying degrees of success) to represent it in art, and have also discerned it in some others’ experience as well. As I have done so, many different dynamic aspects of the fundamental breakthrough have emerged. The first is scriptural and that is of a Triune God on the move; nearly peripatetic, even mendicant. This has always been obvious in terms of the Second Person of the Trinity, first in terms of the explosive creative agency of the Word and then through the itinerant ministry of the Incarnate Word; preaching and working miracles on the many byroads of Palestine- the foxes have holes and the birds build nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. But what of the other Trinitarian Persons? The Holy Spirit blows like the wind, wherever he wills, defying all of our attempts to place God within perceptible perimeters or even (God forbid!) a box. He also dances and flickers like tongues of flame; dead, static religion has no place in that raucous Kingdom. What of the Father? Moving, always moving with his desert people in the great covenantal Ark; a mendicant God for a pilgrim people, sparkling with the guiding light of shekinah even in the dark nights of weakness and despair.

And like Siva in a very different religious tradition, that Spirit of wind and fire, ever moving- siempre adelante– can unmake as well as make. But God being God is necessarily all in all and utterly good. When Love unmakes it is only to pave the way for the exhilaration of renewed freedom. Thus, St. Paul in Ephesians 2:14, For he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall… I have seen many a wall tumble and, when it is the work of Christ attested by the Holy Spirit, people invariably look up, rubbing weary eyes in wonder at undreamed of promise…fulfilled.

TJH

 

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* 28/12 Holy Innocents – The Pilgrim Birth of Christ

flight.egypt

 

It can be tricky to find cards at Christmas which speak of the simplicity of the love that is shown in Christ’s birth. But we can make our own cards from online images or cards from around the world. Simplicity is the basis for a new beginning in anyone’s life. The openness to God’s guiding will shines through the eyes of all the figures in this Ethiopian image of the Flight into Egypt, breaking free from Herod’s ruthless tyranny. It is important that we treasure the experience we have of moments of liberating new trustfulness in our relationships. It is for this reason that Bonaventure wrote his lovely short treatise Five Feasts of the Child Jesus. Without a new sensitivity to love in onlookers, in their deepening faith, Christmas images become a frustrating throwaway practice without meaning.

“Once this birth has taken place the devout soul knows and tastes how good the Lord Jesus is. And in truth we find how good he is when we nourish him with our prayers,… wrap him in the  spotless swaddling cloths of our desires, carry him in an embrace of holy love, kiss him over and over again with heartfelt longings and cherish him in the bosom of our inmost heart. That is how this Child is born spiritually in a devout soul.” (E. Doyle trans., St. Bonaventure, Bringing forth Christ: Five Feasts of the Child Jesus, (Fairacres, Oxford: SLG Press,1984). This is a version of Eph. 4:15 “we are to grow up in every way into… Christ”.

CD.

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