Sunday, 26 August 2012

Difficult Biblical Teaching

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are filled with difficult sayings and teachings.

In today's Gospel from St.John we hear...“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you...[and then some of the disciples say] This is a difficult teaching, who can accept it?”

In today's New Testament reading from the letter to the Ephesians we hear  "wives, submit yourselves to your husbands."
How do we deal with difficult Scriptural teaching? Do we read the Bible literally? Or do we read it in its cultural and historical context?

I know my wife is certainly not going to submit to me! And that is because the Christian objective of freedom and equality for all has worked its way to fruition in our society over the centuries.

The cultural context for "wives, submit yourselves to your husbands" is from a time when women were understood to be property, given away and traded in marriage, and were indeed less important in society than men. Knowing that, what the writer to the Ephesians does is actually take a step forward for the dignity of women when he says "husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her."

The bigger issue is how do we interpret Scripture?

In the Anglican approach is: Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience.

We read Scripture in the context of a living tradition that has formed the Bible as we now have it, the same living tradition that continues to handle and interpret the Scriptures in every generation. Our use of reason is a very important aspect of how we interpret Scripture - what we teach from Scripture has to be reasonable. And Experience is the final component that we apply in our approach to Scripture. How does our human experience inform our understanding of Sacred Scripture?

Even with this approach, we still have two options to choose from when it comes to difficult teaching – Scriptural teaching that we don’t understand or agree with.

The first choice is to dismiss it (like those in the Gospel today) and throw it out as meaningless or irrelevant. The other choice we have is to struggle with the teaching or issue. St.Augustine of Hippo, in his book “On Christian Doctrine,” encourages this struggle with difficult Biblical teaching.

We need to come to terms with the truth that it is only in struggling with the Biblical issues, in the light of the teaching tradition of the Church, and coupled with reason and experience, that the Holy Spirit will lead us into the fullness of Christian Truth.”

The easy choice is to dismiss it, the mature and life-giving choice is to struggle with it.

For those of us who can struggle with and accept the words of Jesus, be gripped by His Love and can enter into relationship with Him, we can say with Peter 

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Food for Life

In order for us to live healthy and balanced and satisfying lives, there are so many areas of the human makeup that needs to be properly fed and nourished. We have biological, psychological, sociological, financial needs that have to be met. 

Yet the greatest area of the human experience that must be discovered and properly nourished is the foundational Life that we are.

Today the Church is continuing to reflect on the “Bread of Life” sayings of  John’s Gospel (6:51-58).

“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
“whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”
“For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink”
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood REMAINS in me and I in him”
“…the one who feeds on me will have life because of me”

Do you want a more full and meaningful life? 
Then we need to ask the question …

What does it mean to “Remain” in Christ? 
In other words, what does it mean to remain in "Life?"

What does it mean to remain in Christ, return to Christ, come back to Christ, long for Christ, desire Christ, hunger for Christ, thirst for Christ?

When we are not consciously in Christ, not AWARE of the Loving Divine Life that we share, then we are actually less alive.

That is to say, when Divine Life – the living Word of God, the Love that is God – is not at the center of our consciousness, we are in fact spiritually less alive.

When we REMAIN in Him – with His Word on our minds and His love in our hearts - we are more awake, free and alive.

This is a fundamental truth of Christian living.

Feeding on Distractions
What Jesus is saying to us, is that when we allow distractions, the unimportant changing details of life to consume us, to take over our consciousness – being all that we THINK about – then we are among the living dead, not fully alive.

Jesus says to us, do not feed on such unimportant and sometimes evil things.  You are robbing yourselves of freedom and fullness of life.

Feed on Me
Jesus says, think about Me. 
In silence, know and experience my love for you in your heart.
Think about and remember my words, keep them in your mind.

**Keep returning to my words and to my love.**

Feed on me and you will know a life that will never end.
Feed on me and you will never die.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Supreme Sacrifice: Maximilian Kolbe

Today the Church is honouring Maximilian Kolbe. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he helped thousands of refugees, including Polish Jews. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941 and imprisoned at Auschwitz. Three months after Maximilian's arrival, a prisoner escaped and, in retaliation, 10 men were chosen at random to die. One of them was a young father and Maximilian offered to take his place. His offer was accepted.

In October of 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized St.Maximilian. At the Vatican for that ceremony was the family and descendants of the man that Maximilian exchanged his life for. Wow.

What a powerful story and witness.

As Christians we are called to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We are called to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Maximilian Kolbe knew and experienced at a deep level the one Life that we all share in Christ. He recognized that Divine Life in the Polish Christian and Jewish refugees whom he risked his life to help. He recognized that Life in the young father who was one of the 10 chosen for execution - when he offered his life in exchange.

Maximilian Kolbe knew and followed the Master of Life. He respected the dignity of every human being regardless of cultural and religious differences. He served the needs of those around him by offering his own life.

Let us be inspired by Maximilian to come to know Christ more, and to offer our lives in serving and responding to the needs of others. This is the hope of the world.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Focused Living That Effects Others Positively

Two weeks ago the church was reflecting on the story of the feeding of the 5000. 5000 people in need, with few people and resources to respond, but with faith in Christ, those needs were met.

Last week the church began reflecting on Jesus’ “Bread of Life” sayings. The feeding of human needs at a deeper level than just the physical.

Regardless of what is going on in our lives or what is not going on in our lives, it is only Jesus, the Bread of Life, that can meet our deepest needs and desires. In the process of our needs being met, The Lord then sends us out to love and care for and help meet the needs of others.

Newsflash: The church exists to serve those who are not in the church!! The church is not a private club for “members only.” Nor are we only here to serve those who are here. OUR MANDATE IS TO SERVE THOSE WHO ARE NOT IN THE CHURCH.

But for us to effectively care for others and be instruments of transformation in our society, we must first come to Christ. 

 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him…”

How does this divine encounter happen and then mature?

“Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to me.”
We need to learn how to listen and respond to the Word of God.

There is a popular nutritional saying “you are what you eat.”
There is also a spiritual saying “you are what you focus on.”

Focused hearing
Learning to meditate and focus on the Word of God as a regular part of daily life.

Focused Silence
Practicing sacred silence where we simply learn to rest and be still in the Love that is God. 

Focused action
The practical love that we show to one another in our common life as a church and as we reach out to those around us.

So my friends, let us mature in our feeding on the Bread of Life, listening to the Word of Life, and the silence of Holy Life and love-filled communion. And as our emotional and spiritual needs are met, let us together as a church and in the power of Christ, strive to reach out more effectively and feed the needs of those around us.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Canadian Women's Soccer Loss to the USA

What an amazing soccer game yesterday between Canada and the USA women's teams. The determination, the team work, the amazing goals. Another great Olympic match where someone has to win and someone has to lose.

Apparently the Canadian team, with new coaching over the last year, has done a 180 degree turn in how it is playing. The same team had to fold and withdraw in a world class event only a year ago.

So to have come to the Olympics, and to have risen to such a high standing, is an absolutely tremendous accomplishment for the team as a whole.

But the loss because of an incompetent referee call is very difficult to swallow. For a game that will decide who goes to the gold medal match to be determined by such bad refereeing is a major obstacle for any team to overcome.

Yet life and sport is full of disappointing losses and bad decisions by others that we cannot control.

A true winner is one who can pick themselves up after loss and disappointment, and start again playing as hard as they can.

Canada's women's soccer team has responded well to good coaching over the last year, and are playing their game much better. I'm sure that with that same approach to coaching and encouraging, they will play well and hard in the bronze medal game. And win or lose, they are winners in my eyes.

We can all learn from good coaching and encouragement, and how to deal with loss and disappointment.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunday Reflection

Valerie and I have had a wonderful holiday. Relaxing, restful.
St.Anthony, a 4th century desert father, wrote that the strings on an instrument need to be relaxed from time to time, in order to keep them from breaking.
Holidays are about that relaxing of the instrument in order to keep it from breaking. 
Holidays also can enable us to gain or regain perspective on what is most important in our lives.
  • what we need in life.
  • what we are striving for in life.
Holidays, for me,  is also about reading books!! This summer, among other books, I have been enjoying an historical fictional novel Camelot in 5th century Briton.
Camelot, the striving for a just society
The novel is about:
  • the invasion of Saxons onto the island of Briton, and how both peoples developed and integrated.
  • it is also a story of how the druid religion of Briton was replaced by Rome’s Christianity.
  • Merlin, the famous druid, thinks that Briton can only be saved by finding the cauldron and returning to the old Briton religion. 
  • Author, the Warrior King, wants peace and justice for the people of Briton, and he thinks that this can only happen with a strong army, good laws and government.
  • Christianity, at this stage in its development, and which is not understood by many of its practitioners, is somewhere in the middle. 
Striving for meaning
What is interesting about the novel, and about the history, is that it is a story about striving for meaning, for truth, for justice and for peace.
This is true in the history of every society.
This is also true in the development of every human being.
Todays Gospel
In the Gospel today (John 6:24-35), the people are looking for Jesus. They are looking for more out of their lives. They are among those 5000 whom Jesus has fed, and now they are striving for more.
We are all striving for meaning and satisfaction in life, and today's Gospel what it is that can meet our deepest needs is...
The Bread of God
“The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
And Jesus says:  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 
My Perspective
I’m fresh off of holidays. Rested, relaxed.
I am renewed in the perspective that I have a lot of things to be thankful for.
I have a beautiful wife who loves me.
I have three beautiful and healthy children.
We have a wonderful home and domestic life.
I am able to travel and see different parts of the world.
I live in the great country of Canada, and the tropical island of Newfoundland.
I even have a great little doggie.
But you know, I have also come to the renewed perspective, that all of those things don’t and can’t meet my deepest needs.
My greatest hunger, my greatest needs, my greatest striving, is satisfied only as I feed on Jesus Christ, the bread of life.
It is Jesus that I need to seek out and feed on.
The same is true for you.
The same is true for our society.