Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Choose love

Love is powerless

Yet still endures
Beyond being loved.
Love is greater than emotions,
Deeper than desire,
Love is the unconditional choice
To be loving
Even when your world
Turns away.
In the face of rejection,
Choose love.
In the face of misunderstanding,
Choose love.
In the face of anger,
The calamnities of life
Choose love.
Even in the face of hate,
Choose love.
And when your love
Fades and fails,
Forgive, grace
And heal
And choose love.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Who are we in Christ?

The danger that 21st century Christianity faces is that we invite Jesus into our culture rather than being immersed in His. 

We take so much for granted without being moved by the immense challenges that Jesus faced to be believed in and followed. Why would God choose an obscure country village for his son to live in for all but three of his thirty three years. According to Israeli scholars, there were only about twelve families in Nazareth when Mary had her history defining encounter with Michael, the Archangel. Twelve families in the back blocks of Galilee. Twelve families, far removed from the pride, power and prestige of Jerusalem. A little hamlet who knew both Mary and Joseph, a small community that were suddenly plunged into a crisis. As Mary's story spread through the village the choice that they faced was the ghastly decision to either stone Mary and Joseph, or, somehow, believe the unbelievable. Mary made matters much worse by running away to her cousin Elizabeth. Joseph must have been protesting his innocence,  after all his life depended on it. An angel had to silence his protestations.

Yet, this was Jesus' introduction to mankind. Surrounded by gossip, innuendo, doubt and ridicule, God shows us, through Jesus, just who he represents. Jesus owns the plight of the unfairly accused, the illegitimate pleading for equality, the rejected and the marginalised.

To be followers of Jesus, to be disciples, the be worshippers, we must start with the reality of all that Jesus was, all that he identified with, all that he welcomed. 

It may not sit comfortably with the morality of our comfortable 21st century worship, but this is his story and this is our starting point. This is who we are in Christ. 

Monday, June 09, 2014


Why is he so obscured 
By the obsessive pursuit
Of knowledge.
Why must the words
Become purer
Than the one
That they describe. 


The night hastens.
Soon the light beckons,
Until then,
We endure.
Hope is on the other side
Of sunset. 
The night,
It's dark
And mysteries
Until dawn
Removes the darkness
Without regret.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Look again

Look deeper ,
Catch a glimpse,
Between the verses,
Behind the words,
So insufficient,
There is a man.
Can you see him?
Is it possible
To peer through the pages,
Closing the book
And capturing the narrative. 
There he is!
A man,
Painting his self portrait,
Writing his story,
In the living
And outworking
Of a life,
Far too fractured
To be believed,
Yet far too divine
To be ignored.

Not true!

Think about it. 
The rumours. 
The gossip.
The things said,
Behind her back,
And judgemental.
An angel?
Conceived by God?
A runaway?
A refugee,
Pursued by the King's army, no less,
A virgin?
A lie!
Under a dark cloud of ridicule,
Beneath the weight of rejection
And isolation,
His father...
His mother,
Brothers and sisters
God Himself
Enters the stage
Of history,
Writing his own story,
Revealing a life
Improbably divine. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Jesus we may not know.

Sometimes I wonder whether we have fully connected with the living, breathing man, Jesus. Jesus is more than "book, chapter and verse". To understand his revelation of the nature and character of God we much allow him to burst out of the pages and become "alive", greater than words, deeper than theology and far beyond our interpretations.

I have been thinking about the upbringing that God chose for his son. An upbringing that must reveal what it was like not only to "know" him as Nazareth knew him, but also to be confronted with the gossip and innuendos that must have continually shaped who he was seen to be.

To Nazareth, Mary was a pregnant teenager who, after having what must have been seen as a questionable encounter with an angel, ran away from home for three months. Seriously, would you have believed her?

Joseph was so upset that he also needed an angelic visitation to be convinced that his fiancĂ©e had not been unfaithful. However, it was clear that his family did not believe the story at all as, when they had all gathered in Bethlehem because of the census, Mary was abandoned to give birth alone. Did Joseph plead with his mother, grandmother, aunts,  sisters, desperate for a midwife, desperate for advice, a clean room....anything. The door was slammed in his face and he and his young bride, he hadn't consummated the marriage, were left abandoned and rejected.

It gets worse. Mary, Joseph and this strange child of visitation and promise become enemies of the state as the King, Herod, desperately tries to destroy the child and the blood of all the infants in Israel of Jesus age are now indelibly etched into their narrative. Think about, Jesus must have grown up with no boys of his own age. A terrible weight to bear.

Joseph packs up his family, his wife barely recovering from her ordeal, and makes for Egypt, the army hot on their heels and the cries of the mothers in their ears. Israel to Egypt is not an afternoon stroll. It is a huge undertaking for two teenagers and a new born infant, an infant with the burden of prophecy and angelic choirs weighing heavily on their shoulders.

They are fugitives carrying huge wealth, courtesy of God's provision through the three wise men. They would have travelled for months, constantly looking over their shoulders, fearful for their lives. Eventually they arrive at the Nile and beg for a boat to transport them to asylum. They are strangers, refugees, attempting to convince the "immigration officials" of Egypt to have mercy.

After many years, they retrace their steps and return to what must have been a chilly welcome in Nazareth. At this point there is only one reference to Jesus' childhood as he is "accidentally" left behind in Jerusalem as a pubescent young man. Does Mary have second thoughts? Has she left him at the temple as Samuel the prophet was so many centuries earlier? Had the weight of prophecy, and the doubts and fears overcome her faith. Put yourself in her shoes. Whatever the circumstances, Mary and her relatives turn around and retake the dangerous journey through the wilderness between Jericho and Jerusalem and retrieve their son.

By the time we meet Jesus again, he is a grown man. Joseph, his father, has died and we are confronted with Mary, a single mother, raising a family alone.

What of Nazareth? Had they become accustomed to the Messiah living amongst them. No! Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah and his neighbours become so incensed by his prophetic mandate that they try to throw him of the cliffs surrounds the city.

Jesus was not a normal middle class church kid. To Nazareth, and throughout history, even to this day, he was Mary's illegitimate child, a child that Joseph raised as his own. He was an enemy of the State, he was the reason why the blood of his male peers were spilled at his birth, he was a refugee, seeking asylum on a boat across the Nile, he was raised by a single mother, rejected by his relatives and villagers, even his family tried to take him away by force, as they too finally became faithless and hopeless.

Finally, Jesus performs a miracle! Was it the raising of his father from his death bed? No! Was it the provision of wealth and prosperity to his village? No! Was it some extraordinary act of power, authority, holiness and purity? No! Jesus turns 180 gallons of water into wine to satisfy the inebriated thirst of a country wedding that had already exhausted the cellar.

Is this the Jesus you know, for this is how God wishes to be known. This is his story, written in the flesh of his son. This Man must define how we see God and how we live in community. If we accept that we live under the Fatherhood of God we are all now defined as a brotherhood of man.

Far more importantly, to be a disciple, to be a follower of Jesus, his life defines ours.

My prayer is that Jesus bursts out of the texts, the sermons, the services and the songs and challenges us to our core. Without this challenge our spirituality retreats into religious observances.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Don't turn back this boat.

His relatives had abandoned him,
His parents were enemies of the state,
They were being hunted down by the king's army,
They were terrified and alone. 
He was barely a few days old,
His mother,
A young teenage girl,
Recovering from the ordeal
of giving birth,
Without a midwife,
A mother, a sister,
Or an aunt.
No hot water, or clean cloths.
She endured,
In the most unsanitary conditions imaginable
Her screams barely reaching
The closed doors of the inn
As the "Tribe of Judah",
Joseph's family,
Turned their backs
And callous. 
They made their escape,
Their only hope
To plead for refuge
In a foreign land,
Thousands of kilometres away. 
When, finally, exhausted and sore,
They arrived at the river,
They begged for a passage
To carry them across the waters
to safety,
Their foreign accents
Betraying their isolation
They were asylum seekers,
Throwing themselves on the mercy
Of a strange land,
Refugees in a boat,
Arriving at the shoreline
Pleading for the life of their son.