Sunday, 5 June 2022

Knowing your spirits


Sunday5th June 2022

Pentecost Sunday

Open our ears, O Lord to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills that we may serve you today, now and always. Amen.

We need to get to know the spirits in our lives.

Might we hear inside our heads:
‘I am no good’, ‘I am a bad parent’, ‘I am not worthy’, ‘I could never do that’, ‘people don’t like me’,….?

These are typical of bad spirits!

God does not accuse.  Only the evil one accuses.  Rather, God convicts our hearts through love. The best way to explain this is to hear what Jesus says to us in John 12:47-48:

I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge 

There are times when we know in our hearts:

‘Yes, I should not have said/done that’

‘Yeah, I did not do it when I should have…’

We need space and time to be silent and to let the Holy Spirit whisper to us

Perhaps we could devote a few minutes at the end of each day reflecting, journaling and praying on these lines:

  • Come Holy Spirit and help me to recall those moments today when I was aware of your love and to savour again what you meant to me.
  • Help me to recognise those inspirations and promptings you gave me and to know whether I responded or not.
  • Help me to recognise those times when I saddened you by what I said or did or by what I failed to do.

Feelings are important but they are not the only thing.  We can know god’s will by careful discernment with the help of age-old means of:

  • Prayer
  • Reading of scripture
  • Reflection on our moods, emotions and life events.

When we experience lasting peace and freedom - even joy - this might very well be a sign of God's presence and beckoning. But let’s be careful. Sharing with a trusted and competent person could help to check our self-will and purely private interpretations.

The culmination of Jesus’s teachings as reported in the Gospel of John is conveyed to us in five key pledges that we can trust and hang on to in our minds and hearts at the start of every day:

1    We are not alone (the Holy Spirit has been sent and continues to breathe on us) – John 14:18 
‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’
2    We called to live in a new commandment of mutual love (that the world may see and believe) – John 13:34
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
3    The continuing help and presence of the Holy Spirit is guaranteed – John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
4    Joy and peace and with that freedom are the fruit of that Holy Spirit (marking such gifts out from all else) – John 15:11
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
5    We will know the truth and the truth will set us free – John 8:32
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
To sum up:

1. We are not alone

2. Love one another

3. The Holy Spirit will guide us

4. How do we know? – Joy and Peace!

5. And that joy will set us free

Really, we could not ask for more!

Father in the name of Jesus open our hearts, today, to your Holy Spirit.

  • Set us on fire
  • Send us out to witness to your great love
  • Thank you

A quiet place

 Sunday 22 May 2022

(6th Sunday of Easter)

Over the last two years I have had some time and space to myself due to circumstances outside my control.  To varying degrees and at different stages, we were all subject to advice or restrictions regarding travel, social interaction and distancing as well.  In many ways I can sum up my personal experience during this testing time as an echo of the verse in the Book of Hosea:

Therefore, I will now persuade her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. (Hosea 2:14)

I had the fortunate to be able to stay in a 'wilderness' of sorts in this beautiful coastal area of North County Dublin. I have also been fortunate in being able to evidently avoid covid during these last two years.

What did I learn once again?  .... that I was not alone but accompanied all the way by God's Holy Spirit even if I sometimes fail to live up to the demands of the Gospel in my living. Second, I learned once again about listening.  When upset, not sure, annoyed or simply frightened it is always and everywhere possible and necessary to cast our burdens on the Lord 

'Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7)

I could make the prayer of David my own:
I will listen to what the Lord God will say, for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful, that they turn not again to folly. (Psalm 85:8)

 Although I do not always manage to do it I strive to:

  • find a time and a place to 'listen' to God in my heart.
  • listen to another.
  • listen to myself.

One ought not be afraid to go that special place and time, no matter how limited or constrained, to find a listening space.  

A wise person advised me to say often the following invocation:

Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with your Holy Spirit.

Friday, 25 March 2022

It is party time

“…And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:24)

Luke 15:11-32 (Year C: The Fourth Sunday in Lent 27th  March, 2022)


Old Testament: Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32,
New Testament epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.


SERMON NOTES (2,186 words)

So much has entered into the English language and other languages via the Bible and its many images, stories and turns of phrase.  The story of the prodigal son is just one example.  We are familiar with the image of the wayward son who acts irresponsibly and goes off to sow his wild oats only to return later in penury and misery and to be met by a loving and compassionate father.  The jealousy of a brother and the reaction of their father adds spice to the story.  The parables of mercy found in the fifteenth chapter of Luke is preceded by the discourse on the demands of total discipleship in Luke 14 and is followed by some very challenging parables about riches in Luke 16. We should be aware that a parable of mercy is not a soft or easy option sandwiched in between hard discipleship and renunciation of attachment to material wealth. Rather, mercy explains everything we need to know about our God and it explains everything we need to know about how to live out our discipleship in this world as we know it. The fruits of this is joy and joy without shame.

The scene for this parable is set by the opening verses of Luke 15:1-2
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
How ironic that Luke should have chosen this opening challenge as the context, first, for the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:3-7), then the lost sheep (Luke 15:8-10) and finally the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) when many of the followers of Jesus over the coming centuries would spend much time leaving lost coins lost, not bothering with the one lost sheep and setting barriers and exclusion orders for those who seek a return to fellowship at the Lord’s table. Of course, it may be pointed out that various anathemas and exclusion orders are present elsewhere in the New Testament including some references in the gospels. However, the overwhelming thrust of what Jesus said and did and what we know about sayings and actions attributed to Jesus is that he didn’t play it all by the Rules of religion or custom. Rather, he exposed the shallowness, selectivity and duplicity of those managing these Rules when the overriding Rule of Life was and is chesed – a loving kindness that is faithful and moved and moveable.  We are not dealing, here, with some micro-manager God who is eagerly waiting to punish and control us. Neither are we dealing here with some ‘God of the ancient Greek Philosophers, that God who had no truck with the world, its people or its existence’, but remained ‘the unmoved mover of all things’ as Irish poet John Deane put it in his autobiography (Give Dust a Tongue: A faith and poetry memoir).

On the contrary, we are dealing with a living God who is all powerfully vulnerable to human suffering and delights in what has been created by love, in love, for love. The common thread running through each of the three parables in Luke 15 is that joy is the fruit of repentance and being found again. However, there is, potentially at least, a snag with the Prodigal son story.   A plausible reaction on the part of those listening to the story of the Prodigal Son for the first time might raise the following three questions:

1.    Wasn’t the father being unfair to the well-behaved and consistently loyal son?

2. Didn’t the father have a responsibility to reprimand the wayward son because bad behaviour should not be rewarded and a lesson needed to be taught even if he forgave all and the wayward son repented of all? What sort of message was the father sending out to other sons and fathers in the locality?

3. Did the prodigal son remain virtuous or fall by the wayside again? It is known to have happened that persons fall more than once in the course of a lifetime. The parable stops at this point.

Good questions to which answers are not readily available!  Let’s listen carefully, again, to this all too familiar and all too human story. The story begins like this:
‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.’ (v. 11-13)
How would any parent feel about a child doing a ‘runner’ with their precious savings?  We can assume that the Father was at least surprised, annoyed, resentful when this happened. But he ought to have known beforehand given his youngest son’s character. While you can’t predict someone’s actual behaviour in advance you can guess a range of possible scenarios.  We are talking here of an ordinary human being in a story about human beings which sets the scene for a story about a heavenly father.  Note the absence of women in this story from start to finish (except by reference to women of ill-repute when the prodigal son was abroad). This is a classical scene from a patriarchal society where women do not feature when it comes to money, power and division of assets. 
When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. (v. 14-16)
The younger son fell on hard times. It happens. We all make mistakes. If we have not made mistakes when we were younger how would we learn? But, hold on wait for what is coming next….
But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!  I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’”  So he set off and went to his father. (v.17-20a)
The traditional reading of the Prodigal Son is based on the idea that the prodigal son realised his mistakes, repented and returned to the Father.  But, there is another way of reading this story even if it is much less the assumed one – the son was cunning and clever enough to realise that when the money runs out the money runs out and the options are dire.  This son knew that his father was a bit of a push-over?  Did he gamble on pulling a fast one and putting on a repentance and self-humiliation scene? What was there to lose by giving it a try?  There are enough hints in the story to not exclude this possibility.  But, either way, the son returned and he was met by a compassionate father who took the initiative to meet him more than half ways. Read on…
But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. (v.20b-24)
Well that was some scene in front of everyone!.  Just imagine this disgraceful and disgraced son who turns up out of the blue and publicly abases himself in remorse.  The neighbours, cousins, friends and local persons of note must have been dumbfounded. ‘Well, who would have thought?’. Perhaps we could imagine some wondering if this was just a show (it is a parable after all). The father is, indeed, a soft-hearted old man. He saw his son far off and ‘was filled with compassion’.  He must have been thinking of him night and day and wondering was his son alive, well and in one piece. A first century parable didn’t allow for WhatsApp, email, mobile phones and facebook messenger. But, here in this moment of strong emotion and bonding the father immediately accepts his son without question, without interrogation, without conditions, without reserve and without hesitation. This was man-to-man stuff and Father-to-son work. The father ‘put his arms around him and kissed him’ not afraid to show his emotions. To Northern Europeans this seems sloppily southern European or eastern European!  Except on the sports field, showing emotions like that especially among men and among male family members is difficult for some of us in colder climates! But, back to the story…
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.  He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.  He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.”  Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.  But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” (v.25-30)
Oh Oh. Enter the other son.  Many a family feud has started over questions of honour, pride, inheritance and favours. The eldest son was furious: why should he who had been the loyal, respectable and obedient son be treated the same as or even not as well as the younger irresponsible brother? It was a fair question but one that missed the point of the story – the one who was lost and found deserves a double celebration. This can be a hard one to swallow especially if there is a hint of manipulation on the part of the prodigal son who weighed up his options and decided that offering himself as a hired servant was a least worst option.  We may note that the elder son refers to his younger brother not as a brother but ‘this son of yours’ (v.30).  How often do we use language to put a distance between ourselves and particular others especially when relationships are frayed or sundered?

But, in responding to the very understandable anger and astonishment of the older son we are confronted with a very different and disruptive logic. The logic and metrics of God-love are very different to ours. Notions of merit, proportional reward and punishment for past wrong doing (even when someone has repented) are very different in the kingdom of God. This is why the kingdom of God is an alien and distant place for many in society and even, sometimes, in our very own churches.
Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”’ (v.31-32)

The Father’s response is firm but gentle and affirming to the second son. There is a place for everyone at God’s table including those who believe themselves to have been faithful all their lives. But, there is a special place for those who feel awkward, excluded, judged and unsure. This is not about ‘opening the floodgate’ to everyone and anything. It is about the practice of a compassionate reaching out to those who come to us in search of meaning, understanding, acceptance, inclusion and encouragement in their journey. Are we up to this challenge? If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we are the prodigal daughters and sons who need acceptance, understanding and encouragement. We receive these gifts when we are ready to give them to other prodigals. There is no shame in forgiving or in being forgiven. Rather, shame is a sign of hurt that is not healed.  We need to practice mercy as much as receive it. Indeed, it is party time.  Laetare - traditionally rejoicing Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Lent - can be every Sunday – a time of mercy, visitation, renewal.



Father of mercies, in Jesus you embrace us in our weakness and in our waywardness. We place our trust in your infinite mercy as we own up to our sins as individuals and as church. We pray for:
  • Healing and reconciliation in the churches and in our church community…..
  • Those seeking healing in the places we work and pray and gather…
  • All the nations of Europe at this time of uncertainty and strain….
  • For mothers on this 'Mothering Sunday'...
  • One another….
  • Other named persons ….
  • Remembering with thanks those who have gone before us….
  • … praying in silence….

Loving God take to yourself our pain, our grief and our wounds. Transform us in Christ to become what you have meant us to be. And we make this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Feel the fear and do it anyway

 “…Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way” (Luke 13:33)

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Psalm 27

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Luke 13:31-35

 New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Year C: Second Sunday in Lent, 13 March 2022

It has been claimed that the instruction, ‘do not be afraid’, arises 365 times in the bible. That seems like good advice until we are presented with a situation that is truly scary!

In recent times I have been listening to and watching in complete amazement and astonishment 18 year old Ukrainian volunteers – boys really – addressing journalists and saying that they are bit scared but at the same time but that they must do what they have to do.

Is it realistic to advise someone not to be afraid even if we know and trust that God is with us through it all? I suggest a nuanced reply.  It is entirely natural and rational and unavoidable that we would experience fear throughout our lives. It is the way of survival and growth to learn about facing and living with danger.

This leads us to ponder the meaning of trust in the midst of daily life especially at times of great uncertainty and not a little anxiety as we hopefully emerge from a pandemic and embrace the shock of a new and somewhat terrifying world ushered in during the early hours of Thursday the 24th February 2022. Our world will never be the same again.  And for those fleeing or staying to defend across the land of the Ukraine millions are faced with stark and dreadful choices. We cannot even begin to imagine what it is like.

Jesus faced fear and extreme hostility as we learn in today’s Gospel reading.  He declared: ‘Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way’.  Jesus was no less human than we are. He felt hunger, pain, fear and desolation as well as times of great joy.  He did not flinch from his mission.  Neither did he succumb to fear.

Abram, our Father in faith, was faced with a similar challenge when God asked him to leave his home country and travel to an unknown place. Abraham or Father of the nations, as he was to be called, trusted in God and allowed God to lead him.  A covenant was made by God to protect and reward Abraham with many heirs.  We are the children of Abraham along with many outside the household of Christian faith.

We may note that Abram’s act of faith – abandonment to the will of God – did not mean that he would not face fear.  In Genesis 15:12, after Abram put his trust in the Lord, we read the following:

“As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him”.

In other words, the act of faith – abandoning our will to the will of God – does not abolish fear. Rather, we continue to experience fear but now we travel with God through the fear because, as the psalmist sings, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?’ and again, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?’

God is indeed in the hellish places of our present world.  And God cares infinitely for each creature even those inflicting great suffering on others.

May each of us face and acknowledge fear but do what we have to do in the name of Christ who leads us forward.

Friday, 4 March 2022

A struggle to counter evil

Year C; First Sunday in Lent (6 March 2022)

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 91

Romans 10:8-13

Luke 4:1-13

This first Sunday of Lent comes at a critical time for humanity.  War has returned to Europe on a scale and at a speed we have not known in generations. 

Many are anxious and unsure.  And now an even greater gulf has opened up between East and West fanning the flames of distrust and enmity.  We are challenged to do something.  

Lent is traditionally associated with spiritual warfare. In the 'desert' we are left to contend with the devil, the world and the flesh just as Jesus did on the eve of his public ministry.  How do we enter into the spirit of Lent during this time of enormous stress and anxiety?

How do we reset the compass so that our actions and words reflect the mind of Christ?

We need to take some time out for ourselves even if many of us have no peace or place to lay our troubled heads.  In the noise and commotion of living we need to find quiet spaces in which to listen and be refreshed. You see the world is in a mess because we – humanity - have not listened to the voice of God crying out in the least of our brethren.

We took so much for granted - peace, free speech, democracy, gas and oil, wheat and grain, travel, holidays, rule of law and relative prosperity.  Now, everything could be up for grabs. Virulent nationalism not just in Russia but also in China, in the USA, in the UK, in Europe, yes and even fragments of the Ukrainian political landscape, Africa, India is on the rise and menaces the delicate peace that held for much of the globe for much of the last 70 years.  Here in Ireland we know something of virulent nationalism and its toxic effects.

Yet, in all this chaos we are witnessing extraordinary examples of heroism, generosity and integrity. Perhaps we, in our place, are being urged to consider opening our hearts, our homes and our countries to some of the many millions that will be displaced across central and western Europe? 

In all of this we must remember our brothers and sisters in other continents for whom war, famine and deprivation are a daily reality. Perhaps the one of the biggest human catastrophes triggered by war has been in Syria in the last decade. Afghanistan is undergoing famine as we speak.  And there is the never ending brutal war in Yemen and other places. We do not hear as much about these conflicts and the pernicious role of all the super powers both historically and in more recent times.

But back to the here and now. What about us? I suggest three things for today and the coming week – the first full week of Lent.

1.            We need to steady our minds in the presence of God. Find a place and a time each day where you can rest even if only for a few minutes.

2.            Second, reach out to the person nearest you. Be mindful of others who are in need and who face their own worries and uncertainties.

3.            Third, be ready for all eventualities. We literally know not the hour or the day when we will have to give an account for our lives (Matthew 25:13). In the end we will be judged on one thing only: love.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

One of those moments

“…When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” (Luke 9:36)

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Luke 9:28-36

 New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Year C: Last Sunday before Lent, 27 February 2022

Standing back from it all

Every now and again we need to be taken out of our routine comfort zones and be surprised by joy.  This happened to Peter, John and James on a mountain top where Jesus took them. Mountains have always featured among the favourite places for dreamers, poets and wise persons.  The Irish landscape is dotted with stone arrangements on hill tops showing us that our ancestors had a special connection with these places and what lies beyond (or below). In some parts of the world it has been customary for monastic communities to pitch their ‘tent’ on high ground. Indeed, the site of the story of the transfiguration is believed to be Mount Tabor – a two hour walk from Jesus’ home village of Nazareth and about 25 kilometres from the southern shores of Lake Galilee which lay to the East of Mount Tabor. No doubt Jesus had been there many times before and beheld the beauty of the surrounding countryside as he marked out with his eye the places where he grew up.  In all likelihood Jesus and his three friends made the ascent early in the morning before the heat of noonday and on a good day with a blue sky as one does in such warm and exposed climates.

We don’t need to travel alone

Jesus needed a break in the midst of a busy ministry in Galilee. He had a strong sense that his time of extreme tribulation was nearing and he had warned his friends about this just before the mountain experience. He needed to draw apart for a little while and pray – with three chosen disciples (might there be a theological significance in bringing three to what was to be revealed?).  So, Jesus went up the mountain to pray – for his disciples and everyone else. There, a response was given to the witnessing disciples: ‘Listen to him!’ (v.35). We don’t need to climb mountains alone or keep those glory moments to ourselves. The Christ’s religion is a community religion. We travel with others and never alone.

From glory to agony and back again

The story of the transfiguration is also a story about journeys.  To climb a mountain with one’s friends and experience, there, the mysteries of God’s glory is one thing. To come down from that mountain and face certain death is another. This is the point of the story.  We need moments of ‘glory’ and deep, replenishing joy. Deep joy. This is our food and our strength for the journey that lies ahead. The transfiguration was a dress rehearsal for the Agony in the Garden on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 22:39-46).  We note the strong parallels: a mountain; Jesus with the very same Peter, James and John; people sleeping while another prays; conversation; foreboding and heavenly comfort. Life has a funny habit of repeating itself.

Into the cloud of unknowing

The cloud represents the presence of God as in Exodus 40:34-38. But, very often in our lives we are stuck in a ‘cloud of unknowing’ (also the title of a work of an English mystic in the late 14th century and which should be read by everyone at least once in a lifetime). Ours is a state of not knowing what next or who or where. The temptation is to try to remain fixed or fixated in a moment of glory and consolation. Some seek solace in narcotics, food, etc. Others seek solace in ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’. Each is understandable. We are only human. But, the real deal is not this or that thing or person or relationship: it is the love of God that speaks to us in silence in the depths of our hearts in this cloud of unknowing.

The reality is that we may find ourselves alone and confused in a cloud of unknowing but it is only afterwards we see that we were not alone. There is a lesson here each time. At the time of unknowing we were greatly afraid just like the disciples. Then we saw back like on CCTV that there was nothing to be afraid of.  We should savour and recall such moments of realisation and insight afterwards but not cling on to them. These moments enable us to move on and embrace what lies ahead. 



Key to understanding the Transfiguration is what happens just before it. Some eight days before (to quote Luke) Jesus has a very frank conversation with his friends. Not only was Jesus himself faced with death and rising again but, he went on to tell them

‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

We may note that in the Transfiguration the highly significant persons of Moses and Elijah and appear and disappear to leave the disciples standing with Jesus, alone.  Readers of Luke in around 80 A.D. would not have missed the point that the old order or religion is giving way to a new deal – one in which the Messiah has come and it is to his voice that we now listen for that life that surpasses our greatest dreams.  Moses and Elijah are not cancelled out; rather their ministry is now done and taken up into the work of Jesus, the Son of God. The transfiguration story reaches back in time to the ‘exodus’ of the chosen people (the Greek word for ‘departure’ cited in verse 31 – ‘They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem’) and it reaches forward to a new covenant between the nations of the world and the Messiah.  But, first there must be a time of great suffering and passing from the old to the new order. The disciples Peter, James and John have been warned already before ascending the mountain that they, too, would suffer like Jesus.  But, this does not stop Peter proposing the erection of three ‘tents’ (this links to the Jewish festival of Tabernacles recalling the time when the Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert).  But, clinging to Moses and Elijah (the good old order) as well as clinging to that extraordinary and glorious scene on the top of this mountain will not do. The point of the story is that we only have Jesus to cling to now. Put another way, the Transfiguration offers little by way of ‘comfort religion’ either then or now.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Our common home

 “…Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’.” (Luke 8:25)

Genesis 2:4-25

Psalm 65

Revelation 4

Luke 8:22-25

 New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Year C: Second Sunday before Lent, 20 February 2022


Creation Sunday

In recent years we have become increasingly aware of the importance of our environment.  Most people accept that human activity has caused serious damage to the world of nature and triggered alarming pattern of climate change.  In reading the Bible our focus is on the central place of human beings made in the image of God.  We are used to seeing the natural world as a kind of backdrop or field in which humankind can till, sow, reap and extract to its heart’s content. However, the story is much bigger than humankind alone.

The story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 reminds us that God created us in his own image and likeness and placed us in a living relationship with all of creation.  We are more than mere creatures: we are in a sense co-creators with the Creator stewarding, nurturing and replenishing our world.  Sin has broken our relationship to God and one another as well as the natural order as a whole.  The disorder we see in the created world reflects a malaise springing from disordered ‘goods’ of materialism, over-consumption and over-exploitation of natural resources. We are paying, already, a heavy price for this cumulative disorder as evidenced by rising global temperatures, erratic weather conditions and polluted oceans.

We may be tempted to despair and panic as the disciples did in the boat when the storm arose on Lake Galilee. Where is God in all this chaos? Why has God abandoned us to the forces of climate disruption and environmental melt-down? Does God care? Does anyone care? We need to find again the calming voice of God in the midst of the storm.

Writing to the disciples in Rome, St Paul offers important clues as to how we might respond, individually and collectively:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We must abide in hope because God is in charge when other things fail.  As children of God we wait in hope for the saving grace of Jesus Christ. However, this waiting is not passive – we must organise, educate and work to lay the ground for a just transition and transformation of the way we produce, consume and move about.  In the meantime, we must embrace the pain as creation ‘groans’ and as we wait in hope and work in love to give birth to the Kingdom of God where we are.