24 April 2020: the lock down series from day 21 to day 30 – hope and courage from various angles.

The lock down series from day 21 to day 30 –  a series of short talks posted on YouTube during the  COVID-19 Pandemic.

Rest and peace for our inner lives:

 

Bumper sticker witnesses: what do we advertise in difficult times?

 

It’s Friday but Sunday is coming:

 

Dealing with doubts:

 

Encouragement in valleys of deep darkness…

 

Captain Tom Moore and the one another factor:

 

Those who know tell those who don’t know

14 April 2020: Day 20 of lock down and the story of the chocolate parrot

New opportunities await us – letting go of the past and moving towards a new future.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

 

12 April 2020: day 18 of lock down and Easter Sunday – hearing the voice of Jesus in the dead-ends of our lives.

Readings: Matthew 18:1-10; John 20:11-18

 

 

 

 

10 April 2020: Good Friday during lock down – loving and serving like Jesus

For reflection:

John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Mark 10:43-5: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

9 April 2020: Day 15 of lock down – Day 4 of Holy week also known as Maundy Thursday.

Reading for reflection: John 13:1-35

A lot has happened this week. In every sense. Around the world, in our country, in our homes, and hopefully in our hearts. Holy week has taken us on a journey with Christ from Palm Sunday into the temple which he cleansed, back to the temple for his teachings, and that time of waiting once Judas had gone off to negotiate his capture for money.

The Pandemic has dragged millions of people through stress, heartache, anxiety and separation. Nearly 90 000 families have been bereaved, many with little opportunity to mourn and farewell their loved ones in the traditional formal way. Add to this more people heading for poverty and unemployment than we would ever wish for. The prospect of failed businesses.

Each of us here In New Zealand has had to figure out how to manage our “bubbles” in the most non-anxious un-chaotic way. And for people who follow my vocation, it’s Easter. The most significant time of the year in our faith. Busy time indeed.

I lost track of the days yesterday. But I do know that tonight is Maundy Thursday. The night of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The night in which ceremonial foot washing (I failed to get anyone to let me wash their feet last time I tried) reminds us of Jesus the servant leader. The suffering servant. The dying servant. The one who calls our name at tombs and dead ends (a little preview of Sunday’s message slipping in).

When I think of foot washing I think of much more messy stuff. The nursing and caring staff around the world who deal with bedpans, adult nappies, cleaning us up when in our frailty we become as dependent as new born babies. Suddenly washing feet doesn’t seem so bad.

“Maundy” has its roots in the word for commandment. Jesus gave one new commandment to add to and flavour the rest. Loving your neighbour as yourself always sounds like a kind of quid pro quo. Like the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A nice ethic of reciprocity.

The new commandment is more like the risks that our medical staff around the world live with now. Love one another as Jesus loves us? How did he show his love? Sacrifice. He gives his life for us. So are they.

It’s a bit too close to the bone really, and highlights the agony of a vocation that can kill you and leave your beloved family behind. I don’t know if we can get our heads around that. Clapping for them and cheering them on is good. (Get them the proper PPE stuff please.) Staying at home is better than just cheering and clapping – we do it so that we can kill off the spread of this Covid-19 scourge. Being on our own is not a great sacrifice compared to those who have given their lives for their calling. Given their lives for ordinary people like you and me who become patients through no fault of their own.

Have a lovely Easter weekend at home dear friends.
Be at peace.

We are not alone.

8 April 2020: The lock down series days 10 to 14 – taking us with Jesus into Holy Week.

The lock down series. A series of reflections taking us into Holy Week.

Self care, discovering his peace, the days of cleansing, teaching and waiting. I especially recommend day 11 if you needed his peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 April 2020: Reflections on Day 9 of lock down – resilience and endurance. How are you coping?

Reading: Romans  15:1-7

The story is told of a learner policeman who was writing his final exam before graduation. The last question in the paper described a horrific incident after a major fire caused by a road accident. A tanker had crashed into a house, and the whole thing had exploded. A crowd had gathered, and injured people were lying all over the place. While that was happening, some looters were smashing windows and burning couches in the street. There were bleeding people all over the place. The question read – “you are the only policeman on duty at the time. What do you do?” The man’s answer went like this: “you take off your uniform and mingle with the crowd”.

It’s day 9. Day 7 was the worst for some of us. I have no idea why. I do remind you of that kiwi bloke who survived the Wuhan lock down. Remember? The guy who said the thing he regretted the most was not getting a haircut before it started? He said – the first two weeks are the worst.
Like the policeman recruit in that story, sometimes you just want to take off your uniform and mingle with the crowd. You don’t have energy left and things are simply overwhelming.

Nine days nutty. Then you consider Terry Waite who was held hostage 1763 days. His first four years were in solitary confinement. He’ll be 81 next month.

Resilience. “Resiliens” in Latin means to rebound or recoil. I think its sometimes an unhelpful thing to teach children. Resilience is okay – its just that you don’t always bounce back that quickly. It’s more of Peterson’s “long obedience in the same direction”. Or to share the quote I saw on a colleague’s page today which I have had on my “about you” page for many years:

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
(Mary Anne Radmacher)

Resilience – yes, but add endurance.- the capacity to withstand wear and tear or unpleasant and difficult situations. We have the blessing of our relationship with God – prayer – the Scriptures, especially the Psalms which are well supplied with impossible and overwhelming situations in which people cry out “how long?” In those hymns the writers don’t always bounce back – they sometimes crawl back. Or a crack of light breaks through in their darkness. Often they are reminded of God’s faithfulness in the past – or they remember a better day, and a spark reignites hope, faith, and confidence.

Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1 is a good way to end this reflection: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Col 1:10-12)

Be at peace. We are not alone.

 

2 April 2020 – Coping with a different world at war

Some thoughts on coping with the new normal in lock down day 8 – in New Zealand.

A short reflection for today on dealing with anxiety and change.

Read: Philippians 4:4-7

 

 

1 April 2020 – So you’re not planning on dying then?

So you’re not planning on dying then?
(Some thoughts written before lock down and limitations on funeral services.)

“Everybody does it – nobody talks about it.” Sounds like a taboo, doesn’t it? In the Victorian Age this would have described sex. Now it describes dying. We have come a long way in dealing with death since the early part of the twentieth century. Since the 1970s the medical profession has begun to deal with death as a part of medicine – rather than focusing on healing and recovery alone. Although one has to day that some hospital staff don’t always handle terminally illness in the best possible way. They’d much rather see their patients go home alive!

We still have a taboo in general society – people don’t talk about death. Everybody will die and nobody likes to talk about it. Death on the other hand is accepted on TV and at the movies.. We watch movies in which people agonise over the loss of loved ones, and even have TV programs about undertakers, although the series I have in mind is rather off the wall!

We have to accept death as a reality in order really to become fully human beings. At the same time we don’t want to focus on sad and depressing things. So what do we do? Here’s one way of facing our immortality. We have a facility for people in our local church to plan their own Funeral or Memorial service. Sounds odd for some, but it makes absolute sense. The point is – what would you want people to do when your time comes? Mourn or dance? Weep or celebrate?

Planning your Funeral is not as macabre as it sounds. It helps your family to know what YOU really would like at that service. And there should be a service of remembrance or celebration of some kind. All too often undertakers are being requested to have “non-attendance” cremations, where no one stops to remember or give thanks. They pretend to move on and leave granny or dad for someone else to dispose of. In the long run that is not a good move.

In years gone by when people didn’t talk about sex (but clearly “did it”, otherwise there might have been a problem with the human population), they had to “undertake” for themselves – laying out the bodies of their loved ones in a room in a house and preparing it themselves for burial. Clearly they faced death and mourned. In Africa many cultures have more elaborate funerals – mourning for some days and bringing the bodies of loved ones home for a vigil the day before the Funeral. They MOURN because they need to.

So do we all. The grief process is a journey –nothing happens overnight. And you should not try to forget someone too soon. The process of mourning is the journey of ADJUSTMENT to a new life without that person, parent, spouse or child. Support groups really help. Having a friend who has been there also helps, because we need to talk and work through the trauma of loss. Our friends should not be afraid of mentioning our loved one’s name – they too should break the silence and remember them regularly.

It is foolish to prepare everything else (finances, wills, and disposal of property and possessions) without preparing one’s family and one’s self. And of course planning your Funeral service helps your family not to worry about what is important from your point of view – hymns and songs, special readings and poems, and even a letter to be read to them on your behalf. You could remind them how much you love them! Even better, say those things when people are alive! Fix those broken relationships – before you become one of those people who have to talk to a coffin to make things right.

Christians are not afraid of death. We may fear dying – that it may be painful or very difficult. We do fear leaving those we love behind, and we are often afraid of the unknown. Our Faith, however, has this to say about this ultimate journey: Paul writes in Philippians 1:21: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Jesus reminds us of His amazing plan for us in John 14:2: In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. Many people retire to the some lovely place. They plan for years for that moment when they don’t have to work – when they can enjoy doing what they really want to do. But do they prepare for this ultimate reality? One thing is for sure – we don’t always see it coming. We do know that our destiny as humans is sealed and certain.

The Christian Faith talks about ASSURANCE (remember the hymn Blessed Assurance?). In a sense this involves a promise, a guarantee, a pledge that those who have trusted in Jesus have the promise of eternal life. Eternal Life for the Christian starts now – in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul sums it up like this in Romans 8:38 to 39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And then look at these words of Jesus in John 17:3: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Remember His promise – that makes all the difference! Believe in Him and give your life to Him. He has dealt with the power of death through His own death and resurrection. Thinking about dying puts our living into perspective. Not only can we plan well – we can also live well and love well.

Message 29 March 2020 – Jesus’ compassion and the hope we have in Him

Readings: Psalm 130; John 11:1-45

Message

Click on this link to watch this message

People are sometimes fascinated by bible statistics. Like the longest and shortest verses.

If I were to ask you what the shortest one is you may say 1Thess 5:17  “pray continually”. Or the verse before that verse 16: “Rejoice always”.

In the Old Testament NIV its Job 3:2 – “He said”. It’s a grim passage. I think the translators who did the verses were having an off day really. Although in that chapter he says quit a lot of bad stuff.

Most people would go for “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It certainly is powerful in its brevity.

Here’s the passage where you find it: Joh 11:33  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  Joh 11:34  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Joh 11:35  Jesus wept. It’s interesting how “come and see” keeps cropping up in John’s gospel.

In the current crisis the world finds itself in – and our version of it in New Zealand, one of the burning questions is this: how long will it be like this?” Hope is dashed for many – jobs have been lost – plans wrecked – and loved ones taken too soon. And it’s a waiting game in many ways – wait and see. And so the first thing to consider in our readings today, and especially in this story in Bethany –  is this:

  1. How do people deal with losing hope and waiting, waiting, waiting.

It’s an interesting scenario really. Up to this point waiting for Jesus to come would have been tough for Mary and Martha. Jesus – when first told about Lazarus being sick (v3) we are told that he “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v5). Intriguingly he stays on there another two days. You get another classic kind of double talk. Nicodemus and the two births. The woman at the well and two kinds of water. Here Jesus says:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” Joh 11:12  His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”

There it is – the mystery of two different realms – that fourth dimension. John goes on:

Joh 11:13  Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. Joh 11:14  So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, Joh 11:15  and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Mary and Martha must have struggled. Like we do – when we are holding on to hope – praying desperately. There are hundreds of thousands facing that kind of waiting for news of critically ill patients around the world.

Psalm 130 we heard read today speaks about waiting for the Lord. It starts off quite desperately too: Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;  O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. (verses 1-2)

And in the hoping and waiting there is often impatience. When Jesus gets to Bethany three times people have a go at him – if you’d just got here quicker.

Jesus always knew the bigger picture of Lazarus being raised to life again.

  1. He still wept

Jesus’ compassion is always a help for us. His humanity means he knows and feels it all as we do. He still does when you are facing troubled or challenging times. Twice in the John passage it says Jesus was “deeply moved”.

There is of course another angle on this as well. Jesus weeps elsewhere over Jerusalem and their lack of faith. But the translations hide an angle on his response. “Deeply moved” is also translated as terribly upset, groaning in himself and very sad. The NLT and the message pick up the other meaning of this emotion:

Verse 33: (NIV84)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

 (NLT)  When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

(MSG)  When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him.

Verse 38: (NIV84)  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.

 (NLT)  Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.

(MSG)  Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.

There’s a great debate about why Jesus would be angry – their unbelief, the power of death, a realisation that he would face it too. This pandemic with rows and rows of coffins also shoves death in your face doesn’t it.

But he refocuses on what he’s there for and gets them to role away the stone.

There’s another short phrase here- yes its not a whole verse – but basically the people there say (in the King James Bible) “he stinketh”. This is  real earthy stuff – that’s why when they’re use an ice rink to store the dead, its grim and surreal. This is the wage of sin – death. From Adam to today. BUT – as Paul reminds us – the gift of God is eternal life. Lazarus will rise – but he will die later and eventually be raised again forever. Like Jesus.

  1. Resurrection is the bigger picture

Jesus uses every opportunity to teach his followers the bigger picture. In every sign he performs in John’s gospel, profound teaching follows. Think of Nathanael, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and later “doubting” Thomas. In this case

interacting with Martha he says this:  “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). It’s a great question for us to consider as well today.

If people start dying here in New Zealand – we must share our hope for the life to come with people.

Later in John 14:1 he says “Trust in God, trust also in me.”

That’s all we can do. And of course he tells them about those many mansions – rooms – baches – that he will prepare for us, and  then come back for us so we can be with him.

Don’t lose hope. Remember Jesus’ compassion. And his victory over the last enemy -death. Wait on him. Wait for him to work in every situation which promotes death – let’s be  ready to give a reason for the hope we have and tell others about the eternal life that is given to those who believe in God’s one and only Son given for the world he loves.

Amen.