Sunday, March 29, 2009

Step in to the Light!

Just recently I have been a little surprised by some unexpected compliments/showings of respect that I have received and feel totally unable to identify with me. Having said that, receiving them has also been a great encouragement. This didn't remove the puzzlement until I read some biblical passages today which put it all into perspective.

"Have faith in the light while it is with you, and you will be children of the light." John 12

"Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast in the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." Psalm 36

What came to mind immediately, was the fact that it is God who is righteous and holy. Therefore in one sense I am right to find other's praise incongruous. However, the Bible also tell us to to be 'a light to the gentiles'.

The best image of the light Christians are called to be that I could think of was the moon. Sometime the moon is the only light shining in the darkness. Just as the moon doesn't have an light of its own, a light which is self generated; we do not. The moon merely reflects the light of the sun. It struck me that I am in exactly the same position, I am here to reflect the light of the Son of God. If therefore people notice and comment, instead of being uncomfortable or proud; I should rejoice and remember that what is being seen is a reflection of God because he chooses to make me his child.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One of my asignments at college is to write an art reflection on a picture which means something to me spiritually. I will then present this to a group as a talk in due course. I have chosen this rather stunning painting by He Qi, entitled Martha and Mary. I think I know what I want to say about it (as this incident in the Bible has meant a lot to me as I have wrestled through the whole egalatarian, women in ministry thing). However, if anyone out there has any nuggets of wisdom or stuff which springs to mind when they look at the painting, please comment...I can probably do with all the insight I can get!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yay! I won and award for an instant sermon idea from a random picture! Awarded by Rachel over at Re-vis.e Re-form Here it is!

Our lives can seem like a tangled mess but God is always there in the centre of them making sense of it all and working with us despite our failings.
Philippians 2:13
It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Packaging is a big thing today..we are attracted to well packaged merchandise. Retail uses it to attract us to their product. Therefore it is big business. Everything is packaged! Clothes (labels), cosmetics, food etc etc. We even package ourselves! It's a strange and rather shallow concept really, because we are actually buying the product and usually throw away the packaging. I found a quote on the internet which hi-lighted our obsession with it.
“Urban Decay's Big Fatty Mascara - the packaging is so retro. I love it! I have been using Dior’s waterproof mascara for about a year now and I feel like it’s time for me to try a different brand. I was torn between Urban Decay's and Benefit Bad Gal, but I was sold to UD's packaging.”
Is it me, or do we seem to have got our priorities all wrong?
In Biblical times, packaging was less important. What was inside the container was the important thing. Most things were sold/stored in clay jars: Virtually every archaeological dig in the Middle East has unearthed many pieces of pottery. Pottery was a favourite material for making a wide variety of utensils. It was cheap and mouldable. It was used to make everything from pitchers and oil jars to bowls and pots. Utensils were made for a particular purpose. But all made from clay. Paul refers to these clay pots in 2 Corinthians 4. The phrase ‘Jars of clay’ that he uses is actually "earthenware vessels" and refers to a vessel serving a specific purpose (such as a jug, cup, pan or pot). When used of people it often carries the sense of "implement" or "instrument". So to be God's "vessel" is to be his instrument in carrying out a specific service.
Items of value could be kept in clay jars. They were especially popular for storing liquids because the pottery slowed evaporation and kept the contents cool at the same time. Clay pots are mentioned a lot in the Bible either directly or by inference. At the Wedding at Cana in Galilee where Jesus turned water in to wine, empty clay jars were filled with common or garden water and then Jesus miracle occurred. The water became wine. The jars themselves were not important other than to contain the fabulous wine. But without them the miracle could not have happened. Empty they were useless. Filled they became something amazing. Their existance was vital to contain the miracle.
Every person in this world is made by God and is loved by God. But just like an unfilled jar, our lives can often seem empty. To compensate for this emptiness, people try to fill their “jars” with all kinds of different things. Sometimes it is drugs, drink, TV, shopping, big houses, cars, friends, parties, work, money—and the list goes on. Unfortunately, these things are transient. They fill the longing for a time but the happiness and fulfilment soon evaporate.
Nevertheless, there is something, or rather someone, who can fill us. That someone is Jesus! The solution to our difficulties is not to struggle alone with them but to allow Jesus to take control of our lives. As Christians we accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. That means that we accept what he did for us on the cross in dying for us and taking our sin on himself, but it also means following him, doing his will and putting him first in our lives. Not all difficulties will be removed but we will have divine strength to deal with problems and difficulties as they occur. We are all called to be witnesses to him and to his death for the world. Paul says,
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus amy also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4 v 10)
Christians are a reminder to the world of Jesus life and death and of the reason for it. It is for us to point people towards him with our lives and with our behaviour and with our words. We are the human equivalent of vessels made of common, run-of-the-mill clay--fragile and easily broken. And yet God has entrusted the treasure of the gospel to such vessels. Just as Palestinians stored their valuables in common clay pots. Why does God do this? According to Paul, he does it to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. God uses what is fragile and yet serviceable so that there might be no confusion to the origin of the gospel's power. When people see or hear Christ in us, they know that it isn’t because we are just fantastic naturally, but because it is the presence of God within us, working through us. The Greek dynamis is the term from which we derive our English word "dynamite." The gospel is not merely a message that confronts the mind but an explosive power that turns a person's life upside down.
As Jesus spoke to the woman at the well as she filled her clay jars he said: “Everyone who drinks this water, will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13 - 14).
We have this water, but we need to share it with others, we have the hope that is the Gospel. We carry this hope out into the world. Each of us have been made for a specific purpose, like clay jars we are ordinary and weak but we are all unique. We each are called to different purposes but with one thing in common; we are all made to carry something of the highest value, the death and suffering of Christ. God's message of love to mankind. How much more important, fulfilling and meaningful can life get?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Could God really be exclusively male?

There are many Christians today that truly believe that God has a gender and is therefore male, including his physical appearance and his personality traits. God created man in his image. Women were created as a 'helper' for the men from the Hebrew word (ezer)in Genesis. Subordination then is their role, designed for them by God.
However, if anything we perceive to be 'good' or 'holy' in a person is a reflection of God's nature, does that mean that only men exhibit these qualities? But surely any positives in any human MUST come from God? He is the origin of all goodness. This would of course include so called feminine attributes if we accept that females have some positive traits in their make-up. Unfortunately many Christians still harbour Greek philosophical ideas about women. They misinterpret the story of the Fall as the result of women's weakness and unsuitablility to lead. Eve was the one who upset the applecart and rebelled. Adam was an unfortunate and fairly silent victim in the whole sorry tale. According to some, all he did wrong was to lack the backbone to stand up to his wife and say NO! Consequently those preaching this theology, have to accept that they see all women as inferior. Their attitude to God's character and 'gender' betrays this. If man alone was made in the true image of God as many in this school of thought believe, then where does that leave women? I asked a friend who believes this stuff recently and his answer was that women were made in the image of man. I must conclude then that like the Greeks, women are seen by some Christians to be inherently inferior to man, not made in God's image but made in the image of Adam. Women cannot truly reflect God's nature because nothing exclusively feminine is 'good' or 'holy'. i.e. directly from God. As God's nature is inherently good; God must therefore be a male through and through...
I worry about these teachings and the effect they are having in our churches today. How many women have been damaged by them? How many have turned away from tnhe church altogether? Serious prayer is needed, so that Jesus attitude to women becomes the one we follow, not a major misinterpretation of the Biblical passages which rely mostly on translation, a lack of contextual understanding and inherited pagan attitudes.

It's not in the bread
but in the breaking
that the mystery of God's story is told.
It's not in the seed
but in the dying,
not in the treasure
but in the digging for it.
It's not in the mountain
but in its moving.

It's not in the wine
but in the pouring out
that a new world is purchased
for the weary.
It's not in the cross
but in the crucified,
not in the nails
but in the nailing.
It's not in the grave
but in the rising from it.

It's in the giving
that the gift becomes life;
it's in the living
that the Word becomes flesh.

It's in this taking,
this receiving,
this sharing of a supper,
this pointing to a future
that is promised
and paid for
and pressed into our hands;
it's in this everyday mealtime miracle
that the universe is born
to new life.

From a collection of poems by Gerard Kelly called 'Spoken Worship', published by Zondervan (isbn no: 0-310-27550-4).