Monday, 19 December 2016

God's Self-portrait - Sunday 18th December 2016

What is God really like?
Words and images concerning God infuse our consciousness from early childhood and combine in to form a potent but unexplainable impression. For those who pray, that impression governs the way we pray. For those who consciously seek to serve God, it governs the way we live our lives. Meanwhile there are others who simply can’t believe in a god like the one they imagine, and opt out.
So what is God really like?
Many of the images that shape our understanding of God are expressions of power. Christianity features terms like: Almighty; omnipotent; King of kings; all seeing; all knowing; Lord. These terms have their roots in the dynamics of human politics. God is presented as an absolute and unrivalled power broker - President of the Universe.
Is that really what God is like?
This week we celebrate the birth of Jesus. If you look through the glitter and greenery of the ancient winter festival, you will catch a glimpse of a newborn child, wrapped in strips of cloth by inexperienced working class parents, and lying in a manger because all the beds were taken by others. There is no hint of power or wealth in this image, yet this is how “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This, therefore, is what God is really like.
The Christmas story is God setting the record straight. God wants us to see that he is not at all interested in wealth and power. He is only interested in faithfulness and love.
The story of Jesus’ birth is God’s self-portrait. This is what God is really like.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Tough Lessons - Sunday 11th December 2016

Why doesn’t God make life easier for us? I suspect we have all asked that question.
I feel a lot of sympathy for Joseph. God sent an angel to Zechariah to announce John the Baptist’s birth. He sent an angel to Mary to announce Jesus’ birth. But no-one told Joseph what was about to happen. The first thing that Joseph knew was that his fiancee was pregnant, and the baby wasn’t his. Heartbreak!
Why didn’t God make it easier for him?
Joseph then faced a dilemma: he was a man who closely followed a religious law which required that Mary should be severely punished (even be stoned to death); but Joseph loved Mary deeply and didn't want to hurt or shame her. It was a painful dilemma which probably consumed his energy for a considerable time. After much heart searching, Joseph resolved to divorce Mary as discreetly as possible. It was only then that God sent an angel to explain what was going on.
Why didn’t God contact Joseph sooner?
Joseph’s dilemma is one that leads to the very heart of Jesus’ mission: law and/or love. Jesus’ message - in word and action - was that God does not deal with us according to our failures; he deals with us according to his great love for us. If Joseph was going to bring Jesus up and be his father, he needed to learn this truth right into the very core of his being.
God’s desire for each of us is not that we have an easy life. His desire for us is that we learn to be loving and forgiving. That requires a learning process that cuts right to our hearts.