Archive | March, 2021

listening soon, Lent approaches its end, reflection 4a

29 Mar
a listening, hearing, touching Jesus

How, when, does God speak?
First, he listens. He listens to our words and thought; to our hearts and minds; to our acts and inactions. As he did with Elijah, when Elijah after a an apogee moment hits his personal abyss, God listens and then directs,

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1st Kings 19: 11 – 14

After first listening, God speaks. Elijah hears the sound of the whisper: it calls him out from his inner cave, to an opening. Then Elijah hears Yahweh’s whisper, his question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The Lord God whispers Elijah’s name to close his question. Why? Because Yahweh hears and sees us at our lowest, the rock bottoms of our emptinesses. And then he whispers into our abyss, calls us from our caves, our isolation, so we can listen with our hearts to him. He knows our names, as he knew Elijah’s. We are know. Seen. Heard. Whispered to.

This is the historical purpose of Lent: to whisper to our hearts, our minds. And this is not just how God speaks. It is also how he listens.

And how does the Lord God listen? As he begins his ministry, Jesus in his home town shows,

from Mark 2, NLT

‘When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus sees faith. His teaching stops and he hears the paralysed man of his whispered, unvoiced, unspoken isolation. Jesus hears the crippling sins. Yet, while hearing, Jesus also sees. Jesus sees the men’s faith; he listens deeply when he sees faith. Here, Jesus hears the heart and thoughts, the real need of the paralysed man, and then speaks, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus does not speak the paralysed man’s name as Yahweh did with Elijah. Jesus names, claims the hurting man as a father with ‘my child.’ He is restoring the man to childhood innocence. But… this is a public healing, so…

But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”’ Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralysed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralysed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Jesus hears the hearts whispers; the heart’s thoughts. Both of sinners and the faithful; of teachers of the religious law and the isolated. He hears you, me. He sees us as his children. He wants us to ‘jump’ as a child. To jump into faith.

As we approach the end of Lent and begin Holy Week, my Lord, see, listen, touch and heal me. Heal my Jesus.

the silences of Palm Sunday, Lent endings begin, 3

26 Mar
silence of my lamb

Rejoicing is singing, shouting, dancing, crying. Rejoicing is loud and full; complete and joyous, again and again. Jesus enters Jerusalem according to Matthew’s New Testament narrative with such ‘hallelujahs’. And not just Matthew speaks of palms touching Jesus – both in physical form and in words. So does the Old Testament,

The Old Testament prophesied of our Palm Sunday in Zecharaiah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Many have spoke and written of the embedded ironies of these two passages in light of the events of the week after Jesus’ entrance: his betrayals, arrest, tortures, trials, and crucifixion. The multitudes, as well as church and government officials and his family friends and disciples, leave him to a cruel death. Rejoicing has gone silent.

But, the silence of rejoicing multitudes is not my focus on this 3rd end of Lent reflection. My focus is on Jesus’ silence.

Entering Jerusalem, hearing acclaims, absorbing hallelujahs, Jesus had to have an emotional overflow. He was experiencing love, adoration, unconditional acceptance. Joy, rejoicing joy, over and over again. Yet…

internally Jesus had to feel waves, whispers, of sadness. As an all knowing God, he knows what is to be next: Roman Crucifixion.

Death from the hands of the universe’s originators of unholy tortuous deaths. Slow death by a thousand and one cuts. A hanging, a thirsty, breathless death.

And Jesus, as he enters Jerusalem must also have heard and seen the – his – own coming internal cries: His coming cries to his disciples ( and especially to Judas, his list one ), his sorrow of brokenness – his broken heart and mind; his cry of, to, ‘Abba’ -‘Father.’ These ‘silent’ cries, Jesus hears. But…

Riding on this donkey, riding on the hallelujahs of rejoicing, Jesus is silent. He is silent while he hears the coming cries of brokenness. Why? Because Jesus is enjoying, living, rejoicing in the present moment; his present moment, his ride.

My reflective thought, my joy from knowing how Jesus is riding ?…

Jesus is not overwhelmed with sadness this day of rejoicing, what we now call Palm Sunday. He is riding, living in the moment.

He puts aside his knowledge of the coming wailings; he puts aside sadnesses. He lives in the present moment. Rejoicing in the present moment, the past and the future do not guide Jesus entrance, his present, his ride. He lives in each and every moment. Because He lives, I can rejoice, always. And always, rejoice.

Lord, today, this morning, these moments help me to rejoice in the gift of my present, the gift you give me. Ride with my thoughts, my worries, my regrets. Silent them. Silence all but rejoicing.

Matthew 21:1-11

Lent 2, worries, my lily

23 Mar
lilies, clothed

Lent’s end, 2021, approaches 2 ‘worries’ from Matthew 6

my lily, do not worry

25 “‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”’

Symbolizing humility and devotion, lilies point to life. As the flowers most often associated with funerals, lilies can symbolise that the soul of the departed has received restored innocence after death.

Jesus speaks of these flowers while teaching on a mountain, a field. But Jesus is not just speaking words, he is breathing his life into them. He is clothing us in love; his splendour; his words.

My lily is my life, my breathe; my walk. How another sees or views, respects or disdains me, even how my own heart and mind does, has no weight, no matter. Only this present breathe has weight, substance. Only how he covers, clothes me in a moment has meaning. Only how I breathe his words in, then out, in, can answer a life’s prayer.

Jesus will feed my hungers, quench my thirst.

my prayer, for lilies, for my lily…

‘Sate my worry, my worries. Breathe on me, in me my Lord. Let my family, friends, enemies and foes, feel your breathe deeply.

Grow lilies in your field…. grow me with others, with you…’

as Lent 2021 approaches its end,

22 Mar

Harry’s cloak of invisibility; Joseph’s coat of many colours

“It’s never occured to me before, but I’ve heard stuff about charms wearing off cloaks when they get old, or them being ripped apart by spells so they’ve got holes in. Harry’s was owned by his dad, so it’s not exactly new, is it, but it’s just… perfect!”( Ron Weasley in HP-1. )

So, there are many Invisibility Cloaks in the universe of Harry Potter.

And it so happens that the one Harry has was Unique, one of a kind, because it was very powerful and efficient at deflecting Curses too. This means that Harry’s Cloak was made from special materials and also made from using special magic by one of the three Peverell brothers, Harry’s blood ancestors.

But I believe Harry’s cloak most outstanding attribute, beyond its longevity and sustainability; more powerful than its ability to repel hexes and spells; more wondrous than its powerful shield from unwanted probing eyes is that this cloak is a gift of love. Handled down from father and son through many generations, it is a cloak from unseen ancestral fathers of visible love.

This cloaking love is a protective love: it is designed to cover the vulnerable from the terrors and brokenness of both the earthly muggle world and the seen and unseen supernatural domains of the ‘magical’ world.

JK Rowling is not the first to mention a cloak of unique love. Jehovah God uses cloak and covering imagery throughout his Word. Indeed, his Word itself can be ultimately viewed as a cloak of love. I believe this unique covering love is His essential attribute, Yahweh’s greatest gift to humanity: Jesus is a cloak covering love.

We can see humanity trying to create such covering cloaks. But designed and formed by human hands, they are doomed to fade and tear. One Bible character’s journey with many types of created cloaks illustrates the flaws of such creative endeavours: Joseph.

Joseph is given a beautiful cloak of many colours by his father Jacob. It not only fails to protect him but broadcasts Joseph’s presence to his jealous brothers who strip him and destroy the coat in tatters and blood while selling Joseph into slavery. ( Genesis 37 )

As the managing household slave in Potiphar’s house he is given a fine cloak of this office . And yet, Potiphar’s wife tears this covering from him as he runs away from her seductions. Used as evidence against Joseph, this cloak leads him into Pharaoh’s prison. ( Genesis 39 )

Finally, Joseph wears the cloak and endorsements of Pharaoh’s second in command. But these linens only serve to further separate him from his family and his father: they will live in Goshen;

Joseph will live in Egypt’s capital, married to an Egyptian, away from his ancestral home. ( Genesis 41: 42 )

So, where then do we see, hold, wear, this clothing of generous love, this unique Jesus cloak?

Revelation 19: 8 describes His cloaks for us,

‘It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.’

By His stripes we are healed, clothed. By his wounds we live. By His linen clothe, we are made his, bright and clean.

This is what all Bible and literary cloaks look towards: Jesus’ cloak of love. His ‘gift’.

His cloak makes all my sins invisible. Even to myself.

2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV ‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.’

20 Mar

☘️☘️Priscilla on St Patrick’s day…☘️☘️

open hands; blessing hands

18 Mar
open hands

Besides our love, ( and worship ) can I ever, ever give anything back to the Lord God? Proverbs, the book of wisdom, speaks of how I can touch Him,

Proverbs 19 speaks again and again of the poor. A central verse in this chapter is,

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. V. 17

The Hebrew word for poor here is ‘dal’. It means to be literally ‘thin’. Thin, financially and spiritually; thin physically and emotionally. Thin. And when we see those around us who are ‘thin’ in any way, we see the poor and and we are to give to them, to bless them with open hands. To bless as Jesus walked, lived, touched and blessed. With open hearts and open hands. Luke’s Gospel and his narrative in Acts open with such blessings,

The first person to offer a blessing in Luke’s narrative is Jesus, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). His heart is for the poor. But He is not speaking only to the financially needy; Jesus is speaking of the poor in spirit; the sorrowful; the meek and those who thirst for justice. The thin.

Jesus’ final blessing comes during the Ascension event, “Then he [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).

We don’t know what exact verbal blessing Jesus spoke over his dear disciples at the Ascension, but His words can be no more fitting words than the priestly blessing that Zechariah was never able to give in Luke 1.

The priest Zechariah was supposed to bless the crowd of people waiting outside the temple on this day of atonement. Struck mute because of his unbelief that he and Elizabeth would be parents, he never utters it. When his son is borne he blesses and prophesies, but the words he is supposed have spoken that day he was stuck mute could easily have been Jesus’ words as he ascended,

The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” ( Numbers 6:24-26 ).

God blesses us so we can with open hands and open hearts bless others. Luke tells us at the his gospel’s end “ they worshiped [Jesus], and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52).

They, Jesus disciples, complete Zechariah’s muted Numbers’ blessing. And they do so by returning to the spiritually poor in Jerusalem and worshipping.

With the poor, giving to the ‘thin’, they lend to God.

They worship; with open hands, they worship.

And so will we as we bless others with open hands. Open your hands to, with, Jesus this day, bless.

I am thirsty

12 Mar
I am thirsty

I am bread, light, door, shepherd, resurrection life, the way and the truth, true vine
These 7 traditional ‘ I am-s’ of Jesus in John’s Gospel point to, in fact begin within Exodus 3, where Moses meets the Father God in a burning bush,

‘“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian,  and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

Before The Lord Father God identifies himself, his name, as Yahweh, Moses moves toward God and he is moving toward fire.

Approaching Jesus, hearing and touching the Word, is to embrace a holy fire. This fire can cleanse or consume; can dispute and mar or purify. 

In a episode of the TV series ‘Rescue Me’ Firefighter Tommy Gavin arrives at a burning vehicle on the road. As the rescuers wash the car’s flames, they see a what was child on the side of road, thrown from the car, burnt beyond recognition. Some vomit immediately on seeing the form; no approaches the remain to cover. No one but Tommy. We never see the child’s form. The camera just shows us Tommy wrapping the remains in a blanket. We see him kneeing; holding tenderly – from the point of view of the child’s burnt body – this holocaust.

In Exodus 4 god meets Moses on the far side, the back side of the desert. Little can grow here. The heat is not delivered, except at night. Yet, Moses approaches the burning.

Moses, Tommy Gavin, lovers of the Word, can not stop approaching fire. The prophet Jeremiah tired, but could not, as he shares in Jeremiah 20:9,

9 “‘But if I say, “I will not mention his word
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.’”

Prophets must approach fire; hold and embrace it; not be afraid of being consumed by it. They must hear and speak. This is what Jesu did in his teaching on himself. John hears and shares his Lord’s teaching words in the ‘I am-s’. Each is a burning bush. And yet there is an eight ‘I am’. It is voiced out of a patched voice on the cross,
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.
— John 19:28-29
Jesus thrusts not just for a drink but for something more life quenching.
He thirsts for us.
He walked, loved, dies and will rise for us. His word purifies and cleanses. His life is his word; the Word made everlasting flesh. He thirsts for us. For me, for you.
He is living water. Everlasting – and he pours so we can drink and not thirst.
Approach him this Lent. Tell Him of your thirsts. And drink. Drink Jesus.

Everlasting arms

3 Mar

Book of Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”.

Open hands …. Genesis 32; 33. Esau, Jacob’s open arms

33: 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.

Jesus arms are open. Open on the cross open to displease and children; open to sinners and tax collectors; open to broken families and siblings. And open to you and me.

Why? Why does the God of the universe become vulnerable, so very vulnerable to all?

He does so to model to us how we can daily defeat, overcome, sins, besetting sins in our lives.

Jacob had cheated his twin Esau out of both Esau’s birthright and blessing. His actions led to breakage: cracks are in formed in his family and his heart. For twenty years he works in and for another man ( Laban ) household and wealth. He is cheated out of life and love. He responds by deceiving and manipulating others. Till he goes to meet his twin Esau, the brother who desires to murder him.

Facing this reunion moment, this, his greatest fear, Jacob moves,

Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!”So he named that place Mahanaim.

Angels met Jacob. They open their appearance to him. He sees them. He sends his family and possessions ahead and alone, he prays.

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Jacob sees in his prayer not just angels, but himself. He sees his sin; his lack of worth, his fear. Yet he also sees and hears and remembers the promise of his God: his descendants will be vast. He will live.

His arms open to wrestle an angel that same night. He does not let go even thought his hip is wrenched so badly that he will limp the rest of his life. And now he will meet his elemental fear, Esau.

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Esau runs to love his brother, to embrace his Jacob with open arms. And Jacob is ‘running’ too. Each painful step is his embrace of the pain he created; each step is a reminder of the blessing of love: his brother’s and his family; of his wives and his angel. Of his Lord; of everlasting open arms.

Jesus’ arms is open to heal, to embrace, to love. Within the arms of Jesus, Jacob can run.