Wednesday, March 30, 2011

April 2011 - Life in Christ

Dear Friends

Life in Christ

The service of Admission of Catechumens (adult candidates for Baptism and Confirmation) asks the important question, “Friends, what do you seek?” The bold reply is, “We seek life in Christ!” – it is a brief response that holds an eternity of implication. Each Lent and Holy Week journey asks this question of us anew, and we respond anew.

What is it that you seek this Lent, this Holy Week? What are your expectations of resurrection and new life this Easter?

New life, resurrected life, life in Christ: what are the implications? And what are the foundations on which it is built?

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 (CJB), “Don't think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete”. Most English translations follow the Greek by translating the Hebrew word Torah as Law. However, Torah is better translated as Teaching. This gives us a possible different perspective on the 10 Commandments: rather than being Law it is Teaching. The 10 Commandments teach the principles on which we build our community as God’s people, and they become the foundation of our “Life in Christ”.

The 10 Commandments are a teaching given in the context of God’s call to his people to be different from the society that surrounds them. Moses encourages the Israelites to observe the Commandments as they are about to enter into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, so that, “... this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6; TNIV). The call to be different is highlighted by phrase in the Commandments, “You shall not ...”. You shall not be like the people around you, you shall not steal like them, you shall not give false evidence like them. BE DIFFERENT!

The question of wrong-doing, breaking the teachings, comes to mind. In today’s world sin has become equated with being caught out, rather than wrong-doing; it is often equated with sex. However, in terms of the 10 Commandments, sin is conforming to a society where wrong-doing is acceptable, deforming ourselves from the principles of Godly community. The 10 Commandments say little about stealing in and of itself; the Commandments highlight that what is wrong is that someone claiming to be a member of God’s people, God’s community, is allowing themselves to be formed and shaped by a society in which stealing (or corruption, or ...) is the norm.

The journey of Lent and Holy Week becomes a journey of re-alignment. We renounce our formation by a society that seeks to deform us from the principles of a God-focused community. We return to the norms of the Christian faith community, responding to the call to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Luke 10:27; TNIV). This is a journey of re-alignment, not removal. We are not called to extract ourselves from society, but to reform and recreate ourselves within society, and to respond differently: compelled not by the norms of society, but by the norms of the Christian faith and the principles of God-focused community. Our “life in Christ” becomes a new centre, for ourselves, our communities, our society and our world. We become, again, the light and the hope that we are called by God to be.

Friends, what do you seek?


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 2011 - Life is a Gift

Dear Friends

“Life is a gift. When you receive it as a gift you begin to give yourself as a gift”
– Erwin McManus.

For a while now I have been struggling to get out of bed in the morning. I could bore you with the details, but I won’t. Very simply, I had forgotten that my life is God’s gift to me and God’s gift to others. We all live very busy and stressed lives, and living is complicated and relationships are complex. Sometimes the complexity is just too much to face, and our problems and the problems of others become overwhelming. We get caught in the maelstrom and are overcome. And we forget whose and who we are.

Erwin McManus’ words reminded me that I had become too involved in myself, and that I needed to look beyond myself and my own need, and regain a sense of purpose and be reminded of my potential: “You ... need to be able to go to bed at night and know that based on who you are and who God has made you to be, you’ve contributed the greatest good that you can for the good of others. And that when you get up in the morning you can’t wait to get out of bed because there is this eager anticipation that your life can be a gift to the world.”

I am not a gift to the world, my life is. My life is God’s gift to me, and it is also God’s gift to others. It is not about me, it is about the gift God has made me to be. It is about the potential God has placed within me to make a tangible difference both to my own life and also to the lives of others. And as I turn off the morning alarm, and turn over to hide under the duvet from the world, I remember that my life is a gift. I begin to wonder how God will use this gift this day, what opportunities will arise, and what God will do. It is not long before I throw back the duvet and head for the shower.

The day is rarely perfect, often fractured and chaotic, crisis-filled and full of frustration. But it is different, because at vague moments I remember and seek again to give myself as a gift. In these moments the sun shines again, and I discover an energy within, God within. And strangely, the fracturing, the chaos, the crisis and the frustration also become God’s gift. They become God-given opportunities to interact and engage with life itself, with issues, with people, with God. There is peace to be found in the chaos and the struggle, and hope.

Yes, my life is a gift. So is yours. It is a gift given to be given away, not thoughtlessly but shared. And the strange part is that in sharing, in giving and in giving away, we find wholeness and renewal. Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NRSV).

There is a need for us to reflect on whom or what is stealing our lives. What are real boundaries, and what are false ones? Who or what is defining us? Who or what is controlling us? Where is God in our journey?

The Church season of Lent, leading up to our Easter celebrations, is an opportunity to explore these questions; to reflect on how we are living the gift of life God has given us; to seek God’s guidance and leadership afresh. There are a number of resources offered to us during this season: a Diocesan booklet of daily meditations for personal use, or family discussion; a Lent course “Growing the Church”; weekly meditations on the cross; a healing Service on the first Sunday in Lent; our Holy Week and Good Friday programme; Baptism and Confirmation preparation classes.

Friends, what do you seek?


Quotations from Erwin McManus are taken from Master Leaders: Revealing conversations with 30 leadership greats by George Bana with Bill Dallas (2010).