Thursday, 31 January 2019

Water into wine

...here and now, amidst your daily  living,
Where you can taste and touch and feel and see,
The spring of love, the fount of all forgiving,
Flows when you need it, rich, abundant, free.

Better than waters of some outer weeping,
That leave you still with all your hidden sin,
Here is a vintage richer for the keeping
That works its transformation from within.
‘What price?’ you ask me, as we raise the glass,
‘It cost our Saviour everything he has.’


...I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly John 10:10

This morning Mary and I were awoken bleary eyed by the alarm, Mary raised the blind to reveal a beautiful wonder; two planets between a sickle moon, shining resplendent against a sky of the clearest darkest blue.     




Such moments of revelation point us to the beauty and generosity of a God who not only created the world but enters into it, to bring an abundance of life and joy to all who want to enter into a loving relationship with a generous and all giving Saviour.

The first sign that John reveals in his gospel is the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
It is indeed a signpost to everything that follows in his gospel.




As Steve said in one of his recent sermons, if we think that Christianity is just about "going to heaven when we die" we have totally lost the plot of what living life as a Christian is all about.
Living the Christian life is entering into that wonderful, outrageously self-giving love that exists between the three persons of the Trinity. It is about living life on a totally new dimension in a love feast with an all giving, all loving Saviour.
The miracle of turning water into wine is a expression of the outrageous generosity of God's love, we are talking in the region of a thousand bottles of wine. This is all about a God who can never be out-given; there is no possibility of a reciprocal gift, only the humble acceptance of Grace given.




In the gospel of John there is no retelling of the final love feast that Jesus had with His disciples which we celebrate as the last supper, but the message is played out all through the gospel and is very present here at this first recorded celebration. A thousand bottles of wine do have a cost and it was the sacrificial love of the blood of Jesus, which was freely given for us, flowing freely, at the greatest price of all for Jesus.   

So how do enter into this wonderful life of abundance which Jesus freely offers? As we gaze in awe at what Jesus has done for us, our only response can be to fall into a reckless love affair with Him. A love affair which is life consuming but also totally life transforming, being a Christian is nothing about outward purification with the cold waters of religion but all about being totally intoxicated and transformed by a life lived in love with our beautiful Saviour.







Sunday, 23 December 2018

Emmanuel: God with us.

Loves furnace in a little room.

Forget not Trinity holy and glorious
That heaven’s bright prince came down to bestow on us
His love, as babe, into Mary’s fair womb
For nine months, he who is angels lord
Was hidden, love’s furnace, in a little room
Humbler than all, who all adored.
A pure lamb, he stole down to earth
To free us from our sin so blind .
No city home will shield his birth
His mother a stable for bed must find;
There poorest of the poor she lay
Nor wine nor meat for hungers sting
In the rude confines of the cattle bay
Where God was born apostle’s king.
Cold and exile He did not scorn
In the donkey’s manger that holy morn.

Tadg Gaelach O Suilleabhain.






 Time zero, matter zero, energy zero, a darkness of nothing.

Yet there was everything, an eternal caring community of mutual worship and love.
A pent-up furnace of beauty and joyful creativity, waiting to pour themselves into the dark chaotic meaningless nothingness.
The loving shout of command went out. Light poured into darkness. Rainbow colours of joy creating and illuminating our dark world.
The dark nothingness hated the light, but the light was joyfully triumphant.
So, this light created every one of us but we did not have the loving enlightening knowledge of this light in our hearts, many people had had glimpses; many prophets right up to the time of John the Baptist, but we were still living in the oppressive darkness, unaware of the light.
So that furnace of creative love was hidden as a tiny embryo in Mary’s womb.  We carried on oblivious to the miracle of uncreated light, living and breathing amongst us. We were unaware of the person of the creator, living in the world that he had created.
He was living in our street, just down our road and we were too busy and preoccupied to notice He was there.
Quieten your heart this Christmas you may hear him knocking on your door wanting to come in, to your life, demanding your heart, reclaiming the life he created to fill it with peace love and light.
Listen carefully He is here, even now.
 John 1 paraphrase




I wish everyone reading this blog a very blessed, peaceful and Christ filled Christmas


Saturday, 22 December 2018

King of Creation


O King of our desire whom we despise,

King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.





Jesus can often seem a very inconvenient king. There are many more attractive idols which we can set in the throne of our heart. Sex, wealth and power are the usual culprits, together with the all pervasive worship of self.  However these glittering objects of desire prove very cruel masters in the end, as we are entrapped and destroyed by their fatal lure. 
Jesus is no glitzy king, no Hollywood superstar, he has no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:and we hid as it were our faces from him;he was despised, and we esteemed him not.



Yet this is a king who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, a king who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. A hidden king revealed to us this Christmas season as a helpless baby, a king ready to receive us, a king ready to be very close to us if we are prepared to make room for him by throwing out all lesser kings and making a humble home for Him in a contrite heart.




For if we make room for Him he is willing to reveal himself, as lord of all creation, the risen Lamb, to whom eventually every knee will bow and every tongue confess that, he is King of glory now.


   




The day spring from on high. Christ the light of the world

This night is the long night
When those who listen await His cry
This night is the eve of the great nativity
When those who are longing await His appearing

Wait with watchful heart.

Listen carefully through the stillness;
Listen; hear the telling of the waves upon the shore.

Listen hear the song of angels glorious-
Ere long it will be heard
That His foot has reached the earth;
News- that the glory has come!

Truly his salvation is near
For those who fear Him,
And His glory shall dwell in our land.

Watch and pray that the Lord shall come.
Those who are longing await His appearing.
Those who listen await His cry.

Watch….

Wait …..

Listen….

This night is the long night.
Author unknown.



the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
 to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1




It is little wonder that the peoples of the Northern hemisphere would have chosen Dec 25th as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ. Slowly they had watched the light disappearing from the land as the days grew shorter and the nights grew longer. In a time before artificial light the nights would have seemed long and dreary. So the coming of the Winter Solstice and the eager anticipation that in the coming weeks and months, the days would slowly lengthen  and Spring would again come; the time of resurrection and new birth.

Shepherds in the hills above Bethlehem would have eagerly awaited the dawn, the sight of the morning star heralding the end of their long night vigil. One night they experienced more than a bright dawn. They were frightened by the blinding glory of the very presence of seraphs of God heralding a new dawn for all of mankind. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. That uncreated light that spoke into the darkness and blazed forth a cosmos of light was coming as a small baby, to grow up into the man, who would take the whole world's sin upon His shoulders by His death on the cross. However the darkness could not extinguish the light so He blazed back into glorious life, to shine into the life of everyone who accepts Him into their life.


So once again this Christmas, as we light the Christmas candles, let us allow the light of Jesus to shine into our lives, to drive out anything that is dark and hidden . Then we can enter the New Year, enlightened and on fire with all that Jesus wants us to do, to shine His light of love into a sad dark world.









Thursday, 20 December 2018

Release to the captives

Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key,
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.




Each one of us to some extent is still in Captivity. Enslaved in our own private Egypts. The old habits, which refuse to die, enchain us, We may be stuck in the miry swamp of depression, fear or guilt; each one fearsome gaolers . Or perhaps in some more tangible prison like the citizens of Bethlehem walled up by a regime where fear has extinguished compassion.
So how does Jesus release the captive? Perhaps Thomas Lovelace had the answer.




Perhaps the greatest  freedom that Christ gives is the freedom to forgive. The freedom to embrace your enemy.
Christ held out His arms of love on the cross, to empower us to be able to embrace the stranger, the enemy, the unlovable other.





The root of Jesse

O Radix

All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,
Rose from a root invisible to all.
We knew the virtues once of every weed,
But, severed from the roots of ritual,
We surf the surface of a wide-screen world
And find no virtue in the virtual.
We shrivel on the edges of a wood
Whose heart we once inhabited in love,
Now we have need of you, forgotten Root
The stock and stem of every living thing
Whom once we worshipped in the sacred grove,
For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.


It will also come about in that day
that the root of Jesse will stand
    as a banner for the peoples.
The nations will seek for Him,
and His resting place will be glorious.
11 It will also come about in that day that my Lord will again redeem—a second time with His hand—the remnant of His people Isaiah 11:11

There is a glorious line that stretches from Adam to Christ, from the first to the second Adam. All the while the serpent has been trying to destroy that line, by one ploy or another but always he is frustrated a remnant remains. He remembers the prophecy that: 
  On your belly will you go,
    and dust will you eat all the days of your life. I will put animosity  between you and the woman—between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel   .

Cain murdered Abel, but God replaced Abel by giving Eve another son, another seed, Seth.
So a pattern was set right down the ages through to Christ. That wily old serpent always busily at work through the hands of wicked men and women. Trying to wipe out the chosen seed. Causing such evil on earth that God is left no option but to wipe out that evil. However He still finds one righteous family the obedient Noah who is cast out on the flood in the very precarious ark, the remnant that remains to repopulate the world, through righteous Shem.
Finally the people of God demand a king and Handsome Saul is chosen, but sadly not the man after God's own heart who would be that chosen root.



 Samuel is sent to Jesse's sons to anoint a true king but is disappointed by all where is that root that will carry redemption? Out in the fields feeding sheep. David spent most of his life evading people wanting to destroy him but miraculously manages to escape on every occasion. Towards the end of his life David offers to build a temple for God but his request is denied in favour of Solomon who would succeed him. However he receives a promise that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever. Solomon's reign started started on a high note but sadly his love for foreign wives and their God proved his ruin and sadly the kings following him with some notable exceptions went from bad to worse bringing in the worship of foreign gods.
Finally God lost patience with His wayward people and the only way to bring them back was fifty years of exile in Babylon.
That was the end of the kingdom and the king the serpent had won the kings sons were killed before his eyes which were then burned with hot irons and he went blinded into captivity.
However God looked after his people in Babylon and God had not forgotten his promise, there was to be a return to the land under king Cyrus the Persian who overthrew the Babylonians and established his own empire.



 Once again root of Jesse is renewed under Zerubbabel to be the Lords signet ring.
Finally the root springs up into a fertile tree in Mary and Joseph, but Oh the fury of the serpent then as he sends a massacre down on all the babes in Bethlehem, but once again the root hides in Egypt to suddenly appear heralded by John as King of Kings Lord and Saviour.


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

O Adonai The handmaid of the Lord



Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue,
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day.
O you who dared to be a tribal God,
To own a language, people and a place,
Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,
If so you might be met with face to face,
Come to us here, who would not find you there,
Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,
Who heard no more than thunder in the air,
Who marked the mere events and not the myth.
Touch the bare branches of our unbelief
And blaze again like fire in every leaf.


How can the finite fathom the infinite,  the small imagine the unimaginably large?
Yet look, see, here he is, walking the garden in the cool of the evening.
Draw near to the bush which burns and is not consumed, but take off your sandals for you tread on holy ground.
Listen to the still small voice, after  the fiery earth quake and the thunder, "peace, be not afraid".
Kneel with Mary before the angel, and say, "behold the handmaid of the Lord".
Come weeping from the empty tomb, to grasp the gardener, and discover you are hugging the risen Lord .