Friday, August 31, 2012

Playing Grandma

Yesterday I was able to play Grandma - for once. I went to the school where my two youngest grandsons attend for Grandparents' Day. I visited the younger one's classroom and was interviewed by him about my days in Grade 3, which he obviously found largely very boring. What did interest him was when I told how we used to call in at the local bakery on the way home from school, go down the side driveway to the back of the shop to where the kitchens were. We used to stand around the open door to see the fruit buns taken out of the oven by the baker and were often given hot fresh buns to eat on the way home. My g-son's eyes lit up. 'Free?' he asked. 'Yes', I said. So that went down on the interview sheet. That is one delight that just isn't available to kids these days. What would OHS say about an open kitchen door where the neighbourhood kids could stand and watch? Then I visited the older G-son's classroom and told them about the school toilets that were smelly, no sewerage or septic sewerage, and far away from the classrooms. I reasoned that kids love toilet jokes. Then younger G-son gave me a tour of the building and the grounds. The building is new, with classrooms around a central open area, lots of colour and light, books freely available, laptops stored handy, a kitchen area and toilets handy. This set up isn't new, really. Many of the very old schools had a central hall for assemblies with classrooms off the hall. But they weren't full of light, carpeted and well equipped. In the school grounds G-son and I played 'hookey' on a big board that hangs on the wall - and I impressed him by getting my first three thrown on the hooks. Sheer fluke! We visited the garden, the greenhouse and the chooks. A lovely little school. Younger G-son is partly home-schooled as there are learning difficulties and he doesn't work well in groups. So, after the visit, I went with him, his mum and other grandmother to have lunch in the sunshine at the local gardens. My G-son is obviously being well taught by the combination of the school and his mum. How fortunate to have a school that will be so flexible as to co-operate with a learning plan that allows him to learn at his pace and in an environment that suits his needs. It's good to be able to play Grandma sometimes

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Assurance: good news

This morning I was reading Diana Butler Bass's A People's History of Christianity. I read about Martin Luther's search for assurance. Martin Luther had come to see God as a severe and terrible judge and had begun to hate God. Part of his difficulty was the verse in Romans 1:17. Medieval interpreters, based on the Latin in the old Bible translation, translated it as 'Those who love God have faith'. Luther did not love God; therefore he had no faith. No faith meant eternal damnation. (DBB p 164)

Then Luther studied the original Greek and this opened up the words in a new way for him. He began to understand the words to mean the person who lives by faith is given righteousness as a gift of a loving God. Faith doesn't consist of the right acts we do to earn God's favour; God gives faith as God wills. Faith is a gift. DBB writes: When Luther understood these words, his God transformed from a dreadful judge to one of unconditional love. Quoting Luther: "The merciful God justifies us by faith. Now I felt as though I had been reborn altogether and had entered Paradise."

I sat in tears over my bacon and eggs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My dishonest face.

On my way home from leading worship at the local aged care home this morning, I called in at the supermarket to buy something for lunch and a few other things. At the checkout, I unloaded from my bag the four items I had gathered from the shelves and left the bag open so the check-out lady could see what was in it. That helpful lady began to pack my purchases in my bag as I fumbled for my purse. She spotted the margarine container in the bag and beginning to say in her friendliest voice, 'And this one too?' she grabbed it ..... and spilled all the glass beads it contained for use at the worship centre for the aged care service into my bag.

In spite of the cross and the candle that were also in the bag, she thought she had a shop-lifter. Obviously I do not have an honest face.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in review

I'm moved to write something on my blog. But what to write. I don't find journalling easy. Perhaps on this so-close-to-New-Year's-Eve day it's appropriate to remember the past year.

It all started pretty much as usual, although we were looking forward to a move from the mountains to the coast. Then hubby was told he had an aggressive cancer, a re-appearance of melanoma that had been dormant for something like seventeen years. So, instead of a nice, planned, period of finishing up, we had a sudden move to the city for his treatment and palliative care where we could be close to family.

I made the sea-change move alone.

The new parish has been great. Ministering in three viable congregations is tiring. How did ministers manage in the days when they were expected to do it all? These congregations are well organised with gifted lay leadership. Mastering the cast hasn't been easy and I'm not sure I have it all straight after six months.

It has been good to be closer to the family. I have been able to look after the two youngest grandies for the day and have them stay over once or twice. I went to see Mary Poppins with my daughter. Great! I've also been able to watch eldest grandson in his footy grand final in Melbourne. I've been able to go to family get-togethers. All this just wasn't possible from the mountains.

I have a cleaning lady who comes every fortnight to vacuum the carpets, mop floors and clean bathrooms. Sometimes she has time to do a bit of extra, more detailed cleaning. She is a pleasure to have in the house and we have discovered a similar liking for books, so have been lending each other books. I have a mowing man who keeps the lawns under control. I have a cooking day around once each month and freeze meals, so I don't need to cook every day and am not tempted to live on take-aways.

I go to the gym three days per week and Floss gets walks from time to time - not as much as she should, but she doesn't mind, as long as we have our snuggle times first thing in the morning and as often as she can during the day. She has a bed in the family room and another in the office, so she follows me back and forth between the two.

Life for the first half of the year was stressful: the second half has not been exciting, but very enjoyable anyway. The week is spent mainly in preparation for Sunday worship in three congregations, with some visiting and meetings. By Sunday the work is done and I go out to play! I'm so glad I believe in a God who likes to play, so worshipping can be fun.

Life for Floss and me is good.

What surprises do you have in store for us in 2011, playful God?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Psalm 13

Catching up a bit on long-overdue bits. Truth is, I lost what I had written and it's taken me since Feb. to find it!
Last January I went to a two week study on Psalms. On the day we looked at Psalm 13 we had some exercises to choose form. I took myself off to a quiet place for my meditation and thought about the psalm in relation to the fires in the Upper Murray area just before Christmas and sitting with a family while their farm burnt. I paraphrased the psalm .

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget forever?
Will you forget this land?

How many times must we bear devastation?
How many times do the elements take over our work
and throw us into desolation?

See our trees.
our frustration
our loss.

We have worked with your land.
We have cared for your earth.
We have tended your stock.

And it is gone
in conflagration.

We look for you in shoots of re-growth.
We trust in your to renew the earth.

Then we can sing your praises.

The same area has since experienced flooding.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The light of the world is come

So few arrived to worship on Christmas morning and I was relatively pleased with my sermon, so thought I'd post it here in case a few people might read it and enjoy.....

Many years ago I read a story about a travelling missionary in China who was asked by a newly converted lady how she could learn the gospel. The missionary gave her a list of Bible verses to learn, suggesting that she start with the first one and only move on down the list when she knew each verse perfectly. The first verse on the list was the sentence in 1John 4: 16, which begins, God is love, ....... The missionary went on his way. Twelve months later, the missionary returned to the area and asked the lady how she had got on with learning the list of Bible verses. The lady told him she was still learning the first one and she hadn’t yet got it perfectly into her heart or her life and so hadn’t been able to move on down the list. The words of that verse are so familiar to us, that, probably like the missionary himself, we don’t really take them fully into our hearts and lives.

I think it’s the same with the Christmas story.

When I read again the nativity story in Luke’s gospel, I thought, We’ve heard this so often and it’s so familiar, what on earth can be fresh for us in this? So I looked, as I so often do, for a fresh thing that God wants me to know from his word.

Have you ever noticed the huge contrast between the scene out in the fields and the scene at the manger?

Into the ordinary darkness of the night comes a revelation of glory. There’s a weird light all around and a terrifying being appears telling the shepherds not to be afraid! Yeah! Right! They’re human, aren’t they? And they’re probably not what we might call ‘squeaky-clean’ humans. I can imagine all their sins probably flash through their minds. They probably are thinking, ‘Well, this is IT. We’re done for!’ But this awful heavenly being tells them an amazing bit of news. The Messiah has been born! I think it’s a miracle in itself that they took that in. But it seems they did. Gutsy people, these shepherds.

Then, there’s a multitude of heavenly beings singing praises to God. These shepherds not only have been given some startling news, but they are also being treated to a glimpse of heaven. There are a few other places that I can think of in the Bible where there’s a description of heaven. There’s Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 with fire and smoke and heavenly beings flying around shouting praises to God. Then there’s Daniel’s terrifying dream in Daniel 7: more fire and noise and ten thousand times ten thousand heavenly beings worshipping God. And there’s John’s vision recorded in Revelation 5 with many angels surrounding the throne of God and myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands singing praise to God. It seems to me that heaven might not be a quiet and peaceful place!

These shepherds have been given a glimpse of heaven, just for a few moments. I don’t really think human beings could stand too much of heaven at one time. For a few moments, the heavenly curtain is drawn aside. At the other end of Jesus’ life, Luke tells us that a curtain is torn. At the moment of Jesus’ death in Luke 23: 45, Luke tells us that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, another symbol of the barrier between heaven and earth being taken away, allowing access to the holy of holies to all people.

The angels go away and the shepherds go to find the baby in the manger they’ve been told is the Messiah. Sure enough, they find the baby in the small unimportant town of Bethlehem, in an animal shelter of all places. What a contrast to the heavenly glory they’ve seen a short while ago. Here there’s no glorious light surrounding them. Why not? If this is the Messiah, the Son of God, shouldn’t there be a heavenly sound and light show?

Luke doesn’t even mention a wondrous star in the sky! Of course not. Why would we need heavenly lights or shining stars when in this baby is the Light of the world? In this ordinary place there’s no need for angel messengers. The shepherds take the place of angels. They give the message they’ve been told about this child. They praise and glorify God.

Here in this story of the shepherds and the angels is where we find the barrier between heaven and earth being broken down. God is now here in human flesh. God has joined the human race. Now it is the role of humanity to become the angels, to bring the message of God’s kingdom, to bring glory to God and to break down the barriers between people that cause bitterness, anger, violence and injustice. These do not belong in God’s kingdom. Jesus comes to bring light - enlightenment – and life that is worth living, not only to us here in this relatively safe and secure country of Australia, but to all the world. The light of Christ cannot be overcome by any kind of darkness. Sometimes, we need, like the shepherds, to believe and trust when we don’t understand what God is doing.

Here in this Christmas story we are assured that God, in Christ, became human. We can be assured that God doesn’t only come into a safe and comfortable world. He came as a vulnerable baby into an occupied country and lived in an ordinary working family. There were no luxuries in Jesus’ life. There was danger, violence, injustice, just as there is in many parts of the world these days.

We are all vulnerable in different ways. We’ve experienced that in recent days with the devastation of bush-fire and the uncertainty that brings. We experience it when we face up to illness in our lives and death amongst our families or friends. We are vulnerable too – and so was Jesus. God in flesh lived among us human beings. We know God understands our vulnerability.

But John’s gospel reminds us of the power of the God who created all things, even though when he joins us, he comes like a vulnerable baby. God is able to share our lives and bring us his strength, because of his love for all his creation, including you and me.

There is good news at Christmas and we are asked to do as those shepherds did and make known this amazing good news wherever we can.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sitting in maccas in Albury having breakfast after leaving George at the hospital for some surgery. Did my morning devotions here. The scripture for today is from Malachi 4. Lots about the day of the Lord that's coming with fire to burn up the evil-doers. Not really my line of thinking, but pretty much the Old Testament idea of God's solving the problems of the world.

But the bit that I really liked is the picture of the people who revere God having a healing sun rise upon us and our reaction is to go out like calves leaping out from their stall. I'd love to see the congregation go out from worship so refreshed and renewed that they all leap out the door like calves from their stalls.

There are days after worship that I want to dance up the aisle, but I'd love to see evidence that others feel the same.