Sunday, 6 September 2015

Old Friends!

I have had the greatest pleasure recently of catching old friends. I am grateful to the good old face book for this!!

Here are some of them,,, though sadly Jonathan Parton (known to me as "Bonce") died tragically a number of yeas ago.

My mate Jonno was not in this picture, nor was Vince, but they have also ben in my recent catch up list

Another sermon! what are we looking at?

Reflection of God

Trinity 13 2015 Lerwick
For a while now we have had the phrase “If you want to know yourself, talk to God he knows on some of our pew shelves. Some of you may well have thought about these words. Today we come to the same idea in our reading from James, thought he suggests looking to God rather than talking to him as the means of self disclosure.

In the poem “the elixir” which we more commonly know as the hymn “Teach me my God and King” George Herbert also explores the idea that living alongside God actually changes us for the better. This is his own elixir, a magical or medicinal potion which we take to change us.

In the poem there is the verse which does not appear in the hymn:

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.
This suggests to me a similar notion as I spoke about last week namely that In our own “human” strength we are only part of what God created us to be, and to be fully possessed by God, we live fully as God meant us to be.

Looking on a mirror maybe described as vanity. People often do this to see how gorgeous they are, how ready they are to be seen by others, or how successful their make up or outfit looks. In other words “How suitable we may look”.

But George Herbert wonderfully uses the reflective qualities found on glass (as in a mirror) as the example of a barrier between us and God, for the one who looks on glass  may only see the self as in a reflection, but to look beyond it to God is completion. In other words we can be distracted by our own reflection that we fail to see beyond it and through it.

For Herbert the servant who sweeps the room looking in all the nooks and crannies for God is the one who is to enjoy the elixir of life. Not that this is to come easily.

Moses exhorts the people of Israel to give heed to the statutes and ordinances of God and not to change them or to waver from them. God was not one to be bargained with, his promise was rock solid, he was sure.

On the other hand we are fickle, we like to change our minds, we like to have everything. (Syncretism again) we like to think we improve ourselves and we have a tendency to feel pleased with ourselves (vanity) when we achieve this by our own hard effort. We even bargain with ourselves and reward or even punish ourselves for doing good. (well mostly reward it needs to be said!)

If we say that God is unchanging then it is because he does not need to be wasting his time worrying about himself. God is wholly and completely available to us, he is wholly present to us, God is not insecure about himself like we are about ourselves.

It is we who pass our own insecurity on to God not God changing what he feels about us. God loves us… period… God so loves us that he sent his son… not to condemn us but to heal make us strong in him.

James encourages us to imitate God in knowing what we are like. We know all too well that we may need to change, but to begin to do this we need to know ourselves fully…. Even as we are fully known… (?)

I don’t know about you, but I keep realising how superficially I know even my own self. I frequently miss the obvious causes and signs of stress, and then wonder why I get into the fix I find myself in. I am headstrong….
It is when I am able to reflect on God that things begin to be able to feel more in the right place.

Looking beyond the reflection of myself to the unchanging Love and being of God, helps me move on a little.

Bit by bit looking on God actually changes who we are, and gradually it may not take the same amount of effort to live life-changing and loving  lives.

In this we become doers and not just hearers of the Word.


As you may know I go to Tesco a lot. I shop with many people, I shop for many people. If you thought it was bad enough going for yourself… trying going for others!
Sometimes there is choice, sometimes there is no choice and often there is too much choice.
What do you choose? How do you choose it? What happens when you make the wrong choice?
Apparently the situation we find ourselves in is made all the more challenging, not because we can never make our mind up as to what to choose, but because in our  very nature we are Syncretists.
Syncretists want to have both… we want to have our cake and eat it too…We want the best of both worlds.
One person has commented
“It's only an expression. But someone who wants to have their cake and eat it, is someone who wants to take more than they already have. In life we all have choices to make and choose to live our lives a certain way. There are some people that have their cake, but still want more. Or live their lives by double standards. You can't have your cake and eat it.”
I don’t know whether you have spotted something interesting about the disciples in recent weeks according to John, but they have been doing quite a bit of complaining. They have tried to mob him, Last week they complained and this week they complain again and some simply walk off completely disgruntled.
(have disciples changed?!)
The reason for this is syncretism… we want it our way, and all our way. We find it difficult to choose because we want it all..
John puts something interesting into the words of Jesus today, when he is reported as saying “The Flesh is useless”
The greek word here is Sarx and though it is often translated, as it is here, as “Flesh” it  more particularly point to “human nature”.
Our basic humanity cause us difficulties.
[[In short, flesh generally relates to unaided human effort, i.e. decisions (actions) that originate from self or are empowered by self. This is carnal ("of the flesh") and proceeds out of the untouched (unchanged) part of us – i.e. what is not transformed by God.]]
It is not because we are created and bodily (fleshly) that is the issue it is that we have learnt that we can live if you like “without God”
When we live as God intended with him alongside rather than “in our own strength”  then we become again as in the wonderful image of God walking with us in the Garden.
Jesus tells us today that the Spirit (as opposed to the flesh alone) gives us life.
As elsewhere in Johns Gospel Jesus says he came to bring us life and life in all its fullness…. In other words life with God.
Joshua too faces the humanity of his people when he gathered them together and told them they simply could not have it all their own syncretistic way but they had to make a choice.
On balance after they reflect on what God had proved to them along the way they proclaim.
“‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17 for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.’
It is perhaps not difficult to realise that some of the disciples wanted to complain about what Jesus seemed to asking of them. After all inviting someone to carry a cross in those days was never going to be a popular choice. Many probably still wanted to serve God and Mammon too.
We too might take exception about having to forgive our enemies, or even to love and serve those we despise and hate (like the Samaritans)
But Jesus never did suggest that being his disciple or of following His way was going to be an easy choice……. However he did say it was life giving and a way of living as the people God created us to be.
The flesh may well be weak, it does not give what it seems to promise…. But we have the Spirit too to give us life, and to make us strong (er)