From Gavin’s desk 16/02/2020

From Gavin’s desk 16/02/2020

Readings: Micah 6: 1-8, John 15: 9 – 16:4, 1 Corinthians 3: 1-23, Psalm 119: 1-8

An innocent childhood is such a wonderful time of having everything that you know being everything that can be known. It is a fantastic time in our lives when we think we have everything worked out and that everything has an easy solution even if that solution is only to get mommy or daddy to fix it. We don’t know how much we don’t know until we are faced with having to make decisions based on information we know we don’t have. Maturing can be such a pleasure or such a curse depending how tightly we hold on to the fallacy that maintains that we know everything there is to know and the way we understand something is the only way it can be understood.  When we close ourselves off to any other interpretation of a given event or when we choose not to hear a reason for a behaviour that is different to the intention or motivation that we have written into the narrative, we have failed to mature. When I don’t allow you the space to grow because your growth might point out that I have not grown and I am not ready to admit that to myself, I am lending myself to the breakdown of community.

Ignorance is probably only bliss for the person who is ignorant because the rest of their world will suffer the consequences of them failing to pay attention to the fact that they do not know everything and are not all they think they are. How many atrocities have been perpetrated in the history of humanity because someone believed that the way they viewed the world was the only possible way it could be viewed. How many lives were broken because an individual or group believed that everyone that was not “in” was “out” and everyone that was “out” was a threat to the harmony of those who were “in” and so the “in” had to get rid of the “out”. We long for humanity as a whole to mature, sometimes forgetting that we are the humanity that needs to mature, and as we do mature so we recognise that our opinions are just that. Our opinions are not fact even though they are fact to us. The older we get, the more we realise that there is such an incredibly large volume of information that we don’t have and so it is impossible for us to be experts on everything. I might know something about some things, but I don’t know everything about all things. If I am aware of that, then how can I hold on to my ignorance and my prejudice at the expense of someone else?

This is where Paul is telling the believers in Corinth to grow up because they are acting like little children who fail to recognise that the people surrounding them, the people who have different opinions to their own, are simply another part of the whole. The Gospel is the Gospel and even though we might not agree on how to give expression to our worship of God it does not mean that either of us are wrong; it just means that we meet with God in different ways. What needs to agree is the way in which our worship of God finds expression in our lives and in the world around us. If your worship of God doesn’t lead from selfishness to a stand against injustice, from self-importance to a love for mercy and from an arrogance to a humble walk with God and His creation, then we have remained infants in the faith.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 23/02/2020

From Gavin’s desk 23/02/2020

Readings: Exodus 24: 12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter 1: 16-21, Matthew 17: 1-9

A foretaste of something good is always nice because it gives us evidence of something we anticipate will happen; something we hope for. A foretaste of something bad is obviously never pleasant because it gives us a taste of something we dread that is on the way and we are afraid it cannot be stopped. If we have a foretaste of something to come, it is not the whole thing, it is not that which we hope for or fear; but it is just a little taste of what we can expect. It is a sample, a taste, of something so much greater, something so much more incredible, of something so much more intense than what we experience in the present. A foretaste helps open our imagination to what is possible and if we remain on the road we are on; something that is probable. A foretaste does not mean that nothing can prevent what is to come, but should we choose to be faithful to the path we walk now, whatever may take place between the foretaste and the event itself will most likely not prevent the event itself from taking place.

This can be good or bad depending on the event that we anticipate. The foretaste can be a warning or it can be an encouragement. If the foretaste is of something good, we are given the courage to endure what is to come before the event itself is at its fulfilment. If it is of something bad, we have a warning before us and we are free to change the path that we walk because we are given the gift of seeing what lies ahead of us and it is not what we want to be a part of our reality. I might have a taste of the supper that is busy cooking and even though I need to do homework and bath before supper, I have evidence that it will be there and I have an idea of what it will taste like. That could either have me longing for supper during the homework and bath or it could have me changing what is likely by phoning for takeaways somewhere between homework and the bath because not all chefs fare equally.

Christ is transfigured into a foretaste of His glory that is to come and it is an incredible witness of His relationship with God, with the Law and with the Prophets, but this is only a foretaste of what will be when He enters into the fullness of His glory, into the fullness of the Love the Law was meant to describe and the fullness of the Promise that the Prophets spoke of. Before Jesus is clothed with a Glory we will not bear to look at without wearing the glasses of love offered to us by Christ; He will endure persecution, suffering, insults, rejection and even death. The foretaste does not prevent the shadows that Jesus will have to walk through, but it gives Him the courage to endure it because should He choose to be faithful to the path He set before the creation of the world, the foretaste will be realised in the consummation of the Lover and the beloved, of the bride and the bridegroom, of the people of God and God.

Every prayer, every act of devotion and of worship, every experience of God’s faithfulness, every conviction of the Holy Spirit, every act of mercy, every act of compassion and of justice, every communion table we share at is an incredible moment in itself but they are all also a foretaste of what is to come. They are all a foretaste of what will be even more glorious when we enter into the very presence of God. There may be much that takes place in-between this foretaste and the event itself, but that does not take away from the event; it reminds us that we are becoming what we were always meant to be and the road is not always an easy one to walk. Praise God that we do not have to walk it alone. God is with me. You are with me.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 01/03/2020

From Gavin’s desk 01/03/2020

Readings: Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5: 12-19, Matthew 4: 1-11

Can a two year old tell the difference between a good decision and a bad decision before they make the decision or before they suffer the consequences of their decision? How will they know not to touch the hot stove before someone has told them not to touch the hot stove? Even after they burn their fingers would they know the reason their fingers burned or would they just know that when I touch a hot stove my fingers hurt a lot; and so I will not put my fingers on the hot stove again. Will they know not to do that with everything that gets hot or will they only know not to do that on the hot stove they burned themselves on and so have to re-learn the same lesson on the kettle and tumble drier and the hair dryer and the car that has been standing in the sun all day long? Does a two year old have the capacity to understand cause and effect? Do they have the capacity to connect the dots in order to generalise information to cover a range of events?

Whatever the answer to those questions, a two year old would most definitely need someone around who was explaining the connections to them and helping them understand cause and effect and the extrapolation of results to other similar circumstances. How would they know that some action had a particular consequence in any given situation unless someone explained it? They may not understand fully, but they would know that there is a connection and they would hopefully trust that person enough to not have to test that connection out. How would they know that their actions affect everyone around them if someone did not help them understand that the sun does not revolve around them and that they are a small, yet significant, part of something so much bigger than themselves?

We all need someone to help us see a purpose that is so much more than ourselves. We all need someone to help us connect the dots and make sense of the way things are and how they got to be there and how to change what is not good and enhance whatever is good. In Christ we find how possible it is to see more to life than what we see when we are our own teacher; in Christ we learn to live as a part of something bigger than ourselves. In each of His temptations, which would be the areas He would struggle with throughout His ministry; Christ would be justified in embracing the temptation and following the natural path into sin. It would be perfectly excusable to want to satisfy His own desires at the expense of the whole, or to prove to the leaders and people that He had the power and authority of God, or to even short cut the system and so doing avoid the suffering and death He would face. It may be excusable but it would be in conflict with the purpose of His birth. He was born to redeem humanity; He was born to go the distance and He was born to be faithful to the process. The consequence of submitting to any of His temptations would result in humanity not being redeemed, and the people of God would walk around their own wilderness for ever and never find their way back into the Garden of Eden because there would not be anyone who could show them the way. Christ knew that He was a part of something so much bigger than Himself and He chose to live His life and die His death for the benefit of that purpose. Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and it is in Him that we find the way, that we find the truth and that we find life. It is in Christ that we find our purpose.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 08/03/2020

From Gavin’s desk 08/03/2020

Readings: Psalm 121, Genesis 12: 1-4, Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17, John 3: 1-17

When a baby is born, there should be an acknowledgement that the baby is born and there should be a community that surrounds that child in order to ensure that the child grows well and that as the child matures they will be able to add value to the community and to continue the traditions that have been passed down by remembering the stories and telling them to the babies who have come after them and who they have helped to nurture and teach in the way of community. Even in the best of traditions though, there are unhealthy traditions or prejudices or exclusions that are passed on from one generation to the next. How much worse would it be when there is no acknowledgement of a child’s birth or when there is no community to surround the child and help it on to maturity? Should a child that is left to its own devices survive, they will most likely only ever learn to take care of themselves and will probably struggle to understand the importance of taking care of the other even though it is what they would long to do.

God’s call to Abram to leave behind his heritage and his tradition and Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus about rebirth is a call to allow God the space to clean out the closet of our past of those things that are not of God and are not healthy for community. The fact is that this process is a life-long process because as we come into a relationship with God through Christ, we cannot leave anything behind and we struggle to let go of what we have always believed to be true. There are some foundations that we build our lives on that are unhealthy and so it is in the presence of God and by the grace of God that we are set free to acknowledge our past and to leave it in the presence of God’s healing love one brick at a time, one foundation at a time. Our new birth is a moment in which we become more fully aware of who we are and of how we are designed. It is a moment of experiencing the possibility of doing life better; whether we come from what we would consider a healthy community or from no community at all. It is a moment in which we become aware of ourselves sitting at the feet of the Creator of perfect community and the Teacher of perfect tradition. We become aware of God renewing our understanding of what is important and of what is good and of what is healthy. Rebirth is a moment in which we recognise the fantastic possibilities that are open before us of being holy as God is Holy.

Which of our traditions do we need to let go of in order to see the Kingdom that Christ speaks of? Which of our understandings of community are the walls that exist between what we live and what we were created to live? Which of the foundations upon which we have built our lives are the obstacles to our entering the Kingdom of God here on earth? Which of our behaviours perpetuate injustice instead of work for justice? How well do our lives and our lives together as community open the Gates of Christ’s Kingdom so that others would want to enter in? Come. Sit at the feet of the perfect teacher of the perfect tradition and grow in the glorious heritage and inheritance that is yours. This is rebirth.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 22/03/2020

From Gavin’s desk 22/03/2020

Readings: 1 Samuel 16: 1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5: 8-14, John 9: 1-41

What is important to you? Which information do you focus on in any given situation? Which information do you fail to notice in that same situation? I did not notice whether you were wearing a dress or a suit. I did not notice what colour shoes you were wearing. I did notice that you were bringing me a cup of coffee. I did notice that you were holding a stick. I did not hear what you said about something but I did notice how you said it. I did not remember the words you used, but I did remember the expression on your face when you said it and I remember the way it left me feeling.

We filter so much every single moment of our lives. We cannot function without a filter because there would just be too much information to process and so we have this incredible ability to learn with each passing experience which information is important to us and which information is not as important to us. We scan the whole and focus on the parts that are a pleasure or a threat and we ignore the rest. Sometimes, we don’t even know why we see some things and leave other things out. This is a part of the reason we can be present at the same event and perceive it very differently. I pick what I need to know or what I want to hear and filter out all of the other information and you do the same.

As I get older and I need my world to stay the same because I think I have it all worked out; I find that my filter gets even finer because I choose to ignore information that I would once have found important. I filter out what I fear will change my perception of reality because I actually want to believe what I want to believe and I want to see what I want to see. I want to be aware only of those things that will ensure I have as pleasant a life as possible. Some live more in denial than others, but we all do deny what is in front of our face simply because we would rather not accept the reality of what is happening. Some of us even have the skill of convincing others of what we want them to believe (which is probably what they want to believe anyway). God though knows the heart of people and He knows how we limit our vision because we choose to see some things and not others. God knows how we choose to ignore some of the stuff He tells us because we know how hard it is going to be to see it and to have to respond to it. God knows how we automatically shut off from the world outside in order to preserve our comfort. It is exactly for this reason that God continues to help us see the world a little differently. This is exactly why we can only do all things perfectly with God’s help. On my own, I am lost but with God giving me a new vision, a new dream and a new way of perceiving, I can be a part of the renewal of creation itself.

Oh Lord, please do not let me deny you because I am afraid of receiving what you have to say to me. Please give me the courage to not cut out of my perception what you need to be in there. Please help me to receive a new vision, your vision and help me to thank you for the joy and the privilege of being a part of making your Holiness and Glory known in a world that has all but stopped seeing the hand of its Creator at work in it.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 29/03/2020

From Gavin’s desk 29/03/2020

Readings: Ezekiel 37: 1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8: 6-11, John 11: 1-45

We make short trips into space, visit the moon, and drive cars around the sun (at least “Starman” does). We wage wars on nations from the comfort of our thrones, presidential offices and parliaments. We communicate with people around the world as if they were standing right next to us and we communicate with the people standing right next to us as if they were all around the world. We are finding more questions to ask the numerous search engines that seem to draw us together in a strange, directive kind of way and we are discovering that everybody has their own answer. We have an insane amount of opportunities to develop conspiracy theories from what our neighbours are doing to control the rotation of the moon to what the Illuminati are doing to control human history.

In all of our folly and in all of our wisdom, in all of our weakness and in all of our power, we have come to realise that our existence is fickle and there has to be more to it than getting from one day to the next, from one big exploration or discovery to the next, from one cup of coffee to the next. In all of this, when the doors are locked for fear of the virus, we discover that we exist to love and we exist to be in community. We want to protect those we love and our hearts break when someone we love succumbs to the illness. A tiny little virus like the Corona virus has changed the world by making it even smaller than the World Wide Web has made it. It has forced the world to its knees in a matter of months and it has forced all nations into isolation. It has crippled the world of business, with even the experts in fiscal policies unsure of how the markets will be affected. Even worse, it has forced men and women the world over to do that stuff that they have been getting around to doing in the house for ages and it has increased the price of toilet paper many fold. We have come to fear each other, not because of race or because of age or because of gender but because you never know who is carrying and spreading this tiny little virus that yields so much power over the human race.

Our response to this universal pandemic is mind blowing and it is easy to see how so many would say that with the power it yields; it has to come from God, but it cannot come from God because there is no death and illness in the Kingdom of God and God does not delight in illness and death. Jesus would not be able to defy the Father by healing the sick and raising the dead if death and illness came from God. God is not afraid of death as we are not afraid of death because it is the doorway through which we pass to enter into the fullness of God’s presence. God would be more heartbroken by the fact that we never learn to live before our death than by our death itself.

God is present in the redemption of what we have broken though. God is present in this global pandemic and His presence is known in the way in which businesses are assisting governments and the vulnerable in this time. God is present in the way that the medical and pharmaceutical industries around the world are sharing information and not holding onto it for the sake of profit. God is present as churches the world over are realising that putting measures of social distancing and sanitizing in place or that the closing of churches to stem the spread of the virus is not a test of faith, but an opportunity to lower the infection rate and give those with the gift of healing time to find a cure. God is present in the way we care for each other (even if that means we choose not to meet in this season because that is the most loving thing to do) and our caring for each other and helping stem the spread of the virus is our worship to God. God is present in the virus as one person shops for a neighbour whose immunity is weakened. God is present in the realisations that our existence is about community and compassion, about living and not survival. God is present in the grace we experience as we rethink what church looks like and how we are together the body, the Church. The virus might not be from God, but God will be glorified through it.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk 15/03/2020

How hard is it to love someone else when you are not able to love yourself? How hard is it to receive the love someone else has for you when you are not able to receive love or even respect from yourself? If you see yourself as being unworthy of love, how then would you recognise the love someone else has for you as love and not as something they pretend to have in order to meet some unmet need that you believe they must have?

We all long for love, we all long for relationship even if we say we don’t because we are wired that way. Even the introvert who dwells at the utmost end of the introvert-extrovert spectrum longs for relationship with at least one other. We long for people to see us and we long for people to notice us and we long for people to acknowledge us and we long for people to acknowledge that we are significant and we long for people to love us.

I think that many of our trust issues with the love that others have for us and the relationships they want to have with us often stem from our own inability to love ourselves and be with ourselves. We carry within our spirits something that has convinced us that we are not worthy of love, something that has convinced us that we are broken and so we convince ourselves that we will only be loved if we hide our brokenness and pretend everything is fine.  If in our conversations and arguments our family of origin is perfect, then this might be a sign that we are running these scripts within our spirits because no one is perfect and no one comes out of their family of origin unscathed. In emotionally volatile moments though, those dark corridors and hidden rooms are aired to the world as the scripts that have been written in our codes appear in our words and in our actions.

I think that when the question “why do you love me?” is asked, it is an indication that we need to feel validated for something specific because we cannot imagine we could be loved just because we are loved. If you need a reason for someone to love you, then do you really love yourself? God does not love us because of who we are; God loves us because of who God is. We do not love others because of who they are; we love others because of who we are. I am free to love you because I recognise the value that I have in God and if I am loved by God then I am free to love myself even though I carry within my soul the scars of life. If I need a specific action or behaviour from you before I love you, then is it really love? Your behaviour might determine whether I would want to be with you, but my love for you is determined by who I am. I can love you even if I believe that the most loving thing I can do for both of us is not be with you.

The scripts that we have written for ourselves cannot be true because that is not the scripts that God has written for us. Jesus sees, notices, acknowledges and acknowledges as significant the Samaritan women at the well and He does this even though He knows what lurks within the corridors of her soul. He sees the scripts and loves her regardless. He loves because of who He is and the moment in which she receives that love Christ is able to begin re-writing the scripts she was created with in her spirit and she is set free to love herself and to love others. Holy Spirit, please help us love ourselves perfectly so that we may love others perfectly.

Gavin