From Gavin’s desk 31/05/2020

Readings: Acts 2: 1-21, Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b, 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13, John 20: 19-23

We are pretty ignorant. There is so much we don’t know. For all of our advancements in the world, we are not too smart in dealing with what we have. We fail to put our common sense together in order to get a communal sense and so we fail to find the solutions for many of our crises. One war after the other, one disease after the other, one failed relationship after the other and we continue to think that we have it all together and that we can do anything. We cannot find the engine that drives a seed to suck up nutrients, let alone create an engine that will do the same thing even if it is left for millennia to stand by idly until mixed with water, soil and heat; yet we think the world owes us something because we have considered ourselves to be divine.

There is so much that we don’t understand, yet when we dwell in the presence of the One who does understand everything, we realise the significance of what we do understand. In the presence of the King of Glory, we understand that community is more important than philosophy. In the presence of the lover of our souls, we understand that war exists because there exists a conflict of opinion, not a conflict of fact. In the presence of the Prince of Peace, we understand that unity is more important than control. In the presence of the Spirit of life, we understand that compassion is more important than justification and mercy is more important than winning. In the presence of the Lord of hosts, we understand that we have the greatest gift in all of creation because we have the gift of choice and the greatest choice we can ever make is the choice to love.

This is what Pentecost is for those who dwell in the presence of God. It is a day in which we celebrate God With Us. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts and our imaginations to receive the gift we have in Christ, the gift we have in a God who loves us enough to die for us. On Pentecost, we celebrate the pouring out of the Holy Spirit so that the Gospel will be spread. This happens daily as we open our mouths to testify to the work of God and as we testify to the Gospel; the Good News that Christ has made the Kingdom of God available to all people. This happens every day as we show mercy or act out of compassion. This happens every day when we take a hand instead of hold a fist. This happens every day when we forgo our success for the benefit of the success of the whole because that is the only success that will last and the only one we can truly celebrate. This is the reason we are created with limitations because there can be no winners unless we all come across the line at the same time. No-one is more than anyone else, even if one person’s gifts are seen whilst another person’s gifts are not seen. The one who leads the head of the queue is as significant and vital as the one who picks up behind everyone. The ones who provides an opportunity for service is as important as the one who serves. The gift of Pentecost is the gift of the Church and the Church exists when you and I come together to bring the light of Christ into the world and to ensure that we all cross the finish line together. One mind, one heart, one way.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 24/05/2020

Readings: Acts 1: 6-14, Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35, John 17: 1-11

It is incredible how salt and rice both draw water to themselves.  At the coast you need to put rice in the salt so that the rice will draw water to itself and keep the salt dry otherwise the salt becomes clumpy as it draws water in. If you spill salt on a surface and leave it overnight, by morning it will be a space of salty damp. I like to think that since both rice and salt are from water, they draw water out of the atmosphere as they struggle to return to the water that they came from.

If anyone has ever encouraged you to put a phone you have dropped in water into a bag of rice, then they have given you sound advice. Since rice is hygroscopic (it has the ability to draw water to itself), the dry rice will draw the moisture out of the phone. Salt shares this property with rice and I really wonder if this is not one of the most beautiful examples of our life in Christ.

Salt and rice come from water and once the rice has dried and the salt is crystallized and crushed into useable salt, they both retain within their nature the need to be united to the water from which they came. We come from God and even though our appearance is changed and altered, our basic characteristic is that we will always have a need to be drawn fully into the presence of God. It is a part of who we are; we retain within our altered nature a need to be connected with the nature from which we came. Salt and rice can both deny the existence of water by remaining in an airtight container, but as soon as that container is opened, they will both automatically draw the water out of the atmosphere in order to return to the place they came from. We can deny the presence of God or the existence of God or even deny the significance of God and we can create our own gods or we can even believe that we are god, but our spirits will always draw the Spirit of God into us. We hunger for God and for God’s presence. We thirst for union with our Creator and our default setting, regardless of what we do to try and change it; is for union with God.

This is why Jesus prays for unity for His disciples. He knows how hard it is going to be for them to remain united with each other and with God once He has ascended into heaven. The society that they come from and that they are subject to will try and force them into a mould they don’t belong to. The society has forced itself into a mould it doesn’t belong in and it has taken the shape of something that is not natural to it, but there is something within it that rebels against its true form and it seems to want to do everything it can to remain outside of its natural state.

Jesus came to show us who we are and the disciples have embraced it because when they tried it, they found it was the best fit they could ever have. They have found the life they came from and it is good. It may not be easy, but it is good. Don’t resist the work of the Holy Spirit as God works with you in transforming your nature back into your true nature; the nature of God.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 17/05/2020

Readings: Acts 17: 16-34, Psalm 66: 8-20, John 14: 14-21

In all of God’s creation, there is only one creature that possesses the capacity to lie to itself. Every part of creation will fake, lie, hide and put on because it wants to protect itself from those parts of creation that feed off of it; but there is only one part of God’s creation that will lie to itself and convince itself of something that is untrue. Only humans will tell themselves that something is true when it is not or convince themselves that something can’t be true when it is. Only humans will convince themselves so completely of a lie that they will go to their deathbed regarding the lie as truth and even more than that; they will regard it as a truth upon which they have built their entire lives.

It is incredible what we are able to convince ourselves of if we have to. This ability is the reason we can always be right in the face of opposition from those we try to respect. It is easy to respect them when they agree with us but not so easy sometimes when they disagree with us because we cannot understand how they can disagree with something we think is so obviously true.

The reason I believe that we are able to lie to ourselves is because we are the only part of God’s creation that has the capacity and the need to justify ourselves. We reason with ourselves and we argue with ourselves and we are able to scratch out rationalizations from the nether in order to justify what we are doing. We chase after those desires that we know are inherently destructive to the sanctity of community and we need to convince ourselves that it is the best decision and so we look for a reason to justify it. We have seen this human characteristic portrayed so clearly amongst so many of the Covidiots around us in this season. They do not want their normal to change and so they convince themselves that the situation is not as serious as it is or that they will never get the virus or that the figures for Covid are nothing in comparison to other figures like TB or heart attack or being eaten by a hippopotamus. Whilst other figures are a reality and need to be dealt with in their own right, the figures that lie behind the pandemic we face now are a reality and every single one of us are  affected by it. No-one is immune, no- one is safe, no-one is going to come out of this unchanged. We either have to accept this or we have to convince ourselves that it is a lie.

It is because we have the capacity to confuse ourselves about what is good and right and true that God gives us His Spirit. We have an inherent need to be good as God is good and that need is at war with an inherent need to convince ourselves that we are the most important part of God’s creation and so everything should be about our survival. We long to be holy as God is holy, we long to love as God loves, we long to give life and hope and peace as God gives it, but we keep getting in the way.

Christ tells His disciples that He will give them a Counsellor just like Him; the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit does not need to justify anything, except us. Christ comes to justify us when all along we are trying to justify our own actions. The Holy Spirit is not as confused and as bewildered as we are and it is the Holy Spirit that will guide us in everything that is good, and right and true. The Holy Spirit will teach us how to love and that is what God’s command is. Love. Love God. Love each other.

Gavin.

From Gavin’s desk 10/05/2020

Readings: Acts 7: 55-60, Psalm 31: 1-5, 15-16, John 14: 1-14

There are those who live in a world where “turn left” is automatically followed by a left turn and there are others who live in a world where “turn left” is automatically followed by a fifty-fifty chance of turning left but with the hedged bet being on a good solid right turn (which is normally followed by an automatic click of the tongue or a very snappy “the other left!”). There are those who live in a world where north, south, east and west actually mean something and there are those who live in a world where that stuff only makes sense on a piece of paper and not in reality. There are those who live in a world where the direction I must take is perfectly obvious and there are those who live in a world where all roads seem to go in circles and every municipality in the world is obliged to turn their traffic grid into a maze with one ways, no-entries and ring roads that are designed expressly for the purpose of getting us lost.

If we only lived in your world, we might never get lost, but we would also never get to see the sights on those lesser travelled roads. If we only lived in my world, we would get to see all of the sights, but we would not know how to get back to those specific sights nor would we get to where we were meant to be going.

At every intersection in our journey of faith, especially as our faith affects our living, we are in need of those who will give us direction, we are in need of the one who will remind us why we are travelling the road we travel and where the road is leading us. As one who has travelled on many different roads to the place I am now, roads that were not wrong in themselves, or that I did not enjoy and learn from and mature along, I am not sure that there is only one road for us to follow in our lives. Not every road is the same and even though many roads will get us to where we are going, more or less; they are not all equal in terms of enjoyment or of time travelled or even in comfort. While some roads may not be the wrong road, they may also not be the better road. While two roads will be equally as good and equally as adequate, they may take us in completely different directions before bringing us to the same point in the end. Our experiences will have been different, but we will end up in the same place at the end.

Whatever road we are on, Christ is on with us and Christ continues to point out where our ultimate destination is. The Holy Spirit becomes that internal voice that helps us be those who live in a world where we know where we are going (as long as we remain connected to the Holy Spirit) and in a world where the journey is as important and fulfilling as the destination. Keep your eye fixed on God, and with the Holy Spirit as your guide and Jesus as your travel partner, every road becomes a life-giving road because you will always have the giver of life with you on the road you travel.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 03/05/2020

Readings: Acts 2: 42-27, Psalm 23, John 10: 1-10

A diary is a fantastic invention. Whether it is a hard copy or an electronic version, it is always very helpful as we try and pack our daily lives full of activities that we believe will change the world and hopefully make the world a better place. Even better than a diary though is someone who will remind us to look at the diary, someone who will remind us what we have written in our diary because when we really get busy doing the stuff we have scheduled for ourselves to do and we are in the moment, we may forget that we were meant to be doing something else in three minutes time or were meant to be doing something half an hour ago.

I am not a great time keeper because I do get caught up in the moment. In my mind, this thing I am busy doing is the most important thing I could be doing, because if it wasn’t why would I be doing it? Listening to this person that I am listening to now, or writing this notice insert I am writing now is the most important thing I could be doing. Sometimes though I get caught up in the busyness of my day and anxious about everything that still needs to be done and so being busy with something mundane but vital can be irritating because I find myself telling myself I have more important stuff to do, when actually I just have something more interesting to do. Sometimes when I become anxious about a diary that leaves no room for breathing or being silent, then listening to someone who is taking too long to say what they need to be saying and are maybe hoping that I will guess what it is they are actually wanting to tell me but haven’t yet found the words is incredibly frustrating and I find myself thinking about the things I was going to be thinking about later while they ramble on.

However we tackle each moment of each day, we need people around us who know us well enough and care about our relationship with God and others enough to pull us up short and correct us. We need someone who will help us prioritise our diaries and leave spaces for us to breathe and think and smell the roses. We need someone who will hold us accountable to what we are doing and to how we are listening. We need people who will keep us in check because I think that without those people, we will so easily slip into being somebody we don’t recognise, somebody who has no regard for all of the values and principles we used to hold dear.

God surrounds us with those people. They are the ones who are in the body of Christ, the ones who are on the same journey of faith, the ones who share our values and our principles and the ones who will engage us on our diaries and on the way they make or break us. God is good and He gives us the gift of community because in community we are able to mature into people who are able to maintain balance and remember who we are in Christ.

Gavin