From Gavin’s desk 28/06/2020


Readings: Genesis 22: 1-19, Psalm 13, John 3: 14-21


If I had asked six months ago what the things were in your life that you valued the most, I wonder how many of us would give the same answers to the same question at this moment in our lives. In times of plenty, I think that the things we consider valuable would tend towards things of comfort and the things of ease. In times of turmoil, the things we believe hold more value for us would be those things that will stand when everything else fails. When it is going well, I spend my energy on things that will appear a little superfluous in those times when things are not going well. When I have everything I need, then the things I want become the currency by which I determine the value of my life, but when I do not have everything I need; the things I need are most sought after.
When I am healthy, my possessions are valuable but when I am sick, my possessions are not that significant because my health is more important than my savings account. When I have my family around me, I can spend my time on my hobbies, but when my family is not around me, then all of my emotional strength goes into gathering them around me.
I think that in this season, many of us had hoped we would come out of the pandemic the same way we went in, but I think for many of us, we have come to discover the value of life, the value of health, the value of family, the value of being together. When there is a possibility that those we love will die, we are hopefully more particular about how we use our time generally and more specifically about how we use our time together. We have so many things that we need to do that can’t wait to be done and our life becomes consumed by the next thing that needs to be done by yesterday until there is a crisis, such as the one we face globally, and then everything that needs to be done is kind of put into perspective and we are reminded of what is most valuable to us.
Abraham valued Isaac and in God’s asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to Him, we discover a complete lack of internal dialogue that would give us a clue as to what was happening with Abraham’s value system at the time. Maybe Abraham assumed that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Maybe Abraham assumed that God would provide an alternative sacrifice. Maybe Abraham knew that God could not revoke a promise that He had made. Whatever Abraham’s thoughts or convictions, we find here that Abraham valued God’s instruction enough to offer the son he valued because it was God who gave Isaac to them. Isaac is the son of a promise, but God is the One who made the promise and saw it fulfilled. Even though Abraham did not understand God very well, he was in awe of God.
God values life and holds community as the most valuable commodity because in community we are able to flourish and thrive and worship God freely. As Abraham valued his son, so God valued His Son. God the Son offered His life willingly to ensure that death would have no hold over the people of God. The Father did not sacrifice the Son because God gave Himself up for all of life so that none of His creation would have to fear death. Let us not cheapen that sacrifice by holding any less value for life and community than God holds for life and community. All lives do matter, but our preference always needs to be given to those whose lives are most vulnerable in any given moment, to those whose lives are not regarded as valuable by others. Those who can take care of themselves need to take care of those who cannot.
Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 21/06/2020

Readings: Genesis 16, Genesis 21: 8-21, Psalm 86: 1-10, 16-17, Colossians 3: 1-17

I think that we are all opportunists by birth, but hopefully we have learned to control our natural instinct to chase after those opportunities that are presented at the expense of the community by the time we reach adulthood. Children will automatically tend to whatever will be most beneficial for them at the expense of the group. They will happily play with a toy offered by a friend until a better toy is offered. There have been so many fights between children who are vying for the better toy when they were playing with great joy moments before that toy had been presented.

We want the best and that is normal. To want the best at the expense of others is immature. To want the best car at the expense of the meals that will no longer be on the family’s table is neither wise nor mature. I can make no boasts about fiduciary management but spending your life paying one debt off by making more debt in another area just so that you can have the best phone or the best jacket or the biggest name brand makes absolutely no sense to me. There will never be rest for your soul because the hunger you have for the things of this world will never be satisfied. Everything gets old and everything has an end and so expending all of your energy just to play with the best toy doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Sarah considered Ishmael to be her child since it seemed Sarah could bear no children of her own. This was accepted by her until Isaac came along. All of a sudden, Ishmael was no longer recognised by her as good enough because in her mind she had something better. After 14 years as being known as the child of the family, Ishmael had become Hagar’s child and as “that woman’s child” he was no longer good enough. We may wonder why Ishmael’s hand was always against his brothers, but I think that fight was started in these moments of rejection, in these moments where one child was placed before the other.

In my work in education and in ministry, one of the hardest things I have had to witness is how easily parents are able to throw their children away. I have seen how children have been treated as less than other children, how children are labelled as children of sin because they are born out of wedlock, how they have been referred to as children of this whore or children of that drunk.

A child of sin does not exist. No child should ever be rejected by family or by community because every single child is a child of love. It does not matter how the child got there; it matters how that child is accepted and loved and taught to love once it is there. I pray for mercy for each adult as we consider the great harm we have wrought on our children, on the children around us and on our community by the many ways in which we reject them, abuse them, mislead them and destroy them. It may take two people to make a child, but it takes a community to raise it well, it takes a community who will come together in order to provide and care and train a child. It takes a community that has found a better way to love because they have met with the One who is love. I pray that God will help us look at the children in our community’s through His eyes and love them as He does.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 14/06/2020

Readings: Genesis 18: 1-15, 21: 1-7, Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19, Mark 9: 14-29

We sometimes think that we need to wear the right clothes, attend the right church or use the right words before God will allow us into His presence and before He will hear us but the story of Abraham and Sarah is such a beautiful story of how God doesn’t wait for us to be right before we meet with Him because then we will never meet with Him. God meets with us whenever our hearts are open to meeting with Him; no gilded invitation or dress code required.

God comes to meet with Abraham in his home, while he is chilling at the entrance of his tent because it is too hot to be working in the field and too humid to be inside the tent. He is probably not smelling the freshest or looking his best, but his heart is open to God and to others.

For all of Abraham’s character flaws, he was very hospitable and very open to receiving God and others. They obviously didn’t get many visitors or people wandering around and a person’s reputation in the Middle East was connected to their hospitality and so at the expense of his dignity, he opens his home to these travellers. Abraham hurries to greet them, hurries to tell Sarah to take an excessive amount of flour and make bread, runs to his fields to get the perfect calf and have it prepared. Old men and masters of their household didn’t run, they didn’t show their ankles to the world. Everybody runs to them, everybody hurries to them, but here is Abraham hurrying because God forbid, they should think him inhospitable. For him, that would bring great shame on his name for the nations surrounding him.

Hurrying to the 3 strangers, he invites them in and he does it because it was the right thing to do, in fact it would become one of the laws given to them in the time of Moses (Leviticus 19:33-34) that would speak of who the people of God are meant to be. Welcome the stranger and do them no wrong. Treat them as one of you and love them as yourself because you were also strangers in the land of Egypt. Your heart will be more open to “the other” when you remember that you were also “the other” to someone else. Your heart would be more open to the imperfect when you remember that you are imperfect yourself.

As you read the story of Abraham from Genesis 12:1 – 25:18, it is phenomenal how much Abraham suffers from the human condition, yet even in that God chooses him. I wonder if this open heart is the reason God chose Abraham even though Abraham was as fallible as he was and even though he didn’t understand God or God’s ways at all. I wonder if God chose Abraham because he loved God and his heart was open to friendship with God and his heart was open to others. I think that it is this characteristic of God that God longs to see formed in us. Strive more to be open to God than to be right. Strive more to welcome the stranger in your midst than to be powerful. Strive more to develop community than to build walls. Welcome the stranger amongst you because God did not create us and them; God created us.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 07/06/2020

Readings: Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13, Matthew 28: 16-20

The longer this pandemic persists and governments around the world apply seemingly random regulations, the more I think that governments the world over sometimes get a little confused between creating an open market for profiteering and actually governing the people (who may or may not have willingly given them the authority to govern). We are being forced to ask whether they are meeting the ends of justice in doing the best they can for the people under their care or if they are playing the game of power, which is often funded by big business. For so many of us, this moment in history is truly a surreal moment; a moment that seems more like a story than a reality. Even in it’s devastation to life and economy, it makes a perfect script for a “plot impossible” movie and we are asking the question whether we see before us a movie of love, hope and healing in the making or if we see before us the makings of an unbelievable “Spy vs. Spy” movie. I guess the answer to this is not either/or, but it is both. We possess within us the capacity for great good but also for great evil when we rely on our own strength and when we follow our own reasoning. When we see the Church at work in the world, when we see the church being the manifestation of love in the world, we see a story of love, hope and healing and we see the story of God’s people following God’s leading.

When we hear laws being made up that are inconsistent and without justification, we see a story that belongs in the annals of the cold war epoch. With the events within our own nation’s history of apartheid and state capture, with the ongoing manipulation of the social and fiscal systems, the abuses of trust and the use of the many for the enrichment of the few; we would be justified in asking if it is because all governments are naturally evil. I think it is simply because governments are run by people who have been given power by the people and that power corrupts. I think that given the same power; the majority of us would do the same thing in the same situation. I think we should never think of ourselves so highly that we consider ourselves beyond corruption.

God does not derive His power from the people and so God remains incorruptible. God’s power is by virtue of the fact that God is God and God will not change, whether we give Him power to lead us or not. He is bigger than the limits of our imagination, He is bigger than any of our decisions, He is bigger than the authority that our approval or disapproval would possibly be able to grant. God’s motives and actions are not dependant on us and so He is not swayed by our opinions and thoughts. His heart may break for us when we struggle or hurt others and He may celebrate with us when we celebrate something good, but that does not change anything about God because God is perfect and God is complete. What God does do is He helps us to be as He is. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally at work in teaching humanity who God is and helping humanity be good as God is good. God is good because God is exactly what God needs to be. Creation was good because it did exactly what God needed it to do and we corrupted it and so God is busy with the work of helping it be Righteous and Faithful and Good. God is righteous and He is faithful and He is good because He is love and that is what love is.

Gavin