From Gavin’s desk 29/11/2020

Readings: Isaiah 64: 1-9, Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9, Mark 13: 24-37

Anticipation. Waiting. Longing. Hoping. Maybe. Maybe it could be different. Maybe it could be better. Maybe.

What is it we anticipate? What is it we are waiting for, what is it we are longing for, what is it we are hoping for? What is it that we want to be different? If it had to be different but in a very different way to the way we expected it to be, would it be better if it stayed the same? Do we only want things to be different if we are in control of the change so that it happens in exactly the way we would like it to happen?

Advent is a time of anticipation, a time of waiting, a time of longing, a time of “maybe it could be different”. We anticipate the presence of Christ with us even as we celebrate the fact that God is with us. We anticipate the possibility of a different future because we know how the first coming of Christ has made our present different. We know that things can be different because as God was faithful in the past, so God is faithful in the present and God will be faithful in the future.

So many who were waiting for the Messiah to come missed it when He came the first time because it happened in a way that they did not expect. So many who longed to be freed from their chains did not want to be set free from the chains they were being set free from. So many could not believe that God had worked because God did not work in the way they said He needs to work. They expected that God would fit into their expectations, without even considering that their expectations  would be detrimental to the things God was doing and if not detrimental, they would at least severely limit the work God had come to do.

Our expectation is normally for a solution that will solve only one problem (our problem), even while it creates another problem that is more than likely a whole lot harder to overcome than our current one. They missed God because they couldn’t see how God was redeeming every problem perfectly at the same time. Our expectation may be for a vague solution to a complex problem and while God is faithful to that prayer, we may miss it because God is working at it, one specific answer after another.

Jesus reminds His disciples that He is faithful and even as they will be asking Him to return and restore the Kingdom, they need to continue being faithful to what He has called them to. When they do that, then they will see Him at work. Even while we are waiting for Christ to come again, we are urged to be faithful to our call. Our prayer is that things will be different and our faith is in the only One who can make it different and our hands are set to the work that the One who can make a difference has put them to. That is the difference that will be made. While we do what we are doing, Christ is working alongside us and the difference that is made is a difference that is beyond what we could ever anticipate or hope for.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 22/11/2020

Readings: Ezekiel 34: 1-2, 11-24, Psalm 95: 1-7a, Ephesians 1: 15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46

Does a leaf know what the trunk does or what the tap root does? Does a leaf know what the purpose of the bark is? Does a leaf know anything except that it exists and alongside all of the other leaves, it makes the food needed for the tree to grow? Does a leaf know what photosynthesis means or does it just collect the sunlight as the required source of energy it needs to convert the water that comes up the roots through the trunk and branches and the carbon dioxide it gets from the air into the sugar required by the tree to grow. Does the leaf know that as a part of the whole, it is a benefit to all of creation as it’s waste product is the oxygen that all of life needs to exist. Even though asking this question may be giving the leaf abilities it does not possess (anthropomorphism), it still begs how much the leaf knows about the function of the whole?

How much do we know about the function of the whole?  How much do we understand about our King? How fully do we grasp the purpose and intention of our Creator? A bunch of small leaves may think that a large leaf is their king, but even a large leaf will not have any idea of how large the whole is and even though it may be vital, it is also replaceable. We are all simply the leaves that form a part of the tree that is the Kingdom of God. Leaves will come and go, and they will make a difference while they are here, but the Tree of life will stand eternal as the one who planted it is eternal.

When we try and understand Christ as King in terms of earthly monarchs, we fall far short of recognising the significance of Christ’s reign. A human monarch is nothing more or less than a human subject. They may have more authority, but that authority is not divine, that authority is given by those who are subject to that authority. The number of revolutions that have disposed those in authority testify to that fact.  God’s authority is not given by us or withheld by us. God is King because no other can reign as God reigns. God cannot be revolted against and God cannot be taken from power. Many have tried throughout history, but no-one has the power to reign in God’s place. We may be leaves on the tree and we may help provide whatever the Kingdom needs by living within the Kingdom out of love (not obligation), but the story was never about the leaf, it is about the tree and it is about the One who planted the tree. I wonder how often we want to make the gospel about the leaves. In the story of Christ making the Kingdom of God available to all people, Christ is the Subject, and we are the object. The story is about Jesus; Jesus the King. We are the recipients of the gifts of life and whether we receive it or not, the tree will continue to live and other leaves will add to the whole.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 15/11/2020

Readings: Judges 4: 1-24, Psalm 123

There are so many portraits placed before us of the ideal man and the ideal woman, but as we age, we become increasingly aware that no such thing exists. There is no ideal man or ideal woman. There is no perfect fit or match made in heaven. There is only us, with our strengths and our weaknesses and with God being our helper, we will go on the incredible journey of learning how to love each other and care for each other better. Life is not about getting to the winning line, but about enjoying the journey. It is about celebrating those moments in which we get it right and appreciating those moments in which we get it wrong because we have just learned something about ourselves and about the way we relate and we have learned that the needs that others have are not the needs we think they have. How often do we place heavy burdens on the shoulders of others because we assume they have the ability to guess what our hearts long for? I think relating to each other is hard enough without making it harder by believing that a good guess is the same thing as a real love.

I think one of our biggest obstacles in relating to others is the way in which we place expectations on ourselves or others that are not the expectations others have of us or of themselves. This is especially true when we treat our expectations as fundamental truths. Society doesn’t help in this area much either because all of us together as society also create stereotypes of the ideal man and the ideal woman and then we place those expectations on all of its men and on all of its women without considering the individual.

Had Deborah been around today, I fear that in many of our communities, the story of God redeeming His people would have turned out very differently. If Deborah had been silenced as a prophet because the expectation was that God could not speak through a woman; she would have been silent because we would have told her that she was not equipped to talk about God and Israel would never have turned back to God. If her husband had called her to order as so many societies would expect him to do today, Israel would have become a vassal state to the Canaanites. If she was not heeded as a judge, the community would have lain in ruins as the disputes she administered over would never have been resolved and the community would have imploded as internal clashes would have brought down the nation from within, in which case they would not have needed her as a judge to help them bear witness to God’s deliverance from their oppressors.

I think that as a global community, we have a very far way to go in terms of not deciding for God who God can use to make His love known and who God can use to redeem and deliver His people. May God help us to let God use who God knows He needs to use to bring about Heaven on earth. May God help us let go of social expectations of the role of women and of men as we allow individuals to be who God created them to be and as we allow them to serve in the ways in which God set them aside to serve.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 08/11/2020

Readings: Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-27, Psalm 78: 1-7

Due to my great inability to plant things and get them to grow, I have to work really hard to keep those things that are alive in the garden to stay alive. It does not help, I guess, that all of our soil, including our pots, are full of those fat white worms that decimate the roots of the flowers and the herbs and the vegetables that I am trying to keep going. I have heard that they are called Grubs and I spend a lot of time in our pots digging them out, but I have not been able to get rid of them. Not even the miracle cure you get at the nursery that is meant to eradicate them from the life source of my pepper stalks works. It is apparent that they prefer the taste of the roots to the taste of those little bits of whatever is in that grub removal remedy. I am starting to think that the grub poison acts more like a motivation to multiply and decimate the roots than a means of bringing an end to their dynasty.

I was speaking to our neighbour the other day and she was also complaining that the soil in all of her flower beds and pot plants is teeming with these grubs and that she has found that she can get rid of them from her pots by immersing her pots in water. Apparently, the grubs float to the surface and she is able to scoop them out and dispose of them appropriately (she doesn’t throw them over the wall). I have subsequently tried this, but have only managed to drown the plant and have not found any grubs to scoop off of the top of the water.

Joshua tells the Israelites that they need to make a choice; they either need to follow God and get rid of their other gods or they need to follow their other gods and not pretend to follow God. Joshua is aware of how difficult it is to follow God and be faithful to God when we so easy revert to the gods of our own invention because the gods of our own invention are easier to follow than God. The gods of our own invention do not challenge our sin and do not teach us to love perfectly and do not drive us to end injustice and inequality. Our spirts long for union with God, with Christ, but our hearts struggle to let go of our sin.

When we make the choice to follow Christ, when we are convicted of our sin and our need for Christ, we so often try really hard to root out the sin from our lives. Time and time again we fail to do this and even though we have been born again to new life in Christ, we seem to continue living our old ones. I would like to suggest that this is true because we are not able to root out the sin in our lives. While we have not been able to defeat sin and death, Christ has defeated sin and death and so even though we are unable to root out our sin, Christ is able to; even though we cannot change our sinful nature and change our destructive attitudes, Christ can.

I don’t know if immersing a pot plant in water works for grubs yet; but immersing ourselves in Christ is the only thing that will take us on to perfect love. When we are immersed in the one who has defeated sin, when we are immersed in the Breath of Life, the Holy Spirit will bring all of our sin to the surface as we allow God to root out all of our sin and one attitude at a time, one prejudice at a time, one habit at a time, we are being drawn on to perfection. When we remain immersed in Christ, He will help us dispose of the grubs that eat away at the roots of our hearts and together we can dispose of them appropriately.

Even though I may have drowned my plant by leaving it immersed in water for a few days (I didn’t ask how long it should stay in the water or how long it takes the grubs to float to the surface and so I will be sure to ask in our next conversation), I do know that we cannot live lives worth living; Holy and live-giving lives, unless we remain immersed in Christ.

Gavin