From Gavin’s desk 27/09/2020

Readings: Exodus 17: 1-16, Psalms 78: 1-16

Have you ever wondered what the sole of your shoes see and what difficulties they endure throughout the time they spend protecting your feet? How often have they protected you from thorns, hot surfaces, icy surfaces, moist grass and rough paths? How often have you walked through urine, saliva and pesticides without knowing that the soles of your shoes had faced the danger for you and protected you from something that would make your stomach turn had they not been there? I think it is only when we walk through things like bubble gum and prestick on a hot day or through the parcels dogs leave behind on any day that we are actually made aware that we have been saved from a fate we would rather not embrace. It is unfortunate, however, that we are normally only aware that we have been saved from that fate after we have dragged the mess into the house with us and are needing to clean the floor and our shoes even if we don’t have to clean our feet.

Diabetics know all too well the importance of having a good pair of shoes that will protect them from sharp objects and from hot surfaces and from anything that will hurt their feet. For a person whose extremities are incredibly vulnerable to infections, a good pair of shoes are without doubt a firm favourite and a decent soul on those shoes are a life-line to a life that can be spent outdoors. How much more do they appreciate good shoes than someone who is able to be a little more careless with their feet?

When the Israelites had entered the wilderness and were getting to know God and God’s ways, I wonder how often they were unaware of how much God protected them and how often they knew what it was He protected them from? I wonder how often they took God’s presence and protection for granted and failed to see the incredible testimony that lay in that which they assumed was their right. God has made His presence known to them in visible and tangible ways and they still fail to appreciate everything that is taking place. God uses the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and He uses the staff of Moses as a sign of His presence. He uses victory over their enemies as a sign of His protection. He uses the manna and quail and water as a sign of His provision. God is everywhere and at work in every area of their life, yet they fail to see the full extent of what they have endured in their travels because the LORD their God has done everything for them that they were unable to do for themselves.

How often do we fail to appreciate God’s goodness, God’s provision, God’s wisdom as we walk through the ups and downs of our life? How often do we assume God’s protection and provision as our right even when we make community harder for everyone rather than holding it together? I think we will never be fully aware of how often God carries us through situations because they are beyond our capacity to manage and I think that if we were a little bit more aware of God at work in our lives, we would bear incredible testimony to the one who gave us life, to the one who saved our life, to the one who teaches us daily how best to live our life. Open our eyes Lord, so that we would see those moments in which you are at work, those moments where we are not aware of your presence, of your protection and of your provision.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 20/09/2020

Readings: Exodus 15:22 – 16:36, Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45

If someone were to give you a gift of a chocolate bar, you would be able to eat it straight away and then it would be finished, or if you had incredible amounts of will power (for those with a sweet tooth), you could save some for another day and eat it then. Whenever it is eaten, it would no longer exist in its current form. If, however, they gave you the gift of their presence, then they would be giving you a gift that you cannot save for another day. That is something you have to enjoy in the moment and dwell in for as long as you can.

It turns out that the manna that God gave to the Israelites is more like the gift of presence than the gift of chocolate. It was a symbol of God’s presence that also sustained them physically. It was just like the pillar of cloud in the day and the pillar of fire at night. In the manna, we see the presence of God and it is not something we can save for later; it is something that we dwell in now for as long as we can.

The way in which the manna worked, is an incredible example of how grace works. God told each person to take enough every day and whether they gathered a lot or a little; it still turned out to be an omar (2½ litres). Regardless of what they gathered, it was always just right and exactly what they needed. You cannot have too much or too little of God’s grace; you will always have exactly what you need because God gives you exactly what you need. God is doing the work; He is giving and you are receiving. It is also exactly what you need in the moment. Tomorrow you will have exactly what you need for tomorrow. You can’t keep any grace until then because you cannot store God’s grace. Manna and grace are not a ‘something’, they are the gift of God’s presence in the moment and in God’s presence; there is nothing we do not have that we need.

God poured His gift of life out over the Israelites every day as He continued to invite them into communion with Himself. When God gives Moses His name and reminds him to tell His people who He is; He says that His Name is YHWH (I am who I am, I will be there, howsoever, I will be there, I am present, whatever is going on, I am present). God’s presence is the greatest gift we could ever receive and it is a gift that has no end, it is a gift that can never be used up, it is a gift we cannot save for later. God’s presence is an ongoing expression of God’s love and God is eternal. In His presence we are called simply to dwell, we are called to enjoy it in the moment, every moment. Why do we think we will wait for a better time to enjoy the gift of fellowship with God?

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 06/09/2020

Readings: Exodus 4: 18-31, 12: 1-14 (12:1 – 13:16), Psalm 149, John 19: 16b-41

Which moments in your life have been particularly significant for you? Which moments have affected the way you understand the world and your place in it? Which moments have helped you understand the significance of things you thought you understood before?

With regards to my understanding of God and my understanding of family as we come together with the family that we are born into through the Spirit of God, I think that every time I take Communion, every time I accept Christ’s invitation to come to the table He has prepared for me; I have one of these moments. Even the litany that is pretty common amongst most denominations just blows my mind as it helps me remember the origin of Communion.

We praise you, Lord God, King of the universe, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who on the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: “Take this and eat it. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me”. In the same way, after supper, He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying: “Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me”.

The night in which Christ was betrayed was the night before the Passover meal would have been celebrated normally, but as the Lamb of God, Christ had to die before evening, before Sabbath, before the Passover. Jesus may have celebrated the Passover meal a day early with His disciples or He may have just used certain parts of the liturgy for the meal, knowing that they would understand what He was saying. The breaking of the unleavened bread represented the lamb that was slain as well as the anticipation of the Messiah that was to come. The wine represented the blood that was shed in order for the freedom of the Jews to be realised. It was the blood shed by the slaughtered lamb that became a stark reminder of the cost of sin and the reality of death. When the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and they started to put into words their experience of this moment, they started to understand the full implication of the meal they had celebrated their whole lives and the way in which that meal found its fulfilment in Christ. The meal was a celebration and a prophecy. It celebrated their freedom from slavery from Egypt by the hand of God and it prophesied how God would again save them from slavery, but this time He would save them from slavery to sin and death and the only lamb that would be good enough to do that was God Himself.

What a mind blowing, life altering revelation it is knowing that the fellowship we share at the rail today has been in place in one form or another since the time of Moses and even as it reminds us of what has gone, it continues to tell us what is to come. We look forward to that day when we will share in the meal and not in the foretaste, that day when we will be fully united with Christ. This has been a story that was written even before time came into existence and how incredible to know that we are a very real part of it.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 30/08/2020

Readings: Exodus 2:11 – 4:17, Psalm 105: 1-26, 45b

There are over-thinkers and under-thinkers and every thinker in between. There are those who rush in and work it out as they go, oblivious to the dangers that surround them and there are those who never go in because they are busy thinking through every possibility and turning every mole hill into a mountain. There are those who are painfully unaware and those who are painfully hesitant. Middle of the road is always the best place to be, but I think it is the over-thinkers and the under-thinkers who help move us forward. The under-thinkers move us forward by force because they rush in and if everyone around them doesn’t follow and scramble to pick up the pieces, it all falls apart. This forward though is often not the forward we wanted to be heading forward into. Over-thinkers move us forward by being ready for the next crisis because they spent so much time thinking through things during the previous crisis that they are ready only when the next similar crisis comes around. Under-thinkers cause things to happen and over-thinkers help us understand why it happened. Under-thinkers create the graph and over-thinkers draw the graph.

I know that in many cases, over-thinking and under-thinking is a natural tendency but I think that for most people, the process of maturity is the process through which we go from one to the other and then to a middle ground. When we are innocent, we just do things because we are not aware of the consequences and as we become more and more aware of the consequences so we begin to over-think things until we get to that point where we realize that there isn’t enough time to worry that much about consequences and we head back towards impulsivity with wisdom. A child will eat chocolate late at night because a child doesn’t know that it will keep them awake and that in turn will keep the adults awake, which means that the adults are grumpy the next day and the children are in trouble for things that they didn’t get into trouble for yesterday. Parents will over-think giving children chocolate late at night because if the children stay awake, they stay awake and everybody is crying tomorrow so it is better not to do that. Grandparents will give the children chocolate to eat late at night because it’s nice to make the children happy while they can and as a bonus feature, they are sending the children home oblivious to the fact that the children are keeping their parents awake and will remind the parents in the morning to be gentle with their children.  

Moses impulsively stands up for the children of Israel and kills an Egyptian who is abusing a Hebrew but then discovers that if you can do something bad for a good reason; you can do something bad for a bad reason. By the way they respond to him, the Hebrew people teach him this lesson and by the way the Pharaoh wants to kill him he learns another one. After 40 years God calls Moses to bring the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and Moses wants to over-think it. While he agrees with the concept in theory, he uses any excuse that he can think of why it should not be him who puts the concept into practice. If he goes back, he will have to face his past, his shame, his guilt. God is sending him to free him as much as God is sending him to free the Israelite people. There will come a time in which Moses will know the privilege he had in being a part of the Exodus and he will know that he should have resisted less and trusted God more.

Always think, but be careful of the extremes. Don’t destroy community by being impulsive or extend the agony by over-thinking. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit as God calls you to partner with Him in setting His people (all people) free from whatever their prisons are. This is the greatest privilege and joy you will ever have a share in being a part of. Resist God less and trust God more.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 23/08/2020

Readings: Exodus 1: 1-2:10, Psalm 124

In times of personal crisis that comes from a decision we’ve made; we have an opportunity to reflect on the reason why we ended up in this crisis and that is normally accompanied by regret for doing or not doing something because it may have prevented the crises and so we say a lot of “if only I had…”. This bargaining process doesn’t really help us move on but it does help us think a little deeper about the consequences the next time we choose a particular course of action.

The other side of this is where we celebrate the fact that we made a seemingly insipid decision that led to us being saved from a crises. The expression “A near miss” almost doesn’t make sense for this kind of a moment because a near miss sounds very much like a close hit, but as an expression it speaks of an unplanned event that does not result in injury or damage. Thank heavens I decided to put a seatbelt on just before we had the accident because if I hadn’t done that I would have been in the street right now having passed through the windscreen instead of stepping out of the door. I’m glad I decided not to go to the beach for ice-cream when I hear how the water flooded the shop at the time I would have been there.

Spur of the moment decisions that prevent us from suffering loss are not that different to spur of the moment decisions that bring trouble. Spur of the moment decisions with serious consequences are often decisions that are neither here nor there when we make the decision, but timing and a lack of concentration can lead to an event that is significant. Whether I turn left and then right at this intersection or left and then right at the next intersection might not make a difference in a simple world, but in a complex one; the drunk driver who was not able to pay attention and my thinking about what I needed to do before the meeting combine at the next intersection resulting in an accident. There are so many variables at work in the world that we will never be able to avoid all incidents, but we can avoid most of the incidents if we are paying attention to what is going on around us at all times.

Some decisions are not decisions that we should make on the spur of the moment, because some decisions are not decisions that are neither here nor there because those decisions determine which of our potentials we will grow into. Choosing to glorify God, to worship Him with our lives and to trust our lives to His Spirit is one of those decisions. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is the most important decision you will ever make because it is the one decision that will determine whether you will fulfill the potential of your creation or whether you will fulfill the potential of your fallen nature. When the Psalmist writes: “thank God that God was on our side because if He wasn’t on our side, we would have been destroyed”, it is a prayer of gratitude for a life-long decision to follow God. It is not a prayer celebrating the chance avoidance of an incident, but a prayer celebrating a choice to follow God and be on God’s side because that is what will ensure that God is on our side. When we are doing what God is doing, then God is on our side. When we face opposition for being faithful then God is on our side. Pay attention to your faith. Pay attention to your relationship with God. Pay attention so that you will know when God is saving you from trouble. Pay attention so that you will know when God is using you to save someone else from trouble.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 16/08/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – The Church as a safe space

Readings: Ezekiel 47: 1-12, Revelation 21:22 – 22:5, 1 Timothy 2: 1-15

One of the gifts we have been given by God is the gift of music. Music, regardless of genre, has the ability to help us give expression to those emotional experiences that we may not have words for. Some music helps us celebrate our joy, some helps us weep our tears, some gives words to our desires, some helps us give life to our experience of longing, of melancholy, of fear, of serenity and of any emotion experienced by humanity. Music has been a part of creation from before humanity was a part of creation. The first wind that blew through the first leaves heard creation’s song of praise to the Creator.

I think the most incredible musical experience for every person is an orchestra (or band or group or duet) that is so well connected with itself that the heart of the composer is fully expressed in their harmony and those who are hearing it, including the members of the orchestra, are able to connect with those emotions as the music provides the space for them to realize those same emotions that lay within their own hearts.

When each member of the orchestra has their focus on the conductor and is attentive to the other players; then they form a part of this incredible experience in harmony with the other players. When each member of the orchestra has their focus on the conductor then it becomes a way in which we can be transported to a place of worship for who we have been created to be. For that moment we are safe to experience our own souls as the music provides the place for it to be expressed. When the focus is on the other players, the members lose sight of the conductor and the music of life turns into a cacophony of heartache.

As those whose eyes should be fixed on the Great Composer (God the Father), led by the Great Conductor (God the Holy Spirit) and the Lead Musician (God the Son), the music of our lives should bring all people into an experience of the heart of God as together we glorify the God who wrote the music of life and together we help bring the experience of God alive for others to become aware of what is going on in God’s heart. There is not a single person who is more important than another, there is not a single instrument that is of greater value than any other; the triangle carries as much weight as the violin because if even one is missing or out of time, the music is not as complete and perfect as it should be.

Every member of the Church is a part of this orchestra and as with an orchestra where no instrument is particular to a specific gender or race or culture or language, so neither should any ministry within the church be particular to a specific gender or race or culture or language. In the same way that we choose not to hear a beautiful piece of music because we don’t believe a particular gender should be playing an instrument, we will not receive the message of God because we believe the Holy Spirit would not gift a particular gender with a particular gift. It is the prejudice we find exhibited in the church that we take into our homes and find manifested in our relationships. It is the poor understanding of the sacredness of all of creation that is expounded in our places of worship that we find being put into practice in our communities. It is the lies we tell ourselves with the backing of a pulpit that ensures we do not remain free from fear and violence.

Keep your eyes fixed on the Great Composer, be led by the Great Conductor and the Lead Musician so that your life will be in harmony with the music of life and that the song of your heart that is expressed in your words and actions will offer healing to the nations.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 09/08/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Social Holiness and GBV

Readings: Genesis 38: 1-30, Matthew 5: 13-16, Psalm 67

Why is there so much litter the world throughout? Because the number of people who litter are more than the number of people who clean up and the litterers litter more than the cleaners can clean. Why is their so much pollution in the world? Because the number of people and industries polluting the world pollute it at a rate that is more than the natural cleaners are able to handle. Not only do we pollute the world but we remove the world’s ability to heal itself. We emit all kinds of things into the atmosphere and then we remove the trees that clean the air in order to make space for more things that will pollute the air. We dirty the rivers and we interfere with the natural filtering process of the rivers in order to make life a little more comfortable for us. All that we have done in making things easier for us is to ensure that we enjoy this new freedom from labour with reduced lung capacities and gut health and with an increase in the number of diseases we face. We have created a system in which everyone loses instead of everyone wins.

I think that the systems we create with regards to relationships and care have always reflected a similar tendency. Our systems ensure that power is in the hands of some and their actions do not benefit the whole because we are imperfect beings trying to ensure that we and those we know are comfortable. This has to come at the expense of others. Some are exalted and others are denigrated. Some are comfortable and others are not. Some are protected by a system that hurts others. We have created a system where there is no equality and that inequality may swing from one side to the other as the seats of power change, but always the system empowers some while it disempowers others.

This cannot be what life is about. A world where one tribe or nation or clan is able to convince another tribe or nation or clan that they are less is a world that is broken. A world in which one race or gender or age or religion can convince another race or gender or age or religion that they deserve the hurt is a world that is broken. A world in which the different classes become the means of classification in terms of personal worth and value is a world that is broken.

Christ came to fix the brokenness. Christ came to save us from our biggest enemy and that I believe is ourselves. Death is a consequence of our sin and Christ’s defeating death and sin is Christ’s giving us back the gift of life. Christ came to change the system that we have created. Christ came to usher in a new era, an era in which the Kingdom of God, Eden, is the norm; but we have chosen to follow our rebellious nature and selfish hearts rather than the way of Christ. We have chosen to create god in our own image and that god is always going to be on our side. God is always going to love us, but that does not mean He is always going to be on our side because God cannot agree with our systems. God created everyone equally and with value and worth and I think that God’s heart breaks at the way we continue to keep our systems in place; those systems that elevate some and denigrate others. God is Holy and has created us all in His own image and our holiness is to be found in the way we live within the boundaries of His Kingdom; in the way that we regard the value of every person.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 02/08/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – The silenced and nameless women

Readings: Mark 5: 25-35, Mark 10: 46-52, Psalm 55

I think we would be surprised to learn how many people walk around with a darkness lurking inside of them, a darkness that comes from a sense of loneliness because they have endured things they cannot share with the world. A split takes place where there is an outside face that can be shown to the world, and there is another face, filled with the look of desperation or desolation that the world cannot see. I think so many of us carry these burdens that we shouldn’t have to carry but feel powerless to get the load off of our backs and we don’t know the way out of the darkness. When we walk in the light it is good, but as soon as we come face to face with the darkness, we are afraid and we are paralysed and we can only wish that it would sort itself out. By the grace of God, there are moments in which we will face the darkness and fight against the paralysing effect that it has on us and we come out of it stronger and more whole.

This woman that reached out to touch Jesus had one of those moments. She faced her darkness, her shame and she knew that she was more than she had been made to feel, more than those around her told her she should feel; more than she told herself she should feel. She reached out and she knew in touching the edge of His cloak that she was healed. The burden she had carried for so many years melted away in the face of Jesus paying attention to her. Her darkness was brought into the light and the light dispelled her fear and loneliness and she knew that she was free to be who she knew that God created her to be. She was free to be a part of society, she was free to be a part of worship and she was free to sing her praises to the God who set her free. All she did was reach out for help and in Christ she found life.

She may be nameless to us and she may have been referred to as “that woman that was bleeding for twelve years” since the time of Christ; but to God “that woman” has a name and to God she had a prayer because sometimes our pain and our agony in the midst of the darkness is our prayer. When all we can offer God is our experience of hopelessness, then that becomes our prayer. Even if we don’t know what we are needing to ask for or even how to ask for it, our prayer is heard and God brings healing.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 26/07/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Mind your Power

Readings: 2 Samuel 11: 2-27, Matthew 20: 20-28, Psalm 51



I think that one of the most iconic internationally recognised expressions of later years is “mind the gap”. This is an expression that comes from the British rail system and has been extrapolated across manifold contexts, in many nations and hardly has anything to do with the rail system at all for many of the people who use it.

Mind the Gap means that we should pay attention to the gap in front of us and we should cross that gap with caution lest we misstep. There are many gaps that we need to pay attention to. We need to pay attention to the disparities and the gaps that exist along gender lines, along racial lines, along age lines and generational divides, along political lines, along economic lines and along countless other lines. There are so many gaps that we assume don’t exist and more often than not; if we see that it does exist, we assume that it is because you are far away from me rather than we are far away from each other. Every “Gap” conversation is filled with emotion and becomes a debate about who is right and who is wrong and about which action is more or less good and evil when all along; we need to understand that the gap is not because of the train or the passenger; it is a present reality and we need to pay attention to it to make sure that we don’t get stuck in it but that we use our energy closing the gap properly. When we see the gap that exists and we do everything we can to minimize the gap so that everyone can be on the same train, then it is healthy. The train is not a gravy train but a train that leads us all to a new tomorrow where everyone is treated equally because they have the same ticket that leads to the same destination.

There is a gap that exists that seems to be getting harder to bridge than the other gaps and that is the “power gap”. It seems that the darker side of human nature becomes apparent when anyone who believes they have power over another for whatever reason becomes untouchable. They believe they are untouchable when the gap that exists in their minds between them and those without power is great enough to keep their intentions and actions hidden and should it be revealed they believe that the gap is big enough to keep them safe. Power does corrupt and it takes an incredibly strong will to remain honest when power presents an appetising taste of being above others. It also creates its own demons as even the allure of power and the possibilities it presents corrupts the heart of humanity.

We all have power over something or someone, we all have the ability to hurt something or someone who is vulnerable to us and we all have to decide whether we will keep the gap closed or whether we will let it widen. We all decide whether we will use our power for the intended responsibility of building up that which has made itself vulnerable to us or whether we will widen the gap by using our power to benefit our own desires. Pay attention to the power that has been given to you and pay attention to why it was given to you and pay attention to how God is guiding you to use it in order that His Kingdom may be the reality of your world.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 19/07/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Silence is not always consent

Readings: Isaiah 1:10-31 (1-31), Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2, Matthew 26:57-68, John 8:2-11

The forces of nature are powerful and they don’t hold much sway for the personal preferences of individuals. The gentle breeze we feel blowing across our face on a warm summer day brings refreshing or irritation out of the same action. It is refreshing if we receive it as that and it is irritating if we dislike the wind blowing in our faces. A thunderstorm that fills the sky with flashes of lightning as it rages around us brings a sense of awe for the Creator, a sense of pleasure for the light show that is before us, a sense of joy for the negative ions in the air, a sense of relief for the rain that quenches a parched land, a sense of fear for those who are not accustomed to it, a sense of anxiety for those who hide under the covers and a warning for those who take cover under the trees. The same storm that is received in a number of ways holds no concern over how it is received. A warm summer day gives life to some and lethargy to others. A cold winter day gives life to some and lethargy to others. Forces of nature do not care whether we are in agreement with them or not. They don’t care whether we are vocal or silent about what is happening. Their power places them outside of the range of our voice.

We are too often faced with people who live theirs lives as if they were a force of nature. We are too often faced with people who believe that their words and actions are placed outside of the range of our voice. We are too often faced with those who don’t care whether we are vocal or silent because they will do what they have thought to do whether there is disagreement or not.

In order to stand against a force of nature, you would need to oppose it with an equal force (since a greater force would simply create another force we would need to oppose when it becomes destructive). Those who assume they are above the law and above contradiction need to be brought to account by those whose voice is loud enough and clear enough to do that, although it is more often than not going to be a collection of voices that will accomplish this rather than a single voice.

In Dr. Seuss’ Horton hears a Who!, every Who in Whoville has to add their voice to the whole in order to save their speck of a world that nobody except Horton believes exists. It is when the body of Christ raises their voices together that we are able to ensure that the voice that stands opposed to violence and fear is never silent and that it is never destructive. When the Church is obedient to the God they worship, it’s voice can only bring healing as we share the gift of life, the grace of God, with a world intent on destroying itself.

Gavin