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

From Gavin’s Desk 15/12/2019

Readings: Isaiah 35: 1-10, Psalm 146: 5-10, Luke 1: 46b-55, James 5: 7-10, Matthew 11: 2-11

Joy comes because hope is realised. Hope is realised when we know that the darkness has no power over us and that we have peace with the one who has authority over us. We do not need hope when we are innocent because in innocence, our hope is fulfilled and we trust our care-givers completely and we do not need hope in the presence of God because we have everything we had hoped for. Between our innocence and our death, once we have discovered that our care-givers are not always perfect, when our trust has been broken, we need hope because without hope we cannot exist and without hope, there can be no joy.

Joy is a consequence of having passed through the darkness that comes because we live outside of relationship with Christ. We have joy in Christ because we recognise how dark life is outside of Christ; who is the light of the world. We fall away from Christ slowly and enter into a space where we follow our own minds, and our desires are the goal of our existence and the more this is the case, the harder it is to find joy because when I am the centre of the world; then I have no hope, no purpose, no vision. When I am the centre, then my life becomes like the water that flows out of a basin – in order to overcome the bottle neck, gravity, friction, pressure and the rotation of the world all helps it form a spiral that is hollow in the centre. That spirals draws the water down and the further down the spiral the water is, the faster it moves. The only thing that can stop the spiral is when something big enough intersects the spiral. It is when we are in that space of hopelessness; near the bottom of the spiral when the light is dimmed, that we realise that we have taken Christ from the centre and our lives are hollow and meaningless. It is in that moment that we return to Christ and allow Him to redeem our lives that the spiral ends because our God is bigger than any vortex we will find ourselves in.

Even though our lives still need redeeming, our hope is already realised because Christ has already defeated the darkness. Christ enters into our world and turns the light on and we see that we have been chasing our own tails and we realise that we can no longer do it the way that we have been doing it.

It is in that moment of allowing Christ to intervene in the vortex of our lives that we find peace, because Christ has made peace with us and we have joy because our hope is realised. Our joy is realised in that moment we no longer rely on our own strength and our own ability to redeem ourselves but we realise that when we do all that we can in obedience to the Holy Spirit that life is redeemed. This is the Christ, the one you were looking for. Rejoice for your hope is realised in Him.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk 11/08/2019

A perfect person does not exist. A community that is made up of imperfect people can exist. A community that is made perfect despite the imperfections of those who make it up can exist. My weaknesses allow your strengths to hold us up and your weaknesses allow my strengths to hold us up. Where I am weak you are strong and it matters when you and I have the same goal, the same vision and we have found the joy in allowing each other to be a part of that vision without fear of favour, without intimidation, without insecurity. How beautiful it is when I am free to play my role in an ever developing story of hope and peace. How beautiful it is when you are free to play your role in the same story. Diverse gifts, different understanding, different steps, one goal, one unit, one dance, one vision, one hope.

Scripture so beautifully describes the people of God as a single unit, a people who are one because they are loved by God, led by God, obedient to God. The believer, set apart to make God’s boundless love known to the unbeliever. Siblings grappling with the meaning of life. One has found meaning and wants to make it known; the other has not found meaning and is not yet ready to hear. One is caring, one is careless. One is betrothed to a faithful and loving God and the other is open to anything that looks like it might bring pleasure. One has found something that satisfies their soul and the other cannot find satisfaction in anything. One is faithful to their betrothed and the other is faithful to nothing. One cares for all who need to be cared for and the other cares for themselves. One receives the affections of their betrothed and the other receives the lusts of anyone. One is served by their betrothed just as they serve their betrothed; the other only serves their many lovers but is never served in return. One wants for nothing because they have all that they need and the other wants for everything because they don’t know what they need.

The faithful servant, the noble wife, the body of Christ. A community brought together in God through faith in the reconciling work of Christ. A community that is not at war with itself, but a community in which the parts will pick up the baton when it is needed and pass it over when it is needed. A community that brings glory to the God they worship because of the way in which they give expression to the love of God that surrounds them like a blanket. A people brought together by the grace of God and learning to love each other with the help of God. Never uncomplicated, never easy, always complex, always a little chaotic, ever dynamic, ever praying, always family, always place for one more at the table.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 28 July ’19

Readings: Colossians 2: 6-23, Psalm 127, John 14: 15-24
I think that our faith journey is much like our relationship with the sea and the shore. Most people enjoy the surf whilst they are on solid ground. We play in the water at the edge of the sea so that we have what we think is the best of both worlds. A little bit of both means we experience a little bit of the power of both but never enjoy the fullness of either. When we are on solid ground, we still remain wet and a little unsteady as the water beats against us and even though we are in the water, we do not experience the full power of the ocean because we are rooted on the semi-solid ground that shifts and slides under our feet. If you want to experience the solid foundation of the earth without the destabilizing effect of the waves smashing against your legs and body; you need to get out of the water completely. If you want to experience the full power of the ocean as it sweeps everything with a little buoyancy in it up and down on the waves regardless of its weight or size; you have to get off of the land and go into the water to where you are deep enough not to have the option of standing on the semi-solid ground.
We all come to faith in Christ from a particular world view and we sometimes spend most of our lives on the edge of both our world view and our life in Christ, without really ever choosing whether we will immerse ourselves in the one or in the other. If our faith in Christ is the shore and our world view is the sea; we fail to experience the solid foundation of God because we continue to remain under the power of the pulsating and changing tides of the world’s random preferences and every time we experience crisis, we find that we do not really have any solid ground to stand on, just the little bits of shifting ground that is ultimately influenced by the motion of the water. If our faith in Christ is like the sea and our world view is like the shore, we never get to experience the full joy of being swept up and down in the powerful expressions of God’s love as we submit ourselves to Him completely as the might and glory of His work whirls on around us and we also never get to experience the tranquillity and the calmness that is a part of the soothing nature of God’s peace as He carries our soul over the still waters of His presence.
We fail to experience the full power of God’s presence in us and through us because we remain fixed in the space between God and the world. We don’t have to live without a solid foundation or a vibrancy of faith because our invitation is to trust ourselves to God fully. This trust comes with an experience of God’s faithfulness and His goodness and so the journey of committing ourselves to God fully is one that is best taken one step at a time until we are ready for Him to be our life and our purpose. Take the step and each new step after that because He is faithful and He is good.
Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Isaiah 43: 1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8: 14-17, Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

Water cleanses by virtue of the fact that it is water. That is what water does. It also gives life by virtue of the fact that it is water. The power of water to wash is not in our keeping, the power to sustain life is not in our keeping. The fact that it does is the reason we use it to wash and to sustain life. Our power only lies in our choice to use it or not.

The only time that water does not cleanse or give life is when it is contaminated by something else; something impure. If you walk alongside a river that has flowed a great distance from its source, you will know the number of things that seek to contaminate it. If you have ever cleaned up a river that is full of contaminants, both natural (from nature) and cultural (man-made) you will know the effect the contaminants have on altering the fundamental characteristics of the water. The effect is so great, that it can not really be called water anymore because it is unable to clean or give life. When you add a lot of water to sewerage; it is no longer called water, it is called diluted sewerage.

There are many ways to purify water once it has been contaminated (natural and cultural), but obviously, the best way to keep water pure is to not allow it to be contaminated in the first place.

Christ is pure and holy, cleansing and life-giving and even though He faced the same temptations as the rest of humanity, even though there was so much that was on offer that would contaminate the purity of the Son of God; He remained steadfast in His love for the Father and His commitment to the purpose of His birth. Since we have not remained uncontaminated, it is Christ who provides a way to cleanse that which has been soiled and unhelpful to the cleansing of the world and to the life giving purpose of our creation. It is Christ who baptises with the Holy Spirit and with fire, it is Christ who purifies and renews and convicts us of our sacredness; it is Christ who restores because it is Christ who has identified with us through His birth, His life, His baptism, His death. It is because Christ identified with us, we can identify with Him in our renewal, in our resurrection, in our sacredness and purity.

By being baptised; Christ said to God that He would go to the people of God and serve as God had set Him apart to serve. By being baptised; Christ owned His calling and agreed to answer it. Each time, we wash our face or our hands or the dishes is a moment in which we are reminded of how Christ has renewed us and how we are set free to bring life wherever we are. Each time we wash with water, we are presented with an opportunity to affirm our calling and renew our commitment to it.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Zephaniah 3: 14-20, Isaiah 1: 2-6, Philippians 4: 4-7, Luke 3: 7-18

There are so many songs that are written about individuals or inspired by individuals by those they have influenced. Not all of these are good and not all of them speak of how the individuals have added value to the world, but it remains an incredible thing when someone is immortalised through the words of song. What a fantastical thought that when you have simply lived your life and done what you believed to be right, it has inspired someone to burst out in song (because life really is a musical just waiting to be sung…). Through the language of emotion, they have given expression to something that has inspired them in a way that they were not fully able to express through words alone.

Zephaniah so beautifully describes God’s joy over our living fully because we are living in obedience to God when he tells God’s people that “the Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (3:17, NIV). Who would have thought that our faithfulness brings God so much joy that God Himself bursts out in song as He celebrates our happiness? What an incredible image we have before us to help us grasp the boundless depths of God’s love for us. He is always with us and is always able to help us be who He created us to be, He is delighted with us and longs to give us peace in the confusion of our lives. And when we receive that peace, He bursts into song because He is so filled with joy that we have received His joy and that we dwell in His love.

In the immaturity of our relationship with God, we view God to be cold and distant and far removed from the reality of the suffering of humanity and we are afraid of doing anything wrong because we are less concerned with the consequence of our sin for the sanctity of community than we are with God’s wrath. As we mature in our relationship with God, we discover a God who is attentive to us and we find that we are less concerned with God’s wrath than we are with the consequence of our sin for the sanctity of community. The story of Christmas is a story that helps us mature in our relationship with God as it reminds us of how God’s hearts breaks for us because we cannot see the wood for the trees and it is the story of how God breaks into song as He makes a way for our eyes to be opened to see the beauty of all that is good and pure and holy; of how He has broken down the barriers that we have built up between ourselves and God. It is not only the angels who sing at the birth of Christ; God is celebrating with song and Jesus is the song of God’s joy and the expressed words of God’s love for us.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Malachi 3: 1-4, Luke 1: 68-79, Philippians 1: 3-11, Luke 3: 1-6

I remember when I was a child; it was really exciting to receive a letter addressed to me in the post-box. I was too young to get window letters (bills) and so every letter was a friendly letter. My sister and I used to rush to the post-box to be the one to fetch in the post because there was always the possibility that there would be a letter for us (especially around April because our birthday’s are only five days apart). Even when we didn’t have post, my mom would let us open her post sometimes and this was always an exciting moment; not necessarily because of the content but because of the possibility that every single letter held in it. We didn’t always understand what was written in the letters and we were often unable to concentrate all of the way to the end of the letter; but there was always a possibility that our names would come up and that people would have thought enough about us to mention us by name. What a joy it was to discover that you were significant to somebody outside of the family.

Even better than those letters were the ones my mom wrote to others and mentioned us by name; telling them how we were doing because it was always wonderful hearing your parents boast about you to others.

I wonder if we had received window letters addressed to us at that age or if we had received fines in the post during those years if we would have been so excited to go out and fetch the mail. We long for letters, but we don’t long for those letters that call us to order because we have functioned outside of socially acceptable behaviour (the law) or ask us to commit to sacrificing for the sake of responsibility.

We long for God to intervene in the world and we see signs of that intervention in different ways and at different times (even though God always intervenes but we are not always attentive to it). Sometimes, that intervention is one of embracing and boasting of us as His faithful children and sometimes it is an intervention that calls us to order and to remember our commitment to Him because we are in a covenantal relationship and we do at times go astray. Sometimes it is an intervention of correction because we are complicating the relationship that we have with God and that others have with God. The great big love letter from God to us that we have in the Word of God and the smaller letters that we have in the intervention of others in our lives are never bad letters and we never have to fear God’s presence and word in our lives because every single letter, note, memo, email from God is good because everything from God is good.

It can be no other way and so we never have to fear that which comes from God because it not only holds great possibility but it holds within it an eternal possibility that brings with it the best of love, peace , joy and hope.

Receive the gift of life this season as God gives you the gift of His Word. Receive Jesus. Receive God’s profession of love for you.

Gavin  

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Psalm 25: 1-22, 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13, Jeremiah 33: 14-16, Luke 21: 25-36

It is incredible how our body joins together with our minds to help us work out what we are feeling. Our non-verbal communication most often speaks louder and more clearly than our words as we seek to give expression to what is going on beneath the surface. When our favourite team or individual wins a point in whatever game we support we jump in celebration with our hands held high – we know by our response that we are very happy and excited and grateful. When they loose a point, we hunch over and our mood becomes sombre. For those who are a little better at controlling their initial responses, you will still see the signs (even if they are only by viewing the edge of the mouth as they lift or droop a little and the tone of the voice as a gruff “umm” is breathed out in muffled excitement or in a more sombre tone).

When we are sad and depressed or ill, we more often than not draw into ourselves (there are those who would believe that it is because we are trying to get ourselves back into the foetal position), When we are happy and full of confidence, we walk upright (unless you are teenager who has to walk with stooped shoulders because it is a matter of course) and we push our chest out and swing our arms and make big movements with our head held high.

The liturgical Churches have understood this concept long before psychology as a science was able to be able to put words to it. Whenever we thank God or praise God in our prayers, litanies and worship, we normally stand with raised hands (sometimes) and when we are asking God for something or when we seek mercy in repentance, we kneel or we are seated. Our bodies and our words help us to understand what it is we are experiencing within our hearts.

In this season of preparation we stand with our hands held high as we worship God for coming as an infant in order to offer us the fullness of live; to save us from the darkness within ourselves and within the brokenness of the world (and it really makes no difference whether Christmas is the exact day or not; it is so vital that we have a day on which we can remember the greatest love story of all eternity with consistent regularity…)

We stand with hands held high as we anticipate His second coming with joy and excitement even as we face the disarray of the world without becoming overwhelmed by the disorder – we celebrate and long for His second coming because in Him; we know that all things will be brought under His authority and be a part of His peace.

We stand with hands held high because we know that He has already come into our hearts and so we have the incredible privilege of being a part of the peace and harmony He brings into this world of disorder. We become the rational voice that speaks into the face of the folly of mankind because we speak as representatives and friends of God most High, the God most worthy of all praise. Let us help the world celebrate the coming of Christ with us as we actively prepare our hearts for this celebration of live. Remember the story. Live the story. Tell the story.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Hebrews 10:11-39, Psalm 16, Acts 2: 25-41

Imagine how much easier exercise would be if there was no resistance to it. Imagine if we could run without the wind blowing us backwards while we try and move forwards; imagine if we could run long distances without our legs and feet and lungs arguing with us every step of the way. I guess though that if there was no resistance there would be no exercise. If you could lift heavy weights without any effort at all, you would not need to lift heavy weights in case you one day needed to lift heavy weights and if there was no resistance; then nobody would be buff (well-toned) and if nobody was buff, nobody would want to be buff and so nobody would need to lift heavy weights in order to be buff.

Life would be a lot easier if there was never any resistance to the things we wanted to do. Imagine never having to argue with someone about which road is the better one to take in order to get somewhere or at least have a desire to argue about which road is better (because sometimes we want to argue; but just don’t argue about that kind of thing because experience has shown that it isn’t going to help in matters like these).

Imagine beginning a work and knowing that the next step after this one is the one that you planned when you started the job because everyone will do exactly what they are meant to do and you will not have to repeat or redo anything because someone disagreed with you or failed to pull their weight or actually did something that actually made it much harder for you to do what needed to be done. Life would be easy, but then we would also never be emotionally or spiritually or socially buff (mature).

This kind of a life would be simple and uncomplicated, but if it is impossible when we are on our own; how much more impossible is it when we are a part of a community because even our close friends reason and think and work (and don’t work) in a way that is not our own. We are not even consistent in everything ourselves, how much less can we expect the world around us to be consistent. We grow because of resistance, we mature because of obstacles, we learn from arguments and we even learn from arguments that are never going to be resolved. It is because of resistance that we learn how to adapt, it is because of resistance that we learn how to do things in more ways than one (why would anybody want to skin a cat in the first place); it is because of resistance that we achieve our potential and become who we were created to be.

God had a plan, but as God was moving one step forward with creation, we moved a whole heap of steps backwards. God still had a plan and even though it was going to take a little longer, He would be one with His creation because God created it and it was good and God will make it good again. We still choose whether we will work against God or work with God, whether we will draw close to Him or reject Him.I wonder how often I (and we) extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit, yet even in this God is never mistaken and He continues to invite us to help Him fan the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Gavin  

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Hebrews 7: 11-28, 1 John 1: 14, Jeremiah 31: 31-34, Psalm 34: 1-8, Luke 18: 35-42

The world of art is such an incredible world. The ability of those who can study a piece of art and know whether any given piece is an imitation of the work or if it is the real thing is beyond me. Clearly I do not look at the art with the same diligence or interest or passion that the experts do. I do not follow any particular artist enough that I would know their work let alone follow them to the degree that I would know how they worked or what materials they used to create the paint they needed to paint with. I would barely know if they used water based paint or oil based paint or some other concoction that they put together out of the petals of the flowers that they found growing in their garden. I wouldn’t know if I am holding a million rand investment in my hands or a twenty rand knock off of the original that was mass produced in order to turn a profit and help those who couldn’t afford the original appreciate the work of the artist in their own space.

Although the imitation is not the real, it doesn’t mean that we are not able to experience some of the emotion and appreciation that the artist had for whatever they were painting. The imitation does help us see into the heart and mind of the painter; it still helps us see their joy or their sadness or their playfulness. The imitation does help us engage with our eyes even though we do miss out on the details, like the texture or the smell or according to the experts a whole lot of extra detail.

All of the law, all of the traditions and rituals, all of the celebrations in the Old Testament are used by the Hebrews to help them understand who God is; and who they should be by virtue of the fact that they are God’s people. Everything in the Old Testament is an imitation of Christ who is the real. Everything that we did not understand or could not make sense of makes sense in Christ. The sacrifices, the high priests, the Holy of Holies all come together in Jesus because in Christ we come to experience fully all that we have understood in part. As we fall deeper in love with God by spending time in His presence; as we grow in our appreciation of the original so we begin to recognize how the Master worked and what materials He used to create the work of His hands. Whether we are analyzing technique and tools or simply just sitting and enjoying the beauty and wonder of the work, we are drawn into the heart and the mind of the one who put it together. We are led to wonder what made God create all of this. We are led to ask why Christ redeemed all of this. And in our questions we find the answer comes in the peace that fills us as we dwell in His presence and marvel at His work. We look into the face of Christ and we know that we are loved and that there is nothing more to it. Everything else helps us define that love, but the experience of love is found in the real, the experience of love is found in the beauty of the God upon whose face we can gaze in Christ Jesus.

Gavin