Sunday, January 6, 2013

Overwhelmed by Joy (Year C, Epiphany 1)

Matthew 2:1-12.

 Today our gospel reading is the story of the Magi who travelled from the East to visit the child, Jesus.

As with many New Testament stories there are huge gaps in this one. Tradition has tried to fill them in, through the many nativity artworks and plays that can be seen.  In actuality, the text does not tell us how many Magi journeyed, how long the journey took or exactly where they came from.

Over the years scholars have thought the journey would have taken about two years. Whatever the time frame, it is clear they would not have visited the newborn Jesus. It has also been thought that they came from Persia (Iran).

However, a recent thesis by Brent Landau challenges that view. He analyses some recently discovered, ancient documents including the “Revelation of the Magi”. This shows references to at least twelve Magi. Landau also asserts that the most likely place they came from is China because, amongst other things, the document talks about their land being “Shir” a place where silk comes from. Landau also claims they weren’t astrologers. The word Magi, in Syriac, meant “to pray in silence”. The Magi were part of an ancient mystical sect. It is a very interesting work.  One I have only discovered in preparing this blog. John Crossan said that the document the “Revelation of the Magi” was one of the most fascinating of the recent discoveries and applauded Landau’s work on it.

Landau’s dissertation was called, “The Sages and The Star-Child” (2008) and the book is Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem (HarperOne). It is worth casting a glance at both of these.

Having said all that as an introduction, when I read this morning’s very familiar text there was one phrase that really caught my attention. It is contained in the verse “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” The phrase that caused me to stop and ponder was “overwhelmed with joy”.  

When I looked at the other readings I noticed that the same concept was found in the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 60:1-6). The phrase there is “your heart shall thrill and rejoice”.

So I pondered, what does it mean to be “overwhelmed with joy”?

Had I ever really experienced that?
Do I even know the depth of what the phrase means?

I have certainly had times in my life when I have, through circumstances, felt a great and deep happiness. Could I call those times being “overwhelmed by joy”?

For the Magi it was linked with a journey, a pilgrimage. They had spent their lives engaged in some kind of mystical journey, then they had set out on a physical journey which would not have been an easy one. Remember how hard it was and how long it took for Mary to travel the comparatively few miles to visit Elizabeth. Finally, the Magi reached their destination thus being overwhelmed with joy.

I wonder if for us, too, there is a correlation between a journey and being overwhelmed with joy. Maybe, one cannot be overwhelmed with joy unless there has been a journey preceding it. The journey is a time of preparation. Maybe it is a struggle and a hard journey. Or, maybe, it is one which is full of excitement and planning. Perhaps most often it is a mix of both. Whatever form it takes it is it is a journey which we have undertaken.

I have for many years (first in UK then in USA) been involved in co-teaching courses for people who want to foster or adopt a child. Amongst the people who want to adopt there are often people who have been unable to conceive. It has been a long and hard journey for them. Often there have six to ten years of various fertility treatments. This journey is interspersed with many disappointments and much grief. The next step on the journey is to apply to become an adoptive parent, this consists of much paperwork, FBI checks, medicals, references, home visit and inspection and a twelve week training course. Then after the completion of all this, is the wait. Every time the phone rings their heart jumps . . . is this it? Then finally a child is placed, yet for potential adopters that is not the end of the journey. The birth parent has many months to work towards their child returning home. There is usually more than eighteen months of uncertainty before the child is legally adopted. I have watched this happen many times. On those adoption days, as the journey comes to a close the parent(s) are overwhelmed by joy!

For the Magi in our story, their arduous journey was over. They saw the Christ child. They were overwhelmed with joy.

Yet that is not quite the end of the story. We are told that they immediately started on another journey the direction of which was determined by the Spirit.

I wonder, perhaps, if that is the nature of life.  We take a journey, we are overwhelmed by joy, then we start another journey . . . it is cyclical!

Our Advent Journey (Year C, Advent 4)

Our advent journey is drawing to a close. We are nearing our destination.  We are moving closer to the light. This is the last Sunday of Advent. We light the final purple candle reminding us that it is all about love. Our journey has been towards love and light.

Each year Andy and I try to undertake a journey. We go to visit our sons who are living in Arkansas and Georgia respectively. We enjoy our road trip, we like the planning and preparation. I like to give lots of attention to detail. I plan our stops. It is exciting to know we will have our mid-morning cup of tea near the civil rights district of Birmingham, Alabama and a few hours later dinner in Memphis, Tennessee.

Our advent candles are the planned stops on the advent journey. We linger and spend time with hope, peace, joy and love. We pause a moment and consider what each means. Of course, the journey is not always easy. The road is not completely smooth. The events of the last ten days have made this advent seem a rough ride. Our hearts have wept with those who suffered loss. I’m sure each of us has searched deep within as we have struggled this week with the incongruity of lighting the candle for joy in the midst of such pain.

Yet the journey continues and now we rest again with love. A very brief pause, only two more days to reflect and then we celebrate the dawning of the light, the birth of the Christ child.

In our gospel passage this morning we read Luke’s account of the beginning of the Christmas story. In this story Mary undertook a journey. Perhaps for her too it was a journey towards love and light. Mary who had just learned she was pregnant took to the road. She journeyed to the house of her cousin Elisabeth and Zechariah.

We are not told much about the journey. We merely know it was to the hill country of Judea. I suspect it wasn’t a very smooth journey. I tried to find some information about how this journey would be undertaken in Mary’s time. It would be about 120 miles, not long by our standards, but requiring several days travel and some resting stops for Mary. In probability, Mary would have joined a caravan or group travelling south towards Jerusalem. One account I read said a soldier on a horse would accompany them, although a rich man may ride a camel or in a chariot, most of the men would walk. The women would ride on an ass. The journey was over rough, mountainous terrain taking them through Samaria. They would stop at inns on route (although apparently the Samarians often closed their inns to Jews going towards Jerusalem). As they neared Jerusalem the roads became more defined and the journey would have been easier. This leg of the journey would have taken about a week.

From Jerusalem Mary would need to find another caravan heading towards Hebron for the final twenty miles or so of her journey adding another couple of days to her journey.

Even though welcoming the events I expect Mary was disturbed and confused when she left home. Who wouldn’t be! I expect the journey wasn’t merely a means to arrive at a destination but a fruitful and fulfilling experience. I hope that Mary too journeyed through hope, peace and joy as she tried to make sense of the events of the precious few days.

On our road trips, whenever we are nearing our destination, Andy and I are filled with excitement. This is because we are soon to see our sons or, on the way home, soon to sleep in our own bed! This excitement is tinged with thankfulness. We have safely undertaken our journey. Our eyes have been opened to new sights, sounds and smells along the way. We have reconnected with those we love. We are thankful when we see them happy and well.

Mary too ended her journey also with excitement and thankfulness. What an excited meeting between Mary and Elisabeth. What thankfulness pours out of their mouths. What love and light is shared between them as the prophetic voices of these two women ring out with those words that have been remembered and recited for generations. We know nothing more of the three months spent together or the return journey. Yet surely it was a time of hope, peace, joy and love helping Mary to prepare to welcome the Christ child.

We just have a few hours left to prepare welcome the Christ child. My hope is that we will use them wisely. Our hearts and minds will have benefitted from our advent journey, our time of preparation. I wish you could all join with us tomorrow night as we welcome the Christ child here in Ithaca. However, I pray that each of you, in your own locations, will be able to welcome the Christ child, the shinning light of the world with joy and thankfulness.

An Advent Lament (December 15th 2012)

Waiting, watching for the light
to shine in the darkness.

Candles flicker
hope, peace, joy and love.

This week
darkness seemed to overwhelm,
violence shattered the peace.

Parents watched and waited
Hope diminishing with every passing minute

Christmas stockings never filled
Christmas presents never opened
Christmas party dresses never worn
Christmas tree lights forever dimmed
Christmas dreams never realised

Tears flood a community
Sadness overwhelms a nation

God, arms open wide
welcomes the little ones

God, arms open wide
hugs the parents

God, arms open wide
beckons all towards the light

Waiting, watching for the light
to shine in the darkness.

Preparation (Year C, Advent 2)

Today, we read the advent story of John the Baptizer crying “Prepare”.

I want to start with a couple of thoughts about John. Some of you may have heard me say this before but I think it is worth repeating.

John is often depicted as a strange wild hermit living in the Wilderness. We have all seen the pictures, ragged clothes and long unkempt hair. These are images of the art world. Today, I wanted to put forward an alternative suggestion.

John was not living wildly in the Wilderness but had been sent to the Essenes at Qumram for training. This religious group was smaller than the Pharisees and the Sadduces. They were an ascetic monastic group who had a monastery at Qumram which was destroyed in 68AD by the Romans. It was on this site in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. It is a possibility that it was in this setting of prayer and learning that “the word of God came to John.”

This view does change how we view John. However, I do want to add that scholars are divided about this so I am just presenting it for perusal.

The second comment I want to make about John is about relationship. When Mary was pregnant she immediately turned to Elizabeth. Therefore, I think we need to remember that John and Jesus probably had a significant relationship. They were cousins. They probably grew up knowing each other. Maybe they even played together! I’m sure they would have known the circumstances of their births, the prophecies given and the connection between them.

With these two thoughts in mind a very different picture emerges. An educated, cultured John, wearing the simple robes of an Essene proclaiming that the time for his cousin to be revealed was at hand and the people need to prepare.

I do want to consider preparation. It is a very common word in our culture. We use it all the time. Last week Andy talked about how we are in a state of constant change. This fits in with the need to prepare. Not only are we constantly changing we are constantly preparing. We want to be ready, then, as soon as we are, it is time to start preparing for the next thing.

We prepare daily as we go about our lives: cutting vegetables for dinner, setting the table, washing clothes to wear later in the week, etc.  Some preparations are larger, more significant, more life-changing than others. If I think back over my life these big changes would include leaving home to go to college, getting married, each new child born, moving house, moving to a new culture, children leaving, etc, etc. I’m sure each of you could make your own list. I can still remember the excitement of preparing for these special occasions in my life.

However, I think John is talking about something deeper here than the next stage in our lives (although those are deep and significant). He is talking about something that will not only touch individual lives but will shape a culture. It is an amazing declaration that “all flesh will see the salvation of God.” (History proves that the culture was indeed changed.)

Yet we can still take the word “Prepare” and consider it for ourselves this advent. What does it mean to us? Andy asked me yesterday, “What else have we got to do before Christmas?” Of course, we were talking about doing the practical things and these too do need preparation.

Yet we can, and should, also apply that question to our spiritual lives. “What else have we got to do before Christmas?” We may not be going to do or say anything as profound or life changing as John did. Yet we can prepare. We can examine what Christmas means to us. We can seek the meaning of Christmas in our lives and homes.

Ironically, for many people, this is a really busy time of year. Sometimes I fear we lose the season in the business. So this week I want us all to heed the prophet’s words and take a little time to prepare. Prepare the way of our God.

In the Garden (Year B, Reign of Christ)

John 18:1-19:42


Today is the last day of the church’s year.


Next week we herald the beginning of the New Year with ouradvent meditations. (Year C in the lectionary)


This Sunday is designated “The Reign of Christ” when we talkabout the sovereignty of Christ. The long gospel passage spans the arrest,trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

It always seems a strange time of year to read this story. Itseems much more appropriate for Easter than when our minds are already turnedtowards Christmas! However, that may say more about our present culture: alwaysin a hurry, always rushing ahead, eager to reach the next destination, not taking time to enjoy the now!,

It is somewhat ironical that we read the Good Friday storyin the week that contains Black Friday. What a contrast! The gospel report isof a life voluntarily laid down for others and the media reports are of peoplefighting and trampling over each other in order to get the biggest and bestbargains. Selflessness versus selfishness!


Certainly, the irony continues in the gospel itself. Pilatepronounced Jesus the “King of the Jews”. The soldiers shouted, “Hail, King ofthe Jews”. Unbeknowingly, the soldiers shouted truth even though they missedthe inclusive nature of Jesus’ message. Pilate has uttered truth. The realm ofGod is amongst us.


So today, with this passage, we celebrate the reign ofChrist. We do not read of resurrection but are left with Jesus, the sovereign,laid in the tomb. This week we linger at the tomb. Actually, the story endsthere. We do not rush on to resurrection. We look at the story differently. Thisis how we close the year. The words that are left echoing in our minds are “Itis finished”. So at the end of thechurch’s year the story that is usually read as the low, sad point of Easter isactually transformed. It becomes the closing, the finale, the high point of theyear. Sadness becomes celebration!


I would have also liked to talk about Peter and how hisstory is interwoven throughout these scenes. However, we read that next week inThurston so I will exercise some patience and wait.


I do want to mention one other thing that really struck meabout this story. Actually it caused me to ponder much. It is that the storybegins and ends in a garden. (Indeed, we could say that about the whole Biblebut that is not for today)


I love our garden. I really enjoy being in it. It is a placeof peace. There is always something new to see, trees, plants, birds andanimals. A garden reflects the pattern of life with its ever-changing seasons. There is completeness about it.Whatever the season there is still a special peace about the garden. Think ofwinter with the tall bare trees and a covering of crisp white snow or summerwith the amazing array of colour. Each season is special. Each season is to beenjoyed.


This story starts in a garden. A garden which, the passagetells us, was frequented by Jesus and the disciples. Obviously it was a placeof peace, prayer and rest for them. Then the story ends with Jesus being laidin a tomb in a garden. The horrors of the story, betrayal, denial, death, aresandwiched between the peace of the garden. They are contained. They arehedged. The violence is not unruly or out of control but the violence islimited, there is a boundary and that boundary is the peace of a garden. Ifound it a powerful reading. It was helpful to linger with the story and readthe story this way.



Money and Priority (Year B, Proper 27)

Mark 12: 38-44

Recently, a young foster child was having quite a tantrum. He was angry with me. He wanted me to buy him an expensive piece of electronics. I had said, “No” and he didn’t like that!

After throwing a few insults my way finally he shouted, “Well if you didn’t buy healthy food then you would have enough money to buy me this.”

I thought of this little incident when I read this morning’s passage. I have heard this passage spiritualized, but I think that is just avoiding the issue. I think we need to deal honestly with the more difficult passages. Here, clearly Jesus is talking about material wealth.

Jesus is talking about a widow who gave pennies but it was everything, her livelihood. This is contrasted with the wealthy scribes who put in out of their abundance but still had loads to continue their rich life style. Whatever side of the house you fall on you have to admit this sounds like some recent political discussions . . . but I’ll say no more about that!

Today I want to think about this text in two ways.

The first way is illustrated by my little story. Where we put our money shows where our priority lies. What we spend our money on shows what we consider important. In this child’s eyes my buying healthy food was more important than electronics, although he would have preferred it the other way round.

Yet what it shows is the things we support/buy reflect our heart. They may, and probably will, be different for all of us. I don’t want to give details but I want to illustrate this. As you all know Andy and I are concerned for the treatment of non-human animals. This is reflected in some our giving. One of the things we do is to sponsor a pig, a lamb and some turkeys to live full and happy lives at a farm sanctuary. As the old saying goes, “put your money where your mouth is”. In other words don’t just talk about being concerned for various things but use your resources, however meager, to support them.

The second way of thinking about this illustrates again the gospel’s burden of concern for those less fortunate than ourselves. This includes very strong condemnation of those who try to make themselves look good while harming others. There is also condemnation for those who get rich at the expense of others. We need to be careful and aware of those around us. We want to do no harm to those less fortunate.

I don’t want to say any more. I think this passage is one to cause self-reflection about how we use all that God has given us. It is an opportunity to consider our lifestyles and the things we support. We want to have the heart of the widow not the heart of the scribes. We want to reflect our community value of generosity.

Faith and Healing (Year B, Proper 25)

Mark 10:46-52

I wasn’t sure whether to call this lectionary musings or eccentric ramblings!

I seemed to have a lot of unconnected thoughts about the passage rather than a coherent flow through it.

My first thought was about the connection between faith and healing. In this story we have a man who was blind who called out to Jesus and was told his faith made him well.

Over the years I have heard it said many times to many different people “just have faith and you will be healed” or “if you had enough faith you would have been be healed”.  It is almost sounds like those with faith will be healthier than the general populous. 

In my opinion this kind of thinking just puts a huge burden on those who are unwell, especially chronically unwell. Many years ago a person told me that she believed if people had enough faith they would never die. It is so sad that people have to live under that sort of shadow. To believe they are sick because they don’t have enough faith. That means they will always fall short. Personally, I think that this teaching is nonsense! We are part of a world where sickness and decay are part of every day living, a principle reflected in the changing seasons.

Please don’t hear me wrongly. I will always pray for the sick; I will always urge them to get the best medical care they can (after all that too a gift of healing from God); I will always hope for divine healing (and have seen such on occasion); I will always know that God will be there to comfort and bring peace. Yet, I would never want to attribute a lack of healing to a person not having sufficient faith . . . as Christians we do not have a magic formula that exempts us from illness!

I do think our faith is a huge help in hard times, be it sickness or any other stressful situation we are going through. It is the undergirding of our lives. It supports us. It is the constant that remains stable when our world seems to be tilting.

So with this story I think it is great that Bartimaeus was healed instantly. But I don’t want us to read into it that this is the pattern for all humanity.

The second thing I noticed is the position of this story in the gospel of Mark. Thurston has said a number of times that context is important. I don’t think the gospels are just ramblings of the authors, but carefully constructed pieces of writing to convey a message.

This story is placed in a very interesting position. It follows immediately after James and John’s request for the best place in “glory”. This was used by Jesus to teach them about servanthood. It ends with Jesus declaring that the child of humanity came to serve and would give his life. Then immediately this is illustrated by the story of Bartimaeus where someone who would have been considered one of the lowest in society being called for by Jesus. True servanthood.

The verses immediately following this story are about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem where the crowds hailed him with loud “Hosannas”. Although Jesus was honoured he was already on the journey to the cross, he was moving towards serving not being served.

This leads to the third thing that caught my attention. This was “the crowd”. In many ways it reminded me of the crowds on Palm Sunday/Good Friday (although in reverse). It made me aware of the fickleness of human nature who can go from hosanna to crucify.

Bartimaeus called out from the gutter for mercy. The crowd “sternly ordered him to be quiet”. The picture I get is that the crowd was quite angry with him.
I wonder why.
 Was it because he was in the gutter?
Do we prefer those who are outcasts to be invisible?
Would this have been different if the interruption came from a rich ruler?

Regardless Jesus stopped and called him forward. Jesus saw him (that in itself could be dwelt upon). Immediately, the crowd changed, they called out to the blind man. They encouraged him to go forward. They told him to “take heart”.

I was intrigued by this change in the crowd. How quickly this crowd changed from angry people to encouraging people. Perhaps Jesus was exposing the fickleness of the crowd mentality. I wonder how often we go along with the crowd just to remain in the majority position. We don’t want to cause ripples. Perhaps, this is what Thurston meant when she talked about “Talking back to the tradition.”

I hope we can, when necessary, stand out in the crowd. I hope we can look at our fellow human and non-human companions with the eyes of compassion. I hope we can see the “invisible”. I hope we can have the eyes of Jesus rather than simply following the crowd.

Seen and Loved (Year B, Proper 23)

Mark 10: 17-31

I want to offer some thoughts about the gospel passage today.

In our reading of Knowing Her Place this week we have been looking at two healing stories. Interestingly, today’s gospel story is part of that same section in Mark. It is in the midst of the many healing stories Mark gives us. This particular passage falls just before the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. These healing stories are often interspersed with dialogue about who is the greatest. The disciples seem to be trying to establish hierarchy.

The Thurston chapter talks about the healing of the woman with the issue of blood clearing space for the girl who was healed. The girl was able to move in as her own person rather than under her father’s shadow. Thurston says, “It is as if the young woman may now walk freely in the space cleared for her by the older woman with whose fate and whose faith she has been linked.” (pg 23)

I do want to read today’s text as one of the healing stories. As I read it I want to ask myself what does this young man need to be healed from? I also want to ask myself who or what does this story clear space for (if anything)?

The actual dialogue, as recorded by Mark, is really interesting. The young man comes to Jesus calling him “good teacher” an appellation which Jesus points out is usually reserved for God. This in itself could lead us to a great discussion about the divinity of Jesus however I do not want to linger there today.

I do want to note that by the way this young man approached Jesus he probably knew something was missing in his life. He knew something wasn’t quite right. He doesn’t seem to know what he needed “healing” from, but felt sufficient unease that he approached Jesus and fell on his knees

Jesus tells the young man he knows what to do as he has the commandments to guide him. Jesus mentions several of the commandments. However what is really interesting is in the middle of the list Jesus adds a new commandment. “You shall not defraud”.

I think that should have been striking to this young man who obviously was schooled in the commandments. Yet it doesn’t seem to have been. His response is that he has kept them all.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. I really like that. Jesus didn’t look at him and condemn or criticize. Jesus knew the shortcomings but had compassion. I think there is a lesson for all of us in how we approach our friends and acquaintances.

Then Jesus told him to go and sell his belongings and give to the poor. Throughout the gospels we see this bias towards helping the poor. Yet, Jesus did not give this command to others. Just a couple of weeks ago in Thurston we talked about Mary and Martha entertaining Jesus. It was obviously a rich household with servants, yet Jesus didn’t tell them to sell it all and give it to the poor. There are many other occasions where Jesus enjoyed hospitality by those who were rich. So what was it with this young man that evoked this response.

Personally (and I emphasize this is only my opinion), I wonder if the young man’s riches are connected with the additional commandment of not defrauding. Perhaps, he had gained the riches illicitly. Perhaps he needs healing from his greediness. Sadly, he couldn’t take the help offered. I find that makes much more sense of the story.

So who or what does this story create space for. It seems to create space for Jesus to continue to teach about the nature of the realm of God. It serves as an introduction to teaching the idea that all things are possible for God. It also seeks to emphasize the gender inclusiveness of the realm of God. Look at the list of the valuable things that one has may have to leave behind it includes women, children as well as men and possessions. Finally, this passages serves as a prelude to Jesus teaching about the journey to the cross.

Jealousy and Superiority! (Year B, Proper 21)

Mark 9:38-50

I read today’s passage.  It is quite well known. Yet something about it didn’t quite feel right when I read it alone. It was difficult to know what exactly the author is saying. There seems to be a lot of little snippets of instruction.

So I did what Anne Thurston suggests and “removed the brackets”. I didn’t let it stand alone, but read it as part of a larger section. I included all of chapter 9 and chapter 10 to see if a wider picture appeared.

And it did.  As I read I saw a different picture emerge. I saw that this section was all about superiority and jealousy. Of course, there are lots of other things in the text too, but, for today, I want to focus on these.

The larger passage starts on a high note. At the beginning of chapter 9 we have the story of the transfiguration. Peter, James and John went up a high mountain and saw marvelous things. They heard the revelation that Jesus was indeed God. What an experience! What a privilege for them!

Imagine how that left them feeling . . . perhaps a little invincible, possibly a bit superior. The experience had, as we say, “gone to their heads”.

It seems to me that the following verses are bringing them back to earth. They need to come “down the mountain” metaphorically as well as literally.

This passage is followed by a number of vignettes,

First, a story of how the disciples were unable to heal the child with a convulsive spirit. It left the question from the disciples of “Why couldn’t we do it?”

Next we read an argument between the disciples about who was the greatest. Following that Jesus told them they must be as servants.

Then we have our text for the day where the disciples tried to stop someone else casting out demons and were rebuked for that.

Followed by a bit of teaching about divorce which the disciples didn’t understand and had to ask for private clarification.

After which the disciple were again rebuked. This time for speaking sternly to those who were bringing children to Jesus. Remember in Jesus time children were seen only as property and were marginalized.

In the interest of brevity I will jump a bit to the end of the chapter where James and John asked to be granted to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands in “Glory”. We are told the other disciples were angry with them. So Jesus once again had to call them together and reiterate the way of servanthood.

All this after the heady experience of transfiguration! It is so sad that this high spiritual experience led to these feelings of superiority (stop others casting out demons, give us the best place in glory) and jealousy (others were angry).

Recently I was at a social gathering. Most of the people were extremely nice. It was all set to be an enjoyable evening. However one young man obviously felt superior to everyone else. Perhaps the experience of being hired in a good position in these times when so many get rejections had gone to his head! He started the evening by telling me and some others how all who work in schools are unintelligent and only choose that profession because they liked children rather than had a love of learning.  The attacks were not personal just general “put downs” as he continued throughout the evening. Nevertheless, although he was young enough to be my son, by the end of the evening I felt “bruised and battered” and I was “silenced”.

I recite this only because I don’t want us ever to make people feel like that in the Lindisfarne Community. I think we have found something really special between us. We all have different ministries, many of us are involved in important work, yet we can relate to each other as friends and equals. We don’t have to vie and compete we can be content in that which God has given us. We can truly help each other and support each other.

We can also relate in this same way to those around us. It doesn’t matter if they believe differently  (“not following us”). We can receive from them (they may be as Christ to us be offering us a cup of water) and learn from them. I thought it was interesting that in this text we are not offering the cup of water but receiving it. Often it is harder to receive than to give.

Today’s text also urges us to self examine and remove anything in our lives that is a hindrance to us. (Note it is not a call to judge others it is all about looking at ourselves.) It is hard to take an honest look at ourselves. We don’t always like what we see. Yet, in today’s text we read it has great reward. It is the way to stop petty jealousies and to live in harmony truly serving each other. As our text urges in the final words, “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”