Friday, 25 November 2011

Advent Hope

Peter Lockhart

As we begin the period of Advent I am again confronted by the commercialisation of the Christmas Celebration in the Western world. The gluttony and waste that we engage in should embarrass us all. Sadly, this situation has arisen in part out of the misunderstanding and misdirection of the goodwill and generosity of Christian people.

In past decades generosity at Christmas had real meaning even in our culture where life was certainly not as easy as it is now. Well meaning Christians acted to show God’s love to family members and friends by the giving of gifts and preparation of special dinners. Even the presence of St Nicholas visiting had a deeper meaning.

Over the years as our wealth grew the gifts became bigger and more extravagant, the special dinners become lusher and even excessive. What had begun with good intentions as a signs of God’s love became unintentional misconstrued as obligation and canny marketers took advantage of the Christmas binge.

The story of how we came to celebrate so lavishly is one of those stark reminders how even when we seek to do the ‘right’ thing it can end up so wrong.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar called the Advent Conspiracy. It was a timely reminder of what Christmas is really about and encouraged me to think again and whom I will offer my generosity to this year – family & friends who have all they need and more, or those in the world who are in dire need of the basic necessities for life?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Advent 1: Dirty Undies

by Peter Lockhart

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

Today we begin what is known as Advent. It is a time of reorienting ourselves towards the promise of the coming of Jesus into the world – not simply his historical coming but his promised coming in the future.

As we begin this journey of 4 weeks leading into remembering the birth of Jesus, the very first reading, recorded in the lectionary from Isaiah, confronts us with a Psalm of lamentation of the Jewish people about their feeling of separation from God, including this confession of sin.

Isaiah’s prophecy occurred in tumultuous times for the people of God threatened as they were by internal divisions and external pressures especially from the ancient Assyrian power.

It is this confession that draws us into our own contemplation of who we are, and of whose we are.

For Isaiah the confession found in verse 6 begins with an admission that the people had become unclean. The language here is beyond most of our everyday understanding because for the Jewish people to be unclean was to be unable to come into God’s presence and God’s holiness. Someone who was unclean could not approach God and the source of such uncleanness was sin.

The description in the verse of sin is twofold: firstly, so-called righteous deeds gone wrong; and secondly, iniquities, or wrong doing, carrying the people away.

I want to dwell on the first of these issues for a moment, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” The criticism and confession contained within these words are confronting. Even the deeds that the people had done thinking that they were doing the right thing are no better than filthy clothes.

As I was reading about this image a couple of the commentaries pointed out that this phrase actually means dirty undergarments. To rephrase Isaiah it is like saying that those things that you think you are doing that are good are really like that pile of dirty undies on your floor.

But it is not just that they were missing the mark when it came to doing good deeds it was also that they had been caught up in their iniquities as if being blown by a strong wind. A seemingly small error catapulted into the path of a rushing wind and so caught up in the wind unable to resist its power and force.

The consequences of their iniquities were having effects beyond their vision and understanding. Like an avalanche of idolatry their behaviours drove them away from God and had escalating consequences. These are strong words but any time people are moving away from God they are moving into idolatry – replacing God and God’s ways with something else.

Now Isaiah sites one of the reasons for this as God’s silence and supposed inaction, saying, “because you hid yourself we transgressed.”

Of course, blaming God’s silence for transgression doesn’t really cut the mustard but Isaiah’s lament reminds the people and prophesies appealing to God and reminding the people: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.”

At the heart of Isaiah’s lament is this conviction that even if God’s people have become immersed and enmeshed in their transgression they are still God’s people and God is their God, silent or not!

In this the lament beginning in Isaiah 63 and carrying into chapter 64 is focussed on memory. It is about God remembering the covenant relationship with the Israelites and the people remembering that they are indeed God’s people.

As an aside the liturgical act of remembrance within the life of the church is called anamnesis. It is a word that I appreciate because it sounds so close to that word for forgetting in our won language amnesia. In the church and for Israel anamnesis is the antidote to amnesia – remembering the story of God even if we did not know we had forgotten it!

This serves as a bridge from Isaiah’s time to our own. The Israelites were really struggling to be faithful in their relationship with God and it was the lonely voice of the prophet that confronted them with their errant ways. The people had been seduced into idolatry without even being aware.

This is the same issue present in every age of Israel and the church: the forgetting of God and God’s ways and the seduction of alternate views of life and the world. As the book of Ecclesiastes might say, “there is nothing new under the sun”.

In our era we might speak of the Babylonian Captivity of the church in terms of the consequences of things like the enlightenment and humanism. The enlightenment which was so full of promise for humanity and has no doubt brought many blessings with it but like Isaiah’s lament may be seen as being like dirty undies on the floor.

It has brought us great thinking and high standards of living and even notions of the possibilities of humanity but it has also bought with it the rise of rampant individualism, where my rights are more important than the notion of community. It has brought with it the rejection of God and the rise atheism, in favour of an anthropocentric view of the Universe.

We might also speak of the problems of imperialism and nationalism which have lead nations to war and to the subjugation and exploitation of other nations.

We might speak of free market capitalism and liberal democracy which seem to have within them some right ideas but so often seem to get perverted.

And then there is consumerism and the incessant desire for growth, a logical impossibility in a finite world: consumerism which has clearly subverted our holy celebrations in the West. I want to share a brief video about this from Gruen World last week.

What struck me about these video exposés about Christmas is that mention nothing about Christianity. So far removed from the Christian narrative by the avalanche of idolatry around Christmas are these videos that Jesus gets no mention at all. For me this is a slap in the face a wake-up call to all of us in our faith and how we might express our hope in Christ’s coming.

As with Isaiah we find our hope in remembering, in anamnesis. Hearing the reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we hear of the promise of God’s graciously at work in each one of us already: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.”

Our hope remains in God, even when we find ourselves hurtling down the mountain trapped in the avalanche of idolatry moving away from God, God reaches out to give us hope and to reorient our lives in the life of Jesus, the promised coming one.

As Paul goes on to say, “the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

It is in this fellowship with the son that we remember and look at the weeks ahead with hope. As we wait with patience anticipating that we are not preparing to have a nice Christmas day but that in the fullness of God’s time Jesus will come and correct those things which are not of life but of death in this world.

In this our preparation shifts in focus away from the commercialism and obligation we may feel to give gifts to those who have no need of them into reconsidering what it means that in Christ we know that all people are loved by God. The hope of Christmas is about the kingdom coming near in all people’s lives in our present age as we wait for the coming of the new creation which is begun in Christ and the church already and is promised for all things.

Friday, 18 November 2011

God in our Lives

Terry Stanyer

The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of right relationships, when we are in the right relationship to our Father in heaven, and in the right relationship to our neighbours.
In Biblical times kings were not known for their gentleness and concern; but they were to be obeyed. Christ points to a different understanding of kingship, yet with the same obedience. The Christian insight is that if we want to get the most out of life then obedience to God is the way. ‘Follow the Maker’s instructions’ as the Christian Aid poster had it, with the picture of a gift-wrapped world.
Our Lord’s new commandment is that we love one another, as he has loved us, that the world may know we are his disciples.
What would it mean if Christ were to reign on earth, as one day he will? What does it mean to be King of the Church? What would it mean if Christ were to reign in my life, now?
In what way do I allow God to rule, over-rule my decisions, ambitions, priorities, values, beliefs, my attitude to money and people?
The Servant King. Servant – Leadership, these are the twin roles of a minister, and indeed of all Christians. We lead in such a way that we serve, and we serve in such a way that we lead. Christ the King came among us as one who serves, he has set us an example. John 13, see Ezekiel reading, David the shepherd – king, caring for the weakest as in the Gospel reading.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

What kind of King?

A sermon for Christ the King Sunday by Rev Peter Lockhart

May the words of my mouth
And the meditations of our hearts
Be acceptable in your sight O Lord
Our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

On the day that we celebrate the Reign of Christ the King the gospel of Matthew gives to us a clear indication of who Jesus is as king and how we are to serve and follow him.

In the vision of the coming of the Son of Man having separate the sheep from the goats, Jesus acknowledges the righteous ones saying, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Jesus kingship is defined by his presence in and among the poor, Jesus kingship is defined by his place alongside the oppressed, Jesus kingship by his companionship with the stranger and the sick and the prisoner.

In this Jesus kingship alters our world view. It redefines notions of power and authority and sets a marker for those who are number among his followers, the righteous one.

What I find most surprising in the passage is that those who are numbered among the righteous and among those who are accursed is that neither group is aware of their state of being blessed or cursed.

This mystery of salvation indicates to me that it is God’s grace that invigorates and transforms people as his servants rather than their choice to go and serve the poor or the needy or the oppressed that means that they are counted among God’s chosen ones.

This may seem a little arbitrary but what I believe is being indicated in this passage is that our relationship with God and the coming kingdom is not determined by what we do but rather our works are signs or markers of the gift of grace we have received, even unknowingly.

I want to share the story of two of my friends who I believe reflect such markers in the conduct of their lives and their service and following of Jesus.

One is my friend Jason who I first met as Youth Worker student in college. Over the last couple of years Jason has devoted himself to a self funded project called “Street Dreams”. Jason has spent time in the Philippines making a documentary to raise awareness of the plight of girls and women who work in the sex industry in that country and beyond. At great personal expense and at some risk to himself Jason has worked with his team to bring this project to its final stages.

Surely, Jason has met Jesus, the coming king, in those oppressed and abused women. Christ the King alive in the poor and oppressed.

A second is my friend Greg whom I have known for over twenty years. Greg and his wife have spent most their time since graduating from university working among poor and outcaste in India. Both are highly trained professionals but have forgone the possibilities of highly lucrative careers in Australia in preference for serving the poor in India. Once again, I have little doubt that the have seen Christ the King in the impoverished people among whom they have worked.

It is my view that it is not their choice to do these good works that brings them into a relationship with God but it because God has come in into both of their lives in a real and personal way that they have been inspired to share in Christ ministry and so possibility without knowing meet Christ in those whom they have served.

These views of Christ as King and defining Christ as King in this way, as being present among the broken and oppressed, certainly challenges any false regal notions that we might have as people about Jesus.

Now whilst I do not believe we can go and serve the poor to save ourselves maybe in the realisation of how God’s grace is poured out we will be personally challenged by what it means for us to celebrate the love that has been shown to us, not by simply building a respectable and bland experience of faith, but following Jesus even into places where we would rather not necessarily go, but places where Christ indeed calls us to follow and to meet him.

A few months back a congregation member approached me with information about Abolitionist Sunday, which coincides today with Christ the King. It seems appropriate then to weave into this sermon a comment about Jesus who we will meet in the prisoner.

For most of us the notion that there are slaves in the world or that the illegal trafficking of people occurs or that children are exploited on a daily basis in a variety of industries seems somehow a fanciful dream. Yet even the Australian Government has recognised that the trafficking of people into Australia is occurring and is a real issue.

For many of us, me included, these issues seem to big and too unreal for us to handle yet as people who follow Jesus there should be an awareness that not only does God care and love these people but in fact it is in helping and serving these people that we may in fact meet Christ amongst us.

I want to share a video made for abolition Sunday to raise awareness of the issues associated with slavery and to promote a more just way of living as Christian people...

The grace of God and mystery of our salvation at one level remains hidden from our view. The sheep and the goats were not aware of which group they were in until they had been divided. Yet the story reminds us that not only is Christ the King a king in a way which remains somewhat perplexing as he is identified in the poor and the oppressed of this world but that as people if we are seek out and meet the one who has shown us grace and mercy he is to be found among those whom we might consider to be the least likely candidates.

37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Friday, 11 November 2011

Using our gifts

Sandra Jebb

Our Gospel story today tells us about a man entrusting a portion of his wealth to three of his employees when he goes on a journey. Two of the three employees invested their wealth well and received commendable returns. The third employee was so afraid that he hid his portion in the ground. When the man returned to settle his accounts with them, all were commended and rewarded except the employee who had hidden his one talent in the ground. He was labelled “wicked and lazy” and totally condemned.
This parable reminds us that true disciples are called to consider what has been given to us and to use all our resources and spiritual gifts to serve Christ between his two comings. This will necessarily involve taking some calculated risks out of our comfort zone to venture beyond the horizon for the Kingdom of God. Fear is the obstacle that caused the third employee to hide his portion of what had been given to him. How easily we can do that! As the community of Kairos we need to courageously put to good use what God has already given us. Please enjoy reflecting on this wonderful prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake the Elizabethan naval Commander.

A Prayer by Francis Drake 1577
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves.
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the Waters of Life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth, We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery:
Where losing sight of land we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What kind of God? The parable of the Talents.

by Peter Lockhart

I recently read Robert Banks handy little book “And Man created God”. A book that addresses issues concerning the rise of atheism, whilst at the same time challenging the notion that we as human being have a constant predilection to make God into who we want God to be.

I wonder whether this is because we find it so difficult to cope with the God Jesus introduces us to.

This morning the gospel reading from the lectionary comes to us from Matthew 25:14-30 and I have not read it quite deliberately because it is almost too well known to us. But in synopsis here it is:

Jesus tells a story of an absentee landlord who gives money to three of his servants to look after. Two of the servants increase the master’s wealth and so are rewarded whilst the third buries the money, keeping it hidden and safe until his master returns. The two who have increased the wealth are rewarded whilst the third is admonished and thrown out of the community.

Now there are a variety of understandings floating around about what this parable means.

The first focuses on the notion that the money actually represents gifts or skills that we have and that the purpose of our lives is to use them to achieve greater and better things. It is an appealing and comfortable reading of the story for many people but one which I would want to question. It runs the danger of leading us into a prosperity theology in which our wealth is understood as a reward for our faithfulness. It could also imply a negation of unconditional grace in favour of an understanding of having to be good enough for God.

A second interpretation of the story is to understand that the money is our relationship with God or our faith; so that we increase the gift of faith we have been given. I think many people are comfortable and happy with this reading of the story as well because it puts us in the driver seat, and we like to be control. But once again I would want to challenge it as it too can lead us towards an understanding of our relationship with God as being reliant on what we do.

To return to my point about Robert Banks book it is more than likely that most of us will opt for what makes us comfortable in our interpretation of the scriptures and therefore our understanding of our relationship with God.

This brings me to a third understanding of the story. It is an understanding which is built on the placement of the story in Matthew’s gospel and the context in which it was written. The story is placed in a series about the coming of the Son of Man and unlike the parable of the ten bridesmaids does not begin with the words “the kingdom of heaven will be like this”. This may indicate that the parable of the talents is not a vision of the coming kingdom, but rather a critique of a current reality.

The best way to demonstrate this understanding is to retell the parable.

Scene 1 – The Absentee Landlord

Once upon a time there was a wealthy man, not just an ordinarily wealthy man; this man was Bill Gates wealthy, Donald Trump wealthy, Rupert Murdoch wealthy. This man had so much money you may as well try and count the stars as count his wealth, but like all billionaire’s this rich man wanted more.

Scene 2 – Meet the slaves

This wealthy man had a group of lackeys, well slaves really, and decided to give them some money so he could have some more for himself. One of the lackeys he gave $30 million, another lackey he gave $15 million and to a third he gave $3 million. If you have ever watched the Apprentice with Donald Trump you get the idea. Then the wealthy man went away.

The first lackey being quite entrepreneurial used the money to trade goods buying them and then selling them on for a higher price. Doing this he managed to exploit the $30 million and turn it into $60 million. In the same way the second lackey doubled his $15 million making it $30 million.

But the third lackey struggled with what was going on. Having been brought up prudently he followed the custom of the people around him and sought to protect the money which he had been given. He buried it in the ground to keep it safe, to keep it hidden.

Scene 3 – The Return of the Wealthy Man

On the return of the wealthy man the first two lackeys fronted up with the extra money they had gained for the wealthy man. Just in case he had needed any extra cash, now he was really loaded and he appreciated the skill of these two go getters. He told them how great they were and that he would give them even more money so that they could make even more money for him. Then he told them how lucky they were and that they could share in his happiness now that he was even wealthier.

But the third lackey came to the wealthy man still bearing the meagre $3 million he had started with. This third lackey exposed the wealthy man saying, ‘Your reputation is well known, you make others work for you and reap the rewards of their labours. I fear you so I kept safe what is yours but I did not try to increase its worth for your benefit.’

Scene 4 – The rich man does his block!

Now, the wealthy man was furious! How dare this lackey not make more money for him! He really did his block! He blew a piston! He even said it would have been OK if the lackey had gone to a bank and engaged in usury, which is a sin. If he had done this at least he could have got some else to make more money for the rich man.

Having had his little rant he then chucked the lackey out to live in poverty on the street. The wealthy man cut him off from his community and world because he hadn’t made money for an already incredibly wealthy man.

Of course these are not the words of the scriptures I have embellished them a fact for which I do not apologise on this occasion. This reading of the parable is far more uncomfortable for us and no doubt to those listening to Jesus.

Read this way Jesus parable is a critique of the systems of this world, a critique of those who benefit of the labour of others. It is a critique of people like King Herod's son Archalaus who had traveled to Rome to have his authority confirmed by the Emperor and had his opponents killed on his return..

Moreover, it could be read as a critique of the behaviour entrepreneurs in our age and their desire for increased wealth and prosperity, often reliant on the work of others on their behalf. It reverses the prosperity theology that has often been associated with this passage and rings more truthfully of Jesus words to the rich young ruler “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Added to all of this the following passage in Matthew with the words, when translated directly from the Greek, ‘But when the Son of Man comes’. This suggests to me that what has just been told is in some sense the opposite of what Jesus envisages when the Son of Man comes.

In this passage Jesus declares, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

These are the ones, the ones cast out by the Pharisees and the Archalaus's of this world that God has an express concern for. It is a concern expressed in Jesus own willingness not only to be associated with them in his life but ultimately to be cast out with them – to hang on a cross, a place understood by the Jews to be place for those cursed by God and humanity.

It is in this act that God identifies not with our ability to turn $30 million into $60 million but with us as people who have been cast out, who are broken people, even lost people who are in need of mercy and help.

As people who hear and understand this message of grace I believe our place is not to be using our so called talents for our own gain, so that we might be given more and share in a wealthy master’s reward. No! Our place is to identify with those outcasts who Jesus identified with; our place is to challenge the systems of this world which enable a few to grow wealthy off the labour of others; our place is to welcome in to the presence of Jesus and his coming reign those who feel ostracised, abused and desolate in this world in which we live.

To return to where I began, Robert Banks caution is to weigh carefully upon our decisions about who God is. Jesus representation of God to us is one which upends the comfortable and domesticated images of God and plants new seeds of faith and understanding.

The question I am left with after reading this parable, and I will leave with you, is do we believe in a God who rewards those who already have much? Or a God who rewards those who seek personal gain through using others to advance his cause? Do we in a God who judges us on what we do and castes us aside if we don’t measure up?

Or do we believe in a God who asks serious questions of systems and institutions and individuals who exploit others for personal gain? Do we believe in a God who identifies with the outcastes of this world and shares in their lot? Do we believe in a God who seeks a way of revelation through which we meet God in serving those who suffer in the world? In other words do we believe in a God of unconditional grace and unending love?


Friday, 4 November 2011

Parable of the Ten Young Women

Gabriel Manueli

Matthew 25:1-13.

Like many of Jesus’ parables, this one has an immediate and local meaning, and also wider universal meaning. In its immediate point, it was directed against the Jews . They were the chosen people; their whole history should have been a preparation for the coming of the Son of God; they ought to have been prepared for him when he came. Instead they were quite unprepared and therefore were shut out. Here in dramatic form is the tragedy of the unpreparedness of the Jews.
But the parable has at least two universal warnings.
( i ) It warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. It is far too late for a student to be preparing when the day of the examination has come. It is too late for a man to acquire a skill, or a character, if he does not already possess it. It is easy to leave things so late that we can no longer prepare ourselves to meet with God.
( ii ) It warns us that there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. The foolish virgins found it impossible to borrow oil when they discovered they needed it. A man cannot borrow a relationship with God; he must possess it for himself. A man cannot borrow a character; he must be clothed with it. We cannot always be living on the spiritual capital which others have amassed There are certain things we must win or acquire for ourselves, for we cannot borrow them from others.

All "saints" in the world

by Peter Lockhart

an interactive sermon

Today I have merged two themes within the liturgy.

The first is “life in the world” and second is a celebration of “all saints day”, two themes which are intrinsically linked together.

Over the past 3 weeks we have followed themes of the Christian life – prayer, scriptures, and community. Now we turn to contemplating our life in the world as Christian people.

When I spoke to the children before I emphasised the idea that our holiness comes to us from God as a gift, it is not something we can make for ourselves.

Yet as people who have been made holy we are called to holy living, living as if the kingdom of heaven has already come near.

When Jesus teaches the crowds on the mountainside, in those well loved words, often called the beatitudes, what he describes is not simply a future hope but a present blessedness in the lives of the disciples, and an invitation to share in the life of Christ.

The great German theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer, in his seminal work “The Cost of Discipleship, explores the meaning of the beatitudes and how living the beatitudes might shape our lives. He says:

“All are called to be what in the reality of God they are already. The disciples are called blessed because they have obeyed the call of Jesus, and the people as a whole because they are heirs of the promise.”

Yet as Bonheoffer points out a question remains unanswered. “Will they [the people] claim their heritage by believing in Jesus Christ and his word?” This is the question which lies before each one of us this day as well.

“Are we committed follows of Jesus Christ?” Or to borrow a phrase from the Basis of Union and put it into the context of the community of the church, “are we a fellowship of reconciliation bearing witness to Jesus Christ?”

Now whilst the Protestant tradition to which we belong does not make people “saints” like some other church traditions remembering great examples of the faith can help and inspire us to be what in the reality of God we are already.

I want us to take some time sharing the stories of the examples of faith for our own lives this morning. To do this I would like to encourage you to get into groups of no more than 4. Think about people whose faith inspires you and share what it is their faith that has helped you in your faith.

Sharing Time 1

This morning I opened the worship with the words of Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

One of the things that I appreciate and I find challenging about the saints is that this is what they do – they speak of God continuously, in all kinds of places, always ready to articulate their faith in Jesus Christ. For me when the faith is articulated or witnessed in action the kingdom of God comes near.

There is a wonderful Butteflyfish song which captures the hope of the gospel in the words:

I ain't goin' up to heaven in the sky
I ain't flyin' with the angels when I die
I ain't gonna rise up in the clear
Cause I do believe my dear
Heaven's comin' down here

In your groups I want you to have a look at the following pictures and answer the questions

Where can you sense God’s presence might be in this picture?
And secondly, how might that presence be shared?

As people drawn by grace into the life of God in and through Jesus we have been made holy. The question as Bonheoffer so rightly points out is whether or not we will respond or turn our backs on this good news.

The saints, not just the chosen ones, but those faithful people throughout our lives who have taught us faith and drawn us closer to God have been God’s gift to us. We know from their lives following Jesus does not necessarily bring safety and comfort and an easy life, in fact it might be quite the contrary. But in living the beatitudes we live knowing that we truly are blessed people.

Photos Creative Commons