Flames, flowers and foundations




So last weekend we had a family service that was around the theme of Candlemas, with flames, singing, incense, snowdrops and whatever else could be shoehorned into an hour, but just before the folk arrived for that, I was speaking at our first light 8am service… its a smaller, quieter affair with room for reflection and interaction with people that maintains some of the formality of the Book of Common Prayer service that its grown from. So here’s what I said responding to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verses 12- chapter 4 verse 2

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold- our daily readings this last fortnight have been looking at the start of the book of Joshua, who was told by God to be bold, strong and courageous… but unlike him most of the Israelites were ‘dull’… with a veil over their hearts that prevented them from perceiving the radiance of God…

But through Christ and the Holy Spirit the veil is both removed from the world and can be removed from our hearts… and as we reflect the glory of God to one another and those around us, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ… who as we’ve heard over the last few weeks fed the hungry, healed the sick, brought healing and reconciliation to individuals and the world…

Renouncing secret and shameful ways… and setting forth the truth … we do that in our worship, in our prayers and proclamations, but what we think is plain may be confusing to folks- when you’ve been in the church for a while you understand the jargon…

Judgment, Sin, Grace, Atonement, Salvation… even worship and Christian can be confusing terms…

God, the creator of love, the source of the universe and sustainer of all loves me. With a love that is unconditional- I cannot reduce it or make God love me more, and God wants me to know that I am loved and to respond in love.

BUT I have messed up- we might use the word sin as a catch all, or trespasses in our prayers, but its mess- damaged people around us, damage to ourselves, a damaged world that reflects that all is not well, even in its beauty- the eggs of a parasitic wasp that cause blindness and death, the horrors of disease and the cruelty of a hunter stalking its prey

And my mistakes, my mess, my sin- that is currently ruining my ability to respond to God, if I say I love God but am not willing to take responsibility for the complete mess of my life, then I’m like a politician who says sorry but in the same breath places the blame somewhere else, and doesn’t seek to change.  The word we use in our jargon is repentance- turning around, God on the throne of my life instead of me… whatever image we prefer… it involves change.

And when we take responsibility- when we acknowledge its our mess and say sorry, God steps in and takes the whole thing from our shoulders… because of Jesus- because Jesus, God’s own Son, who was without sin stepped down into the mess of the world and took it onto himself, in a way that was foreshadowed and envisaged throughout the Old Testament worship- he was the sacrifice on the altar, the scapegoat for the people, but so much more than those- his sacrifice was once and for all… when we worship and share Communion we are recalling and remembering and joining with the church that has done this for 2000years, but we are not repeating the sacrifice… it is finished. That is atonement, and it has been done for us…

All that is left for us is to receive the gift- but we can only receive it when we recognise our need for it… only the sick can be healed, only the hungry can be fed, only the blind can have their sight restored… while we do not recognise our need, we cannot encounter and receive salvation- it is only the man who knows he is stuck in a pit that will accept the offer of a hand, or climb a ladder… a ladder is how you climb from one place to another

Christians are those who’ve come to the point of climbing that ladder- we might be on the first rung, or have been climbing for a while, or be standing still on the same rung we’ve been on for ages, we may not be aware that we’re on a ladder, in transition, because we’ve been on it for all our life and don’t remember the first step we took… but we are in transition for as long as we live, from the old us to the new- being transformed into the likeness of Christ- not becoming Jesus, but more and more like him, in the same way that all of us are created in the image of God.  We can get the wrong impression of all this and think that the ladder, if you like that image, is taking us towards God and away from us… and that’s just not true, or at least only partially… the ladder is more helpfully understood to be taking us towards the us that we can be, that we have the potential to be, and away from the us that we could be and might have been…

Those characteristics and parts of our nature that we can see as being in God, contrasted with those that are not… and as we live as Christians we grow away from one set and towards the other…

So selfishness, greed, laziness, lust, impatience, fear, bitterness… we are gradually being transformed away from being people defined by those things, to being people, the same people, but defined by our generosity, kindness, compassion, self-discipline, patience, love, forgiveness and peace… And each one of us as we go along has to repeatedly answer the question ‘do I want to let go of the one, to have more of the other? Do I want to climb up or stay put, or climb down?’ That is what God does in us, and what we bring to the community around us- not as perfect shining examples, but as flawed works in progress, accepting the help of God to lift us out of the pit of ourselves and into the light of his love.


2 thoughts on “Flames, flowers and foundations

  1. Nice one Andy !!As one flawed believer to the other  – Praise God for His mercy and grace !! We pray you’ll continue to walk in His Strength and His Power.Love Pops

    Sent from Samsung tablet

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