Tag: fasting

Being put back together

Homily: Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2018.

Being Put Back Together

Isaiah 58:1-12

 

Barnaby Joyce is in a bit of trouble. He must feel like he is in that dark forest with evil chasing him. Maybe he is looking for hope, for light, as his daughters and wife probably are.

Like many a politician or public figure, he has been living a double life. He’s been found out and now the consequences of his double life are coming down on him. To many an Australian citizen, this is just sheer hypocrisy – saying one thing and doing another; pretending to be upright and good at the same time as lying and damaging relationships….

Barnaby is not alone. Maybe we should be very careful in our condemnation. Why? Because the great danger and temptation in our own living a life in Christ is hypocrisy; living a ‘two-hearted”, “double-minded” life where we say one thing to others and do another thing under the radar. We can all be Barnaby in various ways.

Because of our broken and rebellious spirit that rages within, we have the capacity to be inauthentic – doing an outward show of the faith while being very much self-centred and careless of Jesus’ call to follow his way and will for us.

The Lord names this problem through his prophet Isaiah…

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
Yes, we can seem eager to know the Lord’s ways by our outward behaviour and habits of worship attendance, prayer, even fasting, but at the same time behaving in ways contrary to God’s call and will for our relationships and our community.

On the very days when we seem to be authentic in our observance of worship and practices of devotion and the like… we remain entangled in family conflict, unforgiveness with a relative or enemy, harsh treatment of someone different to us and etc, by various means satisfying the desires of body, mind and spirit in lots of ways that are not good for us or others……

 Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.

It seems for the people of Isaiah’s time, even their very religious practices of fasting and wearing of sackcloth and having ash thrown over their heads in some outward show of repentance and humility before God are a sham as they fight with each other after the Service and even come to blows!

You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
The Lord says that this hypocrisy; this double mindedness; this inauthentic way is belief and behaviour that cannot expect a gracious response from him.

The hypocrite in side gets cranky with God about this.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“God, I am doing all this stuff for you and you are not noticing or rewarding me. God. You ow me for all my good work. Pay up!”

Can you see how our hypocrisy shows that we generally want what God can give us more than God himself. We want the good life, protection, safety, and all the rest more than we want him – a living relationship with him as our kind and loving Father who calls us to be his person where we live.

So, the Lord says to his ‘two-hearted’ people, “I am not after devotion that wants to get, I am after devotion that is real and honest; a devotion to me and people that give for my sake and theirs – not to score point with me”.

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Jesus says exactly this too.

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

So, where do people are quite capable of doing a “Barnaby Joyce” in any area of life (probably a bit less public!) go to find acceptance, forgiveness, a non-judgemental spirit and a future that can deal with our “TWO-HEARTEDNESS”?

Where do we go to address the problem and find that authentic faith where we act in God’s will – in his justice and compassion for his world?

Step 1 – “Be reconciled to God” says St Paul.

Seek God’s mercy and forgiveness knowing that it is possible to endure and triumph over your built-in hypocrisy only because…”God made Jesus Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. …..I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”.

Step 2: Believe.

The 40 days of Lent is “anti-hypocrisy therapy”! Lent is all about knowing your hypocrisy and the Lord’s forgiveness of it.

That is what either going without something valued or giving more of your self to others and the Lord in some way does. The ancient disciplines of prayer 3 or 5 times a day, giving to those in need, fasting of some treasured thing show us help us get to the truth of how we are and who we are before the Lord.

Lent is being re-established in his call to endure through it and be his man, his woman where he has placed you.

As we trust in Jesus and the work he has done to get us to God’s mercy and favour – the work we re-tell and re-live in these 40 days climaxing on Easter weekend, we are renewed. We are put back together again – re-integrated into one heart, one mind, one faith, one Father, one baptism, one Lord.

And then we find our heart is true and what comes from the heart – our words, our actions are true and of great value to others.

Step 3: See.

As we humble ourselves this evening and in these 40 days we will see more of who we are, who Jesus is and who is calling us to be, we will experience his presence and his healing.

Indeed, God promises that “your healing will quickly appear”. We will no longer be double-minded or hypocritical but in-sync and much clearer in our relationship with Jesus and each other – and so we will be the compassion and justice of Jesus for our people.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

 

Friends, the Lord will guide us all in our repenting, our believing and our seeing this 40 days. This is his promise.

With this promise comes the call to commit ourselves to the Lord again in these 40 days and let him help us really see his ways and his will for us as individuals and as his local church community here.

11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

He is that hope. He is here waiting for you. He lets you stay. He will restore.

Amen

Into the Wilderness

Ash Wednesday Homily, Wednesday March 5, 2014.ash_feature

 

Into the wilderness

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21   

Giving to the Needy

6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Have you ever felt as though you have lost contact with someone you love – not because of distance or time apart but because of distraction, busyness and living too much and too long in your own little world?

NEWNESS VANISHING

As the year gets into swing the relaxing time, the laughter, the time to just be together and enjoy life an all it has to offer with a deep sense of gratitude to God for the people you love, the life you have, the health you have just seems to vanish. Not immediately. It takes a while.

There are things to do, problems to deal with, decisions to make and you realise that;

  • Instead of clarity about things that you had just a little while ago, there is confusion and endless distractions.
  • Instead of intimacy and friendship and appreciation of others there is endless busyness.
  • Instead of a heart centred on your Saviour and his word and his gifts and his calling, there is the world – immediate and loud.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

There is an opportunity now to regain that time of drinking deeply from the water of life – Jesus.

Lent is that opportunity; and opportunity to be led from distraction to clarity again, from busyness to closeness with your heavenly Father again, from the worldly chaos to the grace of the Cross of Christ.

A doorway is opening for renewal and refreshment in your Saviour. But, you have to be prepared to go into the wilderness.

The wilderness of seeking the deeper things; the wilderness of feeling separate to others and those who don’t follow the Saviour yet; the wilderness of singular attention to and trust in His Word.

WILDERNESS PREPARATION

The wilderness was not punishment for Jesus and neither is it for us. The wilderness is the place of preparation of the soul where all else that is less important vanishes and only the cross of Jesus remains – towering over us as The sign of God’s presence and love.

We are called to be led by the Spirit into a time of wilderness – a time of preparation for the soul – preparation for the newness.

So, do you want the newness that the wilderness journey brings – new closeness to your Saviour, new reliance and rest in his Word, new appreciation of who you are, whose you are and the gifts you have from your Lord?

NEW JOY

With this wilderness journey into disciplined focus on the Word of God, will come new joy – the joy of an open heart toward those you love, the ability to forgive those who have wronged you, the compassion to serve as Christ himself serves – emptying himself of his own power and glory and serving sinners in love.

And how shall we enter the journey and receive newness in Christ?

He tells us…

  • Give
  • Pray
  • Fast
  • Give to others in a new way, an intentional way, a hard way.
  • Pray his prayer – the Lord’s prayer, pray with another, pray here, pray for each member of your family by name through Lent. Pray for each person on the St Petri membership booklet by name through Lent, pray a psalm a day for 40 days…
  • Fast – Deny yourself a pleasure or two a day a week, weekdays, Sundays…….

NOT INSTANT OR KNOWN

All of this is to be done in secret without reward or gratification.

All of this will bring to you the newness of not worrying about your life and a new appreciation of God’s extensive provision around you – in the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.

This appreciation and reliance on the Lord’s Word will bring an ability to truly love and be loved by those around you because your heart will be less set on yourself  and your own worry.

EASTER JOY

Easter will be the trigger for genuine joy to fill your heart.

Let’s take the ashen cross and walk into 40 days with Christ. let’s repent: turn away from our vices and our busyness and distraction – not with our own will power but by inviting in the Spirit and the Word of Christ and trusthim to do his renewing work.

Let’s allow the Spirit to prepare us for newness of joy in believing this Easter.

Amen.

Taking Stock – Into the Wilderness

Sermon

Lent 1, Taking Stock Week 1

Sunday February 26, 2012.

St Petri.

Mark 1:9-15

Into the Wilderness

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

PRAY:  Lord, give us a listening heart.

There is something about being all alone out in a deserted place. Being alone, away from all the usual conversations, demands and rhythm’s of living among others in a place without anything except the sway of the tall trees or the rhythm of the breaking waves or the silence of the vast desert plain is rather defining. There is a certain clarity to life and our place in God’s creation.

For me, whether it has been walking alone on a deserted western beach, or in the vast sandy plains of the western desert, or in a 1000 acre paddock late in the day with the sound of swaying stalks of wheat, just being there seemed to create the space to ponder who I am and where I am going.

If we allow ourselves to be alone in an “alone” kind of place, we will give ourselves the space in our busy minds and fast pumping hearts to get down to the very basic level of being human, and stay there a while to hear what the Lord is saying to us.

Friends, Lent always begins with Jesus. Lent always begins with Jesus being deliberately sent out into the “alone” experience in the Judean desert. He must have felt alone and very vulnerable. It is a harsh desert – even harsher in some ways to our Australian desert. It really is just rocks and sand – no trees. But not flat. Very rugged, very hot.

Immediately after that great moment of affirmation down in the River Jordan with John and the thousands of onlookers, and after hearing audible voice from the heavens saying “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”, Jesus is sent by the Spirit of his Father into this wilderness time.

In this desert experience of thirst, hunger, heat, cold, aloneness, baroness, emptiness, with its experience of Evil and the Evil one right onto him – attempting to interrupt God’s great plan to bring in the new kingdom of grace and hope, Jesus faces this seemingly necessary alone desert time dicing with temptation to give it all up and comes through with renewed clarity, surety of who he is and what he needs to do. Immediately he is engaged in calling people to join him on his clear task to bring in the promised new era of God’s grace.

This is the pattern of Lent. Lent is this alone/solo experience of facing temptations, evil with God’s Spirit attending to us all the way, for the sake of listening to the Lord and his clear direction on who we are and what our task is as disciples of Jesus in this new kingdom we have been placed into by our baptism in the Spirit. Lent is “Taking Stock” of things.

But how do we “take stock”, or how does God show us to take stock of our life in him?

The way of Jesus is there for all to see in that famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. On that grassy slope on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus, the new Moses, the new teacher of humanity, sat down, as all great Jewish Rabbis would do, to announce that his new way, God’s promised new age or kingdom was present in him. Jesus the Messiah announces that in his kingdom things are done in a certain, God centred and blessed way.

It all begins in the heart. Jesus speaks of our heart – where it is and what it needs to be clinging to.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, he says.

So, the Lent focus is “Where is my heart with the Lord?”

In Matthew 6 Jesus gives us three ways by which we hear more from him and know ourselves and him more fully.

Giving, Praying Fasting – the active ways to listen to his voice for our life now.

All these come from the listening, or are done with that listening heart we have been praying for these weeks.

So, this Lent, would we dare to commit ourselves to active listening of Jesus?

Would we practice the discipline of Giving, Praying and Fasting – all in the posture of listening to his Word for us now – both as an individual child of God called to fulfil our many stations in life (partner, parent, colleague, friend, public servant, farmer, business owner, worker, student….) and as a member of St Petri?

 Giving: Jesus speaks of giving to others (especially those in need) without any great show for others to see – but only for our Father in heaven to see. Giving can be giving of money, giving on time, giving of our attention and focus for someone or something to do with furthering God’s kingdom where we work or live.

So, could we deliberately, as an act of listening to and serving the Lord give more time to a friend in need each week of Lent?

  • Could we give more money to the church in Lent?
  • Could we give more help or food or goods to a person or community or family through Lent?
  • Could we take on a small project for LCC or St Petri or ALWS as active of active listen to God and giving to those in need in Lent?

Praying: Could we engage in this prayer Jesus gives every day in Lent in private, morning, noon or night? Could we deliberately give 5 minutes of our day to praying for those we love by name and for anything that comes to us from Sunday worship or the groups many of us are part of? 5 minutes to talk to the Lord and seek his help and direction for ourselves and for this church community?

 To make this more tangible – let’s make a commitment to set aside 5 minutes at midday – wherever we are – to either pray to Lord’s prayer or speak to the Lord about things – and again, with no great show – only so that He knows.

 Fasting: there is something about our human makeup that links our listening to fasting from taking in food. Somehow, denying our very basic needs (food and drink) for some period of time, with the intention to listen to the Lord and give this act of denial to him in faith and love, heightens our ability to hear. Just ask the Monks, or the spiritual directors or any other person who practices some kind of self-denial in an act of attention and love for the Lord.

Fasting does not have to be onerous. We can fast of one thing for 40 days. We can fast for one meal per week, or per day, or on Sundays. We can leave out one thing that we like – not to beat ourselves up or try and win God’s favour. We already have his favour. We are his free loved children. We don’t fast to gain God’s favour. We fast to listen to him in a clearer way. We fast to follow Jesus’ example in faith.

 I wonder whether we can make Wednesday our fasting day – a meal, a thing we like, even an activity we like (TV, for example).

So Lent at St Petri is about “Taking Stock” of ourselves and how we are with the Lord at this time.

The Lord is calling us to give – anything from random acts of giving and kindness, to giving money, to giving time, to giving our skills.

The Lord is calling us to Pray – Midday for 5 mins and then other times as we can fit them in – for ourselves, for others, our church, God’s leading, the poor we know,…..

The Lord is calling us to Fast – Wednesday is fasting day – a meal, a loved thing, all day, giving up something for Him – not to earn anything but to seek and hear and receive good things from him.

In all of these things we are listening to Him.

We are hearing his Word and there is a daily schedule of short readings of his Word to make our own every day. We read his word most days – maybe combine it with our midday prayer or at some other time of the day. Find a chair in a corner somewhere and go there for 2 minutes to read the text….

Friends, begin these 40 days with hope – hope in Jesus and his love on display as we re-tell the story of his walk down the way of suffering.

Begin with hope in God’s word – he will speak as we pay attention in these three streams of the Christian life.

Listen by giving, praying and fasting. He will help us Take stock of who we are and where we are going and we will get to that great Easter Day and be full of joy in a new way!

A blessed Lent to you.

Amen