Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Still Centre of the World

It's that still moment here before the storm comes - the clouds heap and darken and the ground awaits, again, the first moments of the downpour, perhaps even the boom of thunder above. 

Heaven and earth meeting in the 'judgement' of change,
to harbor the promise of renewal.

Therein lies the reality of our world.

Torn by pain and anguish scarred so deeply into each of our souls, we know the darkness, the evil so evidently displayed in humanity is scorchingly real, and yet, we find ourselves to be creatures who, in our deepest dreams, desires and longings, know there is a richness and a beauty behind the screech of the nightmare that we so long to meet, long to embrace, long to become our own. 

We were made to be lovers, and when we catch the fragrance in the stars or upon the wind, that hunger rises from within.

The chains, of course hold us back. We cannot escape the prison of our broken natures.
The beauty, the enchantment of the world has been dragged down into the poison and cancer of our fallen humanity.
We now belong to a father who snubbed the wealth of a true romance from and within our maker and the creation for the lie and misery of self-determinism and naked shame - the pain of alienation.

It  truly would have been our end, our annihilation amidst meaninglessness, were it not for the God who so knows and enjoys love,  acting to make that love hold and heal us anew.

He came into death - the darkness and despair of our existence - and used death itself as the very means to resolve our slavery and corruption.
By His triumph in and through the horror of death and the grave, God has made His first promise to our enslaved race - of freedom from our pit - ours through simple trust in His saving love.

But the story does not end there.

All of the world is groaning, crying for release, 
which will come,

in the day of final death... and resurrection.

The advent of Christmas tells us that the God who made us, keeps His promises to our failed race, and because of this, there is great hope, even in the storms of hardship and death.

There is a weave behind this brief moment we currently call life, and the season of Christmas invites us to come and be embraced by it's dance and rich delight.

Amidst all our pain and lostness, there is the one who comes to us from heaven to heal the life of earth, and He is here, waiting to turn the ashes to the foretaste of an everlasting joy.

"For our sake,  God caused Him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Jesus Christ, we might become truly righteous....

we implore you, therefore, be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ".

In excelsis Deo!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The discomfort zone

"How could you have become so foolish? What delusion has distracted you from what you once clearly saw - the Gospel of grace in the saving death of Jesus Christ?"

Paul to the Galatians  (3: 1 -paraphrased).

I've often wondered, whilst I've attended church over the numerous decades of my life as a Christian, why it is that, so often, the gospel itself simply isn't enough.
It's often all too clear that it isn't - in our preaching, our worship songs, our busy little service activities and the pointing to all that we're doing beyond that - there's a clear emphasis. Like the rich man who came to Jesus looking for 'the formula' or the 'how to' guide to eternal life, we are clearly convinced that what it's all about is ticking the particular boxes that mean all is right with the world - yep, it all looks good, and, of course, it keeps us well away from all that 'free grace' naivety... fine for those 'new' to the faith, but we've 'moved on' and are now more 'spiritual' than that.

We can dress it any way we like, but the truth behind so many of our 'good' pretenses is that we're playing at religion because we're deeply uncomfortable with the bare, unvarnished reality of the message of grace.

'How can it be fair or right', a little voice inside us asks, that the vilest sinners (not us, of course) get into the Kingdom of God before those who do so much good, who are so noble and upright in their living... it truly beggars belief!  How can I really have confidence in a message which has such ridiculous notions of what really counts.... no, we clearly need to be busy to make this whole thing of value.

And so, we undermine the real truth of the matter - that our 'righteousness' is a mere mask for the canker that resides beneath (which we usually refuse to see) and thereby we cannot recognize, every moment of every day, our total need for nothing more than a deliverance entirely beyond ourselves.

The tragedy of such ugliness is two fold. It actually removes us from the life which comes from Christ, for that gift is replete with mercy given in time of need (and, let's face it, we really don't see much of a need for that) which is tragic enough, but it also means we offer nothing but a ghastly caricature of both God and His saving grace to those who come amongst us hungering and thirsting for His care and love.  To be a saint, we teach, you must become like us, 'godly... pure... beyond reproach'. Like the Pharisees, we make such 'converts' twice as fit for hell as ourselves!

We are indeed like the second son in Christ's parable (Matthew 21 :28-31).  In truth, we often believe that our ability to 'change our spots' and 'be good' is so the norm, that we can deny the Father's request to go and truly work in the field (share we He wants us to share) beyond some form of lip-service to it - nothing more is required. 

We need to see afresh what such 'goodness' costs - it does nothing to help, but merely murders the truth.... We become a 'bushel of works which stifles the light of the world'.

The Gospel points us to a life, a work, a gift, which is entirely outside of us. The very faith needed to trust in its scope is alien to us - a gift of God - so why do we then chose to hide in the hovel of our own self-worth?

'Church' is here for one purpose, and one only - to point to Jesus, for He alone is the one who saves us totally. Everything else, including all those 'little goodnesses' we so easily allow to pat us on the back, are, as the old hymn says, sinking sands.

Our life can only be 'hid' in Christ before God.
May it ever be.


This is, without doubt, one of the key areas where Christians go wrong.... Sanctification.
This latest post from Alden really hits the spot.