October 17, 2018

If you could have one super-power what would it be?” Given our ongoing national infatuation with superhero’s (Superman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man and the like) it seemed like a fun question to play with  in a gathering of friends over adult beverages. Responses like super strength or incredible speed, the ability to make oneself invisible or to read minds came quickly to the floor. And with these came the expected noises of endorsement and approval or criticism and rejection.

Then came the suggestion that no one expected – “the power to make others feel loved.” No one had even thought of love as a super-power. Most folk had only thought of super-powers that would benefit themselves. This one, on the other hand, because it is focused outward and toward the benefit of others, set them back. Indeed it probably scared most of those involved because it is the one super-power that they all could have, if they really wanted it. The question is, for all of us, is this the power we want most?

For us as Christians this opens up a contrast between the way of the world versus the way of Christ. The way of the world begins with “me” as the starting point and seeking to define my identity through the status markers of the world such as money, power, popularity, position and pleasure. The way of Christ begins with God as the starting point and seeking to define my identity in response to the love and gifts God has lavishly given me.

Under which “way” would desiring the super power of “making others feel loved” fall? Obviously, it is the way of Christ.

Spiritual teacher, author and lecturer Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” You have the power to make every person you encounter feel loved. Will you use it?”

Blessings, Pr Ralph

June 20, 2018

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

I’ve been poor in my life; it wasn’t fun. But that sort of went with there being nine children in the family. That said, as a child my family’s lack of financial resources wasn’t something that often weighed on my mind.
Today, I am, by the standards of the majority of the people on this earth, wealthy.  There is nothing that I need that I have to do without.  True riches, after all, come in being content with what we have.
I’ve also been spiritually rich in my life.  I’ve had times when I felt like I was walking two feet off the ground – I was so happy to know God and to be known by God.  And I’ve also felt spiritually empty, cut off from God and not quite knowing how to get back in touch.
Earthly riches are easy to measure.  Spiritual riches are different – spiritual riches are qualitative, not quantitative.  You will always have what you need, and you will never have enough.  You can’t walk far enough to find it because you are already there. This is what it is to be “poor in Spirit.”
Jesus says that in his kingdom, the poor in spirit are blessed. That might be hard to appreciate unless you understand that those who are poor in spirit know their poverty and this poverty leads them back to God. The translation in the New English Bible helps us here when it interprets “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” as “Blessed are those who know their need of God.” That is to say that through this poverty I know that I am not sufficient in and of myself and that I need the help of the Lord my God. God constantly holds us in the palm of his hand, and the assurance of that gift is a blessing.
Johannes Metz, in this book “Poverty of Spirit” writes, “This poverty… is a necessary ingredient in any authentic Christian attitude toward life…” For in our poverty we come to know God’s grace that is revealed in God’s work of salvation in Christ Jesus. Metz continues, “Only through poverty of Spirit do we draw near to God; only through it does God draw near to us… It is the meeting point of heaven and earth, the mysterious place where God and humanity encounter each other.”

Blessings, Pr Ralph

May 2018:

We are in the season of the Church year when we explicitly celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus and therein his triumph over sin, death and the devil. What we say in our celebration of the resurrection, along with St John’s gospel is that Jesus Christ is true; in fact, He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Though we have repeated the story and the fact of the resurrection over and over again (so much so that it has become familiar and ordinary), as Christians it remains of great importance to us. If Jesus isn’t the way, the truth, and the life, the only thing which we have to cling to, then we are indeed to be pitied, for we have nothing.  If one does not believe this, then what wisdom is there in gathering for worship every weekend?  Where is the comfort and hope of the gospel that Luther and others standing amongst the cloud of witnesses so desperately sought?  Where is the hope that we, in our own lives today, so desperately seek?  What have we to proclaim if not Christ crucified and resurrected?

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. This simple creedal statement is the foundation of much of what we as Christians believe. But, of course it doesn’t end there. A number of years ago the late Verna Dozier, an Episcopal lay woman and theologian, wrote that the important question to ask is not: “What do you believe?” but, “What difference does it make in your life that you believe?”1 If it is true that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, how is that truth affecting your life? How does it change the way you perceive and experience the world? How does it change the way you relate to other people — and even your view of your self?

Our faith is not something that we “get”. It is never a once and done thing. Rather it is lifetime operation; an ongoing process of discovery, becoming and implementing that runs through every day. Our life in faith, for it to deepen and grow, requires regular prayer, study, reflection and meditation. In other words, it requires time and energy. The payoff, however, is a life walking with the Lord that knows his love and providence; and that is an amazing thing.

Blessings

Pr Ralph

1 Dozier, V. J. (1991). The dream of God: A call to return. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications. p.105

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