Wednesday, Seventh week of Easter

John 17:11-19 

They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth.

If we trace the use of the word ‘world’ through the New Testament we find that we are being asked to hold several concepts at once. In John’s Gospel we hear that
Jesus and his followers, ‘do not belong’ to the world but are sent into it. And then at the same time we hear that God ‘so loved the world’ that he sent his Son to redeem it.

The Christian tradition of monasticism presents a similar picture with its classic teaching of ‘fleeing the world’ (fuga mundi) on the one hand and its significant contribution to learning, agriculture and even champagne production, on the other. I think it’s fair to say that monastics have always been steering a middle course. In his Rule, St Benedict urges his monks: ‘Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way: the love of Christ must come before all else.’ I find this helpful because it gives a focus and sets the counter cultural choice of monastic life in the context of love.

How can you put the love of Christ before all else today?

Tuesday, Seventh Week of Easter

John 17:1-11

I have made your name known
to those you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.

Today we hear again the opening verses of Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel. Each couple of sentences presents us with an idea which builds up our understanding of the glory that is revealed in Christ. We can see this lengthy prayer as Christ articulating his relationship with his Father. Faithfulness and trust run as a thread through the whole passage.

The dynamic of the relationship between Father and Son has been made concrete in the way in which the Son has nurtured those entrusted to him. Christ can confidently say that those entrusted to him have ‘kept your word’. In this simple phrase a whole thought world is echoed. I hear in this phrase the touchstone text of the Old Testament:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your strength.
Let these words I urge on you today

be written on your heart.
You shall repeat them to your children

and say them over to them whether
at rest in your house or walking abroad,
at your lying down or at your rising;
you shall fasten them on your hand

as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet;
you shall write them on the doorposts
of your house and on your gates.

Keeping the word permeates every aspect of life: the word binds in love and shapes in fidelity.

How can you keep God’s word today?

Monday, Seventh Week of Easter

John 16:29-33

I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.
I have told you all this
so that you may find peace in me.

How often have you prayed for someone that they may find peace? Perhaps someone might have to make a difficult decision or comes to terms with a difficult some difficult circumstances: we wish them peace. It’s possible to wish for others what we cannot find ourselves.

When Jesus is getting ready to leave his disciples his wish is that they may find peace. This won’t mean that they will avoid conflict or challenge. Instead they will find an inner strength in knowing that Jesus and the Father are one. Hidden in the tidy prose of John’s Gospel is the stark fact the disciples don’t know how things will turn out for them. They have been schooled in love by Jesus and promised the Spirit. Now it’s up to them to let the promises unfold.

What sense do you have of the peace that Jesus promises?

Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:11-19

‘Consecrate them in the truth;
your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world,
and for their sake I consecrate myself
so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’

In recent months as the inquiry into the Post Office scandal has unfolded, I have thought a good deal about truth and what it might mean to speak the truth. Time after time we have listened to terms being defined and redefined. Getting some someone to admit that they broke a rule can take months.

The truth that Jesus speaks of has resonances for me of uprightness, faithfulness and integrity. It’s not a question of actions and attitudes that will keep you on the right side of the law, but rather it is a question of relationship. Jesus’ desire for us to be consecrated in the truth sets us apart and marks us as chosen to be in relationship with him. This relationship moulds and shapes us to become Christ-like.

There’s a line in the old translation of Lent Preface 1 that comes to mind:

As we recall the great events
that gave us new life in Christ,
you bring the image of your Son to perfection within us.

This is God’s work if we will allow it.

How is Christ calling you to deepen your relationship with him?

Saturday, Sixth Week of Easter

John 16:23-28

I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.

In the Penny Catechism the treatment of prayer looks very straight forward:

What is prayer?
Prayer is the raising up of the heart and mind to God.

How do we raise our hearts and minds to God?
We raise up our heart and mind to God by thinking of God; by adoring, praising, and thanking him; and by begging of him all blessings for soul and body.

I am pleasantly surprised that what I learnt at seven holds as true now as it did then. Reading this as an adult I am struck by how this definition of prayer is wholistic and encompasses many of the things that define us as human beings made in God’s image. Prayer is about my whole self, my true self, in relationship with God. Jesus is our model for this. In prayer Jesus’ and Father’s will are one.

When Jesus tells his disciples ‘until now you have not asked for anything in my name’, I wonder if this is another way of saying ‘you haven’t asked for anything with your true self’? When we ask with our true selves we are given the assurance that ‘our joy will be complete.’ This is personal and graced. We cannot force this.

What do you most need and desire in Jesus name?

Friday, Sixth Week of Easter

John 16:20-23 

You are sad now,
but I shall see you again,
and your hearts will be full of joy,
and that joy no one shall take from you.
When that day comes,
you will not ask me any questions.

When Jesus speaks to the disciples about ‘a joy that no one shall take’ from them, I wonder how they understood it? John sets this lengthy discourse around the table of their last meal together. They have already shared together the ‘bread of affliction’ and Jesus now asks them to imagine a time when their hearts will be full of joy. I imagine the disciples in a haze that night.

Often when people warn us that something it going to be really hard it can be difficult for us hear them. I have certainly imagined certain situations to be much worse than they actually were. It’s a lot more subtle when people talk to us about joy. Real joy is something very personal. Though I have chosen a picture today of a girl jumping, my own experience of joy is much quieter. It has something to do with integration, with all the parts of my life fitting together. It’s not the absence of suffering. It’s more a feeling that joy and suffering can stand side by side.

If Christ is our pattern for life, love and glory, then joy and sorrow will always be woven together.

How do you hear Christ’s promise?

Ascension

Mark 16: 15-20

Go out to the whole world;
proclaim the Good News to all creation.

Beginnings and endings matter a great deal in so many areas of our lives. In literature and theatre we are keenly aware of the power of the beginning and ending of a work. Some stories end with all the ends neatly tied up, but others can leave us with more questions than answers.

Mark’s Gospel begins starkly and ends starkly. There’s no gentle lead in with stories of angels and shepherds. The Jesus of Mark’s Gospel comes to us as an adult ready to begin his public ministry. He is signed and sealed by his baptism in the Jordan and sets out on his public ministry with his Father’s affirmation: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

Mark’s Gospel almost has a breathlessness about it. Everything happens ‘at once’ and ‘immediately’. In the final verses which form our Gospel for Ascension a great deal is packed into a few sentences. Jesus has fulfilled his mission, but this is not the end of the story. The focus now is turned outwards. What began for the disciples as a personal relationship with Jesus, now encompasses the whole world.

Today we are invited to stand with the disciples and hear these words addressed to us. Wherever we find ourselves, whatever our circumstances may be, the command is the same: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’ Whatever form this takes for each of us, we are assured with Jesus is with us.

How can you respond to this invitation today?

Wednesday, Sixth Week of Easter

John 16:12-15

When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth…

When I was at Primary school I remember listening to the teacher as she sorted out a playground fight. Two 7 yr old boys were standing at the front of the class, eyes fixed on the the floor. ‘Now, who is going to be the first to tell me the complete truth?’ the teacher said. We knew what this meant. This was not to be the slightly ‘fuzzy’ truth quickly concocted to avoid punishment. What the teacher wanted was an account of events with no interpretations or excuses added. I remember a sense of relief when one boy was finally brave enough to answer.

Week after week our news is filled with situations that call for the ‘complete truth’. It’s becoming quite rare to find this. I think a part of me has even stopped expecting it. There are now elaborate rituals that must be gone through before the public can find out what really happened.

When Jesus tells us that the Spirit will lead us to the complete truth we know that this has a personal and communal dimension. Following Christ calls us to truth and integrity in all aspects of our lives. It can take courage to act from that place of inner truth. Sometimes others can model this for us and this gives us courage.

Who are the truth tellers in your life?

Tuesday, Sixth Week of Easter

John 16:5-11

I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you.

It’s fairly easy to put ourselves in the position of the disciples: the prospect of Jesus going is sad and the promise of the Advocate coming is very much the unknown. Although the life and ministry of Jesus have prepared them for this moment, it would be quite natural for the disciples to want just a little more time with him.

Instead the promise of the Advocate now challenges the disciples to live from their shared conviction that Jesus is the Holy One of God. They’ll need each other if they are to be credible witnesses to the resurrection. It’s the Spirit who will be their guide and the power that binds them together.

We can sometimes be slow to recognise the workings of the Spirit in our own lives. It can often be easier to recognise the movement of the Spirit in others.

Where do you see the Spirit at work in those around you?

Monday, Sixth Week of Easter

John 15:26-16:4a

You too shall be my witnesses,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

Growing up in the North East in the 70s and 80s I don’t think I ever heard the words ‘mission’ or ‘discipleship’ in relation to my own faith journey. Neither did I have any sense of having to ‘witness’ to my faith. I moved in almost entirely Catholic circles.

Choosing to enter a monastery changed things for me. In those months before entering I found myself explaining my counter cultural choice to all kinds of people. There was understandable bemusement as to why anyone would want to ‘shut themselves away.’ But the reality of monastic life was not that I was now hidden, but rather that I was saying publicly that in this place and with these people I will seek God and try to live the Gospel. This was and is my witness.

And now today I’m writing this post for my blog, Facebook and Twitter. There’s a dimension to my witness that I could never have imagined 30 yrs ago. With Twitter in particular, you never know who will scroll by and stop to read a tweet. You never know how the Spirit will move. In a world where many feel disconnected, I now have the tools to connect and, in a small way, spread the Gospel.

How can you use the tools which God has given you to spread the Gospel?

Image: antony-bec, Unsplash