Self Image – Creation Time

On the First Sunday of Creation time we begin with ourselves.  For our good intentions to come to fruition we must take responsibility for our heart. In Mark’s Gospel we read:  “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”  


James reminds us not to forget the self image which is a mirror to our actions.  Therefore, do not deceive the heart, but nurture it in order that we might care for the whole of the creation.  This begins with a contemplative seeing of what is there, not just what we expect.  Read Richard Rohr – ‘Just this’



onedayposterDuring Lent I’ve been reflecting each week on the film One Day.  It is a story about love, life, death and resurrection.  It doesn’t describes specifically the events of our Easter story at all – however, it does give us a window into the ebb and flow of two ordinary lives lived in and out of relationship with each other.  And through those lives portrayed we, perhaps, can see through to something else.  The film has taken us on a journey with two friends, Emma and Dexter, whose lives we visit once each year on St. Swithin’s day.  15th July.  This is much how our Gospels are written, dipping in and out of the events and lives of Jesus and his companions.  In One Day we move from terrible London flats smelling of onions to awful post university jobs in restaurants and television.  From meetings in France to returning to the family home.  From difficult conversations with parents to distant answer phone messages.  Missed calls and missed opportunities.  From new jobs, to new boyfriends.  From bad jobs to car crash employment.  Terrible live television to all star school plays.  Rows in restaurants to dead end relationships.  Break downs and making up to put downs and pick me ups.  By the end we are left with two people who we know so very well and who ought to be so very right for one another.  They are comfortable with each other, though not always comforting.  Our patience with their painfully slow coming together is rewarded with a romantic liaison in Paris, the wedding, plans for children of their own.  The dream is unfolding, and then, we ought to expect it as in many romantic stories but we don’t, it is cut short suddenly by violence.  Where there was a comforting voice there is now silence.  Where there was a companion there is now an empty chair.  Where there was a loving caress there is nothing.  And our Gospels have taken us on a whirlwind snapshot tour from a backstreet birth, refugees travelling the road, baptisms, weddings, funerals, confrontations, healings and reconciliations and the action slows somewhat to dwell on the events of the last weeks with friends’ hospitality, costly gifts and borrowed transport to the sudden reality of a trial that was only going to go one way.  So many of our reflections at Easter focus on triumph of good over evil, light banishing darkness, pain giving way to healing as if this is the end of the story – and a happy ever after.  The End.  And yet this does not reflect our lives, and it certainly does not reflect the stories contained in the Gospel accounts of Easter.  If we look closely, and, reflecting on the end of the film One Day, we notice a similarity.  Grief is raw.  Emma is gone.  Dexter feels that he is alone.  It takes him years to recover from the curse of 15th July.  But eventually he picks himself up, and like the disciples goes back to work.  He listens to both his father.  ‘Live as if she were still here,’ he tells Dexter, ‘what do you think I’ve been doing for the past ten years?’  And he listens to the voice of Emma.  ‘Wake up, wake up’.  A voice from a time almost forgotten.  ‘Whatever happens tomorrow, we’ve had today’. Says Emma,  One Day.
The first Easter was not a time of joyful excitement, or exuberant parties it was difficult, a time of fear and tears.  The words used in our Gospel reading today reflect this.  We are told they were  ‘perplexed’  ‘terrified’ it was ‘an idle tale’ and they did ‘not believe’ it and then they were just ‘amazed’.  As we munch on chocolate eggs thankful that forty days of abstinence is now over, things have not changed much.  We are often left perplexed and terrified by the events of our world.  Easter is not a single moment in time, but a series of One Day at a time.  Living each of them as if Jesus were still with us, amongst us, commanding us to continue to love one another might well be a place to begin.

with a little knowledge

readmeToday is Bible Sunday.  I wonder in what condition yours is in?  Perhaps the beautiful leather bound variety, kept in a case and on a special shelf.  So important it should not be touched by grubby fingers.  Or perhaps the paperback losing its pages and held together with tape because its pages have been so well thumbed.  It is the same argument as those who hold the Eucharist in such high regard that it should only be celebrated on the most important of occasions – as apposed to those who hold it in such high regard that it should be celebrated every week!  However, our Bibles may be concealing a few hidden truths about our faith.  We see through a glass darkly, we know now only in part, but then we shall see clearly – but what do we do with what we’ve Got?  One of the Gifts of the Spirit is knowledge.
A cartoon on the office wall in Bangor portrayed a person praying thus:  Use me Lord, Use me, I’ll do anything, Suffer abject poverty, work in the poorest areas, live a life of obedience and chastity…  Well, studying wasn’t what I had in mind! an apt cartoon for a university!
Be careful for what you pray, for if you pray sincerely for the gift of knowledge – and God is gracious enough to grant you that by his spirit, then there is coupled with that gift a responsibility.  To share the knowledge and in sharing it to allow others to know what we know and to know more.
I remember two teachers well. Firstly my primary school headteacher Mrs Eldridge.  Secondly a science teacher Mrs Crow.  The latter I remember encouraging us to think for ourselves and never be satisfied with what was on the page!
The best teachers are those who allow us to go beyond them:  John the Baptist always pointed to the one who was to come after him.  The one whose sandals he felt unworthy to untie.  Even Jesus – most Christians don’t believe this – because of their image of Jesus as the ‘perfect human being’, but Jesus says to his disciples – you will do greater things than I have done.  That is our calling as well!
So be careful for what you pray as the gift of knowledge comes with responsibility:
A little knowledge can help us to see a little clearer though that dark glass.
One example from the King James Bible:  Matthew Ch1
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob;
and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Tamar;
and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
And Aram begat Aminadab;
and Aminadab begat Naasson;
and Naasson begat Salmon;
And Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab;
and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth;
and Obed begat Jesse;
And Jesse begat David the king;
and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah;
And Solomon begat Roboam;
and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram;
and Joram begat Ozias;
And Ozias begat Joatham;
and Joatham begat Achaz;
and Achaz begat Ezekias;
And Ezekias begat Manasses;
and Manasses begat Amon;
and Amon begat Josias;
And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:
And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel;
and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
And Zorobabel begat Abiud;
and Abiud begat Eliakim;
and Eliakim begat Azor;
And Azor begat Sadoc;
and Sadoc begat Achim;
and Achim begat Eliud;
And Eliud begat Eleazar;
and Eleazar begat Matthan;
and Matthan begat Jacob;
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
The first question on a seven year-old’s mind is: What’s begat?  You’ll find out when you’re older = Must be to do with Sex!
A modern translation, ‘Father of’ removes all the mystery!
So the next question, logically speaking, who are the mothers of all of these, because, correct me if I’m wrong, there were not 16 generations of virgin births, from the fathers side, there were women involved.  Some of the women we know.  Four are even mentioned!!
But lets start at the beginning.  Did Abraham give birth to Isaac on his own?  We know his wife was Sarah, she was the one laughing in the tent as God told Abraham of his plan, but Abraham was not the model husband or father, he certainly trusted God, in preparing to sacrifice his son and was reprieved at the last moment, but he passed Sarah off to be his sister on two occasions.  Not the ideal parent or husband.
The four women who are mentioned are these:  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and the Wife of Uriah (not mentioned by name, but we know her as Bathsheba)

With even a little knowledge we can uncover the truth about assumptions and aspirations to godly living that are not in the text, if we know how to look at it, we can discover that the image some might have of biblical characters as being beyond comparison are simply not the case.  Most were far from upright and much less than morally perfect than some might imagine.
The responsibility with the gift of this knowledge is not to fall into the same mistakes as before.  There is a responsibility to treat everyone as if they could have been in that family tree.  There is enough scandal and hatred and racial prejudice in the genealogy of Jesus for as many generations of our own.  If this is who Jesus’ family were then Jesus is neither advantaged by pedigree, nor will attract those who are morally virtuous.  For the family tree of Jesus contains that which many shy away from.  Not Jesus?  Surely not the incarnate Jesus?  However he too was immersed in a world among fallible people and it’s our responsibility to show a little love by sharing God’s gifts.  So for sinners, for prostitutes, for liars, for thieves, murderers and would be murderers the genealogy of Jesus is indeed a true gift of knowledge and good news as we are all welcomed to take our place alongside the rest.  And it is our responsibility to share it.