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Facing Our Own Nature and Suffering.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 22, 2019 - 12:35pm

The agricultural theme continues in the sayings of the psalmist for this week’s readings and the prophets. Both texts open with a longing for water, a basic necessity for all living things to survive. We in New South Wales Australia have seen the suffering caused by the lack of water bought about by the Climate Change we continue to bring on ourselves. Cotton and Rice Growers us up so much water there is little left and we see the massive kill of fish in our rivers which are now but a series of ponds. 

We see it in the contamination of our water table and supply by greedy miners who don't care what happens in the future unless there is quick profit in it. Like the fig tree, the psalmist is feeling dried up and deteriorated, like a “dry and tired land.” Yet, both the prophet and psalmist are able to claim joy because they see in God a chance at new life and grace. Isaiah attests to the higher ways of God that transcend the conventional wisdom of our broken world.

We might question the nature of suffering and be challenged by other deep questions for which there are no easy answers. But God’s ways and plans are higher than ours, and that promise can give us hope. Likewise, the psalmist expresses confidence in God’s strength, which enables the psalmist to speak praise with joy, and to cling to God with his whole being. The question for us is where we can make personal connections to both texts here. 
Consider how at times you feel like a dry and tired land, or how you feel thirsty and hungry, or how your behaviour might be that of the one whom God is calling to abandon such ways, lifestyle and schemes. Reflect on what you do individually to the land you have care for and stewardship over. Think about how you use this worlds limited resources to the detriment of us all.

Christians are called to see Lent as a time for us to consider a sober assessment of our spiritual state and how we choose to live our lives. Both these texts prompt such introspection. But they both also offer redemption in God’s grace. There is an invitation here to consider how we might like to assess our lives, assess our actions and see where we have experienced God’s love as “the richest of feasts” or a “rich dinner.” However, we also need to asses where we in our greed have pillaged God's creation and given wise stewardship.  The celebration of the Holy Communion is a natural connection to this imagery, inviting people to join together in the heavenly banquet that God has prepared for us in Christ.
Further I think as human beings we can admit that we are uneasy with the connection that both Jesus and St Paul appear to be making in this week’s Lectionary Readings, between sin (wrong behaviour or the turning away from God) and suffering. In the Luke 13 reading, people asked Jesus to theologically explain why people had to suffer. They used as case studies two groups: the murder victims of Pilate and the victims of the destruction of a tower.
In both instances, the questioners pondered a connection between their sin and their fate: “Did their sin cause their suffering?” It is a conclusion that we would rather not consider, for obvious pastoral reasons. That’s why Jesus’s answer to the question is so disturbing. “Unless you change your hearts and lives,” Jesus told them, “you will die just as they did.” Does Jesus really believe that such suffering is caused by our sinfulness, our bad behaviour? Fortunately, there is an answer to our uneasiness, in the parable of the fig tree. When the owner of the fig tree sees that the tree is bearing no fruit, he proceeds to do what any rational vineyard owner would do: cut it down and start over. That would be a reasonable cause and effect to assume.

Sinfulness beckons consequences which can be viewed as punishment, just as fruitlessness beckons pruning. But the gardener intercedes. The Gardener pleads with the owner to give the tree one more chance, appealing to the owner’s heart of compassion to give the tree another opportunity for fruitfulness. He offers to provide extra care and nurture: digging around it to remove competing plant life and preserve water, and giving it nourishing fertiliser to give it the nutrition that it needs. Jesus is the gardener in this story who steps into that gap between sinfulness and suffering in order to offer an irrational, unlikely second chance at life.
If the stories of Pilate and the tower reinforce the natural consequences of our negative behaviour patterns, then the story of the fig tree reinforces the certainty of God’s grace. And in the end, it is God’s grace and love, not the causality of sin that rules the day.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 March 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 22, 2019 - 9:19am

Today I took my cue from two readings, Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18 and
Luke: 13: 31-35 looking at how simply the people of that time interpreted natural events.
 Now even though the people of the Old Testament were interpreting natural events wrongly, they were right on the money when it came to walking daily with God.
A little advice about waiting on God: 

I will make no further comment on that it's not really unusual to have to sit quietly to build a relationship with God. We don't make friends with each other if we don't give time to those relationships.
From day to day we have to interact with the people and things around us to get through life. That comes with the usual ups and downs; successes and failures, and so in the daily rush it's hard to think of ourselves as citizens of heaven, but even so, all those ups and downs; successes and failures at an earthly level do not affect our relationship with God. Jesus did not let his Earthly work interfere with his Relationship with God. He was told that Herod was after him but his response was that Herod would just have to wait because he knew from his daily walk with God that his earthly work still had time to run.
Of course we should value our physical existence and the gifts we are given but we need to remember our primary concern is to look after that physical existence and those gifts to continue building God’s kingdom.  In the New Testament we are exhorted over and over to live as though we are already citizens of heaven and that's because we are: God’s kingdom start here and now.

Paul told the Philippians to imitate him and his mob. Hmmm. To be fair he meant to imitate him and his followers in living close to God but even then I would feel safer taking my cue from Jesus himself.
We are in Lent. This was the time when it is traditionally believed that Jesus was on a trajectory to Jerusalem.
Where he knew he would die.
He also knew that if he stopped telling the truth He had learnt through his relationship with God, and went off to live in obscurity he wouldn't have to die.
Jesus lived side by side with God . The truth came to him from his daily, close, patient walk with God. He would have had to turn his back on that and deny all he knew to be true to escape death.
How would we be in such a situation? How highly do we value our relationship with a God and our citizenship in Heaven, whether it be here on Earth or in the afterlife? How highly do we value the truth?
Jesus could not give up his relationship with God. He could not stop telling the truth or living by it. He may have escaped death in the cross but if he had taken the other path, he would have shrivelled up and died anyway.
You may think I am setting the bar too high. That it's all very well talking about the fortitude Jesus showed which came from his close relationship with God. God is far more understanding of our frailties than we are. Feeling not good enough or a failure doesn't help at all. Each time we falter we should reach up for help in finding our feet again. God’s love and support will provide the strength for us to continue and every time we go through that process we will learn a little more about how close God is to us and how God is there for us
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Living into Love.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 15, 2019 - 12:49pm

I have found it very hard to focus on my chosen title for my blog today, since I heard the news this afternoon of the murder of our brothers and sisters in Mosques in Christchurch, Aotearoa (NZ). It bought me a number of issues to wrestle with. One was as to why someone would want to, with extreme brutality, take life just because they thought differently, prayed differently or had a different way of engaging with God. The Second was that this was not the country I had been bought up in or the way I had been nurtured to view all people as equal before God and each person being a beloved of God.
I support the response of the Prime Minister of Aotearoa, Jacinta Arden who made it clear that inclusiveness and compassion were the ethos for the country and that as a country Aotearoa rejected the violence of terrorism, no matter who perpetrated such behaviour. In my life time I had never seen police armed on the streets even though I lived through Springbok Tours and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. I pray I may never see it again. However let me get back to Living into love.
There was an ad on TV the other night, another get-rich-quick scheme—something about how to make millions through real estate deals without having to work very hard.  Doing things the easy way is almost always more attractive to us than we’d like to admit, more attractive than working hard at something, more appealing than delayed gratification.  Working hard has its own rewards, as we usually learn, but it’s no guarantee of success.  So, a promise of an easier way and supposedly sure results catches our attention. A promise that it is someone else’s fault rather than our own that a new arrival is getting what we see as ahead.
St Paul in the reading from Philippians 3 set for this week is talking to the church at Philippi about a similar thing:  he cautions them not to be seduced by promises of an easier way to live the Christian life.  Paul is always very protective of his own understanding of how to live as a Christian—he often warns his followers about those who are false prophets, those who would lead them astray.  Here, he warns them again about taking the easy way out, and he uses as his example those he calls “enemies of the cross of Christ,” who allow their minds to be “on earthly things.” 
All this week’s readings have to do with covenant and faithfulness and trust.  They acknowledge the difficulty and challenge of holding true, of staying faithful.  We all want the security of connection, of relationship, of covenant.  But such connections require something of us, as well. Relationships are not one-sided, not even with God—relationship implies that both parties are involved.  But sometimes we get distracted and overwhelmed, or have what we think are higher priorities.  Sometimes we’re just tired, or we think that the other party doesn’t care about us—or a dozen other things that draw our attention away from where it needs to be. 
Sometimes it is easier to just let ourselves be distracted than to do the things that keep us in relationship, even though ultimately they nurture us. Making an effort, being disciplined, trusting, being faithful and attentive and intentional—those things take time.  They are taking the narrow way.  They are difficult, especially in a culture that does its best to keep us distracted and off-balance and wanting.  And yet in such a culture, there is nothing we need more than the depth and richness of our relationships with each other—with families, friends, loved ones, communities—and with God.
When we cheat ourselves out of these essential, life-giving relationships, those who love us suffer, of course.  But, we are the ones who suffer most of all.  We are the ones who lose the most.  We cheat ourselves when we take the easy way, when we avoid the narrow way of truth and integrity and love.  Those are the only things that matter, and when we try to live without them, it is no life at all, really.  And then it is us that Paul calls to task, it is us that Jesus weeps over.
The narrow way, is about, loving unconditionally, giving unconditionally.  It is about opening our hearts completely, and stepping to the very edge of the precipice of love and trust.  We are afraid to do these things, and rightfully so—the world does not encourage such behaviour.  After all, our hearts get stepped on and may even get broken when we make ourselves so vulnerable. 
If we’re lucky, we experienced unconditional love as children, but many of our parents were unable to provide such love.  Many of us don’t know what unconditional love looks like—we have never experienced it.  And our children, who may be the only ones we can even come close to loving unconditionally—even they can break our hearts. 
Even though we know, at some level, that God’s love is unconditional, we still all too often believe that being loved really depends on our worthiness.  So, we want some proof, because, of course, we usually believe we are not worthy.  So, we try to bargain for love, even with God, because we can’t understand any other way.  It’s how we are taught.  And after all, even Abraham when called by God asks what he will get out of the deal.
It is us that Jesus weeps over because we do not live into the fullness of the promise.  Jesus wept and I believe weeps over such things as recent events where one group of human beings are unable to include in compassion and love and instead desire hatred and violence. It means we are not living into the covenant.  We are afraid.  We believe and take on a view of scarcity rather than of God’s abundance, and we’re afraid that there won’t be enough for us. We’d rather have a get-rich-quick scheme because it demands less of us. We would rather terrorise and brutalise others because we envy them and want to be exclusive. 
But we are called to abandon our fear and mistrust; we are called to walk wide-eyed into God’s love.  It’s what Paul is talking about when he reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven.”  It is what Jesus weeps for, tears meant to soften our hardened hearts, to wash away our fear, making room for love to grow.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

The Call is to Show Up.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 8, 2019 - 7:26am

Jesus, filled with God, awakened to a compelling, driving certainty that he must go into the wilderness where people often went to fast and pray. The wilderness provided the open, silent space needed for seeking direction and purpose. Tradition has it that Jesus climbed into a high cave of Mt. Quarantal, a place which is today the location of the Monastery of the Temptation. This is not the experience of the later Transfiguration upon the mountain that we talked about last week but it is still an image for us of being able to connect with our God.
This high place in the wilderness west of the Jordan, less than a day’s walk from Jericho, for centuries attracted God’s seekers. In these caves in the Quarantal, people would fast and pray, seeking needed answers. Jesus, now certain of being loved and touched by God, needed the answers that a forty-day discipline might bring. In the cold, dark cave, Jesus waited and watched. Deprived of the comfort of water, food, and warmth, Jesus tested his spiritual muscles. Three times God’s Adversary came testing Jesus, tempting him to forget his baptismal identity and to use his new power for personal comfort and gain, political influence and glory, even free himself from suffering and death. Three times Jesus turned his back on the Adversary and embraced living a life of compassion as God’s servant.
Love revealed in Jesus, shaped and tested by the forty-day discipline, has for generations called us to our own vocations. While each person must discover (or uncover) specific meanings of God’s call, all share the baptismal certainties: you are God’s child, you are God’s delight, and you are God’s love.
 Yet we deny our identity. We forget these realities. We carelessly allow confusion to rule and let fears bargain for assurances inferior to what God promises or desires. We trade love for short-term profits. Misplaced identity brings confusion and disorientation that seeks from religion personal gain rather than wholeness and holiness. Success rather than transformation becomes our mission. Worldly wealth provides the measure of our worth, instead of allowing God’s grace to grant personal significance. We make compromises that weaken our resolve to stand firm in what is good and right despite God’s promise. All this we do because, at all costs, we seek to avoid sacrifice, suffering, and death.
God surprises us by bringing transforming love through Christ’s presence. A surprising paradox reveals a God continually present and who uses sacrifice, suffering, and even death as the media through which we find love, wholeness, and life. God uses that which we avoid to provide that which we most deeply desire. Four strong yearnings shape our hope:
1.     We each yearn to belong.2.     We yearn to be loved and to love. 3.     We yearn to make a difference, to contribute. 4.     We yearn to continue, to endure, to last—even beyond death.
Each generation must rediscover God’s revealing presence that reaches into our intense longing. Augustine of Hippo walked from village to village teaching and preaching the good news that restless hearts will find peace in God. Centuries later, Francis of Assisi danced, sang, and loved his way through Europe, making Christ’s abundant love visible through the starkness of his self-imposed poverty.
If we are love, then what brings such separation and destruction that runs so freely through our personal and social histories? Two fundamental reasons echo from generation to generation. I have found that in recent times they come in the words written by Gerald May:
“First…we are asleep to the truth; we do not realise who we are and what we are for. The second reason is that we misplace our love; we become attached to things other than God” That is the bad news. The Good News is that God actively engages our lives, sending us wake up calls, one after another. Once we entertain the possibility that God dwells within each soul, then we can choose. We can choose to listen for love, seek love, and allow love to awaken within.”
The season of Lent brings opportunities to awaken to God’s love. Notice throughout the days of Lent who speaks Love to you? Who reveals God’s heart to you? Who brings you knowledge that you belong to God, that you are love, and that your significance rests in compassionate giving?
Unless you show up for prayer, unless you participate in worship, you are likely to remain asleep to the truth. Dare to trust that you have God at the centre of your being. Dare to risk praying. Dare to ask, seek, and find Love within. Learn through your personal experience that you have within you God’s still, small voice.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

"You are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 6, 2019 - 9:37pm
 It is one of the most ancient phrases of Scripture, coming right out of the early chapters of Genesis. This is what we are reminded of by our traditions on this day each year as it forms the central theme of what we're about. We're being reminded of our mortality and our need for penitence.

But there's another theme at work deep within this sentence that we might do well to ponder as we as Christians enter the period of self-examination and renewal called Lent. Part of our journey as people of God in this season is about re-energising our spirituality and to truly stop for a moment and allow God to do some transformational work in us. We need to truly stop which are perhaps two of the hardest words to hear in our fast-paced always-in-motion culture today.
On Ash Wednesday, it seems appropriate to pause and take a hard, honest look at what drives us. Many of us are being run to exhaustion and near breakdown by fear. If it's not fear that we might lose our jobs if we don't perform well enough, it's the fear that we'll lose our profits or our investors, or that our stock portfolios will begin to drop in value. Many of us have a passionate fears about where our next meal is coming from, or how we will be able to pay our bills next week or next month. And if these fears weren't the subject of some of the deepest soul-searching in the latest political adventures of our country, what was?
We have listened to claims and counter-claims from our politicians over the last months which will continue for a while yet. The assumption that has been made, rightly or wrongly by all sides of the debate, is that the answer is to keep "moving forward," or in financial terms, "moving upwards." So we work harder, driving our bodies to the edge, shortening our tempers, destroying our environment by upsetting its finely tuned balance and stripping the earth of more precious resources. But no one seems to be asking the question, and certainly no one seems to be answering, "Where are we headed? Upwards: towards what? Forwards: to where?" Growth towards what? Growth at what cost to us God’s creation?
Even the market itself seems confused about what its goals and what they really mean. Where this all is supposed to be headed. We are guilty, in so many ways and at so many levels, of the corporate sin of "chasing the wind." And, like most corporate sins, it's a societal ill that each of us has a very hard time finding a way out of. Our businesses fail if we don't pay attention to the bottom line. Our tables and plates are empty if we don't compete and work hard.
Fortunately for us as Christians, the reminder that we hear today, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," was not written by a market strategist. In fact, it is one of the earliest scriptural statements directly attributed to the voice of God. Like so many things on Ash Wednesday, it seems a grim reminder about our own darkness, our own mortality. That indeed may be true. But there is also a great hope here, and perhaps even the beginning of an answer to our wrestling with our own corporate greed and even our fears.
We in the West have somehow forgotten that we are people of the earth. Remembering that we are dust is a call to return to an ancient wisdom that we are as much physical people as spiritual people. Spirituality and physicality are at root connected. Jesus was not born into a sterile environment, cleaned and sanitised for his arrival. He was born into all the smells and grime of a barn, reaffirming the sanctity of even the dust and dirt that make us up and the rest of the natural world.
Running around with our faces disfigured, or parading our discipline in public will gain us nothing spiritually. Rather, it is the care for our bodies, the washing of our faces, and the quiet, gentle acts of mercy and kindness to the needs of others that will nurture us as whole physical and spiritual beings. We need to be reclaiming and reaffirming our physical selves and the physical selves of others. Seeking balance with our neighbours, the earth, and our well-being is really where we need to be headed.
While the market forces driving our lives will not go away anytime soon, at least we have a way to mediate competition's effects on our lives. So, fast this Lent from some of the frenetic desperation that rules our lives. Make time to find the sleep that is necessary, to spend time with people and the God whom we love. Make time to give energy towards helping those who are in need.
Next time the tap is running or the computer is on, ask where the resources come from, and wonder who worked to bring them to us. And remember to take off the shoes and feel the grass between your toes. I ask that this year our reconnection with whom and what we really are will be our truest and best Lenten discipline.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 17 February 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 4, 2019 - 10:29am
 Call to Worship.

Out of the ordinary aspects of life , we are called into this place-  for this is a special place in which God has been waiting. Waiting for each one of us. In the presence now of God, surely all that we can do is offer our praise and worship. And at the name of Jesus, we must bend our knees in submission and faith. Let’s sing:  
Hymn TIS 231“At the name of Jesus” And until they do it's up to those who do to see that God’s will be done.
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
 God  - in this place we are invited to meet you – to encounter the truth of who you are – your love for all humanity. If we are open to such a message – if we are willing, then we must be impacted, lifted out of our ordinariness. We must become new - with new energy and understanding, for when we meet your truth, when your Spirit works in us, we must be changed…
God help us to help the poor, the hungry and the excluded as we live for you in this place. In Jesus’ name Amen.
Offering For the building of God’s kingdom.
Hymn TIS 210“O for a Thousand Tongues” Today there are far more than a thousand and there are those that praise God but don't know that they are doing so when they praise God’s handiwork or the work of people who are inspired by God.
Bible Reading Luke 6: 17-26
Dermot began by setting the scene of the reading, of the people who had so little, not just so little in a material sense but so little spiritually, who went out to hear Jesus hoping that “this time” they would find an answer to their poverty.
Two thoughts immediately sprung to mind. Firstly, how often do we try to enrich our “flatness” with things that only have to be replaced when they wear out or break or simply disappoint because once we own them…nothing has changed. The message Jesus preached was and is the answer to that. “Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven…”
Then the other thought was that how in the midst of our feeling deprived or flat or missing something, we don't give a thought for those people today who have little more than the people Dermot spoke of. In our own country here are people who either walk out take public transport…everywhere…not just when it's convenient. They NEVER buy food or drink when they are out. A family birthday means everyone turns up for lunch to honour the birthday person but the meal is the same simple meal as always. And then when we think further afield, there are the people in countries about which we know little. In a documentary I watched not long ago, a little boy was setting off for school, kilometres away with a bottle of water. His grandfather handed him half a slice of flatbread to take with him for the day. There was no sense that either of them thought they were deprived or in some terrible situation. Perhaps they found their richness in heaven.
Dermot seemed to agree:
As I read this passage again, I found myself imagining you, who are gathered here, being the people who left your village or your town this morning to head out along a dusty road, joining with others, possibly with a clay jar of water?? – and a piece of flat bread, to head out to where a wandering Rabbi/preacher was to speak.  And why did people go to that effort? Because they were hoping to hear something which might be valuable – which might change their lives.
Was this what it was like for you this morning?   You came hoping to hear something nourishing, something which might be impactful?  You might be a very different crowd to that which came out to hear Jesus, but I wonder whether you might indeed be in fact doing the same thing – seeking after God intervene in their lives.
Dermot continued, linking Matthew and Luke in a way to explain what seemed different messages. Space does not allow us to follow that here. What Dermot said next was:
remembering that Luke’s Gospel has particular concern for the needy and outcast – that is, that God has a particular concern for those in need, for surely what we are encountering is a revealing of the nature of God, then here’s a thought
– maybe, just maybe, it is this message which is the reason Jesus had to die! Maybe for speaking such words, Jesus could not be allowed to live. Maybe these words were too offensive or challenging to the powers who moved against him for them to simply ignore Jesus and let him continue to spread such stuff.
Who would think it today? Aren’t these words simply words of advice and of compassion? NO! We must realise that in such words Jesus was standing face to face with the powers of the day – the powers which exercised control of the political and the religious framework for the whole community. And these powers and authorities are directly criticised by Jesus - they had to put a stop to him.
May God forgive us - but we see abusive exercise of authority by one over another in international affairs – and in our national politics – and in our State politics – and local affairs – and even in our families. It is the same drive for power, status, ego, etc and the same sort of fears and lack of trust which motivates such disease at every level of human society – and it all arises from an unwillingness to know and accept others with a respect and concern which should be given to all – we are all children of the same God and bear within us the gift of life and potential to know the nature of God as revealed in Jesus.
It is for us to understand our weaknesses and whatever our age and whatever our place in the community, to speak and do what we can to better those who are in need, whether poor (or poor in spirit) – whether hungry – or whether those who are rejected. For to do so is to become what we are meant to become – this is what Jesus taught to that crowd 2000 years ago
Hymn “Lord of the Dance”
Prayers of the people and Lord's Prayer One of the most important parts of the service but if we leave if at that, it is not enough. We must act where we can
Hymn TIS 272 “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
God calls us to a task of sharing goodness and compassion– to do so is to abide in God’s own nature. Let us go out then with a loving concern borne of our love of God in Christ. Amen.
Going out Hymn
Now unto him
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 3 March 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 4, 2019 - 10:29am

Apply the Mountaintop Experience.
Put yourself in the Holy Land - 2,000 years ago as we can in our imagination and as we read the passage from Luke 9: 29-36 from the lectionary for this week. Imagine that you are one of Jesus' leading disciples. He calls you apart from your colleagues to go with him on what turns out to be a great adventure. You start walking, happily chatting, and following him toward the high country. At the start, you figure, this is one more time when Jesus needs to get away from the crowds - to rest and refresh and restore his spiritual strength. You, too, are ready for a rest.

When Jesus leads you to the destination, you recognise it as a holy place of your faith-set apart for connection with the greatest meaning life has to offer - a place to encounter God. You begin to think that maybe this is not going to be an ordinary retreat, even by Jesus' standards. Suddenly you see Jesus changed - his face has changed and has become dazzling white. You are not sure what to make of this. But you know something extraordinary has happened.
Then, you are startled again to see the two most honoured leaders of your faith, Moses and Elijah, long dead, standing there beside Jesus. You do not know what to think or do. Your friend Peter suggests setting up dwellings so they could stay there permanently. But before anything else can happens, you hear the voice of God-"This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"  Now you know the purpose of this adventure. Here is the answer to what you should do. t is clear that you are not to look to Moses and Elijah-not to look back to the old, but to reach forward to the new, listening to this beloved one of God, this Jesus and listening to him only. Then, it is time to go back down the mountain and return to the others. They will be the same, but for you everything is different. God has done a new thing. Everything in your life is transfigured - transformed - changed - to a new reality of God.
It is meant to be easy for us, as followers of Jesus, to put ourselves in the place of James or John or Peter. We go through the same kind of adventure in our daily lives; we recognise the same Lord. And we hear the same message from God: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
We too have our "mountain tops." Each of us needs places and times set apart for us to take a good spiritual breath. Often this can happen in the midst of worship or Bible study or prayer groups or whenever we gather with fellow believers or even as we share an experience with God’s creation. The "mountain tops" of our lives are also represented by times when we are alone with only silence around us-not with a radio blaring or a television yakking or a computer clicking. This is our personal prayer time and time for meditation and reflection - being still so we know God for what God is, specifically, in our lives. If you have ever sat upon the mountain top or in the bush and watched and listened as the new day dawned in all its glory will now what I am referring to.
 All of us though, too, gain recognition and insight into God when we go to these mountain tops set aside as holy places and holy times for us to focus on God. In the stillness of our quiet and solitude as we watch and wait we learn to see and hear what our God says and does and how God moves us. The presence of God can astonish us in the beauty of creation and the generosity of the love we are surrounded by.
  And we too can listen most attentively to the beloved of God. In these times of quiet prayer and meditation and self-examination, we listen for the words and the truths of our Universe and our God through Jesus. We do this through reading and reflecting and through studying the examples of others whom we Christians call the saints. We connect with the saints of old and the godly people of our own day and communities by opening ourselves to recognise the power of the spirit moving among us and those around us, changing lives to better reflect values of God s kingdom.

However, we too must come down from our "mountain tops," knowing what is possible for us in every part of our lives. We can count on the amazing power of God to transfigure and transform and change what is old into what is new-what is ordinary into the extra-ordinary, into what can be.
The truth of the Gospel affirms that each and every one of us - even if we are lost, blind, misguided, self-centred, and arrogant - can really be transformed into God's beloved children and his faithful disciples. God can transform our sadness and frustration and despair into joy and hope. God can transform our apathy and lack of concern for God's commandments into an active love that brings God's kingdom more closely into being. God can transform our weakness and fear into courage and strength. God can transform our earthy, broken humanity into faithful members of the Body of Christ.
We live our lives at the base of the mountain. If we have heard the transforming word of God we will continue to listen to Jesus our Lord and we will pray continually the collect connected with today's Gospel.


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