Speak Lord: Grace and Peace…

dsc00885-paul

From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.

This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.

Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ. To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.

Romans 1:1-7

On the Sunday before Christmas, the 4th Sunday of Advent, we are reminded of the Good News and of the foundaiton of our faith.

The Gospel is Good News because it is the revelation of some particular thing which happened at particular time, and involves a particular series of historical events, that had a particular beginning and a particular ‘end’.

The Gospel is not a philosophy, expounding eternal verities, still less some religious lowest common denominator of ethics and moral saws and sentences.

Paul makes that very clear. Our faith is rooted in the scandals of the Incarnation and the Cross, if our faith is the faith of the Church.

And our faith calls out to be lived in radical ways here and now, overturning the expectations of a world limited to its own established ways and expectations: doing the impossible in love.

  • Where might you start? Next?

Byzantine Enamel. (11th C) in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: King to your subjects…

CHrist the KingAt Mass tomorrow we sing part of Psalm 92. This Sunday is the feast of Christ the King and the psalm lauds the Lord as King.

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed.

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed;
the Lord has robed himself with might,
he has girded himself with power.

The world you made firm, not to be moved;
your throne has stood firm from of old.
From all eternity, O Lord, you are.

Truly your decrees are to be trusted.
Holiness is fitting to your house,
O Lord, until the end of time.

Psalm 92:1-2,5

Praising the kingship of Christ is one thing: words can come easy. Living as ‘subjects’ is not so straightforward.

Where do we show trust of the Lord’s decrees? Where does God’s law take precedence over…. Well, take precedence over what? Our preferences? Our judgements? Our conscience?

Words can come easy, but to help sustain our seeking after Christ’s kingdom, and our praying for God’s will to be done (which made Jesus sweat blood!), we need to take note of the grist we bring to the mill.

Figure of Christ the King. Limoges, c1200. VIctoria and Albert Museum. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of strength and weakness

The GoSt Peterspel reading on Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, brings us to the very centre of Mark’s Gospel. It is literally the very middle of his text; and also the passage engages with the very core of the message of Mark – the tension between the glory of faith and faithfulness and the experience of the persecution and death of Jesus, and the continuing experience of persecution in the Church.

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

Mark 8:27-35

Peter welcomes the Gospel of Glory – that Jesus is the Christ. Peter cannot accept the Cross, and in his rejection of the Cross, Peter is renamed Satan by Jesus!

Mark is believed to have written his Gospel, informed directly by his hearing the reminiscences of St Peter. He writes in the wake not only of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the subsequent martyrdom of St Peter. It is believed that many in his first audience were survivors of the persecution of the Church in Rome, and not a few of them survivors because they denied the faith or fled.

The Church is a community of sinners (and therefore in some sense failures) but the Church is not always comfortable in admitting it, not least to itself. Mark confronts us with the challenge of getting real about ourselves and how it is through such defeats that we become more and more fit for sharing in the triumph that is ours, not by our success, but by the Glory of Christ, crucified but now risen from the dead.

  • How have I learnt from failure?
  • What I have I failed to learn from my failures?
  • How can I share what I have learnt?

St Peter, depicted on the Syon Cope, in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London © 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord was close and is closer yet.

Disobedient objects

The Collect at Mass yesterday rather simply and effectively covered a number of the themes in the readings of the day

Collect

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Abasement, humiliation, rejection; the mission to save and restore to life; the promise of love and happiness.

  • What particular reading, or part of a reading struck you yesterday?
  • Why?

Photograph of quotation displayed at Disobedient Objects, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.