Discerning the spirits: Six approaches

Many of us have had the experience of feeling driven to do something, barging off and doing it, then experiencing that sick realisation that it was not the right thing at all. Many of us have also had someone tell us that ‘God has laid it on my heart and …’; yet their words have left us feeling confused, anxious, coerced or manipulated. Many of us seem to lack confidence in discerning the spirits or testing whether a prayerful experience or prompt is from God; and as a result, many of us seem to mistrust or deny any spiritual experiences at all. And yet, we have faith that God works through the Holy Spirit and prayer: and so, rather than denying all such experiences, we must find ways to discern the work of the spirits, good and bad. Continue reading “Discerning the spirits: Six approaches”

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#22: Seek first God’s kingdom: #40ways40days

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear … For it is the peoples of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.’ (Luke 12:22, 30-31)

I chose this passage because it speaks so much to the bundle of fears, hopes and desires we each grapple with, and need to come back to time and time again. This passage has been a game changer for Greg and I, and I am both grateful for it and struggle with it at various points in my life. Just before this passage there are contrasting stories. First, of a man who kept building bigger and bigger barns for himself, and who was ever more focused on securing his own wealth at the expense of and in the absence of others, which is contrasted with a story of the birds of the field who are provided for by God. Continue reading “#22: Seek first God’s kingdom: #40ways40days”

#13: Join in: #40ways40days

Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for him out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Lord,

I am not one to despise Your gifts.

May You be blessed

Who spread the riches of Your sweetness

for my zeal …

Let my small span of ardent life

melt into our great communal task;

to lift up to Your glory

this temple of sweetness,

a citadel of incense,

a holy candle, myriad-celled,

moulded of Your graces

and of my hidden work. Amen.

© Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, ‘The Prayer of the Bee’ from Prayers from the Ark, transl. Rumer Goden. Viking, 1962. #40ways40days. Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash.

 

Group Reflection: Testing Scripture

On Sunday we reflected as a group on Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13). We noted that the devil / enemy quotes Scripture at Jesus, and so we focused on on two questions:

  • Can you think of a time Scripture has been used to misdirect, oppress or trap you or somebody else? Or of a time you yourself have felt dishonest in your use of Scripture?
  • How then do you test whether Scripture is being truthfully (lovingly, appropriately) applied?

Continue reading “Group Reflection: Testing Scripture”

Nothing like a good yarn

Dear friend,

On Saturday 19 January at 7pm, we will hold our first yarn: an evening for people to gather and tell stories. The theme is epiphany: a moment when you realised something deep and true about yourself or the world. More about the event is here; guidelines for storytellers are here. But what’s the big idea behind it? Well, we are story people. The stories we tell and the stories we inhabit create deep patterns in our minds, shaping how we see the world, each other and ourselves. Yet we are surrounded by untrue stories: the story that there is never enough to go round (dismantled here); the story that suffering is a cosmic or divine punishment (dismissed here); the story that some groups of people threaten the smooth workings of our society (deconstructed here); the story that wealth is a sign of God’s favour (demolished here); and many others. Continue reading “Nothing like a good yarn”

Forging discomfort into community

This week at Sanctuary we heard the story of the Widow’s Mite: Jesus is at the Temple and observes rich people dropping large sums in the offering box, and a poor widow who puts in the two smallest coins going at the time. Jesus tells His disciples that the Widow has given the most – everything she has – while the Rich have given only a small amount of their surplus. Giving out of your surplus always grabs me with this story. The notion that giving and remaining comfortable isn’t much to write home about – the real magic comes by giving even when it causes discomfort. Continue reading “Forging discomfort into community”

The Ring Theory of Kvetching

My mother was a pastoral caregiver: the person everyone approached to talk, weep and rage through life’s crises. When she became sick, a problem emerged. People would come and pour out their strong feelings about her illness (not theirs); and she, in pain and exhausted, would quell her own feelings and comfort them as best as she was able – even as she desperately needed comforting herself. Continue reading “The Ring Theory of Kvetching”

Further Thoughts on Gossip

How fitting to have a youth group bonfire the night before we heard that “the tongue is a fire … itself set on fire by hell!” (James 3). And in the weird and wonderful way that the lectionary throws up readings, this text came up not only the day after the bonfire (which was awesome, thanks for asking, not least thanks to the prayer shield which gave us a dry 90 minutes for the precise window of time we were scheduled to stand in a field watching things burn; I’m not sure what I think about that; so let’s just pray much harder for the rain to head north), but two weeks after someone asked me what I thought about gossip.  Continue reading “Further Thoughts on Gossip”

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