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  • "Who is my mother, brothers and sisters...?" (Matthew 12: 46 - 50)

    Pray As You Go, the devotional resource, today focussed on the above passage.

    The hearer was invited to think about their mother and brothers, sisters and father, as appropriate.  It's the first time I've heard/read or reflected on those verse since my mother's death, and that made a difference to how I heard and responded to them.

    We're not a close family, not least as neither of our parents were close to their own families (something of a trait in their generation I think, based on what such cousins as I have established contact with tell me). So the death of my mother is the end of an era - the essential, central link between my siblings and myself is gone and, it's pretty much down to me to keep up the work of contact.

    The image of a close-knit family, centred on a mother, is a lovely one, but it's not even remotely my experience now...  Indeed, unlike Jesus whose family were interested in what he was doing, and actively concerned for his well-being, I can't say my siblings are interested in what I get up to (and, if I'm brutally honest, I'm not a whole lot better when it comes to their lives... the distant maiden aunt who always remembers birthdays and Christmas but that's about it).

    Jesus in this passage redefines his family as a chosen, intentional, community.  I get that.  I've preached on it, I've taught it in Sunday School.  And of course it's true.  I am far, far closer to those among whom I minister than to other people; the language of 'siblings-in-Christ' trips easily from my lips.

    BUT

    But today, in a new way, with new eyes, I hear the first part of the passage from the perspective of those who do not have all, or any, of these blood relatives - close or otherwise.  The viewpoint of those whose parents or siblings have died, or are estranged, or are far away, or who never knew or never had such relatives.

     

    Jesus, who knew the love of a large family, even if with over-protective mother and siblings, tradition tells us your father (the human one) died early, which must have affected you and them.  You, who know the challenges of family life, who understand the mixed feelings that arise when things change, invite us to be part of your family... Thank you for that invitation, which we accept, and for that promise, in which we trust... but in the 'ouch' moments show us where we may find whatever it is we need, human or divine, to bring the renewed wholeness we need.

    Amen. 

     

    My relationship with my Mum wasn't perfect. She was, among other things, over-protective, and at times interfering and annoying... but she was my mother, and I loved her.  

  • Summer Series 2018 - Questions to Ponder - Week 4 - For Such a Time (Esther)

    Questions to Ponder

    1. Esther is chosen to be queen by means of a bizarre beauty contest. As a concept, ‘beauty’ is abstract, and difficult to define.  How would you recognise or identify beauty?

    2. In the series we are following, Esther is the only woman identified, leading to the possibility that she is there as a ‘token woman’. In our endeavours to celebrate diversity, and to be inclusive, do we risk ‘tokenism’ based on gender, ethnicity, age, marital status, sexuality, etc.? Is some form of ‘box ticking’ either helpful or necessary in establishing/encouraging diversity?

    3. If you were invited to make a list of Bible characters for you own team, who would you include in order to better reflect the diversity in the people of God? Why did you choose these rather than others?

     

    1. Mordecai famously said to Esther, “Do not think because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”  How do you feel when you read this?  Why is that?

    2. ‘For such a time as this’… If I/we heard that spoken to us, what is the unique opportunity we have to be God’s person or people? What is it about me/us that makes us God’s person/people for this time?

    3. “If you don’t do this, another way will be found… but…” Two very different questions to ponder here:

      1. What might I/we miss out on in opting not to fulfil God’s call at this time?
      2. Do you think that there are times when humans thwart God’s ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’ is needed?  Why do you think that?
  • Beauty ....

    Yesterday as part of our service, inspired by the story of Esther, we talked a little bit about beauty and beauty-contest mentality.

    I was aware of this video on BBC London website, which says everything I wanted to say, only better., and now I'm sharing it...