Archive for the ‘Holy Spirit’ Tag

‘Just give me five minutes’ peace!’ – The Anxiety Scale.   Leave a comment

HOLY SPIRIT - FOIX

Fruit of the Spirit:  Peace:  Isaiah 43 vv 1-7: An Interactive Study

’Just give me five minutes peace and quiet!’ This is probably the most frequent, everyday use of the word peace that you’ll hear in English-speaking homes and schools! Even in the religious context, the word is usually used in a collocation, a group of words, like  ’grace, mercy and peace..’, in a way in which faith, hope and love are not. On the international ’stage’, peace is seen as the absence of war or, to be more cynical, ’the period of cheating between battles’, rarely as ’the presence of justice’. Similarly,  in our day-to-day lives, a period of ’peace’ is the antidote to stress and anxiety, which is nearly always seen as a temporary respite from ongoing conflicts at home, school, work or in the local church and community. It’s a state we are given by someone else, either by our family or, if we are religious, by God. It’s a passive state, not an active one, not one which we create for ourselves.

So, where are you on the Anxiety Scale? Where would you put your life? In general? At present?

0-2 Very peaceful

English: An anxious person

English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3-4 Quite peaceful

5-6 Relatively peaceful; a little worried

6-7 Anxious

8-9 Very Anxious

10 Tearing your hair out!

What are your deepest  fears? Can you put a name to them for yourself and in a private conversation with God?

In the Book of Isaiah, chapters 40-55 are concerned with the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The message is a comforting one: God is about to do something new and the punishment of the past is over. They are about to experience a period of peace, or ’reconciliation’.

 

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading: Isaiah 43 vv 1-7:

But now, this is what the LORD says –

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

And when you pass through the rivers,

They will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

You will not be burned;

The flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;

I give Egypt for your ransom,

Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honoured in my sight,

And because I love you,

I will give men in exchange for you,

And people in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

I will bring your children from the east

And gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’

And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’

Bring my sons from afar

And my daughters from the ends of the earth –

Everyone who is called by my name,

Whom I created for my glory,

Whom I formed and made.”

Reflections:

Franklin D. Roosevelt after giving one of his ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt after giving one of his fireside chats. The predecessor to the Weekly Address. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When President Roosevelt came into office during the Great Depression of the 1930s, he told the American people ’we have nothing to fear but fear itself’. He went on to speak about how fear can paralyse and debilitate us, but that it could also energise us into action. In his first hundred days in office, he energised the American people through a series of reforms known collectively as ’the New Deal’. In the passage above, this is what God is offering the people of Israel and, by extension, ourselves: A New Deal, both in our private lives and our public relationships.

How do you deal with fear and anxiety? Flight or fight?

What does God promise us? If not freedom from adversity and persecution, then what?

So, what is Peace? The Hebrew ’Shalom’ in the Old Testament implies health and well-being, welfare and ’wholeness’ .  It is externally given, which is why the word was used as a traditional greeting – ’peace be with you’, or, to paraphrase, ’may the Lord grant you safety and security’. Of course, an obsession with this ’state’ is what can give rise to an extreme ’Zionism’, the belief that God has given a timeless guarantee of the right of the Jewish people to security above all other Peoples.

However, Isaiah is also looking forward to a more inclusive, universal  definition, reconciling all who are called by his name from every part of the known world. In the New Testament, the word becomes transformed and redefined as ’peace of mind, spirit and heart’, an internal condition, or ’inner peace’. This is Paul’s meaning in Galatians 5:22, where he lists it as one of the fruits of the spirit, a ’divine’ quality which becomes intrinsic in the believer through the action of the Holy Spirit.In all,  there are eight references to ’peace’ in Isaiah, all referring to the ’external’ idea;  the passage above refers to testing by fire and water and to God being with us in this testing, protecting and providing us with security. Written after Babylonian exile, it is a promise of reconciliation.

However, in  vv 3-4, there is a ’foreshadowing’ of what Jesus would do; we are as precious as Seba or Cush, the fertile areas of the Upper Nile, but Christ’s ransom will be paid once and for all. The Red Cross says they don’t pay ransoms on the basis that ’once you give in to kidnappers, they always come back for more’. ’Appeasement’ is the same. We might gently give in to our children when they ask for sweets or toys, though we know the eventual cost may be far higher. However, we rely on their ’gacefulness’ to respond by not continually demanding more. Dictators are not graceful, however, and view ’generosity’ as a sign of weakness, which is why people are rightly suspicious of supporters of ’peace

at any price’. They are never satisfied.  The Price paid by God on Calvary was so high that no more could be asked. However, Christians continued to die by all manner of fearful methods, so God doesn’t promise safety, security, freedom from persecution or suffering. In fact, tells disciples that they must be prepared to ’take up their cross’. But he does promise that his peace will be with us, through the Spirit.

So, how can we accept God’s Peace in our lives?

  • we can’t understand it, we just have to accept it – it passes all our understanding in this life;
  • we can’t equate it with any kind of worldly peace, though it is offered and will be given in/ to this world – but ’not as the world gives…’;
  • Isaiah chapters 52-56 make it clear that Justice and Peace are two sides of the same coin. Peace not the absence of conflict, but presence of justice. If we treat others justly, we are ourselves put right with God; but we cannot be ’at peace’ with God if we ’at war’ with others;
  • God will ’gather in’ all areas of Earth, none of which are excluded from God’s grace, which is universal and available to all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexuality (56 vv 3-8);
  • The ’whole created order,’ the entire universe, is reconciled by the cross; the Greek word here is ’oikoumene’ which gives us our words for ’economy’ and ’ecology’. The gospel is also about ecological balance, about ’Green Peace’. We are called to respect God’s purpose for his creation, since we are only tenants.

How can your relationship with God produce a spirit of peace within you?

This state is not the same as ’being cool’, or ’keeping calm’ and ’carrying on’ regardless. It’s certainly not behaving passively or with total tranquility, as if we’re on valerian.  In ’turning the other cheek’ we are called to witness non-violently to the truth. Even in the eye of the storm, we need to hold firm to our anchor and God will calm the wind and the waves.  Peace begins when we stand still and face our fears, bringing our anxieties to God in prayer and it continuing as we seek God’s transformation of our conflicts through his reconciling love.

So, what is Reconciliation?

To reconcile: to cause a relationship to be harmonious, peaceful and righteous.

  1. Used of what the disciples must do for one another (Mt 5:24; Lk 12:58);
  2. Used of what God has achieved through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus (Ro 5: 1-10; 2 Cor 5:18)
  3. Used of the duty of a sinner towards God – to accept forgiveness and be in a right relationship (2 Cor 5:20).

So how does this change our definition of peace?

Peace is the sound of children playing, and a father’s voice singing…(author unknown).

Psalms 27, 46, 49, 56 and 91 speak peace to our fears.

Prayers:

For Inner Peace:

Lord, I know that you have heard the prayers of my heart. I have described for you my deepest fears and concerns, and it is my desire to relinquish them to you. You have created my mind, Lord, with the amazing capacity to dream with you. In my silence I sense your powerful presence.

I picture your arms around me, assuring me that all is well. In my heart I hear you whisper. ’You are my precious child and I love you. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your saviour.’

Lord, thank you for taking my fears and concerns. You are in control – your will be done.

 (Hazel Offner)

 

For Peace in the World:

O God of power and love, look in mercy upon our war-torn world, which is still your world;

You have made it; in it you delight to work; you have redeemed its people.

Grant reconciliation, we ask, between man and man, nation and nation, through the power of that great peace made by Jesus your Son;

May your servants not be troubled by wars and rumours of wars, but rather look up because their redemption draws near; and when our king returns, may he find many waiting for him, and fighting with his weapons alone;

We ask it in the King’s name, Jesus Christ your son our Lord. AMEN.

(Christopher Idle)

Song: Tom Paxton, Peace Will Come:

My own life is all I can hope to control,

Let my life be lived for the good of my soul,

And may it bring peace,

Sweet peace,

Peace will come,

Let it begin with me.

 

St Columba’s Prayer of Benediction:

Deep peace of the running wave to you,

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,

Deep peace of the shining stars to you,

Deep peace of the son of peace to you.

 

AJC, 3/5/12, updated for reading, 10/6/12

 

 

Growing up & finding God’s way: Shrovetide to Mothering (‘Refreshment’) Sunday   Leave a comment

This is based on Reflections for Lent I gave at our ‘Home Sunday School‘ as international teachers in Pécs, Hungary, in the 1990’s.

Sentences: 

Jesus said: If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Train yourselves in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Prayer:

O Lord God, who knowest that we have many temptations to conquer, many evils to shun, many difficulties to overcome, and as many opportunities of good: so order our doings that we observe in all things the perfect rule of Christ, and set ourselves to serve thee first, others next, and ourselves last; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Reading from ‘Portrait of Jesus’ by Alan T Dale

Jesus went away from Jordan River, his heart filled with God’s Spirit. And God led him out on to the lonely moorlands. He was there many a long day. He was being tested; he had to think things out; what did God want him to do? All this time he had nothing to eat, and at the end he was very hungry indeed. 

This coversation took place in his mind: Jesus imagined himself to be sometimes on the moorlands themselves, sometimes on the top of a very high mountain, sometimes standing on the top of the Temple Gate in Jerusalem.

On the moorlands:

Voice: If you are God’s Son, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.

Jesus: The Bible says: Bread is not the only thing a man needs to live on.

On the top of a very high mountain, where he could see so far that all the world seemed to lie at his feet:

Voice: I will give you all the power of these great countries and their royal splendour. It is all mine – mine to give to anybody I want to. It can all be yours – on one condition; you must take me for your King – not God.

Jesus: The Bible says: God himself must be your King; you must be his servant and his servant only.

Jerusalem, on the top of the Temple Gate, looking down on all the people gathered in the Court below:

Voice: If you are God’s Son jump down from this high place. The Bible says: God will command his angels to look after you.

And again the Bible says: Their hands will hold you fast – you won’t even stub your toe on a stone.

Jesus: The Bible also says: You must not put God to the test.

The testing time of Jesus was over – but it was not the last test he had to face.

He had long thought about what kind of leader God’s ‘Chosen Leader’ would be….Now he knew that to be ‘the leader of his people’ was the job God had given him to do. He had to make a final decision. He faced the great crisis of his life – but not the last crisis.

It was one thing to try things out in Nazareth; it was another to find himself shaken by a profound religious experience in which he believed God was, as it were, commissioning him for this great work. All he had read in the Old Testament, all he had become aware of in his own experience of God, all the ideas and convictions that had become clear in debate and argument with freedom-fighters and the rabbis met in one explosive moment.

What kind of work was this to be? Jesus went out into the lonely hills to pray and think things out. The ‘temptations’ or ‘testings’ Jesus faced came from the different ways in which he could have been the leader of his people. He turned them all down. The words of refusal he used all come from the great ‘Law Book’ in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy) – a book he loved. It is as if he is saying, ‘No, that’s not God’s Way‘ (69-70).

A Housewife’s Meditation for Lent

‘Jesus returned from the Jordan…and was led by the Holy Spirit to spend 40 days in the desert…’

Lord it is Lent:

the time when some people give up luxuries in order to assume new duties.

The time when some people do their Spring cleaning, and buy new clothes for Easter.

But what did you do Lord to make this season what it is?

You got away from people: away from the distracting things of daily life, because you wanted to listen to your Father and find his way to conquer evil and liberate your friends.

Then you returned and met life at the points where good and evil meet, and everybody saw the power of God in you.

So what do I do Lord in this restless age?

The terrible temptation is to rush around every day being busy.

There is a terrible temptation to think I can’t find time for quiet, or even find a quiet place.

But in my heart of hearts I know that I need you.

Now in this age of jet-propulsion, space research and automation,

I must make time and find a place: a time and a place to learn the art of listening, Lord, and get to know you better.

That’s what I’ll do this Lent, Lord.

Patricia Mitchell

My Reflections:

Growing up & finding God’s Way:

‘Penance’ or ‘Repentance’ means a change of heart. These are real changes in our lives, and the way we reflect on them represents our process of growing up. This is mirrored in our spiritual life by our ‘growing in grace’, for we are not the victims of ‘fate’ or ‘chance’. We make changes through God’s grace and learn to manage other changes which come our way.

The message of Lent is concerned with these spiritual processes; growing up, learning to make and manage change, learning to find God’s Way, which is not always our own way.

The biggest change in my own life, becoming a father, has challenged me to listen to words I first heard as a teenager in new ways. In particular, two songs by the folk-singer Harvey Andrews have taken on fresh meanings. The first speaks of the awesome responsibility of bringing a child into today’s world. The second reflects on the changing relationships between a son and his father and evokes a spirit of repentance in the son towards his father which many of us can, I’m sure, identify with very strongly from our own experiences.

I’ve often thought about the relationship between Jesus and Joseph, perhaps because my work, my life as a teacher, was only just beginning when my father died. He too, like Joseph and Jesus, was a craftsman, a draughtsman in a Black Country steel-works. Like Jesus, coming from a working-class background with family responsibilities, he didn’t begin his ministry until he was in his thirties. How, I wonder, had Joseph felt about Jesus’ abrupt question in the Temple, ‘did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ The gospels tell us nothing of their relationship through Jesus’ teens and twenties when he kept to his earthly father’s business, honouring his apprenticeship as a carpenter, despite the ‘radicalisation’ of other young men around him, some of whom must have already died as ‘freedom-fighters’ against the Romans in what the Zealots saw as a ‘Holy Struggle’ in which God was calling them to become martyrs.

Significantly, his ministry begins with both a change of physical location as he goes south to join John at the Jordan, and a change of spiritual direction, as he accepts Baptism, the Act of Repentance, from his cousin. This was not an admission of previous guilt so much as a recognition of the turning point his acceptance of the call to ministry involved, as he sets off in a different direction into the wilderness to reflect of the momentous change that his public announcement would bring about, a course which would lead to conflict and confrontation with the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem, as well as with some of his own people in Galilee.

Dale’s paraphrasing of the wilderness experience brings out Jesus’ inner journey to find God’s Way, reflecting on his past in order to make a decision about what kind of leader he would be. In order for us to grow, through grace, into God’s Way, we too need periods of quiet reflection when we can listen to the struggling voices within us, silence them and come to terms with the decisions we need to make in order to change course into the path that God wants us to take. The turning points we face will be much more ‘incremental’ and far less radical than those faced by Jesus, but they need patient endeavour and endurance.

Prayer:

Patience in Seeking God’s Will;

‘Jesus, after he had fated forty days and forty nights…was hungry.’

Lord, we are hungry for the knowledge of the next step we must take. Give to us the long patience of Christ that we, like him, may not decide our future in haste; mercifully grant that hunger for an improvement in our lot; hunger for release from tension or anxiety; hunger for success in your service; or any other kind of appetite for things hidden in the future, may not stampede the soul into premature decisions.

Instead of turning these stones of impatience into the bread of hasty action, may it be our meat and drink to do your will, and like the Saviour find that we have meat to eat we knew not of.

Make us not to hunger for tomorrow, but to hunger and thirst after righteousness, in the sure knowledge that they who do so shall be filled; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Dick Williams

%d bloggers like this: