John’s Gospel & Love

John’s Gospel & Love

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer: Steadfast love

Gracious God,

for your love for us,

gentle as a shower,

healing our pain,

binding our wounds,

we give you thanks.

For your love for us,

sure as the dawn,

transforming our darkness,

revealing your truth,

we give you thanks.

For your love for us,

mercifully steadfast,

calling us to you,

raising us up,

we give you thanks.

Urge us on, O Christ,

to find wholeness

through serving you

by serving others,

in the power of your Spirit.

(Kate McIlhagga in Green Heart of the Snowdrop)

Read:

John 13:1 (Translation by N.T.Wright)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

It was before the Festival of Passover. Jesus knew that his time had come, the time for him to leave this world and go to the father. He had always loved his own people in the world; now he loved them right through to the end.

Thought for the day:

Based on Broken Signposts: How Christianity Makes Sense of the World, by N.T.Wright

Love is the most powerful thing in the world. It is love that takes the worst that evil can do and, absorbing it, defeats it. This love comes to us through Jesus, by the victory won on the cross against the forces of evil. As God-reflecting human beings, we are made for love; made to find ourselves in and through love, both the love we give and the love we receive. Jesus commands us to “… love one another! Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how everybody will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other. (John 13:34-35)

Image: The Mates by Leigh Conkie, Greensborough War Memorial Park. A soldier has a supportive arm around a wounded mate.

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John’s Gospel & Justice

John’s Gospel & Justice

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer:

God help us to change.

To change ourselves and to change our world.

To know the need for it.

To deal with the pain of it.

To feel the joy of it.

To undertake the journey

without understanding the destination.

The art of gentle revolution. Amen.

(Michael Leunig in Be Our Freedom Lord)

Read:

John 3:19-21 (Translation by N.T.Wright)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

This is the condemnation: that light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because what they were doing was evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light; people like that don’t come to the light, in case their deeds get shown up and reproved. But people who do the truth come to the light, so that it can become clear that what they have done had been done in God.

Thought for the day:

Based on Broken Signposts: How Christianity Makes Sense of the World, by N.T.Wright

God is on the side of the victim, and will not allow the dark power of evil to have the last word. With Jesus’ resurrection, the old way of injustice was defeated, and a new way of justice has triumphed. By the Spirit, those of us who follow Jesus are commissioned and equipped to be justice people, hope-giving people for a world where injustice still reigns.

Finish by rereading the prayer.

Image: Der Rufer (The Caller), a bronze statue by Gerhard Marcks outside the library in Perth. It is dedicated to all victims and survivors of torture.

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To Believe or Not To Believe

To Believe or Not To Believe

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: The love of God’s name

Lord of all power and might,

the author and giver of all good things:

graft in our hearts the love of your name,

increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness,

and in your great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 1662

Read:

Malachi 1:9-14. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

9“Now plead with God to be gracious to us.”, you say to the priests. But with such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.

10“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

11My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

12“But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’

13And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

. 14“Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

(Malachi 1:9-14 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

Malachi reveals to us a very human response to religion by the God’s people. It seems that people believe in God enough to offer the sacrifices but they also disbelieve in God and so they offer sick second-rate animals that God has explicitly forbidden as sacrifices. They both want to please God and don’t care at the same time. Almost like they are hedging their bets. In Revelations, Christ describes one of the seven churches that way; neither hot nor cold but lukewarm.

Only a human being would believe enough to offer a sacrifice which costs them money (even if it is lame) but not enough to offer the sacrifice that God actually asked for.

The inner contradiction when it comes to our relationship with God is revealed here in Malachi. I believe the reason this Minor Prophet is in the Bible at all is because this religious oddness is actually quite common.

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” is the cry to Jesus of a father who needs an exorcism for his dear son. Perhaps it is our cry too on our silent moments…

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Jesus, Wisdom of God

Jesus, Wisdom of God

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

A Psalm celebrating wisdom:

They are wise who can get to the heart

of an issue or a person.

Make us people of wisdom, Sophia,

people who see to the heart.

They are wise who use their heads

when others around them panic.

Make us people of wisdom, Sophia,

people who seldom panic.

They are wise who listen well

and are not afraid to be honest.

Make us people of wisdom, Sophia,

people unafraid to be honest.

They are wise who dwell in God

and are filled with God’s own Spirit.

Make us people of wisdom, Sophia,

people filled with Your Spirit.

(By Miriam Therese Winter in WomanWisdom )

Read:

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (NIV)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Thought for the day:

The feminine word “Sophia” is the Greek word for wisdom. The Book of Proverbs refers to Wisdom as co-creator, source of life, insight and strength (Prov 8). Paul declares that Christ is the Wisdom/Sophia of God (1Cor 1:24) and Jesus refers to himself as Sophia (Matt 11:19). The naming of Jesus as the child of Sophia or the incarnation of Sophia Wisdom was common in the early church and is being used today by Christians who wish to highlight the feminine in the bible and in their faith. Today, seek to be open to new perspectives and examine the reasons you accept or reject new ideas.

Image: Detail from Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1668. Note that the hands of the father figure, representing God, are not identical. One is a male hand, and one a female.

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Jesus, Storyteller

Jesus, Storyteller

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer: Far and wide

Open my eyes,

my ears, my mind;

open my imagination

to your presence and your love,

mysterious God.

Open my hands, Lord,

that I may sow with generosity.

Unclench my fists, Lord, that I may scatter the good news

of your coming

far and wide.

(Kate McIlhagga, Green Heart of the Snowdrop)

Read:

Luke 8:4-10a (NIV)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you.”

Thought for the day:

Using familiar things such as a farmer sowing seed, a woman making bread, workers in a vineyard, and a shepherd with sheep, Jesus told stories to help people understand what God and God’s Kingdom are like. Stories take us beyond the factual world and allow us to enter a world of imagination, metaphor, belief and faith. Bring to mind one of Jesus’ stories that is of special importance to you and reflect on its meaning for you.

Finish by rereading the prayer.

Image: Sourced from www.freebibleimages, parable of the sower

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Jesus, Reconciler

Jesus, Reconciler

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

O God who knows us in our weakness

and befriends us in our chaos,

free me from hate and fear;

turn pain and anger

into tools for healing;

open the door to reconciliation

and restitution of right relationships

between friends and neighbours,

between nations and peoples,

that your truth may reign

in our hearts,

and your peace

welcome us home.

(Kate McIlhagga, Green Heart of the Snowdrop)

Read:

2 Corinthians 5: 16-20 (NIV)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

Thought for the day:

The sculptor of todays’ image Josefina de Vasconcellos, wrote:

"The sculpture was originally conceived in the aftermath of the War. Europe was in shock, people were stunned. I read in a newspaper about a woman who crossed Europe on foot to find her husband, and I was so moved that I made the sculpture. Then I thought that it wasn't only about the reunion of two people but hopefully a reunion of nations which had been fighting."

Originally called Reunion, when the sculpture was later taken for repairs to the sculptor's workshop, it was renamed Reconciliation. Cast copies of this sculpture have been placed in memorials at Hiroshima, Belfast and at the Berlin wall.

God has given us the privilege of being ambassadors for reconciliation for the people in our lives, and for the whole world. Reflect on what it means to be an ambassador for reconciliation, then reread the prayer.

Image: Reconciliation, by Josefina de Vasconcellos, in St. Michael's Cathedral, Coventry.

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Jesus, Giver of Peace

Jesus, Giver of Peace

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer:

Risen Jesus,

we thank you for your greeting,

‘Peace be with you’.

The shalom of God, deep lasting peace;

peace that brings inner calm;

that keeps a person steady in the storm;

that faces the persecutor without fear

and proclaims the good news with courage and with joy.

This is the peace that reconciles

sister to brother, black to white,

rich and poor, young and old;

but not a peace that is quiet

in the face of oppression and injustice.

This is peace with God,

the peace that passes understanding.

(John Johansen-Berg in Bread of Tomorrow, ed. Janet Morley)

Read:

John 20:19-21 (NIV) Jesus Appears to His Disciples

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Thought for the day:

Slow your breathing, close your eyes, and bring to mind a peaceful place or an image of what peace means to you. Using our imagination to take us to a place of peace can reduce anxiety, and help us to relax. Whilst our yearning might be to remain in that relaxed place of peace all day and every day, life makes this impossible. The peace which Jesus gives is this kind of peace and more. It is a deep inner peace that enables us to be strong in the face of life’s difficulties, and to stand up for what is right. When Jesus was speaking with his disciples before his death he said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Finish by rereading the prayer.

Image: Tile from peace wall in Hamilton, New Zealand

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Leadership, Enemies and Peace

Psalm 27 Surviving Leadership

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: A collect of the Evening

Lighten our darkness,

Lord, we pray;

and in your great mercy defend us

from all perils and dangers of this night;

for the love of your only Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

An Australian Prayer Book, 1978

Read:

Psalm 27. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

1The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom shall I be afraid?

2When the wicked advance against me to devour me,

it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

3Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;

though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

4One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

5For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

6Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;

at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make music to the Lord.

7Hear my voice when I call, Lord;

be merciful to me and answer me.

8My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”

Your face, Lord, I will seek.

9Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;

you have been my helper.

Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Saviour.

10Though my father and mother forsake me, the

Lord will receive me.

11Teach me your way, Lord;

lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

12Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,

for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

13I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

(Psalm 27 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

David had discovered that leadership is tough in this “dog eat dog world”. Even though the Psalm is written by an individual, this individual is the King. It is his position that attracts envy and enemies who want to discredit and bring him down. He is almost drowning under the weight of their gaze.

This is still felt today by anyone in leadership either in politics, or in social media, football, etc. Not a day goes by without someone sharing how they were ‘trolled’ or the victim of hate speech, or the victim of false accusations. Not a day goes by without politicians saying misleading things about their opponents.

How does one survive?

David seeks God’s face. (v 8) He fills his thoughts with God and his ways and this helps change his mindset from victim to ‘blessed one’. The goodness of the Lord preoccupies his thoughts not the malice of his enemies. These are the insights of experience. This is how David actually survived and flourish in a life that was never without enemies.

What do you fill your thoughts with over the day?

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Psalm 26 Self Awareness

Psalm 26 Self Awareness?

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: A collect of the morning

Lord our heavenly Father,

almighty and everlasting God,

we thank you for bringing us safely to this day.

Keep us by your mighty power,

and grant that today we fall into no sin,

neither run into any kind of danger,

but lead and govern us in all things,

that we may always do what is righteous in your sight;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

An Australian Prayer Book, 1978

Read:

Psalm 26:1-7. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

1Vindicate me, Lord,

for I have led a blameless life;

I have trusted in the Lord

and have not faltered.

2Test me, Lord, and try me,

examine my heart and my mind;

3for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love

and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

4I do not sit with the deceitful,

nor do I associate with hypocrites.

5I abhor the assembly of evildoers

and refuse to sit with the wicked.

6I wash my hands in innocence,

and go about your altar, Lord,

7proclaiming aloud your praise

and telling of all your wonderful deeds.

(Psalm 26:1-7 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

We know David’s life story; his childhood steeped in shepherding and reflecting on God, his faith based gangly teenage faith based war on Goliath, his rise to General in Saul’s army, and his faith based defense of his own paranoid king. It is no wonder that he wrote a Psalm like this- before he became one of the “deceitful, wicked, evildoer, hypocrites”! His adulterous affair with the married Bathsheeba and the cynical disposing of her honourable husband under cover of the warfront took even David by surprise (see his Ps 51)

It is a very human thing to do. It begins when we demonise people who do bad things. In our arrogance we assume that they are not like us, that there is something different about them, that they (and not us) have a quality called ‘wickedness’ about them that makes them do what they do. And because we don’t have this quality we are safe from ever doing what they do.

The Editor who collected all the five Psalms collections together into one book 2500 years ago knew that the composer of Ps 26 was the composer of Ps 51. When read together they give a much fuller understanding of what it is to be human.

When read together we begin to gain self-awareness.

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