Morsels 2018 December

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Mon – 181231
Title
I am about to do a new thing
Body
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:18–21 NRSV)
SUN – 181230
Title
A new commandment
Body
Love is the critical DNA of the Christian person: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35 NRSV)
Sat – 181229
Title
Loving others
Body
First things first: Love for God. Everything else flows from that first great commitment to a life lived at depth. Without that commitment, nothing else matters. It is all hollow and empty. But notice what does follow—not a traditional list of religious duties, but rather the simple call to love other people. Their concerns and their wellbeing are to matter to us just as much as our survival and our own comfort. In the car park at the shopping centre … While merging in the traffic to get across the bridge … When we would rather be somewhere else … When we really do not have the time to listen to their story (again) …
Fri 181228
Title
Loving God
Body
‘Love for God’ means not so much a romantic attachment to some divine figure, but rather us being alert to the depth dimension of life. Our heart, our soul, our mind and all our strength are to be brought to bear on the great task of asking why are we here, and what does the Lord require of me? This task will involve our whole person (heart, soul, mind, strength), and it takes our whole lifetime to complete the work.
Thr – 181227
Title
Love at the centre
Body
Not only is love at the centre of the Christmas story, it is also at the very centre of the faith that we practice. When Jesus was once asked to define the core obligations of humans as he understood things, he famously replied: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29–31 NRSV)
Wed – 181226
Title
The Word became flesh
Body
The distinctive Christian affirmation is captured in these ancient words from the opening of the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. … From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:14,16 NRSV)
Tue – 181225
Title
God so loved the world
Body
The earliest Christians were in no doubt that Jesus coming among us was a most remarkable expression of God’s love for all humanity. This idea that the coming of Jesus was a direct result of God’s love for the world is most famously expressed in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Mon – 181224
Title
When the time was right
Body
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4–6 NRSV)
SUN – 181223
Title
Love, actually
Body
Love is at the centre of the Christmas story, even when there are no shepherds and no wise men, no journey to Bethlehem and no magical star in the sky. All of these legendary elements add colour and beauty to our celebration of Christmas, but what matters, of course, is the underlying message that Jesus is the love of God for us expressed in a human life.
Sat – 181222
Title
The peace of God
Body
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Paul wraps up this section with words that are very familiar to us as they have become part of the general blessing at the end of a Eucharist, even though when he wrote them in his short letter to the Philippians no one else had ever quite put it that way before. When we find our deepest meaning in Jesus, the human face of God … When others find us to be gentle people … When we can set aside our natural instinct to worry … When we bring our troubles to God with thanksgiving … … then the peace of God which passes all understanding guards our hearts and minds. When our hearts and our minds are guarded by God’s peace, we have joy. May the hope and the peace that we celebrated these past two Sundays in Advent, mean that this week we find real joy.
Fri – 181221
Title
Do not worry about anything
Body
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6) Now Paul shifts the focus: from how others experience us, to how we handle the adversities that inevitably come our way. Note that Paul assumes ‘stuff will happen’. When ‘stuff happens’ in our lives we are not to worry about it, but rather bring everything that is happening to God, letting God know how we feel about the situation and seeking grace to deal with it. Things that might otherwise cause us to be anxious can now become something we bring to God with thanksgiving; in an attitude of gratitude. Paul is going beyond the “don’t be anxious” advice we find in the Gospels, and urging his readers to bring their worries to God with thanksgiving. When we can do that, then we have found a sweet spot indeed, and our trust in the Lord is sustaining us through times when we might otherwise meltdown. We will not get this right every time. Sometimes we will complain loudly and let God know exactly how unfair life seems. And that is OK as well. But sometimes we will get it right. When we trust God enough to be grateful even for the bad stuff—as it is happening, and not only with the benefit of hindsight—then we are getting very close to having found real joy.
Thr – 181220
Title
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
Body
Paul suggests that if we have a deep sense of joy and if we are truly at peace within ourselves, then others should experience us as gentle people. Gentle people? That almost seems like a quaint old-fashioned idea. But it invites us to think more deeply about how we conduct ourselves. Are religious people known for our gentleness? Do we have reputations as gentle people among our families and friends? Or do we kick heads and push others around, just like everyone else? Worse still, are we seen as people trying to push our religion down other’s throats? And are we really people who want to the legal right to discriminate against students and teachers in Christian schools because of their gender or their sexuality? Surely not. Paul suggests that joyful people, as people who realise that the Lord is near, will be gentle and that everyone else will recognise that about us. If only that were so!
Wed – 181219
Title
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!
Body
The underlying Greek word Paul used here was also the everyday greeting when people met in the street or sent a letter: χαιρε [chaire]. It was the word on the lips of Judas as he greeted Jesus in the garden, and the words used by the soldiers as they mocked Jesus, “Hail, king of the Jews!” As used by Paul here, we note that he adds “… in the Lord …”. We are to wish one another—and also ourselves—happiness, health, peace, success and well-being in the Lord. Our joy finds its roots in Jesus himself. The blessings we wish for others come from Jesus. What we hope for ourselves comes from Jesus, and is grounded in all that he means to us. That makes joy an appropriate theme for reflection today as we get closer to Christmas Day. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Tue – 181218
Title
What are we doing when we read the Bible?
Body
Let’s remind ourselves why we read the Bible. It is not because grabbing a few words from the Bible will provide us with a recipe for joy, or the answers to life’s questions. We read the texts not to hear what God has said in the past, but to hear how other people of faith have spoken about God in the past so that we are better equipped to listen to God in the present. This week we are reflecting on some words from Paul, and therefore words from someone with a deep insight into the dynamics of faith and life. As we do so, we are opening our hearts and minds to discern the whisper of Spirit who makes the human words of the Bible a sacrament of invitation to live more deeply and more truly. When that happens then the ‘word of the Lord’ has been proclaimed heard.
Mon – 181217
Title
Joy is not the same as …
Body
As we begin a few days of reflection on joyfulness, let’s set aside some common misconceptions about joy: Joy is not the same as happiness Joy is not the same as being amused or entertained Joy is not always expressed in laughter or a cheery face Joy does not mean we are carefree or untroubled Joy is not a result of alcohol, drugs and medication Joy is not having the latest consumer products Joy is not about lots of sex
SUN – 181216
Title
Rejoice in the Lord always
Body
The New Testament reading for this Third Sunday of Advent: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4–7]
Sat – 181215
Title
Neither shall they learn war any more
Body
The ancient Jewish prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem, imagines a world to which we may all aspire: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4 NRSV) Hasten that day, O Lord.
Fri – 181214
Title
Peace among religions
Body
Hans Küng, an eminent Roman Catholic theologian, has famously invited us to reflect on the need for peace among the religions as a basis for peace among the nations: “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundation of the religions.” ― Hans Küng, Christianity: Essence, History, Future
Thr – 181213
Title
Peace within the churches
Body
The culture wars that are polarising societies throughout the western world are also impacting the internal life of various Christian communities. Despite the progress seen in formal ecumenical relationships across the churches, the Christian world remains deeply divided. Indeed, we even have two rival ecumenical organisations in many parts of Australia, and opposing lobby groups claim a mandate to speak on behalf of Australia’s Christians to the federal government. The unresolved debate about protecting religious freedom is something of a proxy for the competition between different expressions of Christianity. Christians who embrace a more conservative mix of social views and theological opinion tend to feel the need for ‘protection’, while Christians who favour a more progressive outlook tend to see no need for such measures. For many Christians, it seems that what divides us is more important than what we have in common. This week we might pray for a more generous attitude between and among the Christian factions, and that peace within the churches might displace competition between the followers of Jesus.
Wed – 181212
Title
Peace within our families
Body
The ancient words of Psalm 133 invite us to reflect on peace when it is expressed as harmony among those whose lives are closely bound together: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1–3 NRSV) The psalmist uses the metaphor of being anointed with holy oil, indeed drenched with this “precious oil” that was used to anoint the priests who served at the Altar. Peace among those with whom our lives are most closely bound is indeed a precious blessing.
Tue – 181211
Title
Dreaming of peace
Body
Around 2,700 years ago, a Jewish prophet in Jerusalem captured his dream of a future time of peace in words that have become part of our Advent and Christmas celebrations: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6–9 NRSV) What is your dream for peace look like? What are you doing to help bring it to reality?
Mon – 181210
Title
The peace of Christ
Body
As the Gospel of John portrays Jesus and his disciples moving closer to the moment of his arrest, Jesus speaks of peace (among other things). The scene is anything but peaceful. Tension is mounting. The betrayer is already on his way with an armed gang to arrest Jesus. Events are moving inexorably towards a climax that none of the characters in the story seem to appreciate. The lived experience of the Johannne community over several decades finds expression in these words that cut through the gloom like a candle in the dark: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 NRSV) Jesus is not promising life without challenges, pain or upsets. But he promises the gift of an inner peace that is different from any “peace” imposed by imperial violence. This kind of peace is not about control and exploitation, but about freedom and flourishing. Lord, grant us that peace. Transform our world, which is really your world.
SUN – 181209
Title
Seven Days of Peace
Body
Well, maybe not seven days OF peace, but seven days to reflect on peace, to renew our personal commitment as peace-makers, and to add our prayers to the groans of the deep universe as it longs for that long-awaited outbreak of peace and goodwill promised by the angels in Luke’s Christmas story: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!” (Luke 2:14 NRSV) As we noted back in September when we reflected on the seventh Beatitude in Matthew 5, peacemakers are not always celebrated and affirmed, and especially not by those whose violence they are seeking to diminish and even end. Yet to be a child of God is to be someone engaged in peacemaking. This is core business for people of faith. It is in our DNA. We yearn for peace.
Sat – 181208
Title
St Patrick’s Breastplate
Body
This excerpt from the traditional prayer attributed to St Patrick may serve as a reflection as we end this first week of Advent: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.
Fri – 181207
Title
A world without walls
Body
We don’t build walls in a hopeful world. Not in Palestine and not on the Mexico border. Those walls will fall; because they represent fear, not hope. As do the off-shore detention centres. When God’s kingdom comes, as we ask each time we say the Lord’s Prayer, there will be no room for fear or violence. There will be no walls and no eternal detention centres. Even Hell itself will be empty. Its gates will be ripped off by the victorious Christ, and all its inmates will be freed. We live in hope …
Thr – 181206
Title
When hope goes viral
Body
At Grafton Cathedral, our doors are open … our hearts are open … our minds are open. Such a mindset is the ground of hope: for us and for others. We want to see hope go viral. We do not seek to control it, define it, limit it, or restrict it. We do not aspire to hold any monopoly on hope. The more people who have some real hope the better our world will be: less fearful, more compassionate, more generous and less violent.
Wed – 181205
Title
Invitational grace
Body
We do not derive our hope from imagining the destruction of those with whom we disagree. And we do not ‘sell’ hope to ourselves and our neighbours by spreading fear. That is not the way of Jesus. We proclaim hope, not fear. We invite, rather than impose our values on others. We create safe places to explore grace, rather than define the boundaries to keep people out.
Tue – 181204
Title
Spiritual steroids
Body
The readings set for Advent Sunday do not really help all that much with the deep project of growing hope while avoiding collateral spiritual damage. The lectionary choices at the start of Advent tend to focus on the great reversal at the end of time, and perhaps even encourage us to derive some degree of hope from a perverted anticipation that God is going to punish those who make us afraid for the future. That is what apocalyptic literature is designed to do: raise the hopes of victims who are suffering from more powerful opponents. But that literature trades on violence and simply imagines ‘them’ getting a serious dose of what ‘they’ have been dishing out to ‘us’. Apocalyptic texts offer spiritual steroids for critical moments, but not a long-term dietary supplement for a healthy life.
Mon – 181203
Title
More than whistling in the dark
Body
Hope is an attitude of the heart and it lies somewhere between wishful thinking and certainty. It is not whistling in the dark to calm our fears. Nor is it a cocky self-confidence that acts as if we have all the answers. In the world at large, among our family and friends, in our neighbourhood, and in our workplaces there is numerous attributes that reflect a lack of hope: confusion, despair, disbelief, doubt, fear, hatred, pessimism and tiredness. As the people of Jesus we overturn those grim realities and Advent is a time to recall that we are first of all people of hope.
SUN – 181202
Title
ADVENT SUNDAY: Hope
Body
Here we are on the threshold of a new year of witness and service. It is Advent Sunday, and Christmas is just around the corner. Between now and then we have an opportunity to reflect on the core spiritual values that shape our preparation for the Christ Child and our mission to this city and region. Over each of the next few Sundays we will focus on these core values: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. They sound strangely familiar, and yet rather out of place in our contemporary world. Hope! There is clearly a hope deficit in our world and our nation at the present time. Trust is low. Fear is on the rise. Peace? Words fail. Violence continues to tear apart families, villages, cities and nations. Joy. The carols are playing on the muzak but road rage in the car parks at our shopping centres indicates that joy is often only skin deep, and below the surface we are angry and aggressive. Just try merging in the traffic leading to the Grafton bridge. What joy abounds. Not. Love. ‘What the world needs most’ is sadly lacking in so many of our everyday transactions with one another. Yet this is to be the hallmark of those who follow Jesus. We are not called to be correct, but we are called to love one another, turn the other cheek, to help the needy, and to go the second mile.
Sat – 181201
Title
A good Advent
Body
How are you going to use Advent to prepare for a Christmas that has a deep significance beyond calories and gift catalogues? Well, there is an app for that … of course. The GoodAdvent app offers daily material written by Dr Jane Williams, the Assistant Dean of St Mellitus College. Each day’s material includes a reflection by Dr Williams on a piece of art, a prayer, a Bible verse to read or listen to, and a practical thing you can do for Advent. This app is completely free and easy to use. Of course, you can also just use the daily Morsels from Grafton Cathedral, which will have an Advent theme between now and Christmas.

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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