The Three Kings

Yesterday I was involved in two Epiphany services and it got me thinking about those “Wise men” who journeyed to see the baby Jesus.

sp2There are 12 verses in the second chapter of in the gospel of Matthew that talk about what happened with them but all we are told about them is “Magi from the east came“, they go to visit King Herod because they know that this is where a king should be found, get told by his advisers that a prophecy says the ‘King of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem’, they go and visit Jesus and then don’t go back to see Herod. From these 250-300 words, depending on translation, the Christian faith has made up a whole mythology about these “Magi” that is now believed.

Because they brought three gifts then it has been decided that there were only three of them. Because we want them to be kind and humble people we talk of what it cost them to travel from wherever to see this babe. All through I feel we have dumbed them down, turned them into something tame and weak. So these are my thoughts on the Magi.

So they must either have been astronomers or astrologers or both or employed people who looked at and read what was written in the stars. That is almost a given. But why did stars-constellationsthey go to visit a new born king? I think it was because the stars foretold how great this King was. Why go and visit a great king? To get great gifts from him. I believe these Magi had money, either of their own or were in a position to tax the people around where they lived. I think they came in a huge caravan of camels and servants and tents and gifts. Why do I think this? Because everything I’ve read about King Herod is that he was a despot and would not have let in three lowly travellers even if they did say they were off to worship the new king. I believe, from all I have read about Herod, that he would have either dismissed them or had them killed. But he welcomes them in. They must have been an impressive sight and he must have known he couldn’t silence them. I believe they came with gifts, not just the gold, frankincense and myrrh that are mention, but much more. I believe the Bible only mentions those three gifts because they are the significant ones. I do believe that the Bible misses many details out. Why say that they gave other things when Matthew wanted to make a point to his readers of who Jesus is?

But you  know I think the most amazing thing that happens is when the Magi meet with Jesus. So picture a huge caravan of camels, of opulence, of power, coming to the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are staying. Here I believe it was the same house that Jesus was born in (as in he was born in the place where the animals lived) and that many of the wider family had no left after the census and Joseph was waiting for Mary to be strong enough so they could leave. Maybe even God had told him to stay and we just aren’t told that by any of the gospel writers.

So here they are in this little town when this cavalcade comes through. The town is in up roar. The Magi reach the house. They go in. There they see a normal couple. Remember Joseph was a tradesman and so wouldn’t be poor but wouldn’t be rich. Normal. But something happens to these wealthy, powerful men when they see Jesus.

Matthew says “ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

What happened to make them bow down and worship this woman and child? What did they see? What happened? Something in meeting with Jesus caused them to change.

Now I’m sure Herod offered them something to come back and tell him when they had found the child but they don’t. They set off. I’m thinking they went quite quickly because Herod doesn’t chase after them but goes off to kill those poor toddlers in Bethlehem.

I just feel that on this day after Epiphany Sunday it would be good to just ponder what happened when the Magi saw Jesus that caused a change in them. And also how often we have preconceived ideas of what “King Jesus” is like but if we truly looked at Him then we would give him the gifts we had intended for another.

Advertisements

On THIS Rock I Will Build My Church

deganwy-north-beach-2I was walking the dog on Conwy Beach this morning looking toward Deganwy and felt God speak to me as I was looking at the basalt column that rises above the down. He felt Him say “on this rock I will build my church” so I asked for a bit of explanation as it’s a verse we all know well and have often been told it means the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.

As I was walking I kept thinking and chewing this over. Basalt columns pushed themselves up during a time of great volcanic upheaval, not a peaceful time. The rise above the surrounding area because erosion has stripped away all that may have surrounded them. This is how my faith feels. My faith came up during a time of upheaval

snaefellsnes_hiticeland_1140
I love this one standing alone

for me – single mum leading a lifestyle that focused around drinking, drugs and random people staying at my house. When it started it was surrounded by loads of supports, theologies, rules, etc but all those have been eroded away.

I went to the funeral of a dear friend last week who’d died at 43. A lovely, crazy, opinionated friend who sometimes drove me to distraction who had argued through her Christian faith. Gone way too soon. At her funeral the vicar read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter as it is often known. Whilst listening to it I could feel something stirring in me but wasn’t sure what. The walk today revealed what it was. Everything has been stripped away. I no longer care about whether it makes you a “proper” Christian if you speak in tongues or prophecy or say the right prayers at the right time or whatever silly ideas I had. I’ve been watching Gunpowder [and have studies this period too] and it amazes me how people were willing to die or to take the life of another for a believe which I’m not sure God even cares about. I may not have been that bad when I first came to faith but I know I lost friends because of my dogmatism. That has all been stripped away. Now very little remains but I stand – not so much tall but I stand like the basalt column.

tumblr_mhhsu9ys701qawir9o1_500What is left? Faith – A faith that God is bigger than anything I ever hoped or believed and that He is always there for me whatever I walk through and that I will stay with Him forever. Hope – that God is bigger and that those who’ve died before me will be with Him, that those who don’t profess to knowing Him on this earth will be with Him at the end [see I can’t believe that if we are all made in the image of God – and that we don’t just become made in that image when we “pray the prayer” – that God will take what He has made to be with Him . But that’s another thought entirely ] Love – that God loves me, loves those I love, loves those I don’t love too, and that I must learn to love too.

Faith and Hope and Love that is all that remains but I feel that God said to me today that this is what He’s building His Church on and I need to stand on that no matter what more the storms have to throw at me.

faith-hope-love
This says it all so well

Treasure In Heaven

So I was going to write something Christmassy or even expand on some great things that treasure-in-heaven-300x225were said at the Lapidus Conference last Saturday, but I’m doing this instead.

giving-receiving-sunsetToday I went to see my spiritual director. I’ve been seeing him since about April this year, since we moved up here. It has been a great journey and he is awesome and I’m not 100% sure why everyone doesn’t have one. I think I might be spiritually directing the young swoman I see regularly but just calling it by a different name and without the training 🙂

So we chat about all sorts and I have an unloads about life, the universe and everything. It isn’t just how my “spiritual” life is going. My spiritual life is the whole of who I am and what I do. So anyway there we are chatting away about the Anglican prayer for forgiveness that I must say I quite like because it is short and sharp with not much time to try to list what I’ve done and then there is a prayer to say that God has forgiven me.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

For me it draws a line under the week and I can start the new week forgiven. We talked line-in-sandsome more about how everything we do is ministry and the good things are gathering treasure for us in heaven.

Now here is the cool part – the good things we do whether we do them “unto the Lord” or just by having a chat to the people dog walking, smiling at the supermarket checkout, being normal and going about life in a kind and supportive manner – this adds up treasure for us in heaven. AND God remembers that. But when we do bad things God doesn’t take things out of our pile. The pile of treasure stays. But with the bad things we do, think say, or even the good things we forget to do because we are busy just getting on with life, God not just forgives but forgets. So when I say “Sorry I’ve done/not done that again” God says He doesn’t remember.

grace_wordleI feel like I’ve suddenly got this revelation about what Paul says about Grace. Grace isn’t getting what you don’t deserve, which I had been taught and always found hard because I think the stuff we had to go through in 2012/3 was not stuff we deserved but it definitely wasn’t Grace. It was God’s grace and mercy that got us through but we definitely didn’t deserve it. But what I really do not deserve is for my good things to be remembered and stored up as treasure and my bad things to be forgiven and forgotten. God doesn’t take a good thing out of the pot every time I do a bad thing. That is so cool. But also that does not make me want to do more wrong things so I get forgiven more, but actually gives me the confidence to keep piling up the treasures.

So even though I know I’ll get forgiven I don’t want to do more things that I’d be forgivenrandy-alcorn-quote-treasures-in-heaven for but actually want to do more things that will build up treasure in heaven. That is my Christmas message for me 🙂

 

Creator Christianity

Here are some thoughts in following on from my post yesterday about Pagan Christmas. Whilst I was out walking today and marvelling at how each day is different – yesterday we

offshore-windfarms
Ok so not my view but it’s a great picture 🙂 

had a thick frost, today it is mild and damp. I always wish I took my camera with me because there is a view great view where I walk over the bridge over the A55 and look out to see. In our bay we have wind turbines, lots of them, and it is amazing how the cloud and sea and sky can make them look so different. The other day they looked like they were standing on the ground. Today like they were floating in the air. Some days they are brilliant white, some days grey and forlorn looking. So there I am marvelling about this and realised how much most of Christianity can miss about God and how also the pagan side missed about God too.

Ok so this is generalisation so please forgive me 🙂 Pagans are very much into worshipping creation and Mother Nature, which I think is awesome, and do believe it is one facet of 1bd30002809be66a88e93b426a24e6bcGod. Christians on the other hand can get so fixated in Father God that they miss the nature side of things. Both Father and Mother are facets of God. And they are not the whole even when joined together.

But then things get silly as Christians. If I told you I was a Creationist Christian then you would think that I believe the literal story in the Bible, that God made the world in just 6 days. I don’t. But I do believe God created the world. See I think that to do it in 6 days is actually a bit easy. To make man exactly as he is now is easy. It’s almost what we like in our instant McDonald’s world – that quick instant fix. And in the grand scheme of things 6-7,000 years is pretty instant when put in regard to eternity. I think the whole idea that God took millennia to make the world is awesome. As a creative person I am learning that to make anything really read well – or to make my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table business viable – I have to be in for the long haul, and I do have to be willing to edit, to change, to work with what I have.

2424648436_dd3e5aa7c0_z1-e1358896975823Oh! I hope that’s not blasphemous. I’m not saying that God has been doing editing and changing and doesn’t know what’s going on. But I do think God works on growing things and changing and being in for the long haul. Even for what He is doing with me personally He has to be committed for the long haul and for things to edit and to change. I am not the same person I was when I first met with God 24 years ago. In fact I’m not the same person I was last week. Last week I was gathered with my Interweave friends and that always changes me. Yes one could say that because God is outside of time and space He knew where I’d be and how I’d been today but He did also give me free will to get to here as I chose. And I’m not sure if “here” is where He really wanted me or whether we are both just working with the material on offer at the moment 🙂

So the idea that God takes millennia to get the earth to how it is now, and He hasn’t just done it Himself. He has let Mankind be involved too. My view out my window and on my walks is a mixture of God and man working in tandem. I was going to say harmony but I don’t think that is always the case. As I’ve posted before this view is different to what it was and in a few years it will be different again – maybe. painting_the_earth

So my point today is to say please let us stop doing either/or but yes and. Let us see God in creation and creation in God. And also realise God is in this for long haul not a quick picture.

Pagan Christmas!!!

170px-rockefeller_center_christmas_tree_croppedOh you know I get really fed up of people whether Christian or not going on about how Christmas is a pagan festival. Ok so we know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on Christmas day but what the Celtic church did was show people who were celebrating the return of the sun Jesus within their festival. Also forgive me if I have posted on this before. I feel though it is a bit like the Cliff Richard song “Why does the Devil have all the good music?” My thoughts are “why should the Devil have all the good symbols/festivals?”

On Sunday at church the service was called “hanging thhanging-of-the-greens-picturee greens” which meant that the church was going to be decorated ready for Christmas. Each part of what happened was explained. So Why do Christians put up evergreen Christmas trees and
put evergreens in the church? Not to bring paganism into the church but because …

green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth. Plants like pine, fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not appear to die. They remain evergreen throughout the year. … Advent is a time of preparation for the ever coming of Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore we clothe the church with evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ is eloquently testified, is also without end …

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

I was going to harp on more about this and then this morning Ian was reading to me from a book he’s got from the library of Advent readings and it said that when Jesus came not only was the known earth an easy place for the good news of Jesus to spread out across romempmapbecause of the Pax Romana, but also the pagans had become disillusioned with their religion. They were finding that their sacrifices weren’t working and they were having to do more and more human sacrifices to “make things happen.” They were ripe and ready for something to come along to tell them that the ultimate sacrifice had been made. Now that is God being clever again 🙂

Can you truly imagine what it must have been like to hear that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and your virgin daughter was now safe from being sacrificed? It’s a bit of a no brainer really. You would have leapt at wanting to know more about this new religion, this person who had taken on board all the sacrifice. You would have been able to see that your celebrations in midwinter to call back the sun, or to make the crops or whatever they were doing all these human sacrifices for were only a poor shadow of what God had done. See I just think that if one was in that position one would not have wanted to get a new festival date but would want to accentuate the one that was already happening, and to use it to show how mu200000-copy2ch deeper
this new Christianity was.

Also I do think we need to remember that the paganism we see celebrated now has many of its roots of rebirth in the Victorian era. I wonder if this was a reaction to the strictness of Christianity and the lack of life within it?

So I’m going to put up my Christmas tree (ok not till a couple of days before Christmas cos I find it just gets in the way a bit!!) and I’m going to get a holly wreath to put on the door – oh especially the holly wreath because ….

In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Saviour, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

How cool is that!! There is too much within the Christmas festival that is at the heart of the Christian faith that I want to reclaim it not deny it.

5465489_origInteresting thing – I once heard a Jewish person say that they didn’t like the idea of becoming Christian because Christians don’t seem to want to celebrate. Jews find an excuse to celebrate a lot of the time but so often Christians can be quite dour about things. Ok so I’m not a party person but in my own quiet little way I am going to make this a festival to celebrate and enjoy. 🙂

Results of a Vote

I’ve done my best not to read any blog posts that are appearing today. My facebook feed was crazy enough. In fact at one point Facebook crashed it was so busy.

donald-trump-and-hillary-clinton-with-us-election-state-mapSo what do I think? Well for someone to win the majority of the voting public must have voted for them, even if by a small majority. I know after Brexit there was a lot of talk of the percentage that didn’t vote and that if they had voted then there would be no Brexit. Um! How was one to know what they would have voted for? The same here. I don’t know how many Americans voted yesterday and one can claim that if the rest had voted the result would have been different but would it? I really do hope we don’t get into that because that’s silly.

So in both Brexit and the US elections what do I see people voting for? I see them voting against the “Global Village”. Not so long ago, as the internet took over the world there were a lot of people excitedly claiming that this was making the world smaller, people slide1_1_finding it easier to keep in touch, people knowing what the rest of the world is like, and also migration became easier. But it appears from these two times of voting that the majority of people who voted do not want that. They do not want to be multicultural. And actually when they see what the media is throwing at them why should they? If you live somewhere that has very few people of a different ethic mix to you but you watch the media and all you see is people of cultures and colours you do not know fighting and killing each other do you really want them living by you?

We seem to have got into a way, not just on the news coverage but in general of only showing death and horror. I love a good detective thriller but do have to be careful that this does not colour my view. Watch the TV series Shetland and you can see that this beautiful Scottish Isle is full of drug dealing and murder. Not a safe place to go. The TV show Hinterland, shows that Aberwysth in Wales is full of dour people who hate and kill each other. I could list loads and loads of programs that just drift into our homes now that show the world as a bad place. And then once we get on to the news well…

But actually across the world these wars, not just in the key places we see but across Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, etc etc there are people who are fighting, globalisationand killing, to stop integration of those of a different race, colour, religion, background. And in stopping that integration they are working on a basis of ethnic cleansing or assimilation.

I truly believe that what we have seen in the voting that went on yesterday in US and in June in the UK was a cry from the people to say that they do not want globalisation.

There has just been some major commemorations, which will come to ahead in 2 years time, a hundred years of World War I. In the human psyche a hundred years is not a long time. Yes there have been times of prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation. But a hundred years ago the world was a divide place. People did not move around like they did. I remember less than thirty years ago travelling Europe and being seen as a bit of a hippy for doing it. Someone I worked with had just been on a package holiday to Spain. Thirty years ago were the times of going to Spain and being able to play bingo and drink Watney’s Red barrel beer – warm and flat, and the only wine we drank was Liebfraumilch, spaghetti bologniase was seen as foreign food. Ok so most towns did have a Chinese takeaway or curry house  but that was for drinking after the pub or on special occasions. All this is not very long ago but with the arrival of the internet, cheap plane travel, the EU, borders changing, a lot of people being more tolerant and wanting to help those in war-torn places, so things have changed and have changed fast. I do think these votes are a cry against this change.

tutwiler-kingdom-of-god-july-2016But my hope and prayer is that this vote is accepted, that people are kind about it and that
Christians are willing to pray “Your Kingdom Come” rather than telling God what should be done. I believe God uses all things to good and He will use this. It was no surprise to Him.

God Is So Clever

I’ve blogged before on why I believe in God and what makes me follow Him but I just love it when He does something really clever!

We have started going to a Kesher course. Kesher means something to do with the way Christianity and Judaism is joined together. In honesty I went because I like the woman who is running the course and wanted to support her. And at the time when she set it up we didn’t know many people and so wanted to connect with others. Anyway I am so glad we did. We have only been twice but I am stuck on one thing that we learned this week.

shutterstock_232986844So when Jesus gets crucified the Bible says that Pilate put up a plaque above Jesus on the cross that said “King of the Jews” and the Jewish leaders who wanted him crucified for this very reason got really angry with Pilate and wanted him to take it down. I’d always thought all that was odd. The reason the Jewish leaders had bullied Pilate into crucifying Jesus was because he had declared himself as king, so they said and “they had no other king than Caesar” is what they said. So why get mad about what was there? But also why did Pilate have that plaque put up anyway?

Well it turns out that every person who was crucified had a plaque with their name and what their crime was at the top of their cross. We do often forget that crucifixion wasn’t a heads_on_spikesspecial punishment in Roman times but was something they did quite a bit and then they would leave the crucified person there for ages as an example. A bit like we use to do over here and leave the condemned man hanging on the gibbet at the crossroads or in a cage on the side of the city walls, or heads on poles from Tower Bridge. That sort of thing. As an example. And to be a good example it was good to remind people what the crimes were that could get you crucified.

So Pilate had this plaque which says “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” done because that was the rules that went with crucifixion. Well according to our teacher on Friday the way it would have been written the starting letters above Jesus’ head would have given an acrostic which would have said YWYH – which is the way the Jews would write God and it was unspoken. So here is the man they condemned with the word that Jews saw as too holy to speak in an acrostic above him as he was dying. Wow! Now I think that is so clever of God to get all that sorted.

I think He was still trying to make them see that Jesus was truly God but they still didn’t believe it. Instead these Jewish leaders defiled themselves and went before Pilate, the heathen Roman, on the eve of Passover, to demand he take the sign down. They were so angry that they would rather be unclean and not able to celebrate their most important highhorsefestival. Amazing!

But it also got me thinking of how often we get so stuck on our high horse – whether follower of Jesus or not – that we miss totally what God is trying to say and would rather miss out that accept.