In this podcast Ian Mobsby explores the Gospel of John Chapter 10 where Jesus describes himself metaphorically as the ‘Good Shepherd’. This biblical passage is part of a large text where Jesus uses a number of ‘I AM’ phrases and metaphors to enable people to begin to understand his divinity. This was recorded at the Parish Church of St Luke’s Church (Camberwell) in Peckham on the 4th Sunday of Easter 2018.
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This podcast was recorded on the third sunday of Easter 2018, where Ian Mobsby explores the implication of the Gospel text Luke 24: 13-38 which explores the familiar stories of the Road to Emmaus and the first appearance of Jesus to the disciples. These texts are crucial for our encouragement and hope looking back from the 21st Century, and says something about the calling to demonstrate that we are truly following Jesys by the way we live our lives.
And so we start to reach the climax of Holy Week as we enter into Maundy Thursday when we remember Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, gathering the disciples together in the upper room for the Last Supper, and the torment of his praying and betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus as Messiah is birthing in these actions the Church in the context of the Kingdom of God he has been talking about up to this point. He washes their feet as a sign that they will be Apostles of the new Church. Jesus, in gathering the disciples, performs of the feast of the new Ecclesial Community, the Church, in the first Holy Communion, Eucharist or Mass depending on your tradition. In doing so he not only births the Church but also, through the Holy Spirit enacts a reconnection where people and the persons of the Trinity are brought close through the actions of Jesus. But even in this wonderful moment of the beginning of the Church, not that the disciples knew it was the beginning of the Church, there is also a spirit of anger of betrayal as Judas feels such disappointment in what he believes is a failed leader, and goes off to begin the betrayal.
In Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, we encounter Jesus in a dark place, the inner conflict between Human and God must have been intense – and we know this because Jesus sweated blood – a biological sign of extreme distress. And so Jesus there experiences the pain of so many humans then and now who are in places of despair and no hope. Jesus the human is sorely tempted not to enter into Tridium – the three days when Jesus will suffer, be crucified and then the paradox of part of God being dead for 3 days. So we remember the great sacrifice that Jesus makes on our behalf, and for the salvation of the world, which even now in the 21st Century doesn’t understand or accept the greatest gift someone can give you – life through their own suffering.
So today we begin the great humiliation of God, where the institutions of the Temple and the Roman Empire think they are winning – because they to still believe in the myth of violence as a way to control and win. They do not realise the Jesus had a different agenda, the way of the Cross, the way of love, the way of redemption through love, not violence, and the gift of the Kin-dom of God and the beginning of the Church. There is no greater love than this, for someone to lay down their life for a friend… Amen.
Today the Church traditionally remembers Jesus being anointed with oil by Mary Magdelene with priceless oil which was highly criticised by Judas saying the item could have been sold and raised money for the poor, causing a spate between Judas and Jesus, where Jesus hints that he knows his time is short. So today is called Spy Wednesday, because of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus to the authorities, and was looking for an opportunity to do so at a time when there were less people to defend him.
Judas’ betrayal has always been a huge paradox to me – how could someone who knew Jesus so well go against a man he thought was the Messiah. The writers of some of the Gospels try to say that somehow Judas was overcome with evil, which is why his behaviour changed so much. Although I believe in evil, I do, like Walter Wink says, evil is manifested by human selfishness and violence. This being so, I think I understand Judas’ as being utterly disappointed with Jesus. His anger and betrayal are because Judas wants Jesus to be a different type of Messiah – more the muscular Christianity and physical type, to throw out the Romans and set up a Theocracy to dominate the world. So Jesus is a disappointment event to his disciples, and this speaks powerfully to us now in the 21st Century.
So often Jesus’ call to live according to love and the common good just does not make sense in such a competitive and violent world, where humanity is not valued and often commodified. So Jesus’ challenge is often seen as a weak force, too weak for many who want a warrior-Messiah. In so doing, they miss the subtlety of Jesus who is his own brand of Messiah. And it seems that Mary Magdelene is the only one to recognise this, again those who are marginalised and denigrated understand who Jesus really is.
Judas represents all forms of Christianity and the Church who assume Jesus is absent and has no power and so do the most terrible things in the name of Jesus and God. Christian fundamentalists being an obvious example. Mary Magdelene – is offered here as a good disciple and as we know later, was probably one of the founding disciples of the early Church before patriarchy denigrated alongside other key women disciples in the Early Church as the Church becomes infected with the DNA of the Roman Empire.
So today we remember humbly that Jesus comes as a Servant Messiah – not a Testosterone God and I for one are so grateful that Jesus is this type of Messiah, that brings real hope of change for the world through love.
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Tuesday of Holy Week: Entry to the Kingdom of God is not controlled by human authority and requires no Visa
On Holy Tuesday we traditionally remember Jesus teaching about his authority and again challenges the Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees of hypocrisy. We remember today Jesus’ teaching as recorded in Matthew 23 with the Eight woes which for me resound out to all those we seek to control and exclude… He holds back no punches here …. and right now I think Jesus speaks to all those who seek to make Christianity an ideology or a form of fundamentalism. Here Jesus makes it quite clear that there are no border controls for the Kingdom of God, entry is aligned to following Jesus in Heart, Mind, Body and Soul… So Jesus asserts his authority over the Temple and the whole religious establishment and is quite clear they have no right to block people from the Kingdom…
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.4 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of shell5 as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, if anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 d“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. hThese you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 j“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 n“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 s“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 uFill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,6whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
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Monday in Holy Week, the day after Palm Sunday, is when Jesus returns to the temple after staying the night in Bethany, where he curses the Fig Tree and literally throws out the money changers in the Temple. Traditionally this is interpreted as Jesus asserting his Messianic authority and the importance of actual faith in practice, and not on religious privilege. We remember Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees and Sadducees – that living the faith was important – not just relying on being God’s people – it needed the orientation of the heart and action rather than just in the head and not impacting on the way they were living. It is interesting that the moneychangers were in the outer courts assigned for people like me – the Gentiles. But at the same time, Jesus has compassion on the sick who gather around him after he throws out the market stalls.
What are we to make of this in Holy Week?
There is something here about Jesus challenging a purely market society when it denigrates God and the poor and needy, and boy is that an issue right now. The Poor, in particular, are treated like Lepers in our current culture – where often there is little compassion or support – even from some Christians! So Monday week is a reminder then to engage with the question how are we IN a modern culture but also NOT OF our modern culture. The balance of affirming what is God, and challenging that what distorts. Or Jesus puts it far better than I can – Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to Gog what is Gods.
So as we enter Holy Week, think about your life, your priorities, your sense of where God is and calling you, to step up to what Jesus is saying here – around a practical outworking of the Christian life – not to exist out of a sense of privilege or even wealth, but the calling to follow Jesus as he demonstrates his Messiahship, after he has entered Jerusalem the first time on Palm Sunday, and comes the second day to challenge the Authority of the Temple and the power of the Market.
And so in the context of Jesus challenging the Powers of the Religious Temple and the power of the Market, we remember that Jesus anointed and healed those in need, as the new authority is centred on the Kingdom of God, or rather – the Kin-dom of God as a New Zealander friend once called it.
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Continuing with my weekly New Monasticism reflection….
It might be a very obvious thing to say, but you cannot think yourself into being a Christian. It actually takes a lot of formation, intentionality and experience of God to be able to even begin to comprehend what it means to commit to following the way of Jesus.
One of the great problems of the Church in the West is that the Church is still thoroughly affected by modernist culture that was obsessed with the Scientific method as forms of Truth. And when I say Truth I mean objective Truth. They truly did believe that absolutely everything could be explained in a hypothesis and it was only a matter of time before Science will be able to explain and know everything. By implication then, there would be no place for subjective experience, art or spirituality. Now looking back from our current Post-Secular Culture we know that to be a lie.
So weirdly some Churches and some in the Churches believe that Christianity is a ‘belief’ system, a way of thinking. I have never understood this. Christianity is so much more than a way of thinking, it is about a way of life, of living, in obedience to the way of life explained by Jesus as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.
The Early Church understood this, for them, they understood the implications of the Jesus as a way of life, a calling to human community, of sharing material possessions, of giving away generously with those who had little and seeking to pray and encounter God through forms of prayer and worship.
So Christian formation in the Early Church was pretty serious. You didn’t attend an Alpha or other course, you had to live, breath, and serve God with others to begin to get to know what it meant to know God. The Christian Monastics, seeking to escape the excesses of the Roman Empire, escaped into the Deserts to live this way, who are our inspiration right up to today.
For example in Christian Formation, there is an obsession with ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘dogmatic truth’, or what is sometimes said – right thinking. This reflects this same obsession with thinking. Where is the place for encountering God? Where is the centrality of living it – sometimes called ‘orthopraxis’ and also the central and starting place of ‘orthopathy’ or what is called right feeling or right being…
This takes us right back to the central teaching Jesus in what is called the Great Commandment which draws on the central teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures – the Great Shema – Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One, you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and strength, and love your Neighbour as yourself. Or as a wise Benedictine Abbot said – Learn to receive the love of God, to allow this love to transform your heart and being so that you can truly love others, even those who are strangers. This is sooooo much more than thinking.
New Monastics take this level of formation and living out a whole of life approach to Christianity very seriously. My good friend Andy Freeman of the 24Prayer Community once described formation as the Living Room, the Boiler Room and the Class Room, and that seems so right for me. Heart, Mind and Body….. Otherwise how are we being transformed?
So in a Church so obsessed with words and thinking, a depth of spirituality expressed in life, in prayer, in encountering the love of God is I think a crucial corrective, and this is a commitment that many New Monastic Communities think is essential.
In this podcast, Ian Mobsby explores the implications of Philip and Nathanael choosing to follow Jesus as some of the first disciples. It is possible they were previously disciples of John the Baptist. There is much in this text John 1.43-51 to inspire us to be modern-day followers in the 21st century.
New Book: Doorways to the Sacred, Developing a Sacramentality in Fresh Expressions of Church (Ancient Faith Future Mission Series)
Really pleased to see that this book is now published. This was for both Graham Cray, Phil Potter and I, an extremely important book to get out. It draws on the expereinces of theologians and practitioners, engaging with the really important issue regarding how the sacraments emerge and become central to a Fresh Expression of Church. This is vital to help a missional project become an expression of being Church. Thie book helpfully explores lots of different projects, as well as different sacraments. This was a labour of love, and I hope people enjoy and are inspired by this. To order the book click here
What is New Monasticism? 5: . A commitment to missional loving service as an individual and as an ecclesial community.
In this the fifth blog on the essentials of New Monasticism – we look at the element focused on loving service.
As New Monastic Communities draw on a mixed vocation of Monk and Friar, they hold onto contemplative prayer and missional loving service. This is why sometimes New Monastic communities are called ‘small missional communities’ as a particular focus on ‘prayerful action’.
So here loving action has a number of elements
– the alleviation of the suffering of the poor in sharing food, money and resources. Social and economic justice.
– hospitality in terms of friendship, kindness and human dignity.
– opening up the gospel in relational approaches to sharing the Good News of Jesús and the love of God.
– challenging injustice, oppression of people, the environment, other animals and the planet. Social, economic and ecological justice.
For those of us who are Anglican – this loving service is deeply tied into the Missio Dei – the mission of God or more accurately – Missio Trinitatis – the mission of the Trinity. Which is summarised as the marks of mission:
– To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
– To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
– To respond to human need by loving service
– To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
– To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)
It is vital then in an New Monastic Community that individuals are committed to mission and loving action just as much as they are committed to community and contemplative prayer. These need to be shared by the whole community and well as individual actions.
What is New Monasticism?