Saturday, March 26, 2016

Washed by Living Water--by Linden Malki

 In the north of Israel, there is a spring at the base of Mt Hermon which is the source of the Jordan River. There was an ancient shrine to the "god" Pan here, and it was originally known as Paneas. In 3BC, Philip the Tetrarch built a city nearby, which became the administrative capital of Philip's territory in the Mt Hermon and Golan Heights area, and was known as Caesarea Philippi. Known today as Banias, it is part of the Golan territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

This is the setting for Matthew 16:13-20, when Jesus asked his disciples "Who do people say
the Son of Man is?" ... "But you, who do you say that I am?" Then Simon Peter spoke up, "You are the Christ... the Son of the Living God." It is not surprising that this important conversation takes place known for its spring of running water that becomes a major river, which is associated in the Gospels with baptism. As this is the source of the water in which Jesus and the others were baptized, Peter's declaration is the key to salvation, as we have read in I John 5. Ceremonial washing in running water for spiritual cleansing goes all the way back to Leviticus.

 We read of Jesus proclaiming himself as Living Water at a major feast that includes commemorating Moses getting water from the rock in Exodus (John 7). This incident is a precursor to what comes later in Jesus' ministry:  his death and resurrection, which included the flow of water and blood from his body. This is echoed in Christian baptism. As St Paul put it, "You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death ... so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life." (Romans 6:3-4)

As we celebrate Jesus' death and Resurrection each year during this Holy Week, I am reminded not only of the Biblical story of this most important event in history, I remember also being baptised as a child at an Easter Sunrise service. As we celebrate what Jesus has done for us, let us also recall and celebrate our own baptism into new life. If you have not been baptised and are being called of God to do this, our church has baptism classes starting in a few weeks. Come and find out what it means to have new life in Christ!

Saturday, March 19, 2016


In his letter, John speaks of what he knows.  "This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched---we speak of the word of Life. "  (I John 1:1). 

Too often I have heard people refuse to wrestle with the reality of God, and that He truly interacts with human beings, by saying "That's your opinion", or "Everything is just somebody's opinion."  Is there such a thing as reality, as truth?  John, in all his writings, says there is.  He is saying that he is one of  many people who saw Jesus and what He did.  He heard the voice of God on at least three separate occasions, each time validating Jesus.  He watched Him die, and experienced Him after His resurrection from the dead. He was there when Jesus commissioned His followers and was taken up into Heaven.  He experienced the Holy Spirit, and saw lives changed.  This was not opinion, or fantasy, or propaganda, or tale-spinning.  What John experienced was hard and fast truth.

The ending of the letter uses the word "know" and the word "true" over again: "We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. We know too, that the son of "God has come and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life. Children, be on your guard against false gods."  (I John 5:19-21)

This last week much of the world remembered a man of God who, though he lived three hundred years after Jesus, knew from his own life and experience of God that the Gospel was true, and his witness changed the destiny of a country.  Most people don't know much about St Patrick except that he was Irish and had some kind of connection with shamrocks.  Actually, he wasn't Irish by birth; he was from Roman Britain or Scotland, and had gone to Ireland first as a slave and then as a missionary and bishop.  He was a great teacher, and traditionally used the shamrock as an example of the Trinity--one stem with three leaves but still one.  He put a great deal of emphasis on teaching; he established a church and school, taking over the royal
town of Ard Mhacha  (now Armagh) as his main church with  schools,  where there are today two cathedrals of St Patrick, the heads of the Irish Catholic church and the Church of Ireland. Over the next few centuries, it was the scholars of St Patrick's schools who preserved much of the Roman literature as Rome and much of Europe was overrun by invaders, and sent missionaries to Scotland and back to the continent.

We don't have to look far to see the reality of evil in our world, and we can also see good--God has not abandoned us. I have learned more and more that if we stop arguing and start praying--specifically for the situation at hand and against whatever evil influences may be at work--that He can do amazing things,with our small situations, and the world's big ones. St Patrick is a good reminder that one man, with God and His followers, can change not just a country, but spread light beyond what he could dream.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Life, Love and A Promise--by Linden Malki

One of the greatest mysteries of life is Life itself.  It is the basic gift of God,  but earthly life is fragile and limited. It is only the free sample--the Real Thing is something that God offers, and we have to respond--on His terms.  Jesus told His followers that He had came so that they might have life, and have it abundantly.  What is the characteristic of His Life?  We can go back to the basic answer:  God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believed in Him may not die, but may have eternal life.  When he sent His Son, it was a demonstration of Love. Love is a gift of God;  Jesus came to show God's love in a new and more powerful way.  It starts with God the Father,  is demonstrated in Jesus the Son, and if we open our hearts and minds to the understanding that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised Son of God, we are included in this circle of Love. 

True love is a relationship;  we commit ourselves to the knowledge that God wants us to have His best will for our lives.  Jesus told us seek His Kingdom first. One thing about a Kingdom is that it implies authority. Kingdoms of this world are limited by being human, but God  offers us a share in power that has conquered this world.  The cost is obeying His commands.

Jesus has said that the greatest commandment is that of Love--which we can only do properly through our relationship with Him.  Forgiveness is another one--again, that can only be done well through His  power.  We are commanded to go, teach, make disciples--but again, we must teach rightly.  We are to baptize those who come to faith--and as His representatives, and in His name. 

What is the key to a fruitful relationship with God?  What is the key to any relationship? Communication!  And how do we communicate with God?  The easy answer is Prayer--but that's a whole study of its own.  Prayer is not merely "talking to God", but  we need to listen as well.   But we're not on our own here--there's another Person involved. Jesus told his disciples as He was preparing them for His departure. "If you love me and obey the commands I give you, I will ask the Father and He will give you ... the Spirit of Truth."  The Spirit is the other link in the chain of Love.

This is how Jesus can say that His commands are "not burdensome". They are not easy, but we're not asked to do this on our own.  If fact, if we try to do it in our own strength, it will not work as well.   We need to remember that we have His wisdom, His help, His strength, His Spirit available for the asking.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

TO LOVE AND BE WISE--by Linden Malki

"Love"  means a lot of different things to different people, but one of my favorite working definitions is "having some one else's best interests as important to you as your own."   An interesting restatement of the Golden Rule, perhaps, but easier to see in practice in some ways.  This kind of love is not just an emotion, that you can walk away from when the chills up your spine fade.  When we see that we are told to love God--and each other--with "heart, soul, mind an strength"  we are called to engage not only emotion, but our intelligence,  commitment, concern, character and relationship with God. 

We are told that "God is Love", but sometimes that's not easy to see. We see people who are angry with God for things that didn't live up to expectations. We see Him being "intolerant" of the moneychangers in the Temple, and of professional religious folks missing the point.   What we think of as "loving" may not be in our best interests, and we don't know what is actually going on.  We see this in the incident of Jesus and the
"Rich Young Ruler".  Mark tells us that Jesus looked at the young man with love--but what Jesus said might not sound loving:  "One more thing you must do. Go sell what you have and give to the poor; then you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come and follow me" (Mark 10:21)  The young man turned and went away sad; Jesus let him go without nagging or begging or  letting the young man off the hook.  He knew what is was in this man's  best interest better than the man himself did.  It is because He loves us that we wants what is best for us in His eyes, even if we don't see it. We hopefully can apply this to our families; we should understand what our kids really need, not necessarily what they think they want.  The loving thing to do is often not the obvious or easy thing.   We are often in a situation where what we think we want is not God's best for us.  We may think we are being loving, when we are actually being enabling, or wimpy, or not holding someone up to standards that they need to recognize; in the long run it may worth about as much as Esau's stew.

The Bible is honest; it  shows us people's mistakes in judgment, their loving the wrong people in the wrong way,  their outright sin.  God knows better than we know ourselves, and has made ways for us to repent and recover and be restored.  We need to understand that God's love is beyond what we can do on our own; either our love for God or for each other is best when we tap His most powerful resource: His love.