2 March, Exodus 24:12‑18/Matthew 17:1‑9

From long before Moses right up unto the time of Jesus, everyone knew the divine was encountered up the mountain. But Moses is not there to make an offering…Moses is there to receive a revelation of God’s commitment to His people ‑ an agreement that indicated they would belong to God. Yet at the moment Moses was receiving that commitment, the people themselves were behaving as if God had abandoned them.

Like Moses, Jesus is also up the mountain with his friends to receive a revelation. Unlike Moses, this is a revelation not about the people but about Jesus himself! As Jesus makes his determined way to the cross, it is crucial his identity and status is unequivocally clear.

Reflect on this paradox: The moment that is experienced as the abandonment of God (Moses up the mountain, Jesus on the cross) is the very moment that salvation is being transacted.

9 March, Genesis 2:15‑17, 3:1‑7/Matthew 4:1‑11

This ancient story reveals the dynamic that leads to the universal human experience of shame and dissociation with regard to our vulnerability and contingent nature. We can’t help wanting to know/control. We buffer ourselves from threatening reality (God does not mention touching the fruit, as Eve declared). Sadly, we end up finding the reality of our nakedness unacceptable (it was apparently fine a moment earlier).

Then Jesus comes and demonstrates a capacity to reverse the trend that was set early in the biblical story (though, importantly, not the very beginning of). The appeal of temptation links the Genesis account with Jesus being tested by the Devil. In each case, an appeal is made to apparent vulnerabilities in areas of the physical, identity or significance. Jesus’ demonstrated capacity to resist an easy option — ifavour of not compromising his identity/calling (who he really is) — models the freedom his redemptive death offers.

Reflect on this paradox: The fullness of life is accessible only as we accept our vulnerable, contingent nature and die to the “easy option” of self-preservation that compromises us.

16 March, Genesis 12:1‑4a/John 3:1‑17

It is difficult for us to appreciate the nature of the challenge and uncertainty that Abram faced, as he struck out into the unknown (in response to God’s direct call). Yet there is no doubt that we need that same spirit today, as we seek to live God’s Kingdom in our culture/society.

Nicodemus was clearly committed to exploring who Jesus was and what he was offering, but he struggled to grasp the spirit of it. Interestingly, it would seem Jesus had no intention of making it easy for him. It is as though it was necessary for Nicodemus to step out into the unknown in order to be grasped by the good news Jesus was bringing.

Reflect on this paradox: It is only as we go beyond what we know, that we experience the reality of God’s Kingdom.

23 March, Exodus 17:1-7/John 4:5-42

We might well relate to the people of Israel freaking out about being in a desert area without water. The situation smacks of an apparent lack of planning. It would seem this was getting toward the last straw for these people. The stress of this uncertain journey was pushing them toward rebellion. Moses was also feeling the pinch and could not hide his own fear of, and anger toward, the people (see Numbers 20:10).

When Jesus engages with the woman at the well, it becomes apparent that she has felt the pinch in her own life. To alleviate her vulnerability, she repeatedly has resorted to her own strategies. In sharp contrast with her own failed approach, Jesus speaks plainly about offering a resource that will satisfy far more effectively.

Reflect on this paradox: It is important to plan and strategise, but often our way forward with God is beyond our capacity to plan and strategise.

30 March, 1 Samuel 16:1‑13/John 9:1‑41

The word of judgement ipon king Saul for presumptuously offering the sacrifice in Samuel’s absence could appear harsh. Surely, Saul’s reading of the military crisis was accurate… Israel was about to lose badly. But the instructions had been very clear and precise (1 Samuel 10:8). Saul’s fear-filled reaction was a “tell” that though he stood head and shoulders above all others physically, his capacity to trust the unseen God was not so large.

The man born blind, who Jesus healed, trusted in the midst of his vulnerability and need. To be plain about it, he trusted without even knowing who he was trusting! But this man had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Reflect on this paradox: Our capacity to trust God is often in inverse proportion to our sense of reliance upon our own capacities.

This reflection was prepared by Rev. Dave Gore, Minister at Manly Village Church and Presbytery Chairperson for Sydney North.

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