May 2015 — Ascension and Pentecost
This month, we venture into the New Testament letters. We are going to read the passages through a particular lens: what might they suggest about the nature of flourishing human life, and what has that life got to do with God?
3 May, 1 John 4:7-21
At the heart of flourishing human life is love, the love that has its foundation and character in God. Love begins in God, and is expressed most clearly in how God sent his Son into the world. Because God has loved us, then we are under an obligation to love others.
Indeed, we cannot claim to love God and not love our brothers and sisters. The love of God is amazing, extraordinary and life-changing. The response cannot be hatred of others we disagree with, or exclusion of those who do not follow our understanding of faith. We are to love others in ways that we wish to be loved.
How has your awareness of God’s love for you changed your life?
10 May, 1 John 5:1-6
People often claim that they love God. But how do we know if they do? As we read in this passage, the answer is because they demonstrate love for their neighbour. Like the love God has for his people.
This week’s passage also asks: how do we know we love other people? The answer is because we love God and obey His commandments (v 3). There is a shape to love, reflected in the life and teaching of Jesus. It is not just about feelings, but real and practical action in relation to others. This practical action is not a burden or a worry, but an expression of thanksgiving for what God has done in our lives.
How much priority do you give to learning what Jesus has taught us about the shape of love in the world? What is one other thing you could do?
17 May,1 John 5:9-13
A flourishing life now is lived in the promise of eternal life. This doesn’t mean our only interest is the next life, but it does mean we can keep life in perspective. The heart of life is a relationship with Jesus, who is the source of life. It is really easy to get tied up in the demands of each day. To be overwhelmed by everything we feel that we need to do, to make sure life flows well. We can be so consumed by such things we forget the centre of life: Jesus. The one given to the world by God. It is this relationship that gives us the contours of a truly rich life.
What does it mean to the way you live your life, that God has offered you eternal life?
24 May, Romans 8:22-27
To live a flourishing life, we need hope. A key part of Christian hope is that God’s glory will be revealed in us. In this passage, Paul points to three distinct forms of “groaning” that are an index of hope. They express the belief that someone hears and cares.
There are groans of Creation (reminding us nothing is outside the scope of God’s salvation works); the groans of us who have glimpsed new life in the Spirit and await its completion, and the Spirit which intercedes with sighs too deep for words. At the heart of a good life is hope that waits with patience upon the promise of God.
“We, who have the first fruits of the Spirit” (vs.23). What do these signs of new life look like, in your life?
31 May, Romans 8:12-17
Flourishing life is life in the Spirit. In a world marked by suffering, it can be hard to sustain hope. Paul’s theme in chapters 5 to 8 of Romans, is the hope of glory that is promised to all believers.
The Spirit of life in Jesus has set us free from sin and death (8:2) and brought us righteousness. There is a deep struggle in human life, shaped by all the pressures around us and our own internal struggles. This means we do not always love God and our neighbour. Working harder at rules and regulations, will not help. We need the transforming Spirit of God.
What do you do that helps you live in tune with the Holy Spirit, rather than with the pressures of the world and your “demons” within?
These reflections were prepared by Rev. Dr Chris Budden, the interim National Coordinator of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress
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