The humble shall be exalted

Mary’s comment to her son at the wedding feast in Cana that, “They have no wine” you would have thought, might have heard Jesus respond with, something like, ‘That’s unfortunate mother”.

I think it was what Mary said with her eyes that evoked the response it did. “My time has not yet come,” said Jesus.  These words came from a 30-year-old, unmarried man, still living at home with his mother and most probably other members of the family, who had ‘been about his Father’s business’ in the temple at the age of 7.

At this point in time, I wonder if Jesus was actually aware of what the outcome for him was going to be once he commenced teaching the Father’s message of love and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through him in his ministry? I even wonder, if the Father had already told him he would suffer and die because of his principles? As a man, was he just frightened and even a little scared of what the future was to hold for him? Perhaps this was what was delaying him accepting that the ‘time’ was right.

When Mary heard her son’s response that he felt his time had not come yet, she must have wondered when he would commence the work she knew he had been created to perform. So, was it her motherly instinct or a divine message that gave her the courage to make the decision for him, by setting up what we read as the first miracle Jesus was to perform.

If her intuition was wrong, it could have been very embarrassing for her and could even have jeopardised the credibility of Jesus before he went public. His rebuff did not deter Mary at all. She told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them. The ball was in Jesus’ court. His mother had brought the issue to a head.

I wonder what was going through the mind of Jesus at that time? He knew his mother well enough to realise what she was suggesting, He knew she had brought the issue out into the open by telling the servants that by them doing as he suggested, would resolve the wine problem for their master. He knew if he followed his mother’s directions, there would be no turning back now. He knew his life was about to change radically. He went and spoke to the servants.

I expect Mary also had in mind that she would want to be able to assist her son in his work. She would need to prepare for this role and all the changes that it would bring to both their lives, irrespective of how daunting it might be for him and for her. (She had not forgotten the prophesy given her when Jesus was presented at the Temple that ‘a sword would pierce her heart’).

We read how Jesus would spend lengthy periods of time in prayer. His close relationship with The Father (‘The Father and I are one’) would almost definitely have given him an insight into the future. The transfiguration was certainly a pre-arranged plan. I doubt Jesus would normally have taken a couple of friends on a bush walk up a mountain just to improve their fitness.

Perhaps, Jesus’ broad understanding of the task ahead, came from the period immediately after His Baptism, when he went on retreat prior to going out on the road, and He was ‘administered to by Angels.’

He knew of his death and resurrection in advance (‘In a little while you will see me no more, than in a little while you will see me’). He knew in advance that Judas was about to betray him and what the consequences of that would mean. I doubt he had a spy in the camp that kept him informed of the happenings behind his back. I believe He relied on the information he gained from The Father during His regular prayer sessions.

And yet The Father would not put a halt to proceedings when His Son cried out to him in agony the night before he died. As a father, this pains me to understand why an alternative solution couldn’t have been found. That Jesus should have had to undergo such pain, agony, suffering and even death for his principles, so we might have eternal life, is a hard pill for me to swallow.

In setting up His team, Jesus firstly chose to call hard working fishermen to be His followers and support Him on His mission. The witnesses to the first miracle at the marriage feast were the master’s servants, just as the witnesses at the birth of Jesus were the lowly shepherds. The Father was making it clear that the humble would be exalted.

Maybe there is a message here for us. Maybe The Father is telling us, that to share in the miracle that is Jesus, we need first to become humble.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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If we trust someone to do something for us, we rely on them and we expect what we wanted done will be achieved. Quite often, what we request, is something we can’t do ourselves and we rely on someone more qualified, with more expertise than we possess, to perform the task for us.

Sometimes, we tend to labour over particular problems, we worry, we even lose sleep in the process of trying to work out ways to resolve our difficulties. The old saying of people ‘tearing out their hair’ may even be real in extreme cases.

It is strange how we are inclined to do an initial assessment of our requirement and even decide how we might achieve the end result, should we have to perform a particular task. But because we are not sure and don’t possess the right skills, experience or knowledge we decide to place our faith in an expert, who we know will not only complete our task, but do so in a much more professional manner than we could have performed.

If we are going to trust someone, we prefer that person to be someone we know well. And that is why sometimes we might be reticent to bypass what we see as our own capabilities to rely on someone we barely know that has been referred to us by a friend.

And so it is with our faith in God. Can we really trust our God, who we are told is with us at all times, to resolve our particular problems and daily issues? Maybe, we are not totally confident that our God even listens to us, or would be prepared to sort out our problems. Perhaps, this is because God doesn’t yet fit into our ‘well respected, reliable’ category or we feel we ourselves might have a better grasp of how our problems should be resolved.

If the shoe was on the other foot, as the saying goes, does our Creator trust us? Well, for starters, we have been created in an environment where we are considered ‘royal stewards.’ We have been given each other and the whole earth to care for and protect. When we look at how we are damaging our earth and the inhumanity we show to each other, I wonder if we really understand the enormity of this trust that has been given to us?

If we feel we have to know someone really well to place our total trust in them, then maybe we need to have a closer relationship with our Creator which will enable us to trust our God more often than we do at present.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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So, at last we are happy. Supposedly, we have got it all together. Our God is very much a part of our life and involved in everything we are doing. We follow our daily scripture readings and we try and be the person we believe we were created to be. Shall we say, ‘all is rosy with God in the garden.’

But then something changes. Something happens around us that changes our way of life. While it may only prove to be temporary, nevertheless our thought processes change. We are jolted out of our comfort zone into some serious decision making or definite changes in our pattern of living.

We can often find ourselves relying on the need to make our own decisions without even considering the trust we would normally have in assistance from our God. Prayer becomes a distant pastime as we wrestle with our own immediate thoughts and actions.

A similar situation to that the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Romans can sometimes easily happen to us. He stated, I do not understand my own behaviour; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate. The good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want — that is what I do.” If this was Saint Paul’s experience, then we can take heart and confidently say there is still hope for us.

When these times occur and we find we have thrown our prayer life out the window and God is a distant figure in the background, I find it is best to revert to the simple basics. Go into the garden, or under a tree and just breathe. After a while we can come to realise each breath, we take in, the life-giving oxygen we inhale, is God’s love for us. It is what is keeping us alive. As we breathe out, we slowly dispose of our fears. The only prayer we need to repeat is ’Come Holy Spirit.’

Paul tells us, “where I want to do nothing but good, evil is close at my side.” Let us be encouraged and learn to trust our God from these experiences. While we need to be vigilant of the evil forces trying to entrap us, we should also know our God is a God more interested in loving us than rapping us over the knuckles for our wrongdoings.

In the wash up, I think our God will be happy that we tried to be good, although not always succeeding. We can only just keep hangin’ in there my friends and know that we are being loved through both the good and the difficult times.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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The encounter

There is a Scripture story which tells how two of Jesus’ Disciples were travelling along the road to a town called Emmaus three days after Easter. They were that intent on discussing the recent events which involved the suffering and death of Jesus, they didn’t recognise another traveller who had joined them on their journey and who got involved in their discussions.

We know one of the Disciples was called Cleophas but the other Disciple is unknown. As the story unfolds it becomes obvious the unrecognised traveller is Jesus himself, a fact the Disciples didn’t realise until they had a meal together and ‘at the breaking of the bread’ their eyes were opened.

I wonder if this story is one deliberately set up for us by Jesus who is continuing to give us the message that we need to love one another. If we were to consider the story as happening to us today, we could be the unknown Disciple and Cleophas our faith or spiritual beliefs.

Do we travel along our road of life that concerned about the events happening to us that we sometimes even question our faith and fail to recognise that Jesus is walking beside us as He said he would?

As we encounter unknown people on our journey are we kind to them or are we that engrossed in our own concerns that we fail to recognise that they were created by the same God who created us? Do we look for Jesus in others?

When we get to have our ‘last supper’ before our final journey from this life, will our eyes be opened as we recognise the Jesus we met at the supermarket checkout or the homeless person we helped or maybe even the politician we criticised?

So maybe in following the rule to ‘love one another’ we might try and be kind to those strangers whom we meet on our journey. Who knows, we might well get to meet them again under entirely different circumstances. 

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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The call

A story in Matthew’s Gospel tells how Jesus, after feeding those who had been listening to Him during the day, went off to pray alone. Before doing so, He put the apostles in a boat and told them he would meet them on the other side of the lake.

During the night the wind whipped up the waves to a point where those in the boat became concerned for their lives. At that time, Jesus appeared walking on the water towards them. This ghostly vision scared them all except Peter who, with faith, was prepared to take the courageous step out of the boat and go to his friend. On the way it dawned on him what was happening. The winds of doubt caused him to lose his focus and at that point he started to sink. Jesus reached out His hand, saved him and went back to the boat with him.

To me this story is about us and our lives. The lake is our universe. The boat our earth. We are the occupants in the boat – we are all in this together. The wind and the rough seas depict what is happening in our everyday lives.

It is my belief that there are numerous times during our time here on earth when, as individuals, we are called to recognise and accept God in our lives. Many don’t want to accept the unknown and rely on science to be their guide. Others of us prefer to cling to those we know and the life we have rather than plunging into the unknown.

Let us pray that when we hear the call, we will have the grace and courage to step out of the boat into the unknown, trusting the God who calls us and accept the hand Jesus offers us. For like in the Gospel story, Jesus helped Peter back into the boat and joined him there.

It gives a whole new meaning to a phrase once said to me by a door knocking bible salesperson, ‘Have you been saved.’

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Recognise me

After the resurrection and just prior to His ascension, Jesus said to his disciples, “Know that I am with you always.” He then proceeded to disappear into the heavens. No wonder the disciples were perplexed. He had just told them he would be with them always and then disappeared from sight.

To understand the real meaning of what had been said we need to go back to the day Jesus died. We read in scripture how about the ninth hour Jesus ‘yielded up his spirit.’ He breathed his last breath. His body had died as his spirit left him.

As Jesus had promised that he would return, this obviously happened, for there are many stories relating to His reappearance. Interestingly though, as a Spirit he chose to be recognised by appearing as the body they knew. He appeared in the locked room where the disciples were gathered and asked Thomas to touch his wounds. He also ate meals with those present. All this was to convince them, and us, He had risen as He said he would. This was no magic trick, the spirit of Jesus the Christ appeared and disappeared as he wanted. It even took the 2 disciples on the way to Emmaus all day to recognise him.

When Jesus said he would be with us always we must assume that he is referring to his presence with us as the risen Christ in a spiritual sense with The Father and The Holy Spirit.

How then can we recognise our God, or the Divine Presence as I prefer to call it, in our lives? Many will point to creation and nature to ‘see’ the hand of God in operation. Others will ‘feel’ the presence of God in their lives at special times. But if our God is with us always, how do we recognise this presence on an on-going basis?

Perhaps we need to realise that God does not control our lives. We do that ourselves. How then does our God give us the constant support we need to assist us in maintaining our control and how do we even know this is happening?

The Father, our creator, gave us life in our mother’s womb. When we entered this world, we took our first breath. Our life continues with every breath we take until, as Jesus did, we breathe our last breath and give up our spirit.

Surely then, with every breath we take we should realise it is The Father who is maintaining us as His creation. With the presence of the Father also comes the Spirit of life we have in us. The Holy Spirit that has so many gifts to offer us in maintaining our existence, if we but recognise this Divine Presence within us. Jesus, as ‘The Word made flesh’ is also available to nurture and teach us if we reach out to this source of knowledge and understanding.

So, do we travel our pathway of life like the disciples on the road to Emmaus and only recognise Jesus at the end of the day and then realise he has been with us all the time. Or do we recognise our God is true to his word and is with us always with every breath we take?

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Praying through my playlist

I enjoy listening to songs I love which I have included on various playlists. Recently, I was lying flat on the loungeroom floor with my feet up on a chair higher than my heart, (this position I am told is ideal for good circulation). I was listening to my ‘easy-listening’ playlist which contains 412 of my favourite songs.

I prefer the songs to play in alphabetical order and I found I was working through songs that start with ‘F’.

If you think it would be only possible to pray when listening to a playlist of religious songs, you would be wrong. I believe you are able to pray while listening to popular songs, because the words can become meaningful when, with a little bit of imagination, they can be heard as a two-way conversation with your God.

Let me give you an example: First up halfway through the ‘F’ List was ‘Fire and Rain’, a James Taylor song.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days I thought would never end.

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought I would see you again.

Look down upon me Jesus, you gotta help me make a stand, just got to see me through another day.

I can’t make it any other way.

Then came ‘The Flame’ by Cheap Trick:

Wherever you go, I’ll be with you. Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you.

Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon, remember after the fire and all the rain, I will be your flame.

Next up, ‘Fly Like A Bird’ by Boz Scaggs.

Now the years have past and memories come and go. He hears that voice.

There’s peace at the end of the darkest night. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I fly like a bird.

Then comes ‘Follow Me’ by John Denver

Follow me where I go, what I do.

Let a part of you be a part of me.

Follow me up and down, all the way and all around.

Take my hand and say you’ll follow me.

I’ve tried to find a way that will make you understand, the way I feel about you, just how much I need you.

To be there when I can talk to when there is no one else around.  

You see I’d like to share my life with you and show you things I’ve seen.

Places where I’m going to, places where I’ve been.

To have you there beside me I’ll never be alone.

Then came ‘For My Lady’ by The Moody Blues.

My boat sails stormy seas, battles all storms ahead. At last, my port’s in view, I’ve arrived, discovered you.

Set sail before the sun. Feel the warmth has just begun.

Share each and every dream, that belongs to everyone.

Then a bit of country with ‘Forever and ever amen’ by Randy Travis

I’m gonna love you forever. Forever and ever amen.

As long as old men sit and talk about the weather,

As long as old women talk about old men.

If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful, I’ll be happy to tell you again.

I’m gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever Amen.

When it was time to get back up and into action, the blood circulation was recharged as also was my prayer life. Can’t wait to take up this same position again tomorrow as there are still more songs from the ‘F’ group to come, namely Four Strong Winds by Neil Young; ‘Fraction too much Friction from Tim Finn and ‘Bette Midler’s, From a Distance.

I wonder what else awaits as I progress further through the alphabet. My God sure gets me going through my music.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith

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Prayer for peace

The Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
And where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console; 
To be understood, as to understand; 
To be loved, as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive, 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 

(A variation on the Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi)

Jesus, help us to understand how knowing you can bring peace into our lives. Let us talk of your love as others talk of hate.

If others hurt us, enable us to quickly forgive and when those around us show doubt and fear, give us the strength to encourage them with our faith and instil hope in them for the future.

Where there is sadness in our lives, help us to find your joy beyond the dark clouds that hang heavy on our hearts.

When the darkness of death surrounds us, let the warmth of your love melt away our fears and uncertainties.

Jesus, allow us to see you in all those we meet and help us to consider others needs before our own. For you showed us by your death on the cross that it is only through us giving to others during our stay on this earth, that we will receive our eternal reward in heaven.

Jesus, please help me to be the person you created me to be.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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One of the ‘many’

In Matthew’s Gospel we read how after the Last Supper, Jesus took a cup of wine and told those present that His blood would be ‘shed for many for the remission of sins.’ What stands out to me in this phrase is the word ‘many,’ because many doesn’t mean ‘all.’

 There are those among us who claim that Jesus ‘died for our sins’ and that they are ‘washed clean in the blood of Jesus.’ I can’t help but get the impression that if I follow this line of thinking then sin in my life is no longer a problem because Jesus has already solved that problem.

Did Jesus die for my sins or did he die for the principles he expounded while he was alive? I seriously don’t think Jesus was given to us just to die for our sins. He told us he came to show us the way to the Father. The sermon on the mount, in essence, told us we must love one another and forgive one another (‘Blessed are the merciful’). He said He came that we should have life and He gave us the principles we needed to ‘live life to the fullest.’

The only prayer he gave us told us we need to ask the Father for forgiveness of our sins (Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us). If He was going to die for our sins, why should we have to ask the Father to forgive us?

Jesus wasn’t the superman messiah the Jewish people had been dreaming about for years. They wanted someone to free them from the Roman constraints they were suffering. Having a young unmarried girl become pregnant was not their idea of the grand entrance into the world of their Messiah. What they wanted did not add up to what they got.

 He spent three years proclaiming ‘the good news’ to all who would listen, irrespective of their race, creed or religion. The Jewish hierarchy didn’t like the following he was attracting. He was seen as a rebel and they felt he was usurping their authority. So, they decided to work with the Romans to get rid of him.

Perhaps we should spend more time listening and coming to understand more the principles Jesus died for, so we can become the people we were created to be. At the Transfiguration, the booming voice from heaven said “This is my Son, listen to him.”

Perhaps being unconcerned about sin might make life all seem too simple, if we think we are guaranteed a place in heaven, irrespective of what we might get up to down here. Personally, I would like to try and follow the way to the Father that Jesus was trying to show us and be included in the ‘MANY’ He spoke about.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Our Father (the prayer)

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He said to them, “Say this when you pray:” (Matthew 6, 9-10). And so it was that Jesus gave us ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ which can be seen as a model for all our prayer.

While we might ‘rattle it off’ as part of our daily prayer, the words we use vary from one Bible translation to another. Maybe it is time we relooked at ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and without changing its meaning use a language more appropriate to today’s understanding.

John’s Gospel does give us a greater insight into who ‘Our Father’ is and what was His relationship with Jesus.

Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John, 14-6)

“The Father and I are one” (John 10, 30)

“You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14, 11)

“Anything you ask for from the Father, He will grant in my name.” (John 16, 23)

          While Jesus taught the disciples the ‘Our Father,’ when we say this prayer, we don’t seem to involve Jesus in our recitation of the prayer. As Jesus said, “No one can come to the Father except through me,” then maybe it’s time we need to re-examine the words we use when saying the prayer.

Perhaps an updated version of the Our Father could go as follows:

Jesus, you are our guide and inspiration and with your Holy Spirit we seek to honor The Father, creator of us all. We look forward to that day when the Father’s heavenly kingdom will be replicated here on earth. 

We thank you Father for our life and for the food that sustains us. We seek forgiveness for our misdeeds as we are prepared to forgive others who have harmed us.

Please continue to watch over us and guide us so we might become the people you created us to be. Amen.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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