of Papua New Guinea
Diocese of Port Moresby
In Melanesian Pidgin we say "Bel isi bilong God i stap wantaim yupela." I suppose a rough literal translation of that would be something like: "May God make your stomach settle down and your whole body be relaxed and at peace." The Hebrew bible says it simply as "Shalom". That is the message of this week's sharings. It is what happens when we are reconciled. When we live as brothers and sisters together in Christ. All of us here in the Diocese of Port Mroesby pray that this wonderful gift of Divine Shalom be with all those following us through the programme.
AN INTERESTING NOTE FROM NUMBERS
It seems clear from Numbers 15:27-31 that the sacrifice and offerings in the Temple could only be used for sins that were made by mistake or through some carelessness or accident. Deliberate sins, those committed out of hatred, anger, greed or some other human passion, cannot be so easily removed. God will forgive those sins, and indeed all sins, but it is not because of some sacrifice offered. He seeks more than that (Is 43:25; Ps 103:37, 8-18). What he wants is a repentant spirit.
WHAT ABOUT CONVERSION?
There is very little support in the New Testament for putting the idea of conversion ( a single important date in a person's life when they were "converted" to Christ and gave their life to God) at the centre of our Christian living. It is very rare in the NT with the disciples and writers preferring the idea of repentance and turning again.
Of course repenting is much harder. It is not something that a person can do on their own. All we can do is to bring to God a broken and sorrowful heart (Ps 51:17; Isa 64:6). It is God who will create a clean and new heart within us (Ps 51:10; Jer 31:31-34) and God who must turn us around and point us in the right way (Jer 31:18). The prophet Micah sets out clearly what it is that God requires of the faithful person:
To act justly.
To love mercy.
And to walk humbly with your God.
The Church believes that this repentance had been freely given by God as a gift to everyone (Acts 5:31; 11:18) It is God's goodness that leads people to repentance (Rom 2:4) not someone's own skills. What a person must first of all do is come to the painful acceptance that they are in need of a Saviour. Only in their need can they then begin to listen to and cooperate with God.
MAKING THE TOUGH CHOICES
Without repentance there can be no Christian life. One cannot be a Christian unless there is an ongoing work of repentance in all that they do. Christian life begins with a call to repentance and this "turning" has two sides. The person is called to:
Turn from: the world, the flesh and the devilThat is the life into which the believer is baptized. The expectation is that in each and every moment, in each and every decision made, in each and every activity taken up, they will actively "turn from.. and turn to..". Baptism is a commitment to repenting. Repentance cannot be something that only takes place in the hearts and minds of believers. It has to flow over into the day to day life of the person living in a family and in a community. They have to show the fruits of repentance, life has to be changing, a change that comes about from being lived in dependence on God. The believer has to be acting in a just way, be loving with mercy and daily walking with God. It has to be more than just a good idea.
Turn to: truth, righteousness and Christ.
JOHN AND NEW BIRTH
When we get to St John's Gospel we do not find the word repent used at all. He naturally has the same message but comes to it from a different direction. John talks abut the need for a "new birth" (Jn 3:3-8; 1:12ff). He sees the coming of Jesus as an act of starting a whole new creation. This new creation has come about through the actions of God just as the first creation was a free act of God. But this new creation can only be seen with the eyes of faith. It will be clearly visible to all peoples when Jesus returns at the end of time. This new creation begins with the birth of Jesus. Just as God breathed his spirit into the dust of the earth and made the first man alive, so God breathes his breath into the New Creation. This time his breath is the Holy Spirit and it is this Spirit of God, or Breath of God, that gives the new creation its powerful life.
In his teaching Jesus puts it this way: Unless you become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:15; Matt 18:3). To be a child again means to be made new again and entering the new creation means first of all becoming a new person, a little child all over again.
This little story from the Gospel of Luke reminds us that the call to repent is not something that we can keep putting off. St Augustine was supposed to have prayed: "Lord change me....but not just yet"! He still had some wild times he wanted to enjoy first. But God has us here to do a task. To proclaim the Gospel. To build the Kingdom in love and to make the Gospel alive by the way we live in our communities. That is the fruit we must bear. That is the crop he wants us to produce and that is how he will be judging us. Not on what we have said we would do, or what we might have wished we would do. The time to change is now. "The time has come" said Jesus (Mk 1:15). No more excuses. No more half hearted responses. We are called to be hot or cold and not just warm or God will just vomit us out of his mouth (Rev 3:15,16). Tough words that give us a good idea of just how serious this call to repentance really
OUR PRAYER FOR THE WEEK
Creator God, Father and life giver,
we thank you for the wonderful gifts
of creation and the life we have in it.
We praise you for sending us your Son
Jesus as our gift of new and everlasting life.
Through the blessings of this season of Easter,
help us to give up the ways of our old lives,
to put away the activities of the darkness
and to come alive again your Kingdom.
Show us what we need to do to turn from our sins and turn towards you.
Strengthen us that we may have the courage to do the things we have to do
and to walk the path you want us to follow.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
SOME PRAYERS FOR USE THROUGHOUT THE STUDY PROGRAMME
These prayers are provided so that as a Diocese we are sharing together common prayers and praying for the same kinds of things. There are special prayers built into the weekly discussions and these can be said through each of the weeks. These further prayers can be said by individuals, built into family prayers and used for all sorts of occasions. They do not all have to be said together but choices can be made. Some of them could well be learned off by heart and made a part of our own personal and family prayers.
Lord make me an instrument of your Peace.
Where there is hatred let me plant love.
Where there is injury, forgiveness,
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 comforted as to comfort,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
Forgiving that we are forgiven
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.
PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Come Holy Spirit
fill the hearts of your faithful
And light within us the fire of your divine love.
Send forth your spirit and we shall be created
and you will renew the whole of the earth.
O God who taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of your Divine Spirit,
grant us by that same Spirit
that we may be truly wise,
and how to rejoice in your holy presence,
through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYER OF LOVE
O my God,
I love you above all things,
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good and worthy of all love.
I love my neighbour as myself for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE JESUS PRAYER
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me a sinner
THE PRAYER OF ST IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
Teach us Lord,
to serve you as you deserve to be served;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not worry about the wounds;
To work and not to look for rest
and not to ask for any other reward
except that of knowing
that we do your will,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
PRAYER OF ST RICHARD of CHICHESTER
Day by day,day by day,
O dear Lord,
Three things I pray:
To see you more clearly.
To love you more dearly.
To follow you more nearly.
Day by day.
AN EVENING PRAYER
O my God I adore you
And I love you with all my heart.
I thank you for having created me
and for saving me by your grace,
And for having kept me safe during the day.
I pray that you wil take for yourself
Whatever good I have done this day
And that you will forgive me
Whatever evil I have done.
Protect me this night
And may your grace be with me always. Amen.
A MORNING PRAYER
O my God I adore you
And love you with al my heart.
I thank you for having created me
And for saving me by your grace,
And for having kept me safe during the night.
I offer you all of my prayers,
Works, joys and sufferings of this day.
Grant that they may be all according you your will
And for your glory.
Keep me from sin and evil
And may your grace be with me always.