Jim Murphy is the current president of ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services). You can read a bit more about him here. He gave all five of the talks at this retreat weekend.
These talks were recorded on video, and should be available by contacting the team at http://www.ccrnsw.org.au/ .
These notes are only a rough summary /transcription of that first talk.
Session 1, Saturday 19 Jan 2019
I am delighted to be with you here today. I am happy that this is a retreat and not a conference, an opportunity to come and rest in the presence of the God. He has a word for the Church, for the world, and something personal for you. It is a privilege to experience God. We will take it nice and slow and easy.
The theme for this weekend is a quotation from Zech 4:6
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord"
We sing about this verse, but God has a bigger context for it. So I will give you the context and story behind this verse. To understand it you need to know about the captivity of the Jewish people in Babylon and the restoration of God's people when they came home.
In David's kingly line some of them were good and some of them were bad. Regularly God sent them prophets to call them back in line with His ways. Sometimes He sent foreign armies as a chastisement; although that looks like punishment, it was actually used to bring the people back to God. Sometimes even more drastic measures are needed. So the Assyrians came and took some into captivity and then when the Babylonians came and took over the Assyrians they took over Judah as well, and dragged them off to captivity too. This was some 600-700 years before Jesus. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, there was destruction everywhere and the city was wiped out – an unimaginable loss – and the people were scattered everywhere.
Once in captivity the people began to think, 'Why did we rebel against God?' During those 70 or 100 or 150 years of exile other people came in to occupy the land. Then along came the Persians to beat up the Babylonians, and God uses the Persian king to set the people of Israel free. 'You can all go home now'. Amazing! Israel did nothing to regain their freedom. It was the Spirit of God moving in the heart of an unbeliever to make it happen.
Many problems do not have human solutions. God is the master of our destinies. Everyone's life is in the hand of God.
Zechariah was God's prophet for these times, but there were other characters too. Another prophet, Haggai, lived within a 100 years of Zechariah. Haggai's message was, 'It is time to rebuild the Temple, do this first, then build your own homes.'
The task was to rebuild more than just the physical Temple; it was to rebuild the worship of Almighty God. It is not about us, it is about God. When He is No.1 – everything else lines up. Worship God first, and then let Him take care of us. Let's get our priorities right.
Zechariah's main message was a message of restoration, of hope and healing.
There were two governors, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel, they weren't prophets but good men, practical men. They had to figure out, God has spoken – what are we supposed to do in response? What is God's responsibility? What is our responsibility? How much do we sit back? How much are we to be active? Somewhere between the 2 extremes is the right mixture. We are supposed to co-operate with God. It is a mystery of trust and work.
Ezra the priest, and Joshua the priest, had spiritual responsibility for the people.
It took teamwork between the prophets, the secular lay people going with the vision, and the priests, to offer sacrifice, to co-ordinate worship, and to get the people back on track.
There are had different callings and charisms, as Paul reminds us in the Body of Christ (eye, ear, feet) – diversity. What do we have in common? The worship of God. As Pope Francis says (cruxnow.com 11 Nov 2016), 'Do not confuse unity with conformity'. Our unity is in Christ. In the mind of God, diversity makes us strong.
There was a whole process to rebuilding the city. Sometimes work on the city went forward, while no work got done on the temple; sometimes work went forward on the temple, but the worship was lacking. It happened in dribs and drabs. Activity…stop…activity…stop. It was a process, like life, that gradually happens.
Growing closer to God is a process. Progress is not always forward due to human weakness eg two steps forward, one step back. God is willing to transform us incrementally.
At times the people rebuilding the city got discouraged again, and frustrated, and began complaining again, and slipping away from the Lord's path again.
Believe in God enough to forgive you your own failings.
The hardest person you are going to have to forgive is yourself.
Incremental growth, with the constant struggle it requires, has lasting change. Fast growth can be ephemeral. We have to let God be God, and let Him do it His way in dealing with our issues.
Keep in mind the big picture, even though we haven't got the whole story.
That is why prophecy is so important.
What promise has God made to you?
When we lose the big picture we start getting discouraged and wanting to give up.
He wants to give us a big dream to capture our hearts, minds and imaginations – because He doesn't want us to give up.
What work of restoration is God doing in you and in your life?
None of this is an exact science.
When all the talks are transcribed and blogged, a printer friendly version will be provided.
Initially I found this interesting, but profoundly discouraging. Why? Because I have been waiting for any kind of progress in any direction for so long, that I didn't want to hear that it might be a Sagrada Familia/Antoni Gaudi-like project that takes 3 or 4 or 5 generations to complete to transform our parishes and dioceses to where God wants them to be. Especially when I have words from international prophetic sources saying increase, acceleration, and harvest ringing in my ears. An extraordinarily compelling vision is required, as in the Sagrada Familia, for each generation to continue working according to the vision. We certainly need God's vision for the work of restoring our parishes and dioceses to health, and yet I suspect that all we have at the moment is desperation for change, any change that might improve the situation, and not much vision and divine direction. To obtain this, we need to gather, and humbly seek God's vision for our local situations in prayer, and reflecting together on the bigger picture given us in the documents of Vatican II and other papal encyclicals, together with the Scriptures. Seeking such a vision won't be a short project either. Perhaps the Australian plenary council process will go a long way towards achieving this.