Sunday, 3 November 2013
Our Gospel reading comes from Luke today, at first perhaps it all feels quite familiar. This is because it begins like the more well-known piece in Mathew gospel which we call the Sermon on the mount. Luke pieces together his own version and strangely makes the point that Jesus has come down to a level place.
The purpose of the message however seems similar… a long list of things in which we might feel very uncomfortable and yet Jesus says in them we are blessed. It is not something we would choose.
This week Rachel and I watched a film named “Tyrannosaurus” . It was quite uncomfortable to watch in places. The “intro” said it was about an alcoholic’s relationship with a lady who worked in a charity shop. Well it turned out to be much more than this and by the end we have witnessed two dogs getting beaten to death, a man being stabbed and killed, a friend dying, and a victim being imprisoned. The closing scene is the visiting room in the prison, and it here for perhaps the first time clearly that light and hope come into the film.
The characters grow and deepen by facing their crippling lives.
Do we get it too easy? Have we had it too good for too long? Have we grown to be like the spoilt child, who thinks that anything they want is surely possible to have.
A few months ago Jack was struggling with an aspect of his maths work… it became quite tense!! A few weeks ago Jack was heard to say “I am looking forward to maths today.
We have seen Jack grow with confidence in the new skate park recently. The slope which was just too high at first is now merely a bunny hop away. It is great to see this growing confidence and ability.
But non of this came easy. It was at first impossible and out of reach.
On this All Saints Sunday we remember the saints of course, but let us also remember the price they paid to teach us that adversity builds strength and character. The Saints we praise today were often the solitary people who were willing to be reviled and spat upon… even worse,
Christians today are still persecuted and punished for their faith and once again we are invited to put ourselves into their very uncomfortable shoes.
And yet let’s consider things from a slightly different angle.
How do we handle our relationship with God. Do we behave a little one sided sometimes?
In the good times its is so easy to leave God out of the picture. But when the going gets tough Christians start praying!
Why is it that our most heartfelt prayers seem to be for loved ones or ourselves who are in many ways going through tough times?
Isn't it so annoying these days trying to get through on the telephone to large businesses.
You dial, the phone call is answered by a recorded message inviting you to select from various options. This can happen a few times of course then as you think you are about to be connected to a real live voice the miserable music gets played again and is interrupted by a message saying how important you are and that your call will be answered shortly.
When things are going well in our lives we often put God on hold. In various ways we imply that he really does matter to us and that we will be with him in due course. We will deal with him when we have got the time.
I used to have a poster on my wall at University that read “If you are too busy to pray you are too busy”
Let us, in thinking of the saints who surround our steps as we journey on, be mindful of putting God on hold. Let us be mindful of the fact that hard times and testing times are actually a blessing to us and without them we do not grow.
I have spoken with three people this week in fact that have said that without the pain they endured they would not be half the person they are today
Let our constant prayer be one for courage and strength in testing times and at times we do feel at odds with someone or some situation let us remind ourselves that God is with us in these times as well as the better times when we may be putting him “on hold”
Friday, 18 October 2013
An exploration of how we use moments of silence found within the Eucharist Service.
The opening prayers
The time for confession
Hearing the Bible read
The Great Thanksgiving Prayer.
We are so used to this service, it seems to be the same each week and indeed we can seem totally thrown if something “not normal” takes place or happens during it.
Yet even if it is from one perspective, “the same”, from another it has always to be new.
The Eucharist first leads us in, then it accompanies us through, and gently sends us out again.
How are we prepared to be led in?
The collect for purity,
The ancient priestly prayer of vesting and beginning, brought into English by Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century, now includes us all.
I invite you to see this prayer as a doorway, opening and inviting, through which we enter with all that we are. We carry a lot of baggage with us in the journey of our life, this baggage comes with us more often than not.
The silence we keep at this time could be the moments we check our baggage, see it all. And own it.
The time for confession.
We are invited to call to mind our sin. As we have chosen to enter this gateway of life, it is right that we remember the things about us that hinder our progress, the stuff of our lives that trip us up, blind our sight from God and one another. Some of this is deeply ingrained and almost hidden. Sometimes we all too easily recognise our blind spots, and could be ashamed by them.
It may be that we have easily recognised something recently which is a burden and needs to be brought before God for healing.
The silence we keep is private and confidential. It is the space we have to gently unpack and offer ourselves to the loving light of God… as we remind ourselves God is both power and love, and it is this loving that encourages us and enable us to unpack ourselves.
Yet we are all together as we do this. All confessing sinners. We do this as a body, knowing that before God, and in sin, we are equal.
It is often said that Christians wait upon God’s Word. Of course this comes to us in many ways and not just through what we call “scripture”.
Yet we must acknowledge that Scripture is what can inspire us. It is what informs us about God and about Jesus our Lord.
It is therefore only right that we give ourselves the opportunity to be open and this takes time.
The times we hear the bible read in church are special.
The silence is the time we concentrate on what has been read, we mull it over and seek Gods word amongst it. Sometimes it is helpful to picture ourselves in the story we have heard.
The thanksgiving prayer
“Just as it was hard to see the divine image in Jesus, it is hard to see it in ordinary folks like us. For those of us from a sacramental tradition the essential mystery is constantly repeated in the Eucharist. For Catholic Christianity, Eucharist is the touchstone of orthodoxy. If we understand the Eucharist, we get it! It's the same mystery as Jesus. It looks like bread, it looks like wine, but we say it's more. I always say that it is easier for God to "convince bread" what it is than to convince us! Wine knows it is the blood of Christ, and we don't.
Can you see? Can you see through bread? Can you see through wine and see that it is more? That brings the spiritual life down to earth — literally. It says God is hiding in physical reality, in politics, in feelings, in childbirth and death, in everything of this earth. Isn't that wonderful? Without his hidden presence, we are in utter exile here.”
Richard Rohr “Everything belongs”. Chapter: Cleansing the lens published by Crossroad publishing 1999 isbn 0-8245-1995-7
This is the greatest prayer we pray together, even if often a priest speaks most of it on everyone’s behalf.
The prayer is a complex expression of our whole living faith, what it means to us, what it does to us, how it translates itself into our lives. For this we must be alert and attuned, it is very much a corporate prayer, and one during which important actions are done.
Bread and wine are placed on the table, Bread and wine are offered as we are offered. Bread and wine is blessed as we are blessed. We eat and drink together, and are nourished with the bread and wine which is for us as feasting in Christ.
As the words of the hymn say,
“Christ's is the world in which we move.
Christ's are the folk we're summoned to love, Christ's is the voice which calls us to care, and Christ is the One who meets us here, …..Christ makes with his friends a touching place.
All this is able to happen only when we wait in silence. It is not something that happens in an instant. The still small voice has to be listened to. As the advert for a cup of tea currently says “It gets you back to you”.
The Eucharist puts us within the presence of God and here we are re-created re-imaged and brought back to ourselves.
The silence we experience, is the silence of contentment and peace. Of having been blessed and in a place which is deep in love and security. At a place where we feel that Christ has called us his friends and touched us. Again a silence of listening for God and gently hearing his call to us to go out into the world again ready to serve renewed in His service.
Saturday, 24 August 2013
The more discerning will now realise that Hannah is now HRH! A real princess!
Saturday, 20 July 2013
Thursday, 18 July 2013
Today we hear the so well know story of The Good Samaritan.
The question was asked who was my neighbour.
This happened in Scotland not very long ago:
Fiona, who had been out late in the nearby town, had to catch a bus back to her home. It was about 10 o'clock and she managed to get on a bus that would drop her off quite near to her home. She was thankful to have caught this bus because it saved a long walk along dimly lit paths.
As the bus was approaching the area in which she lived, another girl flagged the bus down. The bus driver stopped the bus, and the girl ran onto the bus in quite a disturbed state of mind, pleading with the driver and the passengers for help. Her friend was being beaten up by two youths in the subway just next to where the bus had stopped.
The driver turned to the passengers and said, "Did you hear what she said?"
Nobody appeared to move, or to show any reaction.
Fiona, who was not a particularly brave girl, got out from her seat and walked down the bus, thinking as she went that others were sure to follow.
She found herself standing outside the bus quite alone, apart from the girl who had pleaded for assistance. Not a soul had followed her from the bus, and she recounted how she had never felt so scared in all her life.
Anyway there was no turning back, so she followed, partly pulled and urged on by the girl who was getting very anxious down the embankment to the subway where there were three lads. One was lying on the ground bleeding from his nose and mouth, and the other two standing over him kicking him viciously.
Fiona was at a loss as to what to do. Anyway, comic as it may see. She walked towards the two boys and simply told them to leave him alone. Surprised by the new arrival the boys ran off quickly.
Following this the two girls helped the boy to his feet and supported him on each side as they proceeded back up the embankment.
Fiona could not believe what she saw................... NOTHING
The bus had driven off.
Fortunately a resident had seen the attack from a bedroom window and had called the police. They arrived and took the matter in hand.
This story is a tragic account of a beating. However what Fiona found most difficult to come to terms with was not the fear, but rather the horror that nobody else form the bus had offered any help. To make the horror deeper, there was also the fact that the bus had just left the situation.
Jesus was asked about the neighbour and how we can know who the neighbour is. He responded with he parable of the Good Samaritan.
The story of the Good Samaritan along with the account of Fiona show certain similarities it is clear. The two stories illustrate something that is actually happening to us all day by day. The stories are not about the 'out of the ordinary' at all. They are illustrating the constant struggle that we are required to face as to how to love our neighbour, and how to find that neighbour.
Thinking of the story of the Good Samaritan we can see that in answer to the question "Who is my neighbour?" Jesus answered that your neighbour is anyone in the world who needs you.
But the case does not rest there, for in the story we see that the Good Samaritan went out of his way to help the beaten man. He went out of his way in the sense that he was helping a foreigner, and a despised one at that. He also went out of his way in that he paid for the care of the man and even promised to repay any further debts later to the inn keeper.
So our neighbour is someone for whom we need to go out of our wav to help, go out of our way to love.
Our neighbours, according to the parable are not those we meet along our way, but those we are willing to go out of our way to help. So Jesus was making a heavy demand on his followers ..’What good is it if you love only those who love you??'
So loving our neighbours involves a movement across on our part. A movement to be with the other, not just to bump into them on our own path.
Jesus said 'Go and do Likewise’ This challenge is fundamental to the Christian faith As believers we are called to do one thing, to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. Two commandments in one, and even in Jesus day the Jews believed that it was on those two that the whole law stood.
We must always keep the two together. On our own journeys to God we are required to love our neighbours, to love those who need our help, to go out of our way to tend their wounds., however inflicted. "If we don't love our neighbour who we can see, how can we say that we love God, who we can't see?”
As I said earlier this is a daily struggle, not an 'out of the ordinary' event. The Gospel of the kingdom is for daily living.
We are challenged daily to be Christians in our community. It is sometimes a struggle to achieve. But our community will be richer if Christians live their faith in it.
Faith I heard this week is really another kind of love, I found that very helpful.
We might consider who it is we try to avoid?
So to close, As we seek to follow the cross this week we must hold before our minds and in our prayers the desire to grow in love for God and to seek out and find our neighbour. In doing so we are going some way to fulfilling the demand of Jesus to 'Go and do likewise.'