Monday, 30 August 2010


Fund raising for St Magnus Episcopal church Lerwick could not be easier. (hey we need it!)Two things you can do:
1 always shop on line using and designate St Magnus Lerwick as your target for funds. It really is easy peasy because Rachel (the treasurer)says so.

2. Telephone me and buy a rafel ticket (to be drawn on Sept 26th) it is only five pounds a book and you can give me the money when I see you!! (a bargain)



Sunday 29th

The Sermon..... for what it is worth!!!
Last week The Leader of the Synagogue was indignant, and the crowds ended up rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing.

This week we have moved on and hear a story which Jesus tells. A story we have turned into a sort of comment on society and the haves and have nots etc, though I now see this as a story about our attitude tro God not at all about our attitude on behaviour in society.

I am particularly struck by peoples unusual reactions to Jesus as I read the gospel accounts

Just a small survey:

On Monday I discovered that Legion bowed down before him, yet the crowds were afraid.
On Tuesday a woman could not bear the thought of a direct approach and so she sneaked a touch amongst a crowd of people. And then soon she felt fear.
Then we see the crowds laughing at Jesus because they just didn’t believe what he was saying.
On Wednesday I met people who were simply astounded at what Jesus had to say, but couldn’t take it in because they had seen him grow from a boy before them and they just thought “we have him taped”
Then I came across people who just couldn’t believe no matter what Jesus did so he had to use his friends to get the message across.

I was struck by all these reactions because tradition might suggest that Jesus was instantly likeable, that we would be immediately drawn to him, and that we would understand his message directly. We still today sometimes feel that if we read some words apparently spoken by Jesus we will warm to them and take them to heart.

A sort of cosy image of Jesus really goes out of the window when you read the stories…. I had just never noticed it especially before.

It is curious to ponder that Jesus could not minister to some people, so much so that he had to send disciples instead.

It has made me wonder if we honestly allow people to feel all these different reactions to Jesus today, and what would happen if we did. Do we expect everyone to react the same as ourselves? Do we recognise that even amongst us here there will be people who react differently.

Maybe there have been times we have simply been afraid of him. What is our reaction when we do not understand him? How many times have we wanted to drum him out of town?

It is also extremely interesting to think about the role his friends might have in making the message acceptable and clear. Perhaps we have seen the disciples as acting as mere assistants whereas when you read the gospel if they hadn’t gone out then the message would simply not have been sown. What does that teach us about the church today I wonder?

I have started to wonder what my reaction to Jesus might be under different circumstances. When I am feeling stressed and under a cloud I rather like to hear him saying to me “be calm”, but I know that at other times I may be fearful of what Christ might wish of me at other times. When I feel angry at what has happened I might even feel like making him the scapegoat.

One thing that is certain and that is our reaction, whether it be love or hate does not stop him loving.

Even when his friends rejected him, were fearful of being associated with him, even when they openly denied him, he was still there for them.

Perhaps you might think about your reaction too during this week, and when you hear a gospel story, notice what is happening?

The picture at the church door is of Joanne from Bongo in Ghana. She is visiting Shetland at the moment and St Magnus has recently helped support her in her education. Peter Davis is also in the picture and has set up Project Bongo (as a charity) to support this work to blossom.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Some words that have travelled with me

"Dangerous it were for the feeble brain of man to wade far into the doings of the most high; whom although we know to be life, and joy to make mention of His name; yet our soundest knowledge is to know that we know Him not as indeed he is, neither can know Him: and our safest eloquence concerning Him is our silence when we confess without confession that his glory is inexplicable, His greatness above our capacity and reach. He is above, and we upon earth: Therefore it behoveth our words to be wary and few"

words from Hookers Ecclesiastical polity 16th Century stuff.

Shared with me by my friend Tom Shepherd when I started reading theology at Manchester and which I have had with me ever since

Thank you Tom

Monday, 23 August 2010

A testing week!

Sermon from Sunday

Is God a habit?
I continue to ponder on this question…

Do we turn to God at certain times in our lives simply out of habit and “addiction”? Are some people more preconditioned ?

This week we had someone distressed in church who lit all the candles, said prayers, smashed a few things and left. We have the place open for people to express their feelings and this person went wild,(like we all might do from time to time) we leave the place open... so we are vulnerable to abuse. Being open is exactly that.... vulnerable.

Do we have a particular image of God which suits us, which is perhaps different from another persons?

Freud wrote a book “The future of an illusion” which my friend Martin sent to me to read a while ago. I do not recommend it! He thinks basically that Religion (ie God) is fairly pointless and is explained as something to do with how we are preconditioned through our distant relationships with Father figures down the ages, and in our own lives.

I am sure we must not be afraid of such difficult and challenging questions. However such questions come to us, we must realise that God has been challenged since day one. You and I might feel rocked and pushed but personally I think there is still something to hold on to, even if we cannot so easily sometimes explain it, for good or ill.

The challenge to God is as old as the trees… well almost!

“We can eat everything except…… or we will die”

“No you will not…. God got that wrong.

The Bible has many examples where “God says one thing” and the people do another… indeed this is almost what the whole bible is about.

The New Testament opens its pages with the new “Word” and still we find the people calling out against it when it doesn’t appear that the message was what the people really wanted.

“Did you think I came to bring Peace?” Are we mature enough to be able to accept the message which God really has for the world.

I heard someone saying this week, “you can go so far but there must be limits…..” Jesus said we must forgive .

I have found it very difficult this week to say the Lords Prayer because of this question of forgiveness.

Jesus also said we must go out of our way to help people in distress, but how easy is it to hedge our response to this? (plenty of excuses not to.)

The presence of God in our midst continue to challenge us, even you and I who actually believe “Faith” and belief and Love and God are significant to us.

Perhaps we should not be so scathing on people like Richard Dawkins (who was apparently on TV again this week) and Sigmund Freud?

Am I a God near by, and not a God far off? Says the Lord. Who can hide in secret places? So asks Jeremiah in Today’s reading. The people struggled with the thought of God being still close to them when they were far from home.

In the Psalms of the exile they asked each other “how can we sing the Lords Song in a strange Land?”

The people of God had got so used to the thought that God dwelt with them in their Land that when the Land was far away they began to wonder if God was far away too.

God and the Land went together. (do we think the same with God and the Church? Or even God and the church building?)

Gradually their habit of thinking of God in these ways had to be challenged and changed.

The epistle to the Hebrews gives a brief history of how faith has changed the way of believing and living, and concludes for us that since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses we must let go of the things to which we cling and which cling to us and hold us back.

We are urged to run with perseverance.

Today we still do challenge God and God I am sure challenges us (I know he challenged me and I equally know I sometimes try to hide in my secret places)

I also believe that any relationship with God is precisely that “a relationship” and this has to be lived out in a day to day living. The witness of Faith down the ages will I believe always challenge and convert too.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Annsbrae staff party at the Rectory

We had a chill out party at the Rectory for the survivors of the Annsbrae Fete. Not all the staff could come but it was great fun. The Fete was a huge success and over 700 pounds was raised to supplement our work. It was exhausting though!!

Here are some pictures of the gathering. I could hardly wish to work with a finer bunch of people, I feel so fortunate to be part of this brilliant team of people.

In a few weeks I am going to get my manager Muriel to speak at St magnus about our work at Annsbrae.

Sunday 15th

The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….. all very aplaudable, all very well, but we must not forget something.
We hear a lot about Mary’s devotion, her assumption, her saintliness, the way which she is seen down the ages as a God bearer but what about her fear?
Yes, Mary was filled with fear, we here what are familiar words on the lips of Gabriel…. Do not be afraid.
It is a natural reaction and one perhaps we should be more willing to own up to in our faith and in our believing.
We are told in the bible not to be afraid more than any other action…. It is the most popular commandment. Some how though it seems God may recognise our humanity we sometimes do not!
The disciples were also filled with fear from time to time, not least in the accounts of both crucifixion (natural maybe) but also resurrection.
It is not unusual to be filled with a sense of real fear, a dark cloud may descend on us, a mire, a complete losing of a sense of direction, a sense of abandonment. Many things can cause this…. A change, a death, an illness, a seperation, a divorce, a disaster….. many things.
The feeling can even come about by the result of things that may on one level seem happy… a birth, an adoption, moving to a new home, getting married.
In short fear can accompany most times of living. For some it may be more significant than others. We are not all the same.
Strange also but God is sometimes the cause of this fear…which is perhaps why his messengers and even himself often say “Do not be afraid.”
We need to hear these words… do not be afraid I have not left you
Do not be afraid I am with you in your trials.
As I said even the disciples were huddled in fear after the resurrection…. Even the Day of Pentecost had the accompanying words do not be afraid.
For Mary the key to fear was belief. She was able we learn through quiet dedication to put herself into God’s hands, even though she was not sure where this would lead.
For Jesus, the key to fear was again belief… He put his trust in God into your hands I commit my spirit…. He came through the suffering.
For us too I suspect the key to our fear is again belief. Belief and faith in God who never leaves us, whether we look on the crucified or the risen
So today we hold Mary in our thoughts…. Though she proclaimed that her soul delights in God, it was not without holding on to and seeing beyond the fear. We cannot just sweep it under the carpet..
God still says to us “Do not be afraid”

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Todays sermon

I was encouraged to post this today.

Do not be afraid little flock… it is the fathers pleasure to give you the kingdom.
George Appleton wrote Journey for a soul in 1976, here he wrote “ The Kingdom of God was the main subject of the early preaching of Jesus. He claimed that in himself the kingdom had drawn near, was in operation, and he called to men to accept this fact in faith and to change their attitudes, behaviour and world view. Many of his parable dealt with the meaning of the kingdom, as if he were wanting to ensure that those who could not at first understand would remember one vivid human story, and that one day the penny would drop.”
As you may know I am a great fan of St Francis of Assisi. A saint of some magnitude and one who is well known for all sorts of reasons.
St Francis is often described as a saint for our modern age and certainly many are moved today by his example.
Without going into long biographical detail, Francis journey to canonization began when he held on to something ultimately simple, “it is the fathers pleasure to give you the kingdom”
Francis realized that the church of his day had apparently made the kingdom a complicated thing, and had put it apparently beyond the common folks grasp unless they had peculiar access to the church via the priest. The church held the keys to the kingdom and it was not about to share them.
Francis set about living very simply to the words found in the gospels, and the “rule” that he compiled for his followers was basically a few chosen words form the gospels, and all simple words of Jesus. Poverty and simplicity being the groun rules for his method of living.
In this day and age some people still behave as if Living the Kingdom was a difficult and onerous task, and one which is heavily administered by the church (authorities)
Of course you and I know differently.
Why do you and I come to church then? Is it necessary?
Partly yes and partly no.
Some people might say that those who come to church are doing so to fill a gap in their lives. (As if having a gap was a negative thing and it was being filled with something that sounds pseudo) Well I guess the same could be true of any sort of activity, from playing bridge, playing golf, or just going to a bar and drinking with friends.) In this respect we are all of us all the time filling gaps with things.
For me coming to church is a time when I meet with other folk who also in some ways believe that God has a part to play in the life of the world (not a gap filler, god of the gaps stuff. And in meeting with like minded people (like joining a golf club) our game is improved, our relationship with God is improved, and our love for God and one another is also improved.
Of course the way we might to these things vary, from drinking coffee to sitting in silent prayer, to receiving Gods love through physical things like bread and wine.
We may come to church because we are used to it, it may have become a habit, but this may not be a bad thing at all.
We are here because we recognise something of God here and not just here but within ourselves and each other. This is a very liberating thing to do.
Sometimes we do not know what we are are going to discover when we come here, even when we can say the liturgy is the same often.
Understanding that Gods love actually lives inside each one of us, releases us from the thought that the church might hold the essential key, and in the end we realise like Francis that God has given us all the keys.
Having the keys ourselves means that we can duly feel quite excited about the part we play in the kingdom. Each of us are part of what we are doing here. Each of us is responsible.
The word Liturgy, as I think I have explained before means “the work of the people”. It is very important to begin to realise that indeed we all play a part not just in living Kingdom lives but also here in our weekly worship together and at any time we gather for prayer.
Often there may be a leader of the worship, who is designated sometimes president, the one who presides, but without everyone else the activity is almost worthless.. In our tradition we play our part in every way possible, in singing together, in standing and sitting together, in praying together both out loud and in silence, in listening together and in responses. We are always playing a part, even in the Eucharistic prayer which is OUR great prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
Filled with the bread and wine of the kingdom, fired up with love for God and each other, we are then ready to take this Kingdom and God into the worlds in which we live, and just sometimes nobody needs to know what love fires our hearts as we know ourselves that is God we serve and whose kingdom we dwell in. (What I think I mean here is that we do not often need to make anyone feel awkward about us being Christian….)
Again coming back to Francis…. Go and preach the gospel… and only if necessary use words!
George Appleton again, “ The Kingdom is something within you which has the power of growth like a seed, something that you discover almost accidentally. Something that you are searching for, and of whose value you become more confident and excited as the search proceeds, and you discover truer and lovelier things which are constantly being surpassed.”

The Rectory Garden blitz and BBQ

We had a great time after church today as a small group descended on trhe Rectory Garden to hack back overgrown undergrowth. Strimmers and mowers, saws and all sorts of stuff set about trying to tame the jungle.

The BBQ was well deserved and even Eli liked that bit! The garden is finally beggining to take some shape.

Young and old, two legged and four legged friends enjoyed a warm afternoon with no rain. A BBQ was part of the plot, and of course various stops for tea and coffee along the way too.

The little dog is called Poppy and Eli just finds her so much fun. The other black labrador is called Charlie, and Eli loves having fun and games with Charlie.