Sunday, 24 October 2010

St Magnus Church Lerwick

For those who would like to see St Magnus Church

A sermon from Sunday

Sermon for 24th October 2010 Lerwick

Some people have said that the problems with society today is that it has no awareness of how sinful it is, and it should be the churches place to be telling society how sinful they are and how they can make amends.
Should such a society therefore repent then things can come right again.
I meet a number of people who believe that the problems they face today are the result of them doing something wrong in times past, sometimes years past. It is thought that punishment is being meted out for past sins.
(Jeremiah touched on this syndrome in last weeks reading which it is worth pointing out comes much later on in time than this weeks reading from Jeremiah.)
Perhaps this is an age old issue on both a personal and community point of view.
Should the church therefore preach more about this sinful nature than it has, have we, to wander into the topic raised by Jeremy last week, become too attuned to our culture today and not enough counter cultural?
Jeremiah’s people really did believe that things were wrong in the nation, (they had just been invaded by the Babylonians) because they had strayed from God’s ways and not observed His laws in their land. Indeed the prophet’s role was to point this out to them. Drought was also seen as a direct punishment from God.
Jeremiah’s people had allowed their feet to wander without restraint and now they were paying the price……
Sometimes I wonder if we still live with this frame of mind of straightforward rewards and punishments, the eye for and eye and tooth for tooth mentality. I have mentioned this syndrome before in sermons about do good and be rewarded, do Bad and feel the pinch.
But is this perhaps too simple a way of reckoning things?
The Pharisee felt he had done everything right, the “I” came straight to the top, and yet did God hear his prayers?
He was always in church, he did everything he could, he gave regularly and sacrificially, he even did things he did not need to do….. and God chose to hear the cry of the other, the sinful tax collector!
Surely there is something wrong here?
The church that Luke was writing to was not too dissimilar to ours today. A mix of people from various backgrounds, and with various financial resources. Last weeks story about the widows constant prayer prevailing over the unjust judge would have encouraged the poorer members and reminded the more wealthy of their need to help others in need. Yet today’s story immediately puts the self righteous in their place as the prayer that is “seen worthy” is the prayer of the person who centres themselves on the undeserved mercy of God (we call that “Grace”)
Jeremiah, like Daniel, aligns himself with the people. He is the one who has sinned. There is no getting away from that. And despite this recognition over and over again, he is able to say that,
“You O Lord are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us”
Last week Jeremy quite rightly helped us to see that Prayer is about our ongoing relationship, it is not about how frequently we ask, or about what we ask for..It has more to do with being alongside growing into each others likeness, being His people and He being our God.
It is often tempting to talk of sins as if we were able to make a list of the wrong things we have done, either corporately (though this often does not feature) or individually (and of course we can always make a longer list for someone else sometimes!) and miss the point that it is is Sin that is important not “sins”. Being sinful is the place we find ourselves in, and it is God who redeems us from this place because he is alongside us and calling us to be like him.
Perhaps perversely therefore the one who thinks they have sinned more, as well as the one who thinks they have done more right things, are both likely to have their prayers un heard.
We are seen justified only when we grow closer to God in a close and loving relationship and realise that he is indeed in our very midst and not some distant potent puppeteer that has nothing much to do with us except in a controlling omnipotent sort of way.
The Mighty fall, and the humble are lifted high.

Friday, 15 October 2010

My apologies!

My apologies for not having been adding new content here. I have been busy being involved in other things both at Annsbrae House and at St Magnus and St Colmans. Everything is going well and I am finally getting around to sorting out stuff in the Rectory. I have bought furniture and even some furniture polish. I found a great clock for the wall which get me saying "have you seen the time" all the time! My mum and Dad came up to visit with my brother and they enjoyed their stay and can now see why I want to be here. They did say though that the Rectory needed sorting..... and keeping warm!
Last week I went guizing! I joined a hen party at the other end of town and dressed up as a woman (borrowing a costume from the Amateur Dramatic Group.) Do you know, nobody turned a hair as I walked down the street! (Gusizing is quite a feature of life here at party time and of course Up Helly Aa.

Yesterday I met up again with Janette Kerr the Artist Eli and I met in the beginning of the year. She is up to continue her work and prepare for a big exhibition next year.

I will try to keep more up to date here

A sermon from Sunday

Before I left Cambridge, on a visit to someone in hospital I went onto the ward and as you know very often the room has various occupants. The person I was visiting was having fairly minor surgery, but all the others were being treated for fairly major life threatening conditions. At first I wrongly assumed that they would all be having similar operations for similar conditions.

Imagine my surprise after hearing a young girl two beds away laughing and joking with another patient across the ward, to see her get out of bed with just one leg, the other having been amputated the week before. She was just 23.

Across from her was a lady in her late 60 who had just moved to Norfolk from the East end of London. She was coming to the conclusion of a huge long course of treatment which had involved major operations, radio therapy and Chemo therapy. It had not been an easy journey and she had had many setbacks, but she was looking forward to being back at her caravan near her Norfolk Home for her grand daughters 15th Brirthday.

It will not have been like it all the time, but the atmosphere on the ward was supportive, encouraging, and full of life and humour. They were all getting better, they were all going home, and the young girl even left while I was there to smiles and cheers from all the ward. She had to face a long ambulance journey back to home in Cornwall, but her smile and expectation of seeing her boyfriend would certainly carry her there.

Jesus healed 10 lepers in our gospel story for today, but did you notice an important comment?

Only one was made well.

Only one returned to give thanks, only one was made whole again and restored.

The skill of the surgeon or the consultant is beyond compare but they can only mend, or try to mend the broken body. They can try to remove or destroy the cancer cells that ravage the physical body. Sometimes they succeed; sometimes they do not manage it.

When they do not manage it they can only say we did all we could but it didn’t work. Believe me they feel as though they have failed. The skill of the doctor is to heal.

There is no doubting the heartache when the skill of the consultant meets its match!

Wholeness on the other hand is something slightly different. Being “made well” is a state of living, no matter how long the life may be.

I have had the privilege to know a number of people who were healed and made whole despite the skill of the surgeon meeting its match. You may have known people like this too. They make me feel so humble and full of gratitude that I have ever known them. Their life in every way becomes a source of true blessing, that goes beyond their own mortal lives. This is remarkable, and always something that causes thanks to well up in my heart.

You can go into any hospital, you can look around you wherever, and see the one out of ten people who are made well. The one out of ten that are whole again, after seeking healing.

The one out of ten who cause a blessing to fall wherever they go.

The one out of ten who have thankful hearts, which overflow and feed others.

The one out of ten who have managed to learn something of forgiveness and have met its challenge, while the rest of us may be still only at the stage of wishing we could, or hoping we might be able to.

The one out of ten who returns to find a broken relationship and makes it right again.

Our world is made a good deal better thanks to the one in ten people as we have seen.

“teach me my God and King, in all things thee to see!” (as reads the famous poem/hymn)

How wonderful to be able to reach this point. To be able to look on glass and see beyond it and not get hung up on our own reflection but to see the heavens and heavens possibilities beyond.

I know I get distracted by my own reflection all too often. The things that scare me, or the things that have scared me. The people I would like to but cannot yet forgive, and the sin that clings so closely, to use word from the letter to the Hebrews.

Our drudgery can be lifted, we in Christ can be given the spring in our step again. God reaches out to us on the road and touches us again and again

“For that which God doth touch and own Cannot for less be sold”

“Christ’s is the world in which we move and he meets us here, he moves with us, he crys with us and laughs with us. He makes a place in which we touch him and he touches us.

“Christ makes with his friends a touching place”

So we are left with the thought “what sort of friend am I?” can I be one in ten, or do I become again one of the nine others. Maybe this time we can be one in nine?