Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sunday's sermon


READ ON.....

The Royal mail, and courier services are especially busy at this time of the year of course, and perhaps more than some communities we rely on them to both take away things for Christmas and equally deliver them. The last posting day gets ever closer and some watch this marker carefully.
Christmas trees and lights now seem to have December 1st as the up day, just to help us feel that Christmas is even closer than it really is, and for some elderly people in care homes this can cause even bigger problems and anxiety.
I have just about got my cards ready to post, I have not thought of a tree to be honest, I know where my lights are because I bought them last year.
I know who I am getting presents for and most of these are ordered and some are even wrapped, and some are waiting until the end of January this time! (Newr year sales could help me here!).
I have mincemeat ready for the pies, and drink for the guests.
There are probably other things too which you have on your lists of to do things, and some of you may feel the pressure of these things pressing in on you.
Then on top of all that we have to contend with some fairly rough weather, how the council is going to save millions, where the new Anderson is going and if it is going, The problems in Syria and Egypt, and not to mention the increased concern about financial markets, the value of our savings and if they will remain safe and the security of our pensions.
Phew! You might think… yes and on top of all that the church is trying to get a word in edgeways and say that in amongst all this God is somehow wanting to show that he is involved in the world, not just today but always has been.
The Nine lessons and carols we shall experience again soon deliberately try to tell this story of God in the world. Christmas itself is about the same story of God breaking into our world.
Furthermore the world we see God breaking into and making an impact was a world of political and military tension, and a world of international intrigue.
Tradition has it that Jesus was born in an overcrowded  and occupied town. A place of chaos and tax. ( the census was all about taxation)
Tradition also has it that God breaks into such a world in an unexpected way and as if a huge surprise. Almost silently in the night.
Tradition also has some surprising people recognising this God presence, shepherds and foreigners, and not the religious folk of the day.
Our Christmas would not be the same today however without the Shepherds Wise Men, stable and manger the crib. Our Christmas today would not be the same without Holly wreaths, mistletoe, Christmas Trees and stockings.
Our Christmas today would also not be the same without Santa Claus the man who brings delight and magic to the homes and faces of our loved ones.
I do not think we need to be over concerned about the trappings of Christmas….. no matter what world we find ourselves in God has a way of making his real presence felt, and for you and I who call ourselves Christian we have a particular role to play in helping the World recognise the coming of God to a needy world and a needy people.
Our own response at Christmas has to be like that of the Shepherds and wise man, of coming and worshipping the presence of God in the world. The part we play is ultimately simple really. God somehow completes the picture, it does not rely on us to do that.
When we are tempted to say that it has all become a little too commercialized and the real meaning of Christmas has been lost, is it sometimes because we recognise within ourselves the little room we give to Jesus or to God.
The Shepherds are you and I. People going about their normal working lives and being surprised by God. And following the surprise being able to respond to that all important news and not let it just slip away after Boxing Day.
Traditionally the Shepherd brought a lamb. A symbol of their work their normal day to day life, nothing special, and we sing about if I were a shepherd what would I bring…. And the conclusion we come to is that we would bring our heart.
There is nothing smaller or even greater about our offering to God this Christmas, it is almost nothing that is expected and yet it is at the same time everything. It does not matter if it happens within a commercial world or a world of political unrest and intrigue, just that it happens…. And I believe it always will.

December has come!

Yes yes! I know it has been a while since I updated this. Sorry! My brother has even complained that it has needed attention. Well here I am.

Last Sunday we had a confirmation service and here is the photo of that occassion. It was a busy weekend all over and to cap it all blizzards coming back from Yell with the Bishop in the driving seat!!

We survived.. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Leah update

I am sorry that until now I have not posted a picture of the new Labrador Puppy. Leah is settling in well and apparently is growing!

Today she had her very first bone!

Eli puts up with her, that is about how it is. She is certainly the boss! Having said that it is good to have them both as they are company for each other and great together on walks.

Another Sunday

Reading the chapters of Matthew’s Gospel as we have been doing over recent weeks has seen a building up of tension. We have heard parables where it was seen Jesus was speaking against the Pharisee and the Jews, and we have seen challenging questions put to Jesus with a view of tricking Jesus or at best putting him in the corner. It has been like watching two boxers in the ring, or the Grand national as the horses one by one fall.
Today knock out! Today the horse at the back suddenly takes the lead. One question from Jesus and “they dare not ask him any more questions”
In Rabbinical writings and discussion Jesus question remains to this day debated and fought over. The question furthermore was not a new question even then, just in the same way that Jesus answer about the greatest (most important) commandment was an answer that everyone accepted  at that time and ever since. In that sense no new ground was being broken here, except that for Matthew this is a watershed in the gospel and from here the Passion journey is embarked and Jesus issues a series of “woes” to the religious folk of that time.
Moses was the greatest prophet Israel had known according to the OT reading, he had led the people all that way, he had been in the presence of God himself (last week) yet because of the people’s rebellion he was not allowed to enter the land to which he had gallantly led them.
Jesus is also described as a “teacher of great authority” and as “the Messiah of God” and we hear many were healed and made whole by him, and at times he was thronged by people eagerly waiting for the Kingdom of God. And this man from today sets his face to Jerusalem and the crucifixion.              
We come today to a turning point in the church’s year and next week is the beginning of what some call the kingdom season, which culminates with the feast of Christ the King. Next week is also “All Saints Sunday” when we celebrate the great crowd of witnesses of which we hopefully count ourselves a part.
It is with every intention, following our baptism, that you and I become part of the Kingdom people. We have seen ourselves as the Body of Christ in the World today. From today’s epistle, “ … when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers” (1 Thes 2:13)
In this respect we become a people of God and dwellers alongside the countless witnesses recorded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, In a “Land of Promise”.
(Don’t forget Matthew sees the church as the new Israel and the new dedicated nation.)
With this in mind and on our hearts we should all consider the way we speak and act, both among ourselves and amongst others. Paul constantly had to remonstrate with congregations under his care for the way they behaved amongst each other and how they coped with disagreement and grumbles. What might Paul have to say to us here today I wonder?
We are brothers and sisters together in this congregation, and I was speaking with someone this week and I repeat to you all what I said to this person, we will live and grow in this place only because of the people in God we are, only because the love we show to each other is strong and healing. Forgiveness and love must be the hall marks of God’s people, this has always been the case, “see how they Love God” and loving God as we have seen means loving neighbour absolutely. (It is not a matter of choice)
I work alongside people who have sometimes no one to love and no one apparently loves them.
Look at yourself now, look at us…. We are so rich and greatly blessed. Let us not loose sight of the way we bless each other in love. Many people today will literally die for lack of what we have.
Christ Shared our life that we might live in him and that he might live in us, we accepted this call at our baptism. He embraced us as his children and welcomed us at his supper. He even washes our dirty feet over and over. He opened wide his arms for us on the cross and through this we are able to join with all God’s people in a song of the Kingdom.
Let us with the countless multitude of saints next week gather and sing “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the lamb” blessed are they who come together in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Forever Autumn!

well summer has officially ended now and the temperatures are falling. We have had lots of good old wind and rain too!


This also means that the Northern lights are more of a possibility and true to form a week ago there they were for the first time. Wow, not as brilliant a show as when I saw them first last year but great non the less. I did try to take pictures but did not have a decent camera with me (sorry.)

The house has begun to get colder too, however I have redecorated the bathroom which now is the best room in the house!!   sad... but true!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I am a student...... again!

I have successfully completed an application to complete my SVQ level three in Social Care. Apparently this means I am a student again and I even get a card.... wow! I am not sure if these means I can take part in sit in protests like before, or whether students these days do other things. (SVQ apparently stands for Scottish Vocational Qualification)
I am going back to school literally as I have been appointed as Chaplain to the local High School, the Anderson High School.

The question will be, will all these make me feel younger? I some how doubt it, as I am feeling decidedly tired too. I feel like I could sleep for England...... oh sorry I should say Sleep for ******

Oh to be young again.... well at least I can pretend (in my dreams!)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday 11th September sermon

Ten years ago today I was chairing a meeting of the Worship Committee for Orwell Church, it had been a fairly routine meeting seeking to discover new ways in which our worship could be meaningful and grounded for the community we served. Following the meeting as people were dispersing Simon said there was something important on the TV, so we turned it on and were transfixed by what we saw.
An hour later, I was going around the village with posters saying that the church would be open that night for prayers, by 7.30 the church was very full and I had also been approached by the local radio station for comments.
The thought of what happened on the 11th September 2001 still fills me with horror and disgust, but perhaps also what fills me with horror is the reaction of much of the Western world (America and Britain particularly.) and some of the consequences of that day 10 years ago. I think it is true to say that since that day many people have felt justified in anti muslim sentiment, and a growing sense that we want to  make sure “we” are top dogs.
The saga of Joseph, his amazing technicolour dreamcoat and 11 brothers is well known. It is a moving story of fraternal jealosy, betrayal, suspicion and forgiveness. In the portion of the story we have heard today we see that despite reunion the old suspicion and anxiety between them continues albeit in a less serious form. Joseph does not rub his brothers noses in the scheming or apparently point it out to them, but he is gracious and compassionate through and through. A real hero figure who unites the family and literally keeps it together and prosperous and through whom it is seen Gods choice is made clear.
From Matthews gospel today we come to the conclusion on the section to do with church order and perhaps not surprisingly we come to the question of forgiveness. For Matthew, church order is about the authority and freedom to forgive, not about withholding forgiveness. And to illustrate this point we have the parable of the servant who had been forgiven but who refused to forgive.
Another quotation from Richard Rohr may fit in well at this point….
“There is more harm done by offence taken than by offence intended.” (Richard Rohr)
It is possible that many of us are held back from reaching truer development, or feeling truer grace and joy, by the barbs that grow on hurts done to us. We so easily become stuck in certain places. Equally we can take offence and develop it even when such a state was never intended at all. Some are naturally suspicious and expect a knife in the back or a slight of hand at any time.
Such condition it seems to me actually breeds contempt and it can stifle moving on.
It is also possible (probable) that we all know how difficult it actually is to move towards forgiveness. Much of Jesus ministry and teaching was about enabling people to move on, to be healed, to be made whole, to be forgiven and to feel released and redeemed.
The self same possibilities are meant for us too, sometimes we manage it and sometimes we do not. Praise God for the times we do, for we all know when these moments are, we all recognise their potency for real life. Jesus offers us today the same as he did then.
Somehow we have to learn to learn from the past but not let it dominate our present. There has been a real concern that the attack on the World Trade centre has changed the world as we know it today. It has certainly it would seem changed America. But even something as horrific and unbelievable as this has to healed, and living forward has to be achieved.

The Final solution in the second world war, the killing fields of Cambodia in the 70s, the genocide in 1994 in Rwanda when 800,000 people were slaughtered, Derek Bird in Cumbria, Anders Behring Breivik in Norway…. Sadly the list will be added too, but the need for forgiveness and healing to enable life to move on will be equally strong no matter what.

Let us hold before ourselves the example of Joseph, not for his fashion statement, but for his way of living, and as we are urged in our praying, forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us, and we may be reminded of the question to Jesus if there was a limit to this forgiving…. No!

Back from holiday!

I know it has been a while since I managed to up date you all with news etc. I have been away in Cambridge (twice!) on holiday, as some of you will already know. It was great to meet old friends again and drink decent beer. (Thank you the organizers of the Orwell show for getting in so many real ales for me to drink.) I was also able to officiate at the wedding of Sarah and Richard, which was a real privilege.  Sarah is now the first person that I have both baptised and married, so i was especially pleased to be able to do this.

Coming back to Shetland was also wonderful, and now I have another companion!! Leah the other black Labrador. (photos soon). She s in fact the niece of Eli, and is now 15 weeks old.. She is keeping us old boys in check! Great fun though.

Work continues to go well here, and I stay very busy. However I am having to re apply for my care post due to the Council's vacancy committee, which says that all new post have to be advertised and interviewed! I do not claim to fully understand the logic of this system, but in the meantime it is business just as normal and my works hours are just the same! There are a few of us in the same situation,

It is a lovely day here today at the moment, though We are expecting the tail end of the hurricane later, so everyone is preparing for this and the sea birds have already come in for shelter.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Sermon from Sunday

“If God is for us, who is against us?”

Some electric words here that could cause us some headaches.

On the one hand it has been taken to various extremes,

With a simple swapping of words, “God is for us” rather than making a question of it, we can be lead to many atrocities if not a high degree of arrogance.

To live a life feeling that “God is on our side” as opposed to any other side then a life of faith can become nothing more than a life of being a tyrant in the eyes of those around us.

Within the church sadly we even get the “God is on our side” syndrome as we become impatient with other Christians for not seeing that we are actually right.

If God is on our side then what we do, and how we behave, become a divine right, and if this is claimed and believed it does not matter what others may think of us.

On the other hand, and from a different perspective, If things don’t seem to be going well for us, then maybe we are indeed far from the truth. Our own faith is doubted because if we were “right with God” then surely we would be being blessed, or rewarded and not living in travail or suffering in various ways.

If the Victory has been won by Christ already, as Paul speaks about in today’s epistle, then the other question could be, again, why is everything still in such a mess?

There again we have to set these “electric verses” against there own context. So often we take verses and stories out of their context to try and prove a point or convince of a particular course of action.

So what about the context for Paul?

Paul had been beaten, persecuted, hated by various section of the church, especially the powerful Jerusalem church, he had certainly lost favour with the Jews for obvious reasons!, and he had spent years in prison.

Soon after all that he wrote these “electric” verses, and he was still to face even more imprisonment soon after.

[If we take the OT reading from Genesis then the story of Jacob is litered with ups and downs, he thinks he has done things right to win Rachel as his bride and finds things far different, and has another seven whole years to work for the pleasure, and again his own story with wealing and dealing with Esau and fleeing winning and losing sets the bigger story as it unfolds in Genesis against a bigger backdrop.]

[Solomon is praised for his wisdom, and we see the story being told today how he was confirmed with this quality, and yet apparently getting riches and wealth as well as a prize for seeking wisdom. Today we might say that the two go together anyway.

Never the less the stories of Solomon are again littered with gain and loss, right and wrong, reward and punishment set against the story of a nation. The nation is the subject of the story and not the characters, sometimes we forget this..]

So if God is for us…..? why should we begin to set this story in so personal a setting? Is this not to be a little presumptuous??

This could bring us back to the challenge set before us to be Christs in the world today. How do we live as if we were Christ? Or How do we be Christlike?

Jesus sets before us today the parable of the mustard seed and the small lump of leven. Both images of smallness and almost insignificance. Yet this smallness in both parables becomes the determining factor for what is to come.

The Smallest seed grows to the biggest tree, the small lump of leven raises all the mixture.

When Hannah and Simon were small they used to make “Friendship cakes” I was talking with Sonja about this this week……. (what do friendship cakes do?)

Jesus came proclaiming that the Kingdom of heaven and arrived. Some doubted this and some still do, and yet we believe we play our part in making this kingdom real and possible. We become small seeds and small speaks of yeast.

Jacob , Solomon, and Paul alike may have had good cause to doubt that God was with them or for them, and yet patience and tenacity and the big pictures show us that God is indeed there, the kingdom has come and is yet to come more.

We probably get too hung up on trying to judge things from our own “small” perspective, as though we mattered more than the big story.

I was trying to find the words to that little ditty about passing a smile on, and came across this particular phrase instead,

forget the past, live in the present and smile when thinking of the future

I wonder whether Paul, Jacob or Solomon lived like this, perhaps they did or tried to.

Do you know, it said next to the “hint” that it probably takes 7 years to achieve this!

I really do believe that nothing separates us from the Love of God, hardship, peril or sword, and I believe this same love seeks a way of showing itself to the people I meet and speak with each day.

Let us continue to be Christ’s in the world today, no matter how small we think our seed may be.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Race is on

The Tall Ships left Harbour here 24hrs after originally planned due to poor weather. The parade out to sea was watched by thousands and the start of the race looked dramatic.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Tall Ships opening parade

Tall Ships 2011 Lerwick

The Tall Ships are now all in and the celebrations have begun!! endless parties and fun now until they leave on Sunday heading to Norway.
The parade this afternoon was such a spectacle and great fun.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Sunday's contribution!

Last week we considered the Elephant and the six blind men who found different aspects of it and thought that they had found the full explanation of what it was like. The elephant was a symbol for God and we wondered how it was we could satisfactorily understand God, or describe him.

We noticed that Paul, amongst many other well known Christians, were Jesus centered because by looking to Jesus “as the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews) they found that an experience of God – likeness was easier to grasp.

We also noticed that Jesus constantly helped people understand what God was like as he reflected the nature of God to the people he met and spoke with, both disciples (followers) and those he healed and made whole. (there is no evidence that all those he healed became his followers)

And so to us, where does this then lead us today as people who may look to Jesus to find God.

In looking to Jesus we not only discover something of God, “The God that is Christ-like”, but we in turn seek to follow his way. This following becomes for us a life long journey, and as I was SPEAKING WITH SOMEONE THIS WEEK WE BOTH ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THIS JOURNEY has both its successes and failures and has ups and downs.

In the words of a famous hymn, “A man that look on glass on it may stay his eye, or if he pleaseth, through it pass and then the heaven espy…) (Gerard Manly Hopkins)

We can look on the glass and simply see our own reflection, which keeps us centered on ourselves, and this may not lead us far and can easily keep us focused on the downs of our lives,


We can allow our eyes to see through the glass and gaze “on heaven” and see Christ looking back at us and see the God in Christ calling us.

As we have in our Eucharistic prayer…. Our life and Gods can be a wonderful exchange because of Jesus and this is the goal for Christians.

Our communion with God is physical and Spiritual in the Eucharist as we eat and drink. Christs body we say comes into us. And as we also believe we become today his body on earth.

As the famous 16th century words say:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila 1515-1582

We reflect to those we meet and speak with Christ himself, and this is no small thing. In fact it is a huge thing we claim to try and do.

It does mean however once again that Being Christ’s is not just a spiritual thing, we cannot simply pray our way into Christ, it is a doing and transforming action thing too. The practical showing forth of being Christ’s is called for.

Christianity has always been an incarnational faith in that it both proclaims Christ was Godlike and God was Christ-like, but to be Christ’s means being (and doing) as well as believing.

Take a look at your hands now…..

Think about your voice and how you have used it…..

How many times this week have you found your feet walking away from need and not meeting it?

Think about the times you have looked on someone and thought bad of them, or judged them because they were in some way different or challenging?

Being Christlike, being Chrsist’s body is never going to be easy. I do not or at least sadly cannot say it is even second nature…. Oh I wish it was!

I do this however looking to Jesus who I see as the pioneer of the faith, the one who makes it possible even for me to aspire to. The one to whom I look when I know I have once again messed up, or just simply got rather lost.

I read this week words of Richard Rohr, “ When you get the, “who am I?” question right, all the “what should I do?” questions tend to take care of themselves.” (Richard Rohr, “Falling upward” pg 5/6)

Praise be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I received an e mail this morning.......(thanks Trevor)

One day, God was looking down at the Earth and saw all the wicked behaviour going on...

He sent one of his angels to earth to look into it.

When the angel returned, he told God, "Yes, it is bad on earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not."

God was not pleased so he decided to e-mail the 5% that were good, because
he wanted to encourage them and give them a little something to help keep them going...

Do you know what the e-mail said?