Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sunday's contribution!

Epiphany 6 yr A
The Headlines in this weeks Shetland Times reads “Grim reality hits home….” And in the article Sandy Cluness the Convenor says “Its never going to be a good day….”
It must be a sad time of life to think “Its never going to be a good day!” and I work with people for whom this thought is very much the case. There is never any escape from a grim reality, and doom sits on the shoulder every day only to be replaced by anxiety.
A the risk of trying to point out the obvious, a world in which there is no hope, where there is no escape from “badness”, is a living hell, and is to already endure the eternal suffering so often associated with a mythical or real hell.
I put it to you that we cannot and must not allow ourselves to be dragged into the scenario that its never going to be a good day. Either in a personal living, for that would be to become Mentally and emotionally unwell, or in a corporate sense for that is a lost and broken society…. Of which I trust we are not.
Last week we noticed the challenges that the exiles returning faced, and the conflict of interests as they struggled with rebuilding both temple and society at the same time. Not one at the expense of the other, but both together.
Today we read in the Apocraphyl book (also from the post exilic time) how choice continued to play a part in the lives of people and society. We have placed before us some fairly stark choices, most notably to choose between life or death.
Against the agonising choice comes the knowledge that god is alongside us and understands us. In point of fact the choice is our choice…. Not God’s Choice. God is predisposed to be with us, to love us, to redeem us as his chosen people.
But the choice is ours… there is the challenge for us.
Sometimes people make wrong choices, sometimes we make mistaken choices. That cannot ever be the end of things, and the Christian Church stands for those who say it is never the end of the line. It is never beyond redemption.
In our own Christian living we must be resilient to the temptation to draw a line under either our own lives or the lives of others. Jesus never did this and he always accepted people no matter what.
It is perhaps interesting that the gospel reading today seems to show Jesus at his worst and his best. At his worst, because it may appear that he puts the bar above the attainment of all but the few. At his best, because we see him speaking to the people where they were at with all the concerns of that particular day at hand. He is not remote.
We certainly must not take this passage away from its context, or for that matter the words before and after. We all know the damage that can be done from taking a portion of a story and thinking we have the whole picture, or from overhearing part of a conversation and believing we have heard it all.
The words we have today are set against the struggle to know what it was to love perfectly, it was not about minor rules and regulations. Jesus is holding the whole law before people, not chosen excerpts. The whole law whose purpose it was to remind the people of God’s very close presence with them in their struggles. God wanted his people to win….. God wants us to choose life.
In choosing life, or in having this option always before us, we are called to be people who have hope ever before them.
In the Book the barefoot Disciple, which we are going to focus on during Lent, Stephen Cherry recounts the time when he gave up grumbling for Lent. He noticed what a difference it made not just to himself but to those around him. So often we also find it easier to frown than to smile.
A few years ago now I watched an interesting film called “Pay it Forward”.
The scenario was that a young boy (as a result of being set a task by his school teacher) began to pay it forward rather than “pay it back”. You do something good to someone, you help someone, you be generous to someone, you love someone…. As the first thing not as the result of something. This First act is the paying it Forward and it results in other doing the same thing in their turn.
This small action by the school child eventually led to a huge wave of positive loving actions, which swept the society….. everyone felt better, everyone’s life improved, and the whole outlook was good not negative.
God sets before us the choice to live, may the people we meet and speak with this week see reflected in our own voices and actions that we have chosen to live and love. And the Dawn from on high will break in on us as the people who have sat in darkness suddenly begin to see a light.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A sermon from Sunday

Fifth Sunday before Lent.
St Magnus 2011.
Shout out, do not hold back!
God speaks to Isaiah.
It all sounds fairly confident yet I wonder if God was to speak to me such confident words, would I sit up and listen? Surely there would be lots of reasons why I might not?
This portion of Isaiah comes from the time after the exile, the time after those who had been exiled by the Babylonians and taken away from their homes and lands, had been allowed to return by the Persians.
Rather than being a time of simple hope it was actually wracked with difficulties and tensions. Those returning home after years of exile were met with very suspicious neighbours who had not been exiled. Community tension was high. The exiles were not welcomed with open arms, and the exiles in turn faced more than just rebuilding walls and temple.
A time of disillusion kicked in, as the social realities took a firm grip on the people.
To the prophet God speaks… “Shout out…..”
It is all very well preaching on a Sunday to a group of people who sit quietly in the pews, sometimes nodding in agreement, and sometimes nodding off maybe as the words go on and on…. But to speak out when the hearers are not listening or even when they are antagonistic must be an awful thing to have to do.
We have seen some violent protests recently in Tunisia, Algeria, and now Egypt. People are shouting out, they have had enough of suspicion and corruption, they want to be heard (and supported?) Maybe I am feeling cynical, but Tunisia and Algeria were reported and passed over, but Egypt, because it matters more to us, is being watched more closely.
It is hard to put yourselves in the place of those rioters in Egypt, or anywhere else for that matter, and yet they contain a cross section of the people from young to old.
Isaiah was faced with the cross section of the people and a lone voice against a crowd is a sorry sound.
And yet it is also from this section of Isaiah that we hear many of the familiar readings around Christmas. The light shining in the darkness, the voice in the wilderness, and the need for real sacrifice not ritual sacrifice. (social awareness)
The Jewish nation survived this period of disillusion, because the lone voices were heard, and other people arose to rebuild not just the temple but the sense of social justice so necessary to any community.
Jesus tells us in the gospel today that we are salt and light.
As I look at you all today I can see the light and salt that you are in this community. I know some of the things people are involved in, much I do not know, neither do I need to know.
When the people coming back from exile did eventually began to rebuild the temple they did so with a clear focus on both God in their midst and the need for social reconstruction.
A temple built just as a religious sanctuary, a place for ritual sacrifice alone, a place where they could just take their hollow fasts and wonder why nothing was coming of them, was not worth the effort, and I suspect the people who had not been exiled certainly felt this.
But a Temple that could stand as an ensign of Gods love and justice in society, was worth building, and it was worth worshiping in too.
Fasts were heard, offerings received, and everyone knew that it was really worth it.
St Magnus has been restored, a period of exile maybe has been endured…..
God promises to water his Garden but we are the gardeners. Without our deliberate effort, nothing will have been gained except a restored building.
We are the salt and light.

Spot the sock???

There has been a "bit of wind" recently here. This is the air sock on Papa Stour, still working away despite not being all that helpful to incoming pilots!!!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

3rd February

Well winter gales have arrived again today. Driving sleet and snow and the boats are all disrupted.. Even Eli was almost blown over on his mornings walk this morning.

I had a visit from friends in Cambridge last week and it was great to see them again. They came up for Up Helly Aa the fire festival held on the last Tuesday of every January. This is the largest fire festival in Europe I am told, and it certainly is very impressive.

This years Festival was very impressive and the weather was relatively kind too. Lerwick was full of people.

Work on the Church Tower in Lerwick is going well. The steel joists were very seriously corroded very scary seeing what the builders have been cutting out. Some of the corrosion was so bad that literally nothing was left, and in places the steel was down to 1mm thick!!!!

Generally things are going well, though I am very busy indeed running between jobs. I have managed to mostly steer clear of bugs and flu.

The house continue to be a challenge, but at least I have work to go to to keep warm. I have moved into a smaller bedroom to try to stay warm.