Monday, 14 March 2011

What a morning!

Woke up to heavy rain this morning!!! and that was inside! water pouring in through the office window and some coming in to the sitting room too! And to cap it all my coffee was lousy too!
Buckets out, and full within an hour.
There really are some serious issues with the house, and I dread to think what water managed to get into the loft space. When I was up there two weeks ago I discovered one side of the roof was wet, and the timbers felt very saturated. Goodness knows how St Magnus Church can tackle this problem. Just as they are coming to the end of a major church restoration too. Could this be the final straw!?
On the up side the re wiring is coming to a conclusion this week and I even did some cleaning last week, with a lot of help from friends.

Eli has been to the vet twice! nothing really serious and he did not show any signs of being poorly either. Generally the vet is happy with him and still thinks he is a fine dog. I will get some more pictures on Eli's page soon.

Last Sunday

As we rush headlong into Lent on Wednesday we are once again given a stark choice in our readings for today. It is really the same choice that we faced a few weeks ago, though it is set in a slightly different way. It is the choice between life and death.
You might think that being human, and knowing what we do about the survival of the fittest etc, we would always choose to survive… that we would always choose life. This however is often not seen to be the case.
Perhaps if we can for a moment see ourselves as part of an evolving and constantly creative creation, with chance and consciousness being part of the wonder, and put our relationship with God into this frame, then holding all this together is vital for our well being and life. It is “what we have been created for”. Such a picture is painted in the pages of Genesis as Man and God are seen in wonderful communion together.
Given such a picture a choice to leave God aside, is not a choice for life..
The people of Israel had ways and means of helping people realise the constituent parts of their existence. In today’s reading we hear about the Law being placed before them in every walk of life, actually quite literally! Having this reminder and living this way brought life they believed.
For us in the church today we react differently, though there are many people who choose to wear the cross or other Christian Symbol for one reason or another. Some see it as a reminder, some see it as some sort of protection.
Our gospel reading so well known today urges us to simply “Do the will of God”. If we do this then we will be like those who build their house on rock and not on sand.
But isn’t that far easier said than done??
How do we find this “Will of God”, and how do we do it?
Perhaps if we take God out of being in relationship with creation the problem will be on the one hand easier because we could think that God has a plan and we just have to find out what it is and do it. “Simple!”
There are indeed some who think that god has some sort of blueprint for us to follow, and that he holds the future in his hand.
Such a scenario often also cannot trust human instincts because they are seen as so often flawed. It becomes a weakness to follow human instincts. We simply “follow the devices and desires of our own hearts” and this is something we have traditionally been told lead us astray.
So in such a case where can the will of God be found for the Christian, we have left aside the law, and have replaced it with “The Bible”. We find the will of God in the Bible!
Again it sounds simple, though we all know I think how difficult this actually is because the Bible was not formed with this intention in mind at all. Some people still want to operate with this model when it comes to making decisions about all sorts of things, in choosing who should exercise Christian Ministry, in deciding on questions of marriage and sexuality, and even on who is right and who is wrong!
So finding out what God’s Will is still challenges us.
If however we are able to place God back in the garden, and walk with him again in the cool of the day. If Jesus is gathered with us when two are three are together in his name, then things can begin to feel a bit different, because God then becomes part of who we are, and part of what creation is and so works with and alongside it all. Not set apart.

There is, no longer, a right and a wrong way to be human, and it is not fixed in tablets of stone for all time. There is also no longer a right and a wrong way to be you, and if you miss it you have not missed your chance of fulfilment.
If we look at how the universe seems to work, we can perhaps begin to see that the will of God is something that has to be discovered, sometimes by painful trial and error. The will of God is negotiated rather than imposed, and because of this it is real, it is something we can assent to from the depth of our being, because it relates to that well of potential that we know exists within each self. It arises out of a constant dialogue between the self and its circumstances, a dialogue which God inspires and contains, but does not ultimately determine.
As someone said to me this week describing lifes challeges as if it were coming to a crossroads, “I sit and wait” (presumably a lot of thinking and calculating, measuring, praying, and many other things goes on at the crossroads) “and then I know the way I should go.”
[Everything at our disposal is held in God even the devices and desires we have.]
Angela Tilby agonised over this “choice” in her book Science and the Soul when she was a BBC TV producer and she concludes, ….
“There are many possible outcomes to the story of the self, and no single one is ever going to fulfil all the possibilities of our existence. Nor is any single one choice necessarily the right one. I think this is terribly important when listening to people who are working out their vocation in life. Some approach it as if they are doing a crossword in which all the answers have to fit. In reality, we are lucky if some of them do. The lure of God goes out to all, and there is a continuity between the fitful jumps of a sub-atomic particle and the conscious, prayerful choice of a marriage partner. Both are moments when the universe holds its breath, and the story goes on.”
Such a conclusion on how we know the will of God, may confound those who search and expect easy and straight answers, but for me the inclusion of God in my life (as best as I can can make it, responding in Angela’s words to the Lure of God going on.) makes a difference to who I am.
[if God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform, why do we so often want to put it neatly in a box]]
As we begin Lent we bring to God who we are, and he travels with us.

A Lenten thought

How often do we naturally associate lent with negativity, with denying ourselves, with suffering and even punishment?

It is perhaps natural that since the period we know as lent was kept by the early church, it has itself become somewhat twisted in this way. It was always intended to be a positive experience, a time of moving towards baptism and commitment, or renewal.

By turning it into a time of self denial it has all too often now become a time of, putting up with something mildly inconvenient and the consequent sigh of relief that the time has passed. Self denial is followed by rejoicing, and maybe even some self righteous back patting for having done well.

But today I would like to turn our thoughts to something slightly different, the emptiness and barrenness of the wilderness. For some this may take us to the heart of Lent as they might think of Jesus time there before his ministry began. But today I want to draw us all to the wilderness, to the mountains of the wilderness, the high barren places. . The wilderness is that place which draws us straight to God. (If not to God then doom.)

I expect somewhere we have felt as if we were in a wilderness place, maybe not literally and physically, but emotionally and spiritually. We too may have felt tempted in such a place.

The sense of emptiness can at times feel almost overwhelming, and it is this emptiness that I want us to dwell on for a moment now.

The emptiness of the wilderness that may be deep within.

During Lent we need to try and fill this empty space, not with suffering, and not even with pain, because the negative aspects of these may not fill anything. But we can fill the emptiness with Christ.

Jesus can take this empty space in us and use it for the kingdom, but we need to help this to happen and allow it to.

I came across this short prayer written by William Rutherford from Northern Ireland

Christ, take my emptiness;
may it be a space for you.
And may I encounter you
in everyone I meet.

If this sort of prayer can be our heartfelt prayer then something of the emptiness is being filled.

Filling the emptiness of the wilderness with the love of Christ and seeing Christ in others is a positive step in Lent, and probably more life changing than missing out sugar coffee and chocolates from the diet for six weeks.

So as we find ourselves at the entrance to the wilderness this lent let us try to be positive about the experiences we may find as we journey through it to the Easter Joy awaiting. The wilderness is a solitary and personal place but one in which we may hear our call more clearly.

Another prayer.

Does anyone care
that I sit and stare
and wonder why
I’m here at all?

A still small voice
whispers – yes- rejoice
You are a precious stone
in my kingdoms wall.

Lent is a time when our call to follow is made clearly. We take up something we begin the journey that has been waiting for us. We do so in the love and blessing of God.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Sunday Sunset

a great walk

Sermon from Sunday

Second before lent
27th February 2011.

If you have not seen it already, then “Inside I’m Dancing” is a must see film. It is the story of two young men who live with full time care and a life confined to wheelchairs. It is a very moving film, partly because of the way it may make the viewer think about themselves. I have now met three people confined to life in a wheel chair because of Multiple Sclerosis who have coincidently and independently said to me that they have been blessed with the condition, as it has made them a better person, or the person they are.
Lent is soon to be upon us and a time of critical self reflection is often what is carried out at this time.
Stephen Cherry, the author of the Barefoot disciple, gives up grumbling one Lent, and says what an education that was.
How do we go about looking at ourselves in a positive yet self critical way?
Certainly we need to be able to do this, otherwise we can easily get sucked into feeling that others should feel and react to things the way we do, and that the world revolves around the self.
Paul obviously struggled with this a little in today’s epistle as he struggles with the judgement of self and of others. His well versed conclusion is “do not judge others!” which is of course easier said than done. However he does frame God in the scenario and conclude that God is real one who has to face who we are and what we are.
This week I have been heartened to see that the Government are beginning to recognise (again!) that what has been called “Quality of life” is perhaps more important, or at least as important, as money wealth and property. To this end they are conducting a survey apparently to find out how happy we are.
Wil Smith featured with his own son a few years ago in another great film called “In pursuit of Happyness”. It tells the heart rending story of a salesman Chris Gardner, who depends on the sale of a particular medical machine to survive. Gradually he looses everything including his wife, who just comes to the end of her tether. He struggles against the odds with his son. He eventually gets hope when he pursues his gift with numbers and with tenacity becomes very successful indeed. Chris Gardner is now in real life a multi millionaire.
Although the real story has a monetary reward, the film is about holding on to the things that are important and investing in them, rather than stuff. It comes back to what possesses us rather than what we possess. And the phrase “the most important things in life aren’t things”.

As we begin Lent therefore it may be the time to take a good long look at who we are and what posseses us, and check if this is the thing which feeds us or if it is the thing which drives us.
Jesus taught his disciples constantly to be aware of the things which feed them.
How can we find enough food to feed this multitude of people they asked one day, and yet his response was amazing bring what you have bring who you already are and share it… there was more than enough.
Elsewhere he reminds them “I am the bread of life”, and though some might want to stray into thinking that there is some link with Sacrament here, he was not for sure meaning this at all.
Do not worry about your life….. food, eating drinking, clothing, fashion, smell, looks, appearances, cars, appliances, gadgets…… Strive to find God and then you may discover that everything else fits into its proper place.
It might seem that even in Jesus day people were possessed by the world rather than being freed to live in it and alongside it.
There are people who see God set almost against the world, they see the Great Judge before they see the great lover, and one at the expense of the other. The people of Israel also tustled with this worrying thought over and over….. we are for it now!! But in todays OT reading we are reminded of the intimate natural relationship we have with God and God with us, so intimate that we are seen as inscribed on the palms of his hands. This means that when in metaphorical language we come towards him and see his outstretched arms what is it we see? (our own names)
So looking at ourselves critically over Lent is a time of liberation not condemnation, it is a time to rediscover a God Life and a life lived wholly and Holy in the world.

If a child lives with Criticism,
He learns to Condemn.
If a child lives with Hostility,
He learns to Fight.
If a child lives with Ridicule,
He learns to be Shy.
If a child lives with Shame,
He learns to feel Guilty.
If a child lives with Tolerance,
He learns to be Patient.
If a child lives with Encouragement,
He learns Confidence.
If a child lives with Praise,
He learns to Appreciate.
If a child lives with Fairness,
He learns Justice.
If a child lives with Security,
He learns to have Faith.
If a child lives with Approval,
He learns to Like Himself.
If a child lives with Acceptance and Friendship,
He learns to find Love in the World.