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?

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

You too can raise funds for St Magnus Church

we are using easyfundraising .org to raise funds for St Magnus. It is easy peasy! If you shop on line do it via and nominate St Magnus Episcopal Church Lerwick as your supported charity. So far we have raised over a hundred pounds this way.


Shopping on line..... do it for us and use


All Aboard!!

Outside St Colman's Church on Yell we have a great zip wire, I just cannot resist chilling out on it!!

Lerwick is going to feel a very different sort of place next week when the Tall Ships arrive. Most people are getting excited about the spectacle and there is certainly plenty going on. Many roads are closed or converted into one way systems. A Park and ride facility is operating from both ends of the town. We will not know what has hit us. it is expecetd 5000 visitors are arriving just to witness this event in these northern isles.

I will post some pictures when things start happening.

I am looking forward to a holiday south soon, and will be around Cambridge in the first two weeks of August, just in case anybody wants to buy me a decent pint (or two!)

Sermon from Sunday

Lerwick July 10th 2011

John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend,

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Gibt es Gott?

My neighbour at university, A german lecturer in English constantly asked me this question

Is there God? Who is God? Where is God?

All of us I suspect struggle from time to time with the fact or theory of God, and before I get much further on, don’t get too excited because I am only sharing some of my current thoughts, the struggle continues!

How can God be everywhere? How can God know what we are thinking/doing/feeling? How does God know there are thousands dying in Somalia? Does God know there are thousands dying in Somalia, and if he does why does he do nothing about it? Does God know we read the Bible the other week? The questions could be endless.

Some things I suspect are too big to try and comprehend all at once, even for our advanced knowledge and skill. We cannot run the question through Google and choose the answer we easily like.

Paul may be problematic for many people. He writes in code it seems, or is it that he just rambles! He appears to be a male chavenist too!

But he was a thinker and someone who obviously helped many people understand God a little more. He believed that he learnt more about God by looking at Jesus. His letters are littered by references such as “In Christ we are a new creation” “there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ” and again from today’s epistle, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him”

However you take it Paul was “Jesus centered”.

John Taylor (retired bishop of St Albans and a lovely man to boot!) wrote an important book some years ago now called “The Christlike God” Here he expounds the suggestion that to understand God more we should look at Jesus, there is nothing about God that is not shown in Christ … he suggests. Now however we may take it and where we take this suggestion there seems some mileage as far as I am concerned in doing just that.

As the old hymn goes “turn your eyes upon Jesus”.

Francis of Assisi did this and look where that led him! Mother Theresa did this and see again the change..

Paul did it, perhaps reluctantly at first, but again see what difference it made to his Jewish understanding of God.

Jesus taught his disciples to see God as a someone close and intimate, even as Abba. He helped them to see that God in their midst was more than just keeping law. He taught them about God through stories and actions. He showed them how to love recklessly, by doing it himself. He encourages us today in the same way.

Jesus helped his followers to become full and whole people even when society had spurned them or cut them off. He helped people feel that they mattered and were loved.

Even after he was horribly crucified the effects of this man of Nazareth went on and on.

Whatever this leads us onto is “of God” when we learn more about our own humanity and how we resonate with a living God that is beyond our knowledge.

We can reach out and touch the elephant.

If there were a huge elephant in the room today, what part do you think you would be holding onto?