Saturday, 22 December 2012

JUST WAIT AND SEE!! (Fourth Sunday in Advent)

“Just wait and see”
Probably words often spoken when parents are speaking to their children (and step children) at this time of the year.
“just wait and see”
On Thursday night in traditional form we had the wonderful carol service and we attracted a larger than usual spread of people from all over Shetland. After the service many of us gathered in the Hall for Mulled wine wonderfully prepared by Catheryn and Minced pies, many of them kindly donated by Tesco.
I don’t know about you but I felt for a moment that Christmas had come, that there was little more to wait for.
I found myself being pulled back momentarily and I heard myself saying the words,
“Just wait and see”
Little over a week ago, in a probably previously unheard of town in New England USA, 20 children and six members of staff were tragically gunned down. One cannot but wonder the feelings surrounding this town and those families today as we expectantly say  “Just wait and see”
Last Friday was for some expected to be the end of the World.  It was a Christian group in China that had been proclaiming this news, and I even caught sight of a “survival pod” (not like the serco pods at all!) that had been designed in China to help protect the people who had collected inside. The message “just wait and see” rang out, and then it began to dawn upon the world that once again it had famously survived the end once again.
Others have said that the 21st was but the dawn of new hope for the world. “A new Dawn” and on the news on Friday I heard these words “The World’s great mysteries have survived another day”.
We once again have lit the fourth candle. The pink one which represents Mary, the mother of our Lord.
Our gospel reading sees us alongside two expectant mothers, though they both apparently knew they were to have boys. One senior lady and one virgin, not much more than and early teenager. Both had good reason to be surprised to be pregnant, both not expecting to hear the words, “just wait and see” .
Mary’s song proclaims a hope for the people almost long since forgotten, that God would remain and redeem his people. That the hungry, forgotten, naked, blind, lame, outcast, poor, neglected, abused, addict, alcoholic, mentally ill, and any other group which we today put on the fringe of our own society… are all part of the Kingdom of God and all within a grasp of God’s redemption and full love.
So what do we do…. “we must wait and see”.
Christmas is not yet here, though we all know what it might taste like. We catch glimpses of the wonder almost every day now, not least in the carol service the other night.
But the reality of it all is yet to be. We have to wait.
Santa is still preparing, we must wait!
What it is we are waiting for will very much depend on what is deep in our hearts, but we are promised “Peace” healing, Joy, a unity with God’s purpose. A life worth living (or in the words of holywood “A wonderful life”
Don’t shut the doors on hope yet, wait and see what is to come to pass, and let us with the Shepherds travel to see what God is doing in his loving for the world once again.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Xmas tree goes up and Santa is prepared!

We are getting ready for Xmas now and the tree went up today. Jack and Rachel did the decorating while I "suopervised"!
Jack has the "santa stop here" sign ready and is getting excited. He received a letter from Santa last week to acknowledge his change of address which put his mind at rest.

It is going to be a busy time with all the usual churchy things and work at annsbrae too, though I am "off" on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

May we wish all of you a Happy Christmas and all blessings for 2013.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Rachel and I have booked to spend four nights in Rome early next year. We are very excited about this trip and it does not seem so far away. It will be great to visit this city. Hannah went there some years ago and said it was amazing.

I cannot believe it but Simon is 24 on Saturday!!! Help.

He has paid the ransom for his sock (see facebook!) and it is being returned for his birthday.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

All Saints Sunday Sermon

Today we begin the countdown to the New Church Year beginning again on Advent Sunday
The Sundays after Trinity are behind us and for four weeks our attention is focused on “The Kingdom”. These four weeks conclude with the Feast of Christ the King.
Following conversation with a number of you in recent weeks I have decided I would like to think together about our own rolls in the kingdom. To think quite personally about what we mean when we declare ourselves to be Christian and to be part of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed and heralded by Jesus.
It seems to me that there are basically two marks of the kingdom, two identifiers if you like. One of these is Baptism and the other is the Eucharist. Baptism is the starting place liturgically for most Christians even today, that place where we turned away from evil and turned to Christ. The moment we repented and moved to embrace Christ in his death and resurrection.
But this liturgical event took place in the past. However week by week many of us still gather for the Eucharist, the meal of the kingdom so it is to this meal that I would like to return to over these weeks to draw out from its familiar words the inheritance which is our in the Kingdom.
On this All Saints Sunday where better to start than the concluding words which we actually say altogether. The words which affirm the life of the saints, words which individually tie us in with the key players and founding forebears whose fruits we taste today.
“Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ’s Body, to live and work to your praise and glory; may we grow together in unity and love, until at last, in your new creation, we enter into our heritage in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the apostles and prophets and of all our brothers and sisters living and departed.”
The Eucharist is the “feast of the kingdom” and yet it is all too easy to approach this meal as if we were eating alone. As if others around the table do not matter to us.
Receiving the bread and wine of the kingdom is however necessarily a private moment. But a private moment need not be a moment of insularity.
We live in a society which is more and more dominated by the individual. “My rights” “I deserve” I want”, I need, etc.
Writing in the Press and Journal recently Ron Ferguson writes about Narcissism. Perhaps a condition sadly contagious. Narcissus in Greek mythology, saw his own reflection and fell in love with it.
It is easy to see how it would be possible to see the world exclusively from our own point of view. As if others past and present hardly mattered or didn’t matter at all.
On Friday night we went to see the new Bond movie at Mareel. As the plot thickened I caught these words spoken by M “Your past will be as non existent as your future”. True enough they were spoken to the vilen of the plot but never the less the thought of this prospect is the driving force of narcissism.  
Our feast is one where not only ourselves but others do matter, both past and present, and our prayer brings this fact out quite strongly indeed.
The Kingdom of which we are apart is all the stronger because it is not just me and God here but the body (us) And conversely we believe  that the “body,” “the kingdom”, is all the stronger because I am here.
Later on in the Bond movie M quotes Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and defiantly says speaking on behalf of the “goodies”
“Moved earth and heaven, …that which we are, we are;
 One equal temper of heroic hearts,
 Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
 To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. “  
This is the foundation of All Saints, the countless nameless individuals who have played and still play their part in the “Kingdom” today.
Each of us individually matter. We each play a vital roll. The food we eat is for our own journey in faith. It is to make us stronger, more committed, wiser, more prayerful and more loving people.
The You and I matter not just to God but to each other. By sharing the cup together and breaking the bread together we are promising to be there for each other even if the journey into the wilderness is long and in unchartered territory.
Narcissism, the curse of modern society, according to Ron Ferguson, is about self promotion. 
We pray, that the Holy Spirit will overshadow us that we may be renewed in the service of the Kingdom. We are not here to promote the self, or to even love the self. We are here because of our part in something beyond the self. God.
We come to the Eucharist  because we see in this meal which we share a feeding on the Body and Blood of Jesus. We pray that this bread and wine will become the body and blood of Christ.
Our hands will soon reach out and take what God offers. Our mouths will taste the wine of the new kingdom and we will individually be refreshed.
What is more however as we are refreshed we ourselves become the body of Christ in the world today.
We become what we eat. Our identity becomes that of God in each of us.
What a powerful and significant moment this eating and drinking should be for us. However we see this happening it cannot take away the significance of the happening.
We are the body of Christ, by one Spirit we are baptised into one body, let us share his peace.
We meet in Christ’s name…….

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Fire burns bright, look out Santa!

We have the fire installed and the first logs are burning really well. If shetland had few trees it may have a few less now!!!!
This has already transformed the sitting room.
We shall be celebrating tonight with Champagne and a cuddle of course!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Third Hebrews Sermon

“A go between” is someone or something that acts as an intermediary, or as a messenger between two sides.
Someone who despite themselves acts as a communicator or connector.
The High Priest was a go between. The people on one side and God on the other. The people chose the priest they elected him, they gave him the authority and representative powers, and in turn the priest on their behalf was able to enter the Holy of Holies and make sacrifice for their sins. Make atonement… to make “at one ment”. To bring together that which had been separated.
Jesus was “The High Priest”, one like no other, elected indeed by God himself. A priest if you like “from the other side”. The mysterious priestly character of Melchizadeck being the forerunner.
Jesus is now seen as the High Priest in the heavenly places, as we have seen connecting “earth to heaven” connecting Man to God.
Becoming whole again, being made one with God was the purpose and work of Jesus, and this invitation is seen as open to us all, regardless of Jew or Gentile, Greek or Slave Male or female.
Such open invitation is strange even to us in this day and age. We still feel that we want to deserve something or that we don’t deserve something. We still live a life according to rewards and punishments, reward and guilt. The idea that the first will be the last still grates on our sensibility.
Little wonder therefore that we get the story from Mark’s gospel where James and John ask a big favour from Jesus. Does the story sound a little better if it was their mother asking the favour on behalf of their son?
This week we have seen one such request from the mother of Gary Mackinnon, and her request after over ten years has been upheld and she was overwhelmed by the result. Some have said that they also wept as they heard the mother speaking on behalf of her son.
In which case maybe putting the request to Jesus for James and John to have what appears to be preferential treatment in the new Kingdom, in the mouth of their mother makes it a moving story perhaps, but to see the disciples themselves making the request seems to be “wrong” or “greedy”.
They (or their mother) clearly had not been paying too much attention to what Jesus had been saying about children inheriting the kingdom, or that the first shall be last and the last will be first!
This having been said it is perhaps sad to realise that the offer of being able to share the same cup was not wholly fulfilled, for although they shared the last supper together the final cup in the Garden of Gethsemane proved too much for them and they ran away and fled at a crucial moment.
Was their mothers confidence in her sons over exaggerated, or was their own confidence in their own ability simply human pride over stretching itself?
Needless to say we may often put ourselves in the same place. We think we deserve something and we can usually justify it quite well. Whether it be a glass of wine at the end of a hectic day or week, or a chocolate bar in the middle of Lent!
We may just think we deserve something because we have been waiting the longest, or most patiently.
This week saw the church remembering Ignatius of Antioch, an important and early martyr of the Christian church. He wrote many important epistles to congregations encouraging people in their faith. In one letter however I have noticed him writing to the Church in Rome word to the effect of “don’t get in the way of my martyrdom, I want to serve God in this way..”
Is this another case like James and John?
Ignatius however was seen to suffer and die, just as Jesus was seen to suffer and die. This suffering is key to understanding the way to God, and it was what James and John, (or their mother) failed to actually recognise.
The suffering of Jesus became the key. This is why it is such a vital part of Easter.
The writer to the Hebrews lays great weight on this too, not just in todays epistle but all the way though. We suffer as human, and Jesus knew what this felt like. He died, we die. He changed death for us precisely because he was human like we are.
Jesus was a man of sorrows. Jesus calls us to be with him in the Kingdom and to live this kingdom here. It is NOT a kingdom of reward, punishment, or even just deserts. It is a Kingdom of Loving and of Love, and it is where those of us who feel we should be up at the front are actually at the back. It is a Kingdom where those who suffer are most blessed, where the poor are the richest, and where the grieving get the greatest joy.
A kingdom perhaps worthy of this topsy turvy world… what do you think?

Second Hebrews sermon

Today we come back to the epistle to the Hebrews but having leapt forward a chapter and we officially begin quite abruptly with the exclamation, “Indeed, the Word of God is living and active…”
I suspect these words are familiar to many here and perhaps not surprisingly many hear these words and think of the Bible. This however is not the way in which the writer to the Hebrews is using the expression “Word of God”
The epistle to the Hebrews, as we heard last week is a treatise on the person and work of Jesus. How it is that Jesus has a place in our hearts and in our living through the way in which he suffered, died and changed death (moved through death). How it is that we can say Jesus matters to us today and how he therefore changes even who we are as we are called to be like him.
(Just as an aside, I wonder if the Word of God here is the “Word of God” “Logos” which we meet tat the beginning of Johns Gospel… just a thought!)
The writer has been looking back over the story of Israel and seeing Moses and Aaron as poor shadows of the person of Jesus. Moses may have done great things for the people of Israel and led them to the promised land, but Jesus does far more for us by comparison and leads us to even greater things.
With Moses the people were stubborn and unbelieving, The writer argues that We should not be like this, we should be confident and believing.
We should not doubt the promise of rest. We should not be disbelieving like the Israelites……and here we get the “Because”
“Indeed the Word of God is active….”
This Word of God is not written, it is something living and active deep within us. Perhaps it is like that Spark of God in us which seeks to be united with the God without. Or as the north pole of the magnet is attracted to the south pole. This is how the writer sees the Word of God being for us.
Last week we saw How Jesus, for the writer to the Hebrews, became one of us and as one of us changed death through suffering and dying as if it were on our behalf.
Now we move onto the other image of Jesus as the High Priest who has entered the Holy of Holies to make sacrifice for the people of God. But This High priest has not entered the Temple Holy of Holies but the greater “Holy of Holies” Heaven itself.
Aaron went so far… but Jesus goes all the way.
And Jesus calls us forward to stand before the very throne of Grace ourselves. Aaron could not do this because he remained a mortal being.
Our High Priest (Jesus) stands in a different league altogether from the priests known before, and next week this is drawn out further.
This Jesus is according to Hebrews the man who changed death for us, is our Great High priest who draws us to the throne of Grace because of the Word of God alive in us calling us to be faithful believers and no longer stubborn doubters, and who becomes therefore the Pioneer and the Perfector of our Faith. The one who enables us to be as God created. His own child.
We are children of God and when we become this sort of Child god welcomes us into an embrace.
This is perhaps what is meant by becoming “as a child” to enter the kingdom of heaven.
By contrast to last week’s child who entered the kingdom, this week’s gospel has a faithful but rich man approaching Jesus and being told that his riches will not count and that he will not enter the kingdom.
This rich man left with a heavy heart indeed. He had felt he had done everything as necessary to ensure entry into the Kingdom…and others would had felt he had too, but  how had he got it don’t  wrong.
We often fail to submit to what is asked of us by God. We pride ourselves in knowing that we are on the right track, that we are good people and surely that will do….
What would we hear Jesus saying to us… what is that one thing we may hold on to which we might have to let go of.
The disciples were quick to point out that they had indeed even left their families in order to follow Jesus, as well as many other things.
Jesus response to this seems at first encouraging, but ends enigmatically with that awkward expression “the first will be last and the last first”
The book of Job paints the picture of a man who seeks God, constantly and emphatically, refusing the natural wisdom of his friends, and despite going through horrendous suffering and loosing absolutely everything he had still clinging on to the promise of God.
You and I are called by God to be faithful believers, and there is everything we need here to accomplish the task set before us.