Saturday, 28 April 2012

Another Sermon!

it has been a long time but here is another.

From this Sunday .... Easter 4

Easter rolls on! Once again it is tempting to think  that Easter is long since past, but that may be because we seem to live busy lives, lives dominated by market forces, and lives that are surrounded with the ever present promise that things could be better. (Indeed they will be better if you buy the latest ipad 3, Dove anti aging cream, and eat Tesco finest food)
But for the Christian Easter is as good as it gets. It is both the conclusion and the beginning of faith, and not something that has to be “past” at all. It is certainly not seen as something to be improved upon. It could well be suggested that every Christian festival is grounded in the Easter Story. (A story which we remember has life and death, suffering and joy.)
Perhaps the central point for us today comes from the Epistle reading from Acts, the continuation of last weeks story where Peter and John addressed the crowds following the healing of a man at the Beautiful Gate. By today’s reading Peter and John had been arrested and dragged before the Jewish Religious authorities, the same ones that had broken every rule in the book to sentence Jesus, and ultimately to crucifixion.
The central point is in fact The Name.
Jewish writings at that time refer frequently, I am reliably informed, to “The name” Apocalyptic literature of the time speaks and hopes for the Messiah of God, the beginning of the end times heralded by Elijah, the Name by which the world is saved. Such feelings frequently find themselves expressed in the later prophets of the Old testament. And in Isaiah we read “who declared it of old? Was it not I the Lord? There is no other God… there is no other saviour, to me every knee shall bow” (Is 45: 23) “the name” soon became associated with Jesus.
Peter and John had already referred to “the name” when speaking to the crowds last week and this week the name is associated with “the rejected stone” of Psalm 118:22
Shetland is not particulary renowned for its dry stone walls, it needs to be said, though there are still a good number around. I have been noticing some of them recently and am curious from time to time to see rather “odd” shaped stones in what appear to me to be “odd” places”.
When you are building a wall there are certain stones that are absolutely key to the wall’s success. Not always the corner stone at all.
Judaism was well established. Jerusalem at that time could easily have had a population of  over one and a half million people. It was in any case a key town and had been for a long time. The Temple stood proud. The religious authorities were proud of what they had oversight over, proud enough to protect it from heresy and dissension. They needed no changes made it all worked well. It was established in the community.

There was no place whatsoever, as far as they were concerned for a Jesus shaped stone. He had no roll to play.
But suppose a wall needed rebuilding! It may seem a radical thing to do, even unnecessary one may argue. Then that rejected stone may well become key to a new wall.
This is the situation that the church found itself in, in those early centuries.
The whole of the New Testament keeps speaking about a saving act which stands out from all the others. One of the main reasons why Christianity spread so readily and rapidly in the Roman World at that time was because society had become goal cantered, task orientated and people had become sometimes little more than pawns in the path to success. The Empire ruled!
On the other hand Christianity proclaimed a saving act which drew in the needy, cared for the innocent, supported the poor and downtrodden, a saving act that looked after the sick, visited those in prison, and became a friend to the friendless. What is more this saving act had a name his name is Jesus, something that in John’s epistle is wonderfully described as something we have seen with our own eyes, touched with our hands… this is what we declare to you the word of life itself. And the epistle of John speaks of the joy to be part of that fellowship, and in sharing that joy their own joy is made complete.
Selfless and sacrificial love…. This was the new kid on the block, The Jewish authorities could see no place for it. Roman culture had no place for it, but the people who learned about it realised that this was the only real way to be. It may sound silly….. but!
All this talk was of course politically incorrect, very foolish but there seemed to be no denying it.
A couple of weeks ago we heard what it was like to be part of the church in Jerusalem, that huge busy city. It was exciting, exhilarating, life giving, selfless to the point of being scary, deeply found on prayer and unity with God.
Is there a reason why our faith could not be so life giving today?
Are we part of a wall that even today rejects the stones that have shapes that no longer suit us?
Has the church got a place in today’s society?
“Little children let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action”
Our Shepherd is known as the Good Shepherd because his love is selfless and reckless, are we known in his sheepfold?

Alive and Kicking!

Well yes! I am still alive and kicking... in fact very well indeed. Apologies for not adding more to the blog recently.
I am now on a permanent contract with my Annsbrae work and this means that I have annual leave entitlement and even sick pay should I need it. It also gives me a sense of security. My work with St Magnus and St Colman's also continues to go fine and all in all I am pretty well kept very busy. I am being made very welcome at the Anderson High School as Chaplain, and have even been commented upon (favorably) in the inspection report which the school recently had.

One bit of sad news is that Stuart Haves my old Junior School Teacher who brought me up to Shetland in 1971 along with 55 others has died at the age of 68. I have obviously always remembered that school adventure and as is obvious it has led on to actually shape and form my life. I am grateful to him for this and little did any of us realise the place the trip would have in my life.

Eli and Leah are both still fine, and Leah is now almost fully grown according to the vet, so she is going to be a small labrador just like her mum.

It snowed and hailed again here yesterday and it is still quite cold, though today it is actually bright. Maybe we could be getting warmer? However I did speak with someone yesterday who said that it was not unheard of to have blizzards on the 27th April.... he remembers two at least.