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.

Monday, 15 October 2012

New Fire

We have begun some refurbishment work, and in a bid to try and keep a bit warmer we have bought a new multi fuel stove to go in place of te old fireplace (1970s we think) which was in the sitting room. When we came to remove the old fire place we discovered that there was an older fireplace behind the 1970s one and the original fireplace was hidden even behind this one. Here is a picture of what we have now! Very different indeed. If any one wants a few tons of old hard core then we now have some outside. Free to any one who will collect!
Were ready to begin installing the fire now and I will post a warming picture soon I hope

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the cost of this work through our wedding gifts. I hope you, like us, feel it is money well spent. Soon we WILL have a warm family home.!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Sunday's sermon on Hebrews

The writer of Hebrews in his homily to the Christian community, reminds them that they are masters of all they survey and reminds them how amazing it is that God entrusted stewardship of the world not to angels, but to human beings.

"Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels," he says, "but to human beings, subjecting all things under their feet." But he goes on to say, "Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them..."
In fact, these days - nearly 2000 years later - we probably do see almost everything subject to us human beings.

Our lives and our powers have extended dramatically since the days when the book of Hebrews was written. It's now largely up to us to decide whether or not certain species of animals survive or die out altogether. We have hunted even magnificent, fearsome beasts like tigers practically to extinction and are now in the position of protecting them in order to ensure the survival of the species.
 So what is not yet in subjection to us?

I think perhaps one answer is death. We now have much more control over life than we did when the
book of Hebrews was written. With the advent of IVF we're able to encourage life in circumstances which were impossible only a few years ago, and even very small, very premature babies weighing no more than a bag of sugar can now often be saved. In a number of countries human cloning is permitted, although in the UK scientists are still very concerned that cloned individuals would suffer from abnormalities including premature aging and cancer, and human cloning is still forbidden in our country. But the time is foreseeable when we will be able to create viable human life using not sperm and egg, but cloned human cells.

We're also able to delay death much more than used to be possible. Sick people are saved more often than not and they mostly get better. We're told that in another generation or so, the normal human life-span at least in the West, will be around 120 or 130 years, nearly double what it is at the moment. But no matter how much we delay it, eventually all human beings die. We have not yet conquered death. Death is not subject to our whims, or even to our science or our medicine and a time when human beings never die on this earth is not yet foreseeable.

Perhaps allied to our failure to conquer death is our failure to conquer sin or to change our human behaviour. Whatever experts we produce and whatever calming drugs we discover, we still have a prison population which goes on increasing so rapidly and so alarmingly that our prisons are bursting at the seams. We still have a society where elderly or vulnerable people are afraid to walk in parts of our cities after dark. We still have a society where so many people are so deeply unhappy in their marriages that almost half end in divorce.
We still have a society which is ruled by wealth and by the incentive to always strive for more wealth. And we have a society which is either apathetic to Christianity or downright hostile to it.

In some ways the situation was similar when the book of Hebrews was written, probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Even at this early stage the unknown author is concerned that Christianity is under threat not so much from outside hostility, but more from a weariness with the demands of Christian life and a growing indifference to the faith. Hence he impresses on his readers the high regard in which God holds the human race quoting Psalm 8:
"What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honour."

Yet despite all this trust and honour from God, who subjected all things to human beings and left nothing outside their control, people still died and still suffered. But into this mix, came Jesus. The writer describes Jesus as for a little while being made lower than the angels, i.e. a human being, and goes on to say that Jesus is now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, and that by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone. But that wasn't all. Jesus didn't simply taste death, he changed death on our behalf.

The writer describes it like this: "It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
How does Jesus dying make him a pioneer of our salvation?

The word "salvation" comes from the Latin, "salveo", which means to heal and make well. Through his death on the cross, Jesus not only conquered death on our behalf, but also makes us well through that death. Here is a means of conquering death and of changing our human behaviour so that we find happiness instead of misery. Here is a means of achieving that final subjection of everything, which God always had planned for us.

How does it work?

Partly by following Jesus. The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as: "the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being." Through the Gospels, we have a very full account of the life and character of Jesus.
We can discover what sort of a person he was, how he treated other people and how he communicated with God, and we can follow him in all those ways. But we can go deeper than that.

By suffering the worst that any human being could suffer even to the extent of dying at the hands of the state as a criminal, yet without losing any of his integrity, his idealism, his value system, his love for human beings or his trust in and faith in God, Jesus overcame even death itself. It's true that he still died, but his death was very different to anything known before or since. He was not only seen again alive by many of his friends, but he was also experienced by them in a different kind of way. Somehow, he could now be experienced inwardly, even by those who had never known him in person. It was as though the essence of Jesus, the real person, could be absorbed into other human beings.

The Acts of the Apostles described this momentous experience as being "filled with the Holy Spirit". Although he had died, Jesus was clearly alive, albeit in a very different way, and his love and power and courage and strength and faithfulness and so on were available to any human being who desired those characteristics. Through absorbing Jesus into ourselves, into our own inner beings, we are able to change our human behaviour.

Not everything is subject to us human beings because we proved incapable of the dizzy heights God foresaw for us. But one human being
achieved those heights and that was enough for God. It opened the gateway for all the rest of us. Everything proved subject to Jesus, and through him, we too can conquer all that we have to conquer, even sin and death.

We are a little lower than the angels. But through Jesus, we too can reach heights we would never have dreamed possible. In the name of Jesus, let go and let him fill your life.

We are Married

Saturday 29th saw the long awaited Wedding Day. It was a wonderful service and we all gathered in the church after for the cuttng of the cake and toasts. Rachel and I are still thrilled and it all went as we had hoped and planned.