Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 2011

It has become a tradition of mine to put this blog to bed during the holy season of Advent, and to blog daily over at my Advent blog.

Please do join me over there are we make our way through this holy season.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Word as a Wordle

Here is Sunday's Gospel for Advent Sunday from Mark 13:24-37 as a Wordle. I am very familiar with the passage. Jesus' language and imagery is initially apocolyptic.

As He talks about the fig tree, the metaphors are immensely hopeful and speaks of the growth of faith in the church.

The passage is so full of hope and immediacy.

As I wordled it I was really struck how, in the midst of angels and men, houses and the sun, branches and leaves, and in the midst of the dawn and the clouds we can know heaven. The two most prominent words just sum up Advent. We can know the nearness and purposes of God.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King

I wonder what the word king makes you think of? Probably a man with a crown. A regal image. Perhaps you are thinking of a particular king in our country’s recent past. Either way, it’s hard for us to do when a queen has sat on the throne of this nation for such a long time. It’s harder still to engae with the image that this morning’s gospel presents us with,  as 21st century kingship is mostly a nominal power, and couldn’t be further from the reality of authority running through images of kingship from the world and time of Jesus.

Today is the Feast of Christ the King and my mind is whisked back to that wonderful hymn - ‘O worship the king, all glorious above.’ This is the king that we will sing our way through Advent about and whose gaze meets ours in a galaxy of icons and religious images.

Both of those sorts of kings are present in our Gospel reading this morning. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. This is the court of judgement ...the place where we will hear our final destiny...truly a place of awe. But if we wish to live as citizens of his kingdom in the meantime, what does it mean for Christ to be King?
To live in a kingdom is about far more than standing to wonder at the majesty of the king as he makes his grand entrance...and we may be in real danger of missing the heart of it, Jesus reminds us this morning.

It's an easy mistake to make – one that we hear about again and again in the gospels. Think of the Wise Men, eyes fixed on the star, dazzled by its brightness into calling at the obvious place – the royal palace of Herod – while the king they seek, is born in the poverty of a stable. Think of the Palm Sunday crowds who seem to speak prophetic truth as they shout “Hosanna to the Son of David” but whose expectations of uprising and God-led triumph are disappointed by the events of Good Friday. Then think of the ways in which Jesus chooses to explain what the kingdom is like – a mustard seed, a hidden treasure, some leaven mixed with dough - and remember just how close king and kingdom really are... and realising that Christ the King, however glorious, is always to be found in the least likely places - with the naked, the hungry, the prisoner, the stranger, the sick or the thirsty, for it is they, says Jesus, that are blessed by God. Suddenly the question of judgement and choices comes close to we realise that it is our judgements, our choices now, today how we react to others, that will make all the difference. And those judgements, those choices, will be governed by our allegiance – to Christ the king.

To live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, means you and me, living by the standard set for us by Christ the King - Christ, who chooses to spend his time with the marginalised, the oppressed, the forgotten. Christ who is utterly committed to those whom nobody values, nobody respects. Christ who identifies himself so completely with “the least of these” that when we look at them, we know we are seeing him too.

To love Christ, to dwell as a citizen of His kingdom, is to love what He has made - men, women and children however broken and needy - the sick, the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned - to love such as these is to live and love like the King; it is to love the one in whose image we are each made.

The German pastor and concentration camp resident Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote ‘How may Christ take form among us today and here?’ It is by modelling the example of Christ our King - by loving and loving again. We may not notice, we may not realise that we are loving and serving Christ, and the parable Jesus tells offers a wonderful surprise for those who in love served the downtrodden in society, also served the king.

To love like this is to love Christ - but we are clearly warned - not to love, to walk by on the other side, to condemn, to exclude, is to deny Christ, to walk past Him, to condemn Him, to exclude Him...

Peter Rollins says it all...

There is just one commandment, the commandment of love, and real love is always manifested in action. And, when it comes down to it, it is living lives of love that will build the kingdom of God here on earth. We aren't asked to decide who might be sheep or goats...that is down to the King to decide. All we are asked to do is to carry on loving – wildly, indiscriminately, just as Christ our King does.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Word as a Wordle

Here is the wordle of Matthew 25:31-46 which is the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King...

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine – Grant them eternal rest, O Lord

We are all very familiar with the saying that there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. What a true expression: Taxes are not very pleasant to think about, and death even less so. But, we know, deep down, that death must be accepted as an integral and inescapable part of life. Death accompanies us through life, as we face the passing of loved ones and friends, and come, each of us, to face our own mortality. So on this day, All Souls day, the Church pauses to reflect on the meaning of our death.

What happens to us when we die? It is such a common question when we are children, but we soon grow away from asking the question openly, but it still is within each of us. Back, two or three decades ago, there was a rather silly joke that was going around: “What do you call an atheist in a coffin?” The answer is of course, “All dressed up and nowhere to go”. It’s bad joke I admit, but it does provide a starting point in considering some answer to the deep questions we have about death: “Where do we go?” “Are the dead at rest? At peace?” “Are they happy?” “Will I ever see them again?”

We have all had these questions raised within us, especially as we have mourned the death of a loved one, or even as we attend the funeral of an acquaintance. For the occasion of a death leaves us with a mixture of deep feelings: grief and sadness, naturally, but also confusion, doubt, fear and loneliness.

Our readings tonight speak into those feelings which may still be very live for us - they are what someone once called, words against death - the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. No torment touches them. They are at peace. We need not worry too much about those whom we love but see no longer because of death, for God’s loving care for us extends even beyond the grave. We are still held by God in his arms, in peace, for ever, and that God offers each one of us, not just life in the now, but an assurance of Resurrection life now and for eternity, when we place our faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

Tonight as we gather, missing those whom we love and praying for them, we hear again of the loving and eternal embrace of God for us all in life, in death and into eternity.

An elderly woman who was a very active and a faithful member of her parish years was dying, and she asked for the priest to come to her bedside that they might talk about her funeral. She said, “Father, when I am laid out in my casket, I want my rosary in one hand and a fork in the other”. The priest was caught by surprise: “You want to be buried with a fork?” “Yes. I have been looking back at all the church dinners that I have attended over the years. I remember that at all those meals, when we were almost finished, someone would come to the table to collect the dirty dishes, and usually they would say, ‘Keep your fork’. That mean that dessert was coming. When they said that, I knew the best was yet to come! That's exactly what I want people to talk about at my funeral”. When people see me in my casket, I want them to turn to one another and say, “why the fork?” And, Father, I want you to tell them I kept it because the best is yet to come”.

For Christians, our life’s journey is towards towards God and the promised eternal banquet of the Messiah - a celebration in the presence of God and his Son Jesus Christ forever. We are called live our lives in joyful hope and anticipation of that promised life that is ours now and in the future, through Him. That fullness of life with God, that hope that is offered to each of us by God, promised in the resurrection of his Jesus, is glimpsed here in this Eucharist tonight. For as we eat bread and drink wine, we don’t just recall Jesus, but we remember Him. Through Him being with us as we worship Him, the veil between earth and heaven is specially thin. When we join in the song of the angels in heaven “Holy, holy, holy...” I'm certain that if we cannot hear the angel voices, it is only that we aren't listening hard enough....but today, as we gather to remember our own beloved dead that great community is closer than ever.

From the perspective of eternity, that barrier which we call death is non existent...Where there is no time, no past, present or future, then there can be no endings or beginnings.

We pause to remember and to pray for those whom we love but see no longer, knowing that the ties that connected us in life, that made us pray for them and they for us are not broken. Standing in God's closer presence, I know they are praying for we for them, and knowing that, for those whom we love but see no longer, and for us, the best is yet to come.

With heartfelt thanks to @Eurobishop and @Goodinparts for inspiration and input into this homily