Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Very tired indeed, but very happy. There were about 150 at 3pm crib service. There were perhaps as many as 350 at 5pm. There were about 200 at Midnight Mass... so all went well!

Below is my sermon from Midnight Mass... have a blessed and holy day...

I was flicking through the channels on tv last night trying to find some inspiration for what I wanted to say tonight, and was struck by how much post-pub tv focusses on sex - whether in chat line adverts or in programmes themselves. I am saddened to discover this because none of what is on offer is real or lasting... the chat lines will only cost large amounts of money, the beautiful men or women remain unobtainable media icons, and ultimately all of it leads to at best short term pleasure, but lacks long term, lasting emotional satisfaction.

Friends tonight I want to let you into a secret. In a world obsessed by glossy sex, surgery and gym built bodies, and pleasure at all costs - Christians make better lovers. The reason I can confidently tell you that is because I know it’s true. Christians know what to do, and how to use what they have been given better than any relationship guru on the planet. The reason I know that it’s true is because I have experienced it for myself and you can too tonight.

Tonight friends I can offer you the secret of how to be a great lover. I can offer you the chance to find life-long lasting satisfaction. I want each of you tonight to hear for yourselves how to give pleasure and delight and how to be in the most fulfilling of relationships. I need to share with you some tips and then you will have a chance to try some techniques out for yourselves - so this is a sort of hands on relationship seminar.
How to be a better lover hot tip number one. Have a baby. Babies force you to prioritize your life and to focus of what is really important. They also challenge you to work closely with your partner and others to provide for their needs. I can offer you a baby tonight, and he will do the same. He will force you to reprioritise your life and to focus on what really matters and he will challenge you to work closely with others, not just for his benefit, but for yours too!

How to be a better lover hot tip number two. Become a step father/mother/ brother/sister. Another key to becoming a better lover involves welcoming a stranger into your life and your family. This is risky stuff and will stretch you sometimes to breaking point - and will challenge all your other existing relationships in the same way, but it will be worth it. In time and lots of work, your life and the lives of others will be deeper and richer as a result.

How to be a better lover hot tip number three. Accept change. A key to becoming better lover involves change - not trying to change others - however subtly - but allowing others to change you. This is not some sort of exercise in style, but change on the inside; change in attitudes, motives, and drives.

The story that hear tonight is the epic conclusion of the greatest love story the world has ever heard - the story of God’s love for people. Jesus’ arrival in our world opens up the possibility for us not only to hear the story, but to experience the love of God, but more than even that... to be part of the story ourselves.

The baby that we celebrate being born tonight will force each one of us to re-prioritize our lives and to focus on what really matters. Tonight, in fact every night, all that really matters (even in our sex obsessed world) is love. When you boil it down all of us long for love. The birth of God’s Son offers us love; a love that accepts us no matter what, a love that shines (to use St. John’s imagery) like light in the darkness. God’s love is never ending, and offers long term satisfaction.

The baby that we celebrate being born tonight encourages each of us to become a step father/mother/brother or sister and to welcome a stranger into your lives. The baby tonight is not for cooing over and cuddling. The child born tonight should be treated with the respect he deserves as he is the Son of God, and was with God before anything came into existence, and as the Word in tonight’s reading, created everything that is. Tonight he stands with us as a grown adult too, a stranger to many, asking each of us to weigh up for ourselves who he is - was he mad in his claims, was bad in duping millions of us, or is he who he says he is. As you make your choice tonight, remember that your choice will affect the rest of your life.
The baby that we celebrate being born tonight asks us to accept change. Jesus didn’t just talk about love, he demonstrated God’s love for each of us. If you want to know what it means to be loved then you have come to the right place and the right person. God’s love calls us to change. None of us like it, but as you get to know more about love as it should be from Jesus, the more willing you become to be like him.

The birth of God’s Son amongst us tonight offers us the love of God - in person. It is love that is eternal and fulfilling. It is love that will give and offer pleasure and delight - the pleasure of knowing that we are loved by God for who we are not who we could be - and the delight of knowing that we do not have to be who or what society tell us - with or without the beautiful young thing on our arm, or the perfect body.

This baby tells us that God loves us for being us, just as he made us to be.

So as to techniques you can try - become part of God’s love story yourselves. As you come close to the crib tonight, as you open your presents in the morning, as you take Alka Seltzer on Wednesday - thank God for his love for you, ask him to move from being a stranger to becoming a friend, and allow the life of this baby as a grown man show you what true love is all about. If you want to know more - part two of this workshop begins tomorrow morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just checking in here... Christmas sermons are coming but they are hard work this year!

This year's Christmas services's look like this:

23rd 4th Sunday in Advent
3.00 pm Taditional Candlelit Nine Lessons and Carols

24th Christmas Eve
3.00 pm Family Crib Service
5.00 pm Family Crib Service
11.30 pm Midnight Mass

8.00 am Said Eucharist
10.00 am Sung Family Eucharist

26th St Stephen
10.00 am Said Eucharist

27th St John
10.00 am Said Eucharist

28th Holy Innocents
10.00 am Said Eucharist

30th First Sunday of Christmas
10.00 am All God's Children - a service for all

See you at one or more of these I hoope!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Afternoon! Look I am early! Here's tomorrow's sermon... today!

Harry Potter - couldn’t help but look to the end of the story. I have to say that it made no sense, not until I had read the rest of the story... Same is true of Advent and it’s twin season of Christmas. The trouble is that we think we know the end of the story. We think that this time of waiting that we call Advent is all building up to the joyful time of Christmas. In fact, it can hardly be called a time of waiting at all.

The Christmas lights and decorations often precede Advent, and some people are well into their Christmas shopping. No shocks for us; we know what to expect. When we’ve celebrated the birth of the baby, everything will get back to normal again until this time next year.

So who is this strange, hairy man, striding out of the desert; doesn’t he know that this is a time for the family, not a time for unpleasantness? Why is he shouting about repentance? And he seems to have skipped all the bit about the angels and the shepherds, surely the real point of Christmas, and gone straight on to something about baptism and the Holy Spirit. That’s not part of this story as far as I recall it. Doesn’t that come in some other story, which we’re not really interested in? No thanks, let’s get back to the baby...

Isaiah seems to be getting into the mood rather better. At least he’s talking about comfort and tenderness. But, no, there he goes, too, ruining a perfectly nice message. He seems to think we only get to the comfort when we’ve faced the devastation. He’s on about the wilderness, as well. What’s more, he seems to think that we are sitting in a desert because that’s what we have made of our lives. He suggests that we’ve pulled up our roots, and turned away from our ground, our source of water, which is God. Now we are so weak and dry that we drift about aimlessly.

For Isaiah, the coming God is not a sweet little baby that we can coo over, and then ignore while we get on with our party. Instead, God is like a breath of fire on the dried grass of our lives. When he breathes on us, all that is left is the wilderness and God. When, at last, we have noticed that there is no life in us, then we will see the beginning of the extraordinary transformation of the desert.

Where there was the empty waste that we made, there will be paths, heralds, shouting; a huge crowd following the glorious king through the wilderness. Everywhere he goes, life springs up, life that is directly dependent upon him, and knows it.

All the Christmas presents, tinsel and plastic reindeer are just a wilderness without the life of God.

So perhaps the birth that comes at the end of Advent is not the end, but the beginning. That would make sense, after all. Most births are the beginning of something.

When we have met this strange God at Christmas, we must resist the temptation to pack everything way until next year, but we must start the journey with him, watching him grow, finding out what he is like, waiting to see the story unfold.
There is such a lot of waiting in the Christian story. Each time you get to a point that you think is the end, you find it is actually another beginning. After the birth, there is the ministry of Jesus, which seems to end at the cross.

And then, suddenly, there is another beginning in the resurrection, and things start up again, and end again, as Jesus ascends. This time, the new beginning is the Christian community, living by the Holy Spirit. The history of the Church’s life has been a series of deaths, or near-deaths, and rebirths, each one unexpected and unpredictable.

What is John the Baptist really doing here though? Surely he is here to remind us, not of an austerity and simple living that we should buy into to prepare ourselves for the gluttony of the immanent birthday party, but that the completion of God’s work of creation promised in this coming infant begins with the hope of our own transformation promised in Baptism.

In Baptism we align ourselves and our will, our story and history, with Christ’s. St. Athanasius reminds us that the incarnation restores in sinful men and women the divine image that they were originally created and Christ’s dying and rising overcomes death, the result of sin. Baptism, our baptism, allows those events to echo down through history and to be heard and seen and felt in our lives.

Advent challenges the world to hear and answer John’s call to repentance again. Our Baptism must mark our lives as part of God’s work of perfection, transformation and glorification of all creation which began with the birth of Christ. As St Augustine put it ‘...He [the Christ Child] is wrapped in cloths but he clothes us with immortality...’ for that baby also comes as judge placing a special onus on the Church to ready herself and the world for his return. This is why the Advent readings always contain the sombre note of warning. You think you want the coming of Christ: are you sure you know what you are asking for? So make the most of this period of waiting; be grateful for Advent and use it, not just to prepare for the birth of the baby, but also to prepare a world where this baby, righteousness incarnate, will be at home and prepare to have this world - yours, mine, ours transformed, perfected and glorified by him.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Yet another week when I am not at HT!!! Herewith the sermon I preached at St B's this morning. Advent carols this afternoon...

You, like me, might have already received at least one Christmas card so far. I have to say that I find myself becoming more and more depressed at the encroachment of Christmas earlier and earlier into the rest of the year. Now I hasten to add that I am rather concerned that I might be sounding a bit ‘bah humbug!’ about all this but I long for Advent each year.

Advent is becoming more and more about spiritually preparing for Christmas, but it never was intended that way. Advent was always traditionally about longing for change and hoping for liberation, and the coming of God. Traditional Advent themes focus on the prophets, patriarchs, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary who fortell these events, and on death, judgement, heaven and hell. Advent is not about the Christmas lights, cards, shopping or whatever it is we are more than likely reoccupied with.

I long for Advent as it traditionally is, because I am reminded annually that the mess I make of my life, the pain and suffering that I see, the pent up screams for justice, and the need for life-changing hope.

Hopeful. Advent is the season where we long for God’s coming to us. For centuries faithful men and women throughout the Old Testament had watched and waited for God to come and liberate his people - freeing them from oppression, slavery, and occupation. With the angel’s words to her, Mary knew that generations of waiting were soon to be over. In this holy season as we anticipate remembering God coming to our world bringing justice and judegement, we need to be hopeful that God has moved the constant battle with evil and suffering, into it’s endgame.

The coming Christ is the one who can open the gateway closed by God at Eden because of sin and who stands at the door open in heaven inviting us in. In Advent, Christ is called the Key of David - a symbol of authority at the palace of Jerusalem - and it’s bearer had the authority to admit people into the royal presence. The key in question was a cumbersome affair carried on the shoulders, and the analogy between key and cross cannot be downplayed.

With the coming of God comes wild hope, but not a crazy utopian dream. Peace in nations begins with peace in people. Free nations begins with free people. Liberation of lands and political systems begins with liberating the human heart. Advent people are hopeful people, people who know that it is only the coming Christ child who can unlock the doorway to God and the doorway to humanity as God created it to be.

Trusting. Mary’s words to the angel. “Let it be to me according to your word.’ show a radical obedience to the will of God. In this holy season, as we anticipate remembering God coming into our world - restoring, healing - we too need to become people who trust God. As God entrusts himself to his creation in the vulnerability of a helpless baby, so we need to entrust ourselves to his will. In advent, Mary reminds us that her trust is not a blind acceptance. All that she had been told would happen had happened.

We need to trust God, as incredulous and unlikely as that might seem. God is trustworthy and true and does not revoke his promises. In Christ, all God’s promises already in place. His first coming at the Incarnation confirmed the reliability of all the Old testa ment prophesies. The enduring presence of of the Holy Spirit in his church, by which the endgame has begun, assures us that he will return again. God’s future has begun, here, now.

With the coming of God comes a need to trust him, but not a crazy utopian dream. What Mary knew, we must know. God has consistently proved himself to be faithful through the pages of scripture and the lives of men and women over the ages, all that Mary heard from the angel she saw fulfilled. Advent people are trusting people, people who have come to know that trusting God is not a last resort when all else fails, but the place to start.

Proclaiming. Mary’s words ‘My soul magnifies the Lord!’ remind that Advent’s purpose is to proclaim God in a world that largely ignores him. As a tiny baby, that is to say so unobtrusive in his humility, he needs to be magnified to been seen. In a world that ignores him and yet needs him more and more - the we need to sing the Magnificat in our live all the more loudly. In a world that gives status dependent on wealth, on body image, on clothing, yet longs for love, forgiveness, healing and hope, we need to proclaim him all the more.

Advent longs for coming of God to us, but it also is the time to remind us that God waits for our coming to him. At the incarnation he comes to us and will come again at the end of time, in the meantime he watches out like the father of the prodigal son - waiting to embrace us in eternal love.

Advent is traditionally as season of repentance - seeking to mend broken relationships, hearing words of forgiveness - so we also need to return to God, discovering as we do in this holy season, that it only when we return to our creator that we find our true status - as children of God - forgiven, healed, hopeful and reconciled.

In the Magician’s Nephew, C.S Lewis describes a wood the children reach by magic - the wood between the worlds. Through it they enter Charn - a dying world, Narnia in the making, and then on back into their own world. In the wood, time is stopped and they can hardly imagine the adventures that await them. Advent is the wood between the worlds, between the wold that cannot imagine Christ and the world in which he comes to be the only picture of reality that we have. At this point we stand in a world where God’s great act of incarnation and redemption is only a shadow, a child growing in the dark of the womb. To be Advent people is to be people in the wood between the worlds, longing for the Coming God, and to allow him to bring to birth in us, the coming of his Kingdom.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Back from our church weekend away at Letton Hall. I have to say that despite the numbers, the time away went brilliantly!!! The accommodation was spectacular (designed by Sir John Soan!), food was wonderful and nothing was too much trouble, beds were comfortable, place was not too hot or cold, amazing grounds, no street lights, traffic etc...

Here's what a couple of people have said already on email...


Just wanted to say what a great weekend we had. It was amazing how well everyone bonded and although I was originally disappointed that the number of people attending was significantly less than first indicated, I suspect that the smaller group actually worked better.

I thought the sessions were really good and, for me, helpful in terms of my approach to prayer.

I also appreciate that a lot of thought has to go into the planning to make this sort of event work well, so again many thanks for all your input.

Kind regards, Terry"

and from Hitesh...

"Thanks – It was great to be with you all – we enjoyed ourselves and got back home safely – hope you were all blessed as were... Have a good prayerful week ahead..."

Well for those of you who would not/could not come... it seems you really did miss out!!! I will let those who did come (Barbara Batten, Margaret Mayhew, Anne Hunt, Terry and Kathy Perry, Matt and Norah Tattersall, Tim Bourne, Deb and Steve Hanwell, and Hitesh and Sarla Dodhia) speak from themselves because they and they children who came (thanks Sarah for your help!!!) seem to have had a superb time. Friendships were made or deepened, fun and worship were shared, and things hopefully were learned together about prayer using the Lord's prayer as a framework.

We will look to go again but earlier in the year, probably some time in 2009.

Anyway, good to be back, very tired, but very encouraged... I am at St Bs on Sunday morning, but there is the Advent carol service in teh afternoon at 3pm.

More later in the week I hope!



Monday, November 19, 2007

Herewith Tim's ecellent sermon from Sunday... Sobering stuff but important for us all to take note of!

Theme: Principles, not rules
1 Introduction
Jesus said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
Those words from our Gospel reading this morning give a message that’s still all too relevant today. People talk about the coming of Christ’s kingdom, but often they see that only in terms of a sort of “big bang theory”, of the idea that Jesus will come again soon, taking over the world and transforming it in God’s power.
The book of Revelation is often the trigger for this; it has a lot of passages that can be misinterpreted.
2 Why?
It’s true that Christ’s kingdom is coming. It gets closer every day, and I hope we’re all contributing to it. But Jesus himself said that no-one can know how or when it will come, and I’d rather believe him than any of these strange self-styled prophets.
But people do like to be told what to do in detail - it saves the need to think, and we’re all inclined to be lazy about thinking. There’s an attraction about a religion that doesn’t require us to think, that tells us in detail everything we need to do to achieve salvation, or nirvana, or whatever we call our ultimate objective.
That wasn’t Jesus’ way, though. On many occasions he showed that he had little patience for those who thought rules were the way to God.
3 Just 2 principles
Jesus gave his disciples just two commandments: Love God, and Love your neighbour. Living by those two principles, and letting them guide everything we say and do, is all we need.
But what do they actually mean?
Love God – and hate anything that is against God, anything that gets in the way of loving God, anything that makes God come second, anything that separates me from God's love.
Love your neighbour – and hate anything that comes between me and my neighbour, anything that forces us to take sides.
In particular, I need to beware of anything that makes me feel I am better than my neighbour, anything that creates intolerance. Most of the sects I mentioned earlier thrive by being separate, by believing that they are the one small group that will be “saved”, that they have the exclusive rights to God's truth. God's truth just isn't like that; it's for everyone!
4 Commitment
The advantage of having rules is that if you don't break any of them, whatever you do must be OK. When we have such general principles to live by, doesn't that make life impossibly difficult?
Well, yes – except that we have God's Holy Spirit to help us, and of course our fellow Christians. We have to decide things for ourselves, though. Only you can decide how far you're prepared to go in returning the love God has shown you.

Let's take just two areas as examples: our time and our money. Those are two things most of us have less of than we'd like, so how we spend them is always difficult. I'm going to describe three positions, but in fact there are many shades of grey in between.
Some choose to be on the edge. They usually come to church at the big festivals, and quite often at other times, but when something else comes up it usually wins. They probably put a token pound or so in the plate, without really thinking about how that relates to what they spend on other things.
Others are definitely involved. They're at church most weeks, and don't automatically say no when asked to do something. God matters to them, and they try to reflect that in the priorities they set – but don't always succeed! They give what they think they can afford, remembering what God has given them.
There's another group, though probably very few could claim to be in it all the time. They are committed – God comes first. That doesn't mean they spend all their time in church, of course, but it does mean that when it's important, a church commitment comes first. It also means that God has first claim on their money, something it's very hard to accept. Those words give the wrong impression, though; if we're committed, we give because we want to give, because it's a way to show our love – just as it will be when we give lavish presents to our loved ones in a few weeks at Christmas.
(In Old Testament times everyone was expected to give a tenth of their income, in terms of crops and increase in livestock, and a similar practice continued in this country until well into the last millennium (C16).)
No-one can tell you how committed you should be; you have to work that out for yourself.
As many of you know, I belong to a barbershop club. Just by becoming a member, I make quite a commitment. As well as the regular Thursday evening rehearsals, I have to find time to learn new music, and I'm expected to be available for a fair proportion of the occasions when the chorus sings in public, which happens maybe once a month. Being on the edge certainly isn't an option!
5 Conclusion
What's the difference between being involved and being committed?
Think of a bacon-and-egg breakfast. The hen that lays the egg is involved; the pig that provides the bacon is committed!
Jesus gave his disciples just those two commandments: Love God, and Love your neighbour. They're all the rules we need; all that's left is for us to commit ourselves to applying them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sorry for the silence...

Weekend away next week - very poor turnout and feeling very disapppointed but those of who go will have a great time. Sad that some feel it right, good and Christian to drop out or to wait to see if they might get a better offer... Oh well...

Here's Sunday's sermon:

I love going away on holiday and when I do I love to go and visit some of the sights. One of the best places I have ever visited is Chicago. It is beautiful - right on the banks of Lake Michigan. It has loads of really amazing buildings - some quite old by American standards with nice bricks and stone and carving; some really new with smoked glass and chromed steel. Some of the most successful companies in America have been and are based there. Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem doing a bit of sightseeing. The disciples are amazed at some of the things they see. They are particularly taken with the size of the Temple - they notice how big the stones used to make it were. Jesus warns the disciples that one day these great buildings will be destroyed. That’s sad, especially if they were as amazing as the ones in Chicago are. Jesus’ point though is: these buildings might be used by companies who make all sorts of amazing things that we might really want, that help make life good - PS3, drums, trainers - but if we have the best trainers, a fantastic drumkit and a new PS3 and don’t trust in God and listen to Jesus then we have missed what life is all about.

So where do place our trust? What do we hope for? What makes life good for us? Lower taxes? A new car?? Aromatherapy???

Back in Jesus’ day, people were pretty anxious. They were people living in an occupied land, kept ‘secure’ by foreign soldiers. They longed for freedom. There was also a strong feeling that they were living in ‘the end times’ the end of the world was near. The metallic taste of fear was in the air. There were sections of Jewish society that played on that fear - the tax collectors who helped to finance the political status quo - the all encompassing influence of one nation, Italy and the Roman system of government - oh and line their own pockets too! Another such section of society was the Temple. Instead of being a place where God was worshiped, and people were liberated to live for him - they were being crushed by the weight of the letter of the law, and being tithed financially dry. This suited the religious leaders - it kept them in jobs, in the lifestyle they loved, and in the respect of the masses.

Jesus deplored this. It stood rank and file against the coming kingdom of his God and father, with it’s inverted values that benefitted the many not the few. Whilst the Temple and the rest of Roman influenced society was an amazing structure, there was a time coming when God would tear it down and raise it to the ground. This, along with the persecution of Jesus’ followers would lead ultimately to his return.

Jesus is unnervingly specific in his predictions - in the future, disciples could expect to face famines and earthquakes, wars, the break up of families and community strife. This is just part of the process of freeing that the Son of Man will himself complete.

Yet this is an unnervingly contemporary gospel. We too live in anxious times. Whilst our land may not be occupied, in many places we are the occupier albeit in the name of peacekeeping. Yet we are occupied, or at least our political leaders are pre-occupied with the very real threat of Islamic terrorism. With that threat and nuclear programmers being developed if not in Iraq then certainly in Iran and North Korea then we maybe also feeling a bit apocalyptic. There are also those in our society who play on our fears - offering us loans we cannot repay, health remedies that may not work, legal advice to sue when what happened was a genuine accident - and the all encompassing influence of one nation America, her MacDonalds culture and ‘democracy at all costs.’

An anxious people look for surety in all sorts of places and some find it in religion. But if the church is ever a place where people are drawn in and all your gifts, talents, time and money are used up here, then it makes us no better than the Temple enforcing the unenforceable.
The church should be a place where we are encouraged, where we meet with God and are empowered by him , where we are sent out to face earthquakes, wars, family break up, community strife.

It is here where we learn what suffering means - or put a better way, where life is headed. Jesus doesn’t try to down -play or explain the sufferings he talks of - except that we see later that he himself would walk the same road, being rejected by the same institutions of power and influence, taking suffering to it’s conclusion. And yet his death marks the death of those who play on our fears - the Temple curtain tears in two. Not one stone will be left one on another.

We have no way of knowing whether any of what Jesus talks of here will happen. Except... the things Jesus predicted happening to him happened. Except... men and women around our world have been and will suffer in exactly the sorts of way that Jesus suggests.

Go on - place your faith in the institutions of power; see if that massage helps long term not just for you but for others; long for the Iraq war to end or Tony Blair to resign - or place your trust in a God who made the world, loves it, suffers, dies and rises again in it, and who is freeing it’s anxious people from fear one at a time. Amen

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hi... Very tired. Late to bed on Saturday night/Sunday morning writing the sermon enclosed below.

We had the Strawberry Tea on Sunday afternoon, a great event. Numbers were down a little bit because of the weather I would have thought. Nonetheless good fun and many congrats to all who put in hard work to make it happen... nice costume Maureen...!

The weekend away is getting closer. Full details become available a week on Sunday plus a request to make full payment asap. It should be a great time. We will be thinking together in the teahcing time a little about prayer. Hopefully that will tap ito a need in all of us.

Bad news this w/e. Cynthia is back in hospital. She is not doing so well having has another stroke. Her speach is reduced to one sylable noises. She is the most determined person I think I know but she seems really quite frightened right now. Sara May is also in hospital suffering with pneumonia. Healing please God for both...

Anyway here is the text of the sermon...


I am confused. At the Christmas celebrations we hear again how God’s promised Messiah would bring peace to the earth. During the annual nativity play here or in any other church, we tend to hear of angels on the hillside proclaiming glory to God and peace on earth to all whom he favours. Yet in this morning’s Gospel Jesus throws that all up in the air.

‘Did you think I came to bring peace to the earth?’ says Jesus in this morning’s Gospel. Well yes actually Lord, we did. Yet what we hear of in Iraq or Afghanistan, in London or Bolton is far from peaceful communities or nations. Quite frankly it’s crap and it’s not what I thought you had in mind.

Like I say, I am confused. I cannot easily reconcile the Christmas message and the message of John the Baptist with that of Jesus here who seems intent on undoing all the good work of rebuilding families and communities. I am not sure how to hold together the images of peace from the Old Testament of lambs lying down with lions and swords becoming ploughs with what is going on in Baghdad or even in my own head or my own life.

In this morning’s Gospel Jesus, to the disciples, to the crowd and therefore to us, is trying to get people to really understand what his life’s work is about. He has not come as some sort of divine UN soldier to the world. His ministry is not some sort of Godly diplomacy. Jesus is frustrated here in this morning’s Gospel and he is frustrated still that people, us included, somehow have this idea that he came teaching niceness, politeness, conflict avoidance and therefore peace making - a kind of spiritual quiet life.

Yet Jesus is all too contemporary here in Luke’s Gospel - ‘what stress I am under!’ he anguishly cries. How could he preach peace, perhaps especially inner peace, when he in that frame of mind. It is clear here that Jesus here did not reach the serenity of the Bhudda. Siddhartha Gautama found enlightenment beneath the Bo tree. Beneath the olive trees, Jesus embraces the cross. He knew that what lay ahead of him, the baptism he will be baptised with, will cost him everything. He knew that through it, we too could know death to our old lives, our old ways and habits, our old lifestyles and be offered resurrection life now which costs us nothing.

Like I say, I am confused and I am now wondering what it actually is that Jesus is offering us. He is not coming to hold society together, to heal family rifts and wounds. He not offering a cessation of violence in Darfur or Zimbabwe. Neither is he offering me freedom from the break neck speed of contemporary life where work is a means to liesuretime, where child rearing feels more and more like child care where parents stuff every waking hour with activity after expensive activity. Neither is he promising some way out of the cycle of sleepless nights as my mind races thinking about the people I have seen, the people I have not seen or the things left undone. Nor does he offer release from the weight of a crushing throwaway remark that I carry round my neck like a medal.

For pity’ sake cries our exasperated Lord, make a choice! Decide whether you are following me or not. Don’t follow me because you like the sound what might be on offer - eternal life, forgiveness of sins etc. I am not wanting Sunday only followers and none of this is for sale. You have the ability to try to work out what the weather will do, and yet you cannot, or perhaps worse still, will not use the same skills to try to work out where you ultimately stand in faith. In other words if you have come marching to me for world peace, if you have come crying to me for inner peace then you will leave disappointed, because that is not what faith in God through Jesus Christ is offering us.

And yet the paradox of this morning’s Gospel is just that. It is a call to each one of us by Jesus to come near to - para - the glory of God - doxa. All that is on offer to us from God through Jesus this morning is the same that he offers each one of us every day - the opportunity to discover for ourselves that we are loved unendingly and eternally by God. Once we begin our search there for answers to the questions that life throws at us, then and only then do we discover that God’s peace and presence in us and amongst us challenges us to pray and work for justice in the communities and countries that long for it. Then and only then do we discover that God’s peace and presence in us and amongst us begins to unsettle the frenetic racehorse that is our lives both physically and mentally, causing us to be bucked off out of the race and finding stillness and much needed space to think, to pray, to be.

Yet, I must not dumb down the scandal of what Jesus offers. God’s offer in Jesus is so shockingly different, so radical, so life affirming that many people would rather drive the offer away than allow it to change them. They would rather their family was split down the middle than welcome God’s love that unites all things.

God makes that same offer to us this morning - to continue our exploration of his eternal love for us in Jesus. It is a love that will make us unpopular. It is a love that offers us only an agenda for change. But it is a love that will bring the peace we and our brothers and sisters worldwide long for. My friends this offer confuses and in some sense frightens me because of what it asks of me - to let go and to let God have His way - and it is is an offer I do not want, but I know that it is an offer that we cannot refuse.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Here's a document that I produced for the Church Council about work with children. I personally feel that it is essential that we get this right, but it is essential not just for the children and their families who come, it is not just essential that we get it right so that my wife and children continue to grow in faith, it is not just essential that we get it right so that those who find children in church are a distraction. It is essential that we get it right because Jesus welcomed children into his presence, therefore so must we - however uncomfortable that might make some of us feel and the inclusion and welcome of children and their families is part of God's vision here in Leverstock Green. More musings after the document...

Children’s Work at Holy Trinity

Jesus said, ‘let the children come to me. do not stop them. For it to such as these
that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs...’ What did Jesus mean?
Surely he meant that simplicity of faith and trust were crucial to the life of faith.
But surely he also meant what he said at face value - that God’s kingdom is open to
all - children included.

What does this mean for the life of faith?
It means that having faith in God is not about how much (or indeed little!)
complex theology we understand. Having faith in God is not about understanding
God - so as to obtain Him or rationalise Him. Faith is about having a living and life
giving relationship with God - trusting Him.

How does this affect what the church does with it’s children?
Faith is about a living relationship with God. Therefore children with faith are
disciples as much as any grown adult. As a result the church must enable them to
be disciples too.
* The church must nurture it’s children’s faith so that it grows.
* The church must care for it’s children and take their concerns
and worries seriously so that they are pastored and experience the love of
* The church must allow children to worship God together and with the
whole Body of Christ.
* The church must allow the gifts and talents of it’s children to be
used, in service and in worship for example, to the glory of God.

What does this mean for Holy Trinity?
* It means that the work we do with children needs to have same priority for
it’s leaders and the church as a whole, as the work we do with the adults. It
means that our leaders will have ongoing good quality training, use good
resources, be CRBed to ensure the highest quality is given.
* It also means though that a group of people are committed to this work. In
the same way with our work with adults not all of the church leaders carry out
this ministry all of the time, so it is with those who work with our children. There
needs to a group who perhaps operate on a rota basis allowing those who are not
being used one particular week to have their own faith nurtured through
worship, bible study and prayer.
* It means seriously considering the best time, day and place to offer this
work. In other words, just because this work is traditionally done on a Sunday,
does it have to be? Could we/should we use another (bigger) venue?
* It means providing clear structure to provide nurture and pastoral care
that also tie in with what the wider church is providing. In other words, it means
that the lectionary based teaching offered to the children mirrors what is
provided across the age range of the church so that there is consistency from
Toddlers, through BBC, school collective worship and so on. It also means that a
safe way of dealing with children's concerns and worries is provided and is those
are appropriately shared with the wider church leadership.
* It means continuing to encourage children to help lead the whole church
in worship.
* It means challenging the children to act on their faith through acts of
service, and giving their time and talent to the church and others.
* It means taking seriously the link with school - is there more we can do
* It means continuing to review what we do to meet the needs of the children
involved. In other words, we need to take what contemporary models of
secular teaching can offer. Namely are we teaching using verbal, nonverbal
and pictorial methods.
* It means developing the spirituality of our children using silence,
movement, posture, prayer, art, music and so on, but in such a way that connects
with them and their real life experience.

Concluding remarks.
All in all, whilst for now we do not offer any youth work as such, we need to
constantly be reshaping and re-imagining what we do with children to allow
them to come to Jesus in the first place, but then having come, to allow him to
speak to them in ways that they understand. For if we are treating our children
as disciples, the need for youthwork will become greater and will need to be
addressed in some creative and life-giving ways in time, but the foundations will
have been laid already in their lives. Rev’d. Simon Cutmore 25th June 2007

At the end of the day, I can find Jesus clearly talking about children in the gospels. One is the section quoted at the beginning of the document above. The other is where Jesus reminds his adult hearers that anyone who puts a stumbling block in the way of a child exploring matters of faith, it would be better for that adult to find a millstone, to tie it round their necks and to jump in the sea. Stark words indeed.

Children do make noise. They will disrupt sanctity of worship sometimes. But, the only way they will learn how to behave in a church is by being there, and there is much to distract them with - periods of silence, prayer, music, colour, processions and so on. Instead of being frustrated by their pressence, as adults we should turn our quiet 'I wish they would shut up or be taken out' to 'Thank God that they are here and experiencing the love of God for them with the rest of the community in worship.'

Our 10am services will never be places of liturgical silence - if that is what is needed we do offer it weekly at 8am on a Sunday and 10am on a Wednesday and are soon to launch a new 'quiet space' in the late Autumn, all of which might meet need for silence and reflection in worship.

One of the things that was made clear at the interviews for Team Vicar here back in 2003, was that the church wanted to change and grow, and after the fall out from events in the church's past, the desire to see a young family in the Rectory and to see children in church were high on the agenda.

God has answered that desire - with some 20+ adults and children at Toddler Church each Thursday, at least 5 families from that group regularly attending on a Sunday, and Junior Church continuing to thrive. Children must not be pushed out though to occaisions away from the main gatherings for worship on a Sunday - as some sort of specialism. When that happens we cease to be a church, a family of faith, brothers and sisters with Christ. Instead we become a religious society where the only person that matters is me, not God, and that I get my worship fix for that week.

I am being deliberately inflamatory because we do need to get this right, for the DCC believe that it is God's vision for Holy Trinity, and this is why the DCC will be spending a large amount of time over the next 12 months ensuring that we do let the children come to Christ.
I know I know... it has been all quiet on the western front. All sorts of reasons for that.

I have to say that the last few weeks have been really hard with one thing and another and I have been really wrestling with some quite deep issues which I hope I might outline in another post later in the week.

Firstly below are 3 sermons preached over the last couple of months. There were a couple of others that I really wanted to add here but they seem to have been deleted which is a shame. Here goes...

Firstly from Trinity 3:
In these Sundays after Trinity, having realised that the challenge we face as churches is to live and love as a community of love, emulating God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we then need to ask ourselves - what does that sort of community look like? I believe that this morning’s Gospel give us another very clear picture.

This is a Gospel not to be read from a lectern, heard standing in a pew or preached about from a pulpit. We meet Jesus on the move. As he travels from place to place we clearly and succinctly what it means to be a disciple - that that commitment will always involve some shake up of our conventional, comfortable and static ways of living.

This morning’s Gospel opens the traveling ministry of Jesus, and Luke presents for us here several glimpses of a very mobile Jesus, but not just wandering from place to place, but with a specific, well-communicated destination in mind.

Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. The emphasis on direction is also an expression of Jesus’ resolve to head there. Every disciple, even for us today, is called to follow Jesus on this same journey of discipleship, listening and learning from him on the way. It is no accident that Jesus’ destination is mentioned - the place where Jesus would finally suffer and die - the very mention of Jerusalem should remind us that there is a close link between following Jesus and rejection. Jesus appears to be warning that the road of loyalty to God will involve suffering, shame, and multiple bumps of rejection.

Are we aware that we follow a rejected leader? Whichever way we read the statistics, there are somewhere around 59 million people who reject us as a Church and our leader each week. It was no different for Jesus himself, and his detour to the Samaritan village I believe was not an attempt to win over some of Judaism’s closest siblings, but to remind disciples in every age that following him will be a strenuous exercise. With our pursuit of comfortable middle class values, if we remove the rosy tinted, new Labour, sunset at the end of the movie spin that the Resurrection can place on this sort of Gospel, are we need to ask ourselves whether we really are prepared to be so thoroughly associated with one that continues to fly in the face of what Christianity is really about - being nice - and who continues to really challenge what we might consider to be decent or polite?

Following Jesus seems incredibly attractive, when we understand what it is he offers the world, but that’s especially the case when we do it on our terms. ‘I’d like a relationship with God the creator and eternal life, but...’ We all still have that ‘but’, but not even burying the dead, saying farewell to family, are not good excuses to taking up the offer to follow when it is presented. Jesus says forget social etiquette, forget comfortable living - are you coming with me or not?

This Gospel really challenges our 21st century world and our own lifestyles. We are largely stable citizens, hopelessly fixed in a safe environment of a comfortable home and a regular income. We are in no way adequately prepared for the discipleship, the mission that Jesus calls us to and every moment of every day we are challenged to contradict all that Christ calls us to as his disciples. All of us, if we are honest find comfort and security from our homes, cars, jobs, foreign holidays, our friendships or family. In following our rejected leader are we prepared to consider rejecting those things that are not necessary for our journey with him? When following Jesus becomes a priority for us, all other things fall by the wayside, and I still haven’t got it right, I cannot speak for you...

So what sort of a community is the Church called to be? We are to be mobile, ready to move to be where Jesus calls us to be with him. The Church Universal has answered that call as follows her Lord in some of the most difficult and challenging places in our world - she has turned away from the world’s values and norms and is alive in places where she will be persecuted because of her Lord, is thriving in the face of poverty, and prophetically challenges the cultures that claim that they do not need the message she bears.

But what of us locally - are we mobile enough to be disciples everywhere in our community? Can we reject the security of our liturgy, our buildings in favour of following Christ into new patterns of worship, or the pubs or Tescos? Are we able to reject our securities and go and speak of Christ out there, where he is? Are we prepared to go with Christ to the places where we will also be rejected, amongst those who do not want to hear what we have to offer? Or are we only really concerned with what our neighbours, or the family or our friends will think of us?

Whether recruited to follow Jesus or simply following him out of one’s own accord, disciples are those who bring their undivided attention to their own journey with Jesus. They are unencumbered people, concerned only with what lies ahead and not behind. They are people on a mission, God’s mission. Like the plough operator concentrating on guiding the plough blade ever so straight, the faithful follower of Jesus is the one whose eyes are fixed exclusively on the Kingdom of God, the one willing to be rattled free from secure surroundings, the one open to rising from the suddenly strangely comfortable pew, and rejoin a journey that we agreed to take part in here. (FONT). Amen.

Secondly from Trinity 8:
As I do wedding preparation with the happy and loving couples that I see, one of the things that I stress with them is that the success of their marriage is based on a number of things. Two of the most important are that they, perhaps most obviously love one another, but more importantly that they communicate. They need to talk with one another, openly and honestly about everything.

Jesus uses the language of real intimacy to remind the disciples of a similar lesson. The success of their relationships depend on the openness and honesty of conversation, but not with each other or even with him, but with God in prayer.

Throughout his ministry Jesus makes prayer a priority. He prays at his baptism. He prays before he calls his disciples, he prays as he is transfigured on the mountain and on other occasions. Jesus is even praying at the opening of this morning’s Gospel reading.

Jesus’ disciples have obviously heard that Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, has taught his disciples how to pray, and so they too want to learn from their own teacher. Jesus responds by teaching them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer.

There is some real debate about whether Jesus teaches this as a prayer to use in this form, or to see it as a framework or structure. Either way it sits formally at the heart of our worship each time we gather together - the irony of this is not lost on me - as the opening words of the prayer are anything but formal.

Jesus calls God ‘Abba’, literally ‘daddy.’ It shows us the intimacy of their relationship together as Father and Son. Jesus speaks to God as a child to his father: confidently and securely and yet at the same time reverently and securely, and he encourages his disciples of every age to address God in the same way. In prayer, Jesus teaches us, we are talking intimately with God who is like a loving parent who gives, sustains and nurtures life.

The heart of this prayer is about God’s kingdom coming and the rest of the prayer reveals the sorts of things that characterise this coming new age. The disciples will see God’s kingdom coming in and through Jesus himself - a kingdom where the poor are blessed and the unrighteous are judged. Here, Jesus encourages us to pray for God’s reign over all creation. In other words, to pray for the coming of the kingdom is pray for the promised renewing of the relationship between God and people through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The prayer of the disciple should place God’s kingdom first and our own hopes and desires second, although they maybe one and the same.

Here Jesus reminds us that God cares for our everyday needs, and asks that he would give us food day by day. Those words should take us back to God providing manna in the wilderness for the Israelites and of Jesus sending out his disciples with no staff, no bag, no bread or money. We need to rely completely on God for the basics in life. In the supermarket, capitalist economy that’s harder than ever to do - perhaps less so if you live in Twewkesbury or Gloucester at the moment. It is at the very heart of being Christian - to trust God for everything.

Jesus’ teaches us that prayer is dead without action. God is seen by others in the world through the actions and words of contemporary Christians. People know that God exists and loves and cares by the way we act. Jesus presumes his followers would forgive, as he had, because we have been forgiven so much by God. Forgiveness does not come easily for us, and it cost God everything. No excuses though, forgiveness is at the heart of the prayer that we pray, not just for ourselves but for all others. It is the will of God and God’s help is available.

Jesus encourages us to ask and seek, pray confidently, but to pray only for life’s necessities. He assures us that in those circumstances God will hear and respond giving us that which we really need - the good things of the kingdom - the gift of God the Holy Spirit - the abiding presence of God himself in circumstance and every trial.

Jesus encourages us to be persistent in prayer, but it’s more than that. He encourages us to almost become irritating like the neighbour at midnight. He encourages us to go on asking for healing or the ending of a terrible conflict, beating on heaven’s door until the knuckles bleed, knowing that ‘Abba’ hears us and as a loving God, likes to give. Prayer is not a checklist to be worked through each day, but we should pray like we mean it and depend on God for a reply.

Jesus modeled prayer by praying, particularly at key points in his life. Prayer is not a theory to be pondered, or an incantation using the right words, but a practice to be lived. Jesus prayed as a priority and kept close to God through it.

We too need to pray, asking God to open us to the presence of the Holy Spirit who guides in every aspect of life, and not so much to tell God things but to find out what God wants of us. Prayer is the means by which we each receive the will of God, the power of God and the love of God in us and into the world still just as Jesus did.

Prayer is about talking openly and honestly with God our father about every aspect of life, it is about listening to him - knowing that he loves us - and remembering not so much whether God is with us but whether we are with him. Amen

Thirdly from Trinity 9:
The moral of the story from the gospel reading today would certainly seem to be ‘You can’t take it with you!’

I remember a item on the Esther Rantzen programme many years ago where they were running an investigation into selling central heating by going from door to door. One aspiring sales rep knocked on the door of an old man and asked whether he would be interested in getting central heating fitted

The old man replied that he wasn’t, saying ‘I’m not going to be here long enough to make it worthwhile’

‘That’s no problem’, said the salesman, ‘we’ve go a scheme where you can take it with you’

‘Listen mate’, said the old man, ‘Where I’m going I won’t need central heating’

Whatever the spiritual destiny of the old man, his response certainly made the young sales man think

A bit like today’s gospel reading. Is it just about not being able to take things with us when we die? Or is it about the focus of our lives whilst we’re here?
It is interesting watching the photographers at a sports event take pictures. From time to time they change the lens on their cameras to enable them to change focus and change their position to get a different perspective

Perhaps in this passage Jesus is challenging his listeners to change the focus and perspective through which they see life and to get a different focus and perspective for themselves

It starts off by someone, knowing Jesus was well versed in Jewish law, asking Him to tell his brother to divide his inheritance with him. Tell him not to be greedy and let me have some. In Jewish law at the time, inheritance was strictly governed; when the father died the estate (mainly land) was passed to the sons, the eldest son getting a double portion and the rest being split equally

So it could be interpreted that the man asking the question has already received his inheritance too but his brother has got more and so he’s asking Jesus to get some more for him, perhaps to even things up a bit – now who’s being greedy?

But life then was much the same as it is now, we often want what other people have, especially if we think they’ve got more than we have and we’ve been badly done to…
Being concerned with inheritance has always been important for the Jews, whether that was the Promised Land or the lands that passed through the family. But Jesus stops them in their tracks and says it’s not the physical inheritance that’s critical, it’s the spiritual inheritance

The Jews were still focused on the physical inheritance of the Promised Land but had almost forgotten their spiritual inheritance as being he chosen people of God. They’d got the wrong lens on their cameras and needed to change to get the right perspective. And Jesus was telling he man who asked him the question that he was focusing on the wrong things

Paul, in Colossians puts it this way, he says, ‘set you hearts on things above… …not earthly things’. And that’s a difficult thing to do. So often we are like the questioning man, we want more worldly things and possessions for ourselves

We don’t think we’ve got our fare share, irrespective of what others have got, we want more
But as we begin to focus on God it puts other things in their rightful perspective. Jesus is not saying money isn’t important – but He is saying it’s not the most important thing in life

So the question to us today is, ‘Where is our focus and perspective?’ Are we worried and concerned that we won’t have enough? Do we think we don’t have our fair share?

The Gospel shows that it doesn’t matter what we have or what we accumulate in a physical sense, that’s not important. What’s important is focusing on God, trusting in Him to proved not just for our needs today, but for our eternal inheritance through Jesus Christ, an inheritance we can take with us. That’s not to say we don’t need to play our part in meeting our physical needs

But Jesus reminds us, as he reminded the questioning man, we shouldn’t focus on them to the exclusion of everything else, especially a focus on God, the ultimate provider. Amen.

Finally from yesterday Trinity10:
John Bunyan’s last sight of Christian and his companion Hopeful, in ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ is of the two pilgrims at the end of their journey, as they enter the City of God. Bunyan has one glimpse of the city shining like the sun. He sees a throng of crowned figures. He glimpses “them that had wings”, and catches the sound of their singing.

Then they shut up the gates. As the vision fades and he wakes to where he is, in the cramped little lock-up on Bedford bridge, Bunyan adds: “which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

In some senses what Bunyan was trying to do was to make real for his day, what the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was doing in their day - to remind their readers of the centrality of faith in the life of the believer, and the journey that faith leads us on toward God.

We heard that strong passage on faith from the Letter to the Hebrews, and it is certainly a topical subject. Faith, we hear, read, and know very well is on the decline in our country and in Europe in general, and has been for a long time.

But what does the word ‘faith’ mean? There is no doubt we use it in a number of different ways. We talk of 'the Christian faith', or 'the Jewish faith', or 'Islamic faith'; and we mean a set of beliefs and practices in each case, some not unlike each other in fact, others special to each religion. But that set of beliefs is like a set of boxes on a form: can you tick them all? how many can you tick? -- on a scale of 1 to 5.

But does that go to the heart of the matter? A person may tick most of the boxes, even all of them, but you might feel that they were not really people of faith. For 'faith' has another meaning: loyalty, trust, attachment: to a particular religion, yes, but more than that, attachment, loyalty to God, to Jesus Christ, to the Christian community as his people. You may not be able to tick all the boxes, the list of formal beliefs as they have come to be stated, but your attachment, devotion to God and to Christ is firm.

Or maybe you find that, as you may put it, 'faith' ebbs and flows, goes up and down: like inefficient water pressure or central heating. But we need not take that too seriously: it is a matter of mood -- how we feel on a particular day. Often there is not much we can do about it anyway; but we can learn from it that God in no way depends on how we feel about him -- how could he? In fact, at least within the Bible shows again and again that God does not rely on our faith in him to be constant. Rather what we see from this morning’s Epistle reading is that - thank God he doesn’t - because what makes faith work in that sense is his never ending faith in us.

But the reading we heard points us in yet another direction. Faith is trust -- through thick and thin, with Abraham as a prime example. In that sense, faith is therefore a little like love. Of course it is reasonable, and common, for people to say that such faith makes no sense: we are trusting in what we cannot see or prove. 'Faith', we heard, 'is the conviction of things not seen'. It is a way of putting our minds together and going for it, lettering God’s love for us to make up any shortfall and allowing it make sense of our lives.

That is why faith is like love. Who can justify their love for this person rather than that? Well, we can point to various characteristics: things that attract, even make sense of our loving. But others may well say: Yes, I see all that, but all the same, your attachment of love, whether for marriage or for friendship, is in part irrational: you have simply chosen, and, within your choice, you will explore. That is faith.

So faith, like love, is always unfinished -- like Abraham's faith in the reading. We should be wary of any people who have everything sewn up, an answer to all questions. Is it not ridiculous to suppose that we, little 'we', could get God clear, know and understand all about God? With God, there is always more -- as indeed in human loves. As Hebrews put it, we 'desire a better country', 'are seeking a homeland'. God is always 'more', always 'beyond'. Having faith in that sense is not just about Bunyan’s vision of a better hereafter a goal or an end, but it must also be about developing a new way of seeing -about allowing God to renew our here and now. Like Abraham it is about being able to believe from a distance and to accept almost as fact, what the Gospel promises in the future, but allowing that future to shape our present and to see with God’s eyes. There’s a lovely passage in the diary of Thomas Merton, where he describes just that. He writes: I was in Louisville, Kentucky, in the shopping precinct, when I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people around me, even though they were complete strangers. It felt like waking from a dream. It was as if I could see the secret beauty in their hearts, the deep self where sin and ego can't reach, the core of their reality, the person that each is in God's eyes. Of course I couldn't say it. You can’t go up to people and tell them they’re walking around shining like the sun. But if only they could see themselves as they truly are … If only we could all see each other that way all the time. I suppose the problem would be that we'd fall down and worship each other.

St Paul taught us that God accepts us, relates to us, not as a reward for our good deeds, not for our achievements, but on the basis of our sheer, pure faith -- our wanting, our being with and for him. Our motto will be not 'look what a good boy -- or girl -- am I', but 'God be merciful to me a sinner'. Amen.



Monday, June 04, 2007

Here is a version of Sunday's sermon for Trinity Sunday - our patronal festival. The barbecue afterwards was excellent and lots of us had a great time together... and the sun shone... and the police came and had a burger with us too - it was great to see them. Good for community relations, but I must admit that as the car pulled into the car park my heart was rather in my mouth...!

My grandfather is on the improve. He has been named 'The Comeback King' by the staff at the home. I praise God that he's not dead yet and thankful that we have some more time with him, but he is still not a well man. Well, we continue to pray for healing.

We also had a time of sharing at the beginning of the service yesterday - call it testimony if you want. A few people shared some good news about people we had been praying for and how they are now much better. Who says prayer doesn't work!



To begin, 2 stories. Firstly, In 1997, Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair by showing how conditioned we have become to alarmists spreading fear of everything in our environment through junk science. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical "Dihydrogen monoxide" because:

1. It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
2. It is a major component in acid rain.
3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
4. Accidental inhalation can kill you.
5. It contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
6. It decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes.
7. It is found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.

He asked 50 people if they support a ban. 43 said yes. Six were undecided and only one knew that the chemical is ... water. Truth can be a slippery thing...

Secondly, a young and very zealous missionary was sent to a small island to convert the natives there to christianity. When he finally rowed his boat onto the the shore and had a chance to look around this rocky outcrop, he discovered no natives, just there three old people living as simple hermits. Right he though to himself, here we go! They seemed friendly and understood his language and invited him to sit and eat with them. Over simple food, the young missionary said, “I have come to tell you about the true and living God.” God said the three - we know about God.” Undeterred the missionary pressed on “not just God, but about his one and only Son.” “ yes”. sid the three, “we know about God’s son too.” That night in bed the zealous missionary thought and prayed on into the small hours of the night about what to do. The next morning it came to him. “I shall teach them to pray! That way they can communicate more effectively with God.

He began to teach them the opening of the Lord’s Prayer. “We know how to pray,’ said the hermits - “we only pray one prayer - Three are thee, three are we have mercy on us.” Days passed and the missionary tried to impress on the hermits the need to pray ‘Our Father’ but consistently they went back to their prayer ‘Three are thee, three are we have mercy on us.” After months of argument and persuasion, the missionary decided to leave the island, frustrated that these souls were not saved. As sailed away from the island, a storm blew up, rough wind and waves, the spray etc. Suddenly, just as he thought his boat might sink, through the maelstrom, the missionary saw a light. ‘God has come to my aid and rewarded my persistence!’ he thought. The light came closer to the boat, and as it did he saw the 3 hermits skimming across the the waves towards him praying “Three are thee, three are we have mercy on us.”

Today, the Church reminds itself of the mysterious truth of faith - that God is three and yet also one. You won’t find direct references to the Trinity in the Scriptures, as what we hold and believe to be true, rises out of experience rather than hard evidence and fact. Sometimes, things need to be interpreted to help us decide if they are true or not. In the same way, what recall today is that God is an unknowable mystery a truth that cannot be explained away. We need to interpret God, we need to understand him, through our own experience and of others in line with what the scriptures tell us.

Truth can be a slippery thing. The Trinity is a way of trying to explain the inexplicable. Not just a divine metaphor though. Trinity rises out of the way that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit interact and co-repond. Baptism of Jesus for example...

John's Gospel from which this morning's gospel reading comes - 'farewell discourses' - I have loved as the father has loved me and I am in them as the father is in me - and so on... clearly show that there is a special bond between father and son - a togetherness in love. Rublev and the gaze of love. Love binding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today is our patronal festival - the day that we recall and honour the saint or saints that give us the name of our church. Can't say for certain why the Holy Trinity was chosen back in teh 1840s as our patron, but with the changing nature of the growing community of Leverstock Green at that time right through to our day - the Holy Trinity will have seemed a good choice. Like the hermits finding their identity as a three-fold community in God the Trinity - the Divine Community which is God has supported this growing local community and help it to find and identity of it’s own in Him.

Finally the Trinity is a bit like bubbles - fleeting and beautiful as they dance amongst and just when you think you have grasped them - they are gone leaving each other. We are a community built in sheer joy where God has danced and played and has left us wit each other - not leaving us on our own, but by bearing his name though baptism and filled with the Holy Spirit, being adopted as brothers and sisters with Jesus, and being filled with him at the eucharist - God makes us one with him and each other in love.

God has danced in this community. As a community called to be like him, literally bearing his name let us dance too... Sydney Carter’s Lord of the Dance - in God’s name dance on.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hi, it's cold!

My grandfather is seriously ill so we're specially praying for him right now. It doesn't seem possible having had such a great time with him and the rest of the family earlier this month for his 90th birthday.

The leadership team recently had some positive time away in Oxford for 2 days grappling with where God is leading us as a parish. Some good outcomes though, not least of all, quality time with Hitesh (bless 'im!)

Anyway, here is a version of what I preached on Sunday. Oh and by the way, remember that this Sunday the services are at 8am and 10.30am which is 30mins later than usual!


A year has passed since we held Fan the Flame, our teaching mission week here at Holy Trinity. Fan the Flame provided an opportunity to discover more about Christianity, the nuts and bolts of what Christians believe, and it gave many of us the opportunity to re-examine what the central tenets of our faith, but more importantly I believe it included the opportunity for a very real encounter with the Living and Loving God. FTF was very important because astonishingly we can become over familiar with God over years of faithful worship, taking Him for granted, and in those cases the Creator of the Universe becomes nothing short of a concept, a word in the liturgy, an unknowable quantity shrouded in mystery.

As some of you might recall we looked at 4 key topics over the evenings of the FTF week which were Baptism and Grace, the Cross and Reconciliation, Resurrection and Healing, and the Eucharist and Thanksgiving. There was nothing revolutionary as such in what we learned over those nights as these are the great themes in the story of the life of the Church. What was revolutionary was what God did that week but also what he has done subsequently in and amongst us.

I believe that during FTF God drew the attention of each of us to a spiritual foundation that he laid in each of us at baptism - a foundation for our whole lives that remains unchanging and lasting. On it are built firmly those four evening themes of grace, reconciliation, healing and thanksgiving - which are in many way the qualities of Christian lifestyle, but I suspect that if we are really honest, these core values had been buried very deeply in each one of us for far too long.

If there was a point to Fan the Flame, it was to do with what the Church recalls today. For Pentecost, whilst being the birthday of the church, was not about God doing something new. The coming of Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promises of God made way back in history.

The scriptures tell us that, you can tell if something is of God, by the fruit that it bears. I am no gardener, but I do understand the principle - if we look after the plants and trees in our garden (sun and rain aside) - they will thrive. The fruit that FTF has borne seems good - 4 home study groups, a book discussion group, a number attending Finding the Way.

There are also some excellent new initiatives soon to be underway with the inauguration of a Pastoral Visiting Team, the training up of 2 people to take Holy Communion out to the sick and housebound. If that weren’t enough, I sense that we are now a church with a renewed sense of God-given purpose and vision, a church who is beginning to see it’s life rooted in God’s mission, a church prepared to share her faith in word and action, a church where we are individually beginning to answer God’s call ourselves in new ways. This sermon is starting to sound more and more like my Vicar’s report for the AGM! The DCC and I are genuinely excited at what God is doing amongst us, but all of this is coming about not because of it’s newness or how exciting it is, but simply due to our willingness corporately and individually to say ‘yes’ when Jesus says ‘follow me.’

Friends, what we remember today happening in that upper room, has also begun to happen amongst us. The coming of the spirit on those first disciples of Jesus transformed their lives and revolutionized their faith. From a group of followers came a group of leaders of the church by the spirit. From a group of listeners and learners came speakers and evangelists and teachers by the spirit. The Holy Spirit has transformed lives here is similar ways and you will have your own stories to tell. Don Evans and Beverley Platten’s stories...

The Holy Spirit did not run out on that first Pentecost. Jesus promised that the spirit would witness to Him, testifying to him and all that he had done said and taught, but the Spirit as Comforter would also stir the disciples to testify to what they themselves have seen and heard. As Paraclete, he will do for the disciples all that Jesus has done, not condemning the world but offering it salvation through them, calling people to examine their actions and lives and have them judged and transformed according to God’s standards. The Holy Spirit does not just transform bread and wine into the body and blood of christ at the Eucharist - he changes lives today.

FTF was in some sense just the catalyst to fulfilling thezs promises of God here. Over the last year I see a church becoming more and more confident that it is loved by God, and more and more confident in her faith in Him. The coming of God’s Holy Spirit on those first disciples transformed them from being frightened behind locked doors, to becoming a community of living faith, a family with values and responsibilities which we are called to share.

Today as we look back, Paul offers us a challenge. Having received God’s spirit at baptism, and had our faith renewed during FTF we must not slip back ito our old ways. Through faith and the spirit we are not just a gathering of people but a family of faith - young and old - brothers and sisters with Jesus with one father in heaven. This is not just true of our worship here on Sunday but our socialising together. The word family refers to the Christian family - all of us. We gather as family though for a reason, and here is the real challenge, we gather to be glorified by God by faith through the power of the spirit. We are a family to revel the glory of God. This means that the way we behave with one another, the things we do, the things we say, the way we handle conflict must reflect the glory of God and honouring to him.

Friends, the Holy Spirit did not run out on that first Pentecost, nor did it stop this time last year. Jesus promised that the spirit would witness to Him, testifying to him and all that he had done said and taught, but the Spirit as Comforter would also stir the disciples to testify to what they themselves have seen and heard. Friends God is stirring us still.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Herewith a version of a sermon that I preached on Ascension Day in Biggleswade. It was good to be back if not a little odd. It was lovely to see some familiar faces and there was a real sense in a way of being at home - amongst friends. Jo Gurney even missed Emmerdale to come - now there is commitment... :-)


Today Jesus returns to the glory of the Father, taking our humanity with him. What that means is that our human nature and God's nature are not opposites. The Ascension assures us that our destiny too is to become divine.The difficulty is that most of the time we see ourselves as the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche did as ‘human all too human, ‘ broken, weak and failing. Yet, today of all days we are encouraged with those first disciples to look up, and as Christ disappears from sight, to remember that as Jesus fully God returns to be with his father in heaven, he also returns as Jesus fully human. The Ascension is about seeing humanity from God’s perspective of history - humanity that is human, gloriously human!

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition this is one of the normal ways of talking about faith - as St Athanasius put it ‘God became man so man can become God.’ Divinity is what humanity is for. It’s our destiny, and we needn’t be shy of saying so. It is the point of this living relationship with God that we’re called into called faith. If you doubt me, go and read your Bible thoroughly! There’s an important passage in John chapter 10 where Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees. They want to stone him because he has called himself God’s son. And his answer is very interesting. He quotes Psalm 82 at them, where God says, ‘I have called you all gods, even though you die as men’. ‘Look’, says Jesus, ‘if God calls all people gods, even though they are mortal, why do you want to stone me for saying something that’s potentially true of you as well? If only you’ll let me in, you can realise your destiny too, and become children of God yourselves. That’s what you’re made for’.

As far as the Bible is concerned, the trouble is not that we are too human, we are not human enough. If we were fully human, as God made us to be, then by definition we’d be divine as well, just as Jesus was fully human and fully divine - Son of Man and Son of God. Because God made us in his image, it's when we are most human, most truly ourselves, that we are most truly like him. It's a sign of the church's failure that to many people outside, Christianity doesn't seem to make you more human but less. Jesus talked about faith ‘giving you life more abundantly’, but it often doesn’t look that way. If anything, people suspect that Christianity narrows life down, takes the fun out of it, and de-humanizes you with a lot of unnecessary hang-ups and hypocrisies.

Speaking of Jesus, St Augustine wrote: “You ascended from before our eyes. We turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts.” In other words, if we’re looking for Jesus, our faith tells us his presence will be discovered in our humanity, in each other. Discovering Christ in each other can take a leap of faith to say the least! But if we’re looking for Jesus, our faith tells us his presence will be discovered in service to those in greatest need. Mother Teresa talked about her work and how important the contemplative life was as she said: “First we meditate on Jesus, then we go out and look for him in disguise.”

In the Gospels it's clear that the humanity of Jesus was rich and full. He was open to every kind and class of person, and he allowed
others to be themselves. He didn't narrow life down; he enriched it and enhanced it. His kind of holiness didn't raise barriers, it broke them down, to the extent that because of the company he kept,
he was accused of being a womaniser and a drunkard. He managed to make people feel at home who would feel completely out of place in our churches today: all the people on the margins, all the disreputable people gathered around him, because he saw past the labels and simply took them for what they were: human beings, brothers and sisters made in the image of God.

There’s a lovely passage in the diary of Thomas Merton, where he describes an experience he once had of suddenly seeing the divine in people. He writes:
I was in Louisville, Kentucky, in the shopping precinct, when I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people around me, even though they were complete strangers. It felt like waking from a dream. It was as if I could see the secret beauty in their hearts, the deep self where sin and ego can't reach, the core of their reality, the person that each is in God's eyes. Ofcourse I couldn't say it. You can’t go up to people and tell them they’re walking around shining like the sun. But if only they could see themselves as they truly are … If only we could all see each other that way all the time. I suppose the problem would be that we'd fall down and worship each other.

A real Christian church is one that shares that vision and does what Jesus did: accepts us as we are, but sees the potential in each of us, and helps us grow into that divine self that we already are in God’s sight. Karl Marx, of all people, once remarked that the Church ought to be the ‘heart of a heartless world’, a place where we can discover and accept one another as real human beings, with
all our wounds and complications, and can then begin to grow together into something more.

The real Church of Christ is not an exclusive club for the religiously and morally respectable that you must qualify to enter. On the contrary, the one qualification for entry is knowing you can’t qualify. The real Church is a free hospital for damaged souls, looking to be healed by love, and growing by love to become more human, not less - and in the process becoming divine.

Back to St. Augustine, who talked about our lives lived in this tension between humanity and divinity and offered this advice: “Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security. God’s praises are sung both there and here. But here they are sung in anxiety, there in security; here they are sung by those destined to die, there by those destined to live forever; here they are sung in hope, there in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there by those living in their own country. So then let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors.”

You should sing as wayfarers do sing, but continue your journey sing then, but keep going.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sorry no updates for a while.

This is due to all sorts of things including ministering to Reg Beacon in his dying days. It was a real privilidge to be so closely involved in supporting the family through what has been a very hard time. I have deliberately held back though since to allow the 'dust to settle' a bit.

We were up in Edinburgh this las weekend as it has been my Grandfather's 90th birthday. Great time was had by all - especially by him! I t was wonderful to be together with other members of the family as we don't very often mostly due to disatnce...

There are several sermons to update here. Firstly come Vicky Johnson from Westcott House who preached (extremely well I hasten to add) on Vocations Sunday. Then the sermon I preached at Reg's funeral. Finally comes my sermon from the Sunday before last.

I will try not to leave it so long with another update!


Vicky Johnson Vocations Sunday Sermon
Holy Trinity Church, Leverstock Green, St. Albans Diocese
Sunday 29th April 2007, 10am

Jesus said ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me’. Have you ever heard God’s voice? Can you hear God calling you? Listening to God, is perhaps something we all find a bit difficult… I know, that for a long time, I thought I was listening, but somehow, I wasn’t really hearing what God was saying.

I thought I, knew myself better, than God did. I set out on a particular path, with a particular plan and I thought that this was sufficient to silence the nagging feeling that God was calling me to do something else. Basically, I wanted a quiet life! I have to say, that the last thing I expected, was to be training for ordained ministry, the last thing I expected to become, was a vicar in the Church of England. Even now, two months before my ordination in Manchester Cathedral,
it all feels like a bit of a suprise.

I bet you’re wondering if I had one of those big, life changing experiences - with lights and flashes and perhaps a deep voice booming out ‘It could be you’! Well, I’m sorry to say that it was all perhaps rather ordinary and boring in comparison. I know some of you might find this hard to believe, but until a couple of years ago I was a scientist. I know what you’re thinking, ‘scientist’ eh? ….lack of social skills, doing dodgy experiments, white coat, safety goggles. This could be a bit of a boring sermon!

More specifically I was, what you might call, a biochemist of sorts. ‘Even worse’ you might be thinking! I don’t even know what the word ‘biochemist’ means! Well, I worked in a laboratory, and I was researching the mechanisms underlying human cancer. Lots of looking down microscopes, and playing about with liquid nitrogen and DNA!

And I have to say, that I hoped one day to discover something useful which might alleviate suffering in some small way.
All this was, to be honest, a bit of a conversation stopper at parties, but I loved my job, and I thought this was what God was calling me to do. But as time went by, I had this little nagging feeling, which wouldn’t go away. It all began I suppose, when I was little more than a teenager.

I remember going to church with my brother, and sister. We sang in the choir. My mum and dad were not regular church goers, but for some reason.. sent all three of us off to church every Sunday morning, with 50p for the collection plate,
which usually ended up being spent on sweets and ice creams on the way home. One day, during a very ordinary Sunday morning service, I remember hearing the priest reading the Eucharistic prayer, and for some reason, those words Jesus said when he broke bread and shared wine, suddenly seemed to be speaking to me. At that moment, I was somehow, in my head, in my voice, speaking the words with him, and they felt right, and natural and holy. I didn’t know what it meant, I had no intention or thought of becoming a priest myself, mainly because I wanted to be a forensic scientist or a police woman,
and in addition at that time, women, yet alone girls, were unable to be ordained. So I conveniently forgot all that had happened, and buried it away somewhere deep where it wouldn’t disturb me again.

Years later, after my studies, I began working in Manchester as a scientist. But I didn’t forget God! I was part of a local congregation, I still sang in the choir, I helped at church fetes, I was on the PCC and even went to Deanery Synod! Sad but true!

I also went along rather reluctantly, to what was called a vocations group, in the parish. It was simply a space where anyone could go to explore what God might be calling them to do in their life of discipleship. That little nagging feeling was bugging me again! It was an amazing group and an intensely humbling experience. Here among such people of faith, I could no longer ignore God’s call. There were people exploring how they could better serve the community perhaps as a churchwarden, or musician, or bereavement counselor, -there was a woman thinking about how God was acting in her life,
as she and her husband tried to begin a family together, -there was someone who felt their job needed to change,
and ended up working in some of the most deprived parts of the city, to ensure that local children would get a good start in life, -there were people exploring how they could live out their Christian life more fully in their employment situation as a nurse, teacher or social worker… how they were caring for relatives, and what it meant to them, -there was woman exploring where God could be found in the midst of her own terminal illness. I felt God was calling me to be a priest, and despite my reluctance to even acknowledge it myself, God seemed to know me, better than I did.

Because everyone around me was trusting where God was leading them and being so courageous and brave, I had to be too.
I had to listen to Christ’s voice and follow where it was leading me. I must confess my first reaction was to ignore it,
to run away, to hide. I pretended that it hadn’t really happened. I mean, I couldn’t possibly be a priest because I was scientist,
I was doing well, had a good job, I was too young, didn’t know enough, wasn’t holy enough. Of course, all those things were true, and probably still are. Coming up with excuses is a very human response to God’s call. A brief glance through the Scriptures tells us that much: Jeremiah was too young, Moses was too scared, Isaiah was a man of unclean lips, and Jonah just didn’t feel like it. And yet they discovered, as I did, and as I’m sure many of you have, that God is nothing if not persistent.

Someone once told me that God’s call is like an itch that won’t go away. There comes a point when you just have to scratch! If God truly is calling us, we will have no peace until we turn and follow him.

So in the end, I kept on knocking at the doors to ordination, and those doors kept on opening before me. After a great deal of arguing with God, I eventually handed in my resignation at work and began training at theological college in Cambridge,
and now I face the next stage of the adventure and have stopped trying to tell God what to do. Which I have to say, is not an easy option, but a necessary one!

I still get it all wrong, and make mistakes, but I know I just have to keep on following where God is leading me. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” Hearing, being known, following. These are things which mark out a Christian vocation. Yet we ought to be just a little careful here. All too often the word “vocation” gets treated as another word for “ordination”, for being a priest. The line of thinking goes something like this: “I know I’m not called to be a priest. Therefore I don’t have a vocation.” Well none of us get off the hook that easily! As Christians, we, all of us here today, have a vocation.

As Christians we are all called to live out our lives in response to Christ’s life, his death and his resurrection. As Christians we all have a calling to belong to the priesthood of all believers. For each of us, this calling involves constantly trying to become a person, who reflects something of the life of Christ. Our primary calling is to represent Christ in the world, and to see and hear Christ in the lives of other people. Being a priest, or a vicar or a curate or any other kind of minister, is one way of doing this. BUt It is not the only way.

There are many ways to serve God, many ways of responding to his love for us in Christ. Discerning God’s will in our lives, is an important, and a holy task for each and every one of us. And yet there is still more to do…because this does not only apply to us as individuals, but also to the communities of which we are a part. We must see Vocations Sunday, as a reminder,
that the Church itself has a vocation, and is called to hear God’s voice and follow where it leads. This afterall what the Church’s mission to the world really is.

This morning, I want to encourage you all to spend some time thinking about your own vocation, about God’s will in your life. Talk to each other about where God is in your life and in the life of this community, listen to each others stories about how the Holy Spirit is working in and through you. Be attentive in worship and listen out for God speaking to you through the scriptures, through the eucharist, through music and through community. Spend some time reading the Bible together and listen to God’s word might God be speaking to you through what you read? Listen to your community outside these walls– might God be speaking to you through them? Might God be speaking to you through your work, your family or your friends?
Listen to God through prayer. Ask God to reveal his will to you. Ask to hear his voice, and then ask to be given the grace and the strength to follow him.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” Lest we think that vocation is a nice, comfortable thing, where a wise old shepherd gathers up his fluffy sheep and all is happy and contented, let me end by saying this.
Following God’s will for us isn’t always an easy path and I think we all probably understand that. Every time we pray the Lord‘s Prayer, we say to God, “Your will be done”. It’s worth remembering that when Jesus prayed these words in the Garden of Gethsemane, he ended up on the Cross. Vocation, God’s call in our lives, does not promise to be easy or comfortable,
or even free from pain. But it does promise to be the means by which we find our fulfillment, as bearers of Christ’s light and love in this world and where we live out a resurrection faith.

Our vocation and our mission, whatever it might be, springs from that place where we realise we are fully known and unconditionally loved by God. Our vocation and our mission springs from the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and
brings us all to a new life, Our vocation and our mission springs from God’s call and our desire to follow him. I am constantly asking myself how I can respond to that call. How will you respond?


Now I am wearied of the day; all my ardent desires shall gladly succumb to the starry night like a sleepy child.
Hands, stop all your work; brow, forget all your thoughts; all my being now yearns to sink into sleep.
And the unchained spirit wishes to fly up freely into night's magic sphere and to remain there forever.
We have willingly and joyfully walked hand in hand; now let us rest from our wanderings through the silent land.

Those words come from Strauss’s ‘Four Last Songs’, music and words which were very dear to Reg, and in some ways they are so poignant. Yet those of who have had the privilege of knowing Reg know that today he is not headed for ‘night’s magic sky’ but a place with God in heaven.

Faced with the prospect of his own death, Jesus reassures his disciples - do not let you hearts be troubled, believe in God & believe in me. The faith of the Beacon family is strong, Reg’s own faith was quiet but sure, but faith does not take away the sadness and sting of death. What faith in God at times like this does, is remind us that death is not the end.

Christian faith assures us of a renewed relationship with God and an understanding of what life is truly about - through the ministry and teaching of Jesus. This relationship extends into eternity through faith. But faith is not some sort of insurance policy, but a relationship of love, just the way that God intended.

God’s love extends to all, not just to those of us who call ourselves Christians. St Paul reminds us that nothing we encounter in life can separate us from God’s love, not even death itself. God’s heart of love, his house with many rooms, is large enough to welcome us all. It is Jesus who extends that welcome to us and prepares a place there for us through his death and resurrection if each of us place our faith in him.

Reg placed his faith in him. He knew that faith in Christ was the way to a relationship with God that would last; he knew that Christ’s teaching was true; he knew that the life that Christ offered him was not just available to him beyond the grave, but day by day. It is this faith that has equipped and shaped the Reg over the years whether as an army officer, work colleague, Church Warden, Parish Trust secretary, or fete organiser, father, grandfather or friend.

Strauss continues: ‘...Now you appear in all your finery, shining brilliantly like a miracle before me. You recognize me once more, you tenderly embrace me; all my limbs tremble at your glorious presence! ‘ Reg knew the presence of God with him especially at the end. I had the privilege of ministering to him on the Monday before he died and we prayed, talked, and shared Communion together. He was physically a shadow of his former self, but as I prepared to go, a peace came over his tired face and he looked at me clearly in the eye, and I knew that he was ready to be tenderly embraced by the God he loved.

Jesus’ words therefore are for us today - be sad, but do not be troubled or afraid - for whilst we will miss him terribly - by faith Reg today appears before God’s glorious presence in all his finery, shining brilliantly like a miracle. Amen.


‘..True love begins by demanding what is just in the relations of those who love....

Let us not tire of preaching love, it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out, it is the only thing that can...’

Those words are Oscar Romero’s, more words of his feature on one of this year’s Christian Aid week posters. He was born in a small village in El Salvador in 1917. Ordained priest, he was known as a quiet and unassuming pastor. By 1977, amidst the political and social turmoil suffered by his country, he was therefore seen as a neutral choice to be its Archbishop. Courageously, however, he began to speak out against violence and his homilies supported the demands of the poor for economic and social justice. He refused to be silenced and continued to preach even under threat of assassination. On 24th March 1980, whilst presiding at Mass, Archbishop Romero was assassinated by a gunman.

Friends, Archbishop Romero is right, that our love, driven by our faith in God must affect the whole of our lives and shape the way we live - a faith that is a hallmark and that is visible in how we live amongst others and how we react to them.

So it seems strange in a way for us to be transported back to the upper room and the last supper in this morning’s Gospel reading. Yet these words of Jesus’, first spoken to frightened disciples just before his death, are underlining this idea of a faith that defines our life in community after the resurrection and ascension, after Jesus has gone away.

The gospel begins at supper, a gathered group of friends - chatter, noise, banter. Jesus knows that his time is near. Such is his love for this raggle taggle band that he removes his clothes, picks up a bowl and towel and washes their feet. Walking in open sandals on dusty or muddy roads made everyone’s feet dirty. A good host would always provide water to wash his guests’ feet, and sometimes even have a servant on hand to do it. However, so menial a task was never carried out by male servants - always by women, children or non-Jews. But as so often the case with Jesus, the normal order of things is reversed, Jesus does for us what no-one else is prepared to do for each other. Like someone nursing a dying spouse for whom the most basic tasks are an act of love, so in the same way Jesus kneels at his disciples feet.

Having begun with this visual aid, Jesus then outlines this hallmark of Christian life further and more plainly, his disciples are to follow his example of love and care. However as he looks round at his friends he sees Peter who will deny him and Judas who will betray him, so he warns them of this coming betrayal - Judas leaves and goes out into the night of loneliness and disappointment.
Now Judas has gone out and it is night, but paradoxically the hour of darkness is also the hour of greatest blinding glory. It is hard to comprehend how death and suffering on the cross can bring glory to God and salvation to the world. Jesus knows that his coming death and departure will be a great shock for his disciples but he stresses right at the start that he on his way to glory.

Knowing that he is going away, Jesus is intent on leaving his disciples with a new way of living without him physically present - so implores them to love as he has loved them. Sounds easy. I wonder if the disciples thought so too, but I am sure that the penny dropped as they cast their minds back to earlier in the evening. Jesus demonstrated his love for them by washing their feet - they should love like that... PAUSE. Jesus means the sort of love that selfishness usually prevents, not the sort that responds to a demand, but the sort that responds to Jesus’ “as I have loved you” and “God so loved the world that he gave his only son”, and he loved the disciples to the extreme of washing their feet and dying for them.

St. Jerome tells a story of John the Gospel and Epistle writer, in old age reduced to simply repeating ‘my little children, love one another.’ Yet this is the heart of the Gospel - so simple yet so difficult to live out. This is the hallmark, the defining faith visible in our lives that Jesus calls us to strive for and I pray we will continue to rediscover. Such extreme love is the hallmark of Christian life, the way by which others will know that in Jesus’ words “you are my disciples.” In the centuries of poverty and persecution which followed Jesus resurrection, this was the one characteristic that people could not ignore as those first Christians opened up their homes to the poor and needy ‘see how these Christians love one another’ wrote the roman historian Tertullian.

My friends, this morning God reminds us that his love for each of us is compassionate, intense, and unconditional. God’s love is boundless. This love of God boldly declares that all people —every person—is God’s favorite. This love makes no distinction among people. It does not judge. It does not make comparisons between one person and another.

Henry Nouwen writes, ‘I am convinced that many of my emotional problems would melt as snow in the sun, if I could let the truth of God’s motherly non-comparing love permeate my heart...’

This morning in Leverstock Green, God turns his face toward each of us. The NOs of shame; of guilt; of lack of self worth; of depression, are now swallowed up in the person of Christ. These NOs are rejected. And we all become God’s YES. We are accepted, shame-free and guilt-free. And we are now included with all our foibles and frailties.

This loving God sees each of us as his favorite; that He is not comparing us with someone else—God loves each of us and wants to have a relationship with us.

We are not in the darkness of the night like those first frightened disciples, but we are living in the light of Easter and of the risen Christ. Together with him, let us love. Amen.


Phew! :-)