Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fab service this morning and busy too.

Herewith my sermon for Holy Cross Day...

In 1986 Julie Chimes agreed to let an emotionally distressed acquaintance wait in her cottage until her busy doctor boyfriend was able to make the time to get home in order to assess his patient. No one, not even the woman’s psychiatrist or family knew that she had recently taken herself off all medication for paranoid schizophrenia. Helping herself to a carving knife, she then set about attacking Julie. In a piece she wrote she said:

I think of myself as fortunate because I have never felt a victim. I can remember shouting out that I loved my assailant, which, given the circumstances was as much of a surprise to me as being stabbed. The physical pain was excruciating but a phenomenal strength and focus arose within me, which guided me out of the cottage. Eventually a courageous passer-by managed to disarm my attacker, as she was trying to hack off my head. Police eventually arrived and thought me dead, but I was aware of everything...

From my perspective the sequence of events that had led up to her arrival in our kitchen were so bizarre I knew there was no one to blame. I felt certain the attack was part of a much bigger picture. I believed on some level that it had had to happen and it was not the tragic accident that most people thought. I was determined to understand and a quest for truth began to unfold within me.

My rapid recovery from the five main stab wounds was considered something of a miracle but the attack affected my family leading to ill health and in a way my mother’s early death. My step father later asked for my forgiveness. I am neither christened nor religious but Christ’s words about “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” is the closest way to describe how I felt. This expansive feeling of understanding and compassion even allowed me to take a call from my assailant’s sister, who wanted me to know her sister was desperately sorry and asked my forgiveness. As I blamed no one, there was nothing to forgive, but there was still a lot for me to learn and understand. I wanted to know if it was it possible to reach this place of peace without some horrific trauma.

I have learnt that this inner place of forgiveness and peace is available to everyone, everywhere and in any circumstance. I now know when there is understanding there can be compassion. When compassion arises there can be forgiveness. Where there is forgiveness there is peace.

Friends, after this sort of horrific crime, talk of retribution would be perhaps considered normal. Banner headlines on the red tops would be screaming for it. The more extreme the crime, the louder the shouting. And yet despite the calls for the reintroduction of capital punishment and full life tariffs, we are also less and less willing to take responsibility for our sons and daughters, or indeed for anything for that matter. We want the life tariff but will not acknowledge the part we have played in creating a culture where that is even suggested - where we are increasingly alienated from each other, where life moves fast, where all that matters is getting to the top and doing it at the expense of everyone else, where I reach out and take what I want now - whether I have earned it or not - whether that’s staples from the stationary cupboard or my neighbour’s new car.

In our experience of personal tragedy or loss, of ‘who is my neighbour?’ we still shake our fist at the sky and blame God. “If God loved me...”, “if He is all powerful...”, “if He is there...” and yet, it is exactly in these sorts of places that the cross stands, eclipsing our life and our world.

The cross is a dark place. It brought justice and judgement on the criminal and retribution for the vengeful aggrieved. Yet Jesus was no criminal and God is no hate filled father. But the cross for each one of us is retribution for our sinfulness but it is God who takes the responsibility.

Today is Holy Cross Day, and today we are reminded of the victory or triumph of God on the cross. In a world of countless seen and hidden Stephen Lawrences, of Afghanistans or Iraqs, of domestic violence or tragic accidents it’s hard to take... There is tradition the says that the cross of Jesus was made from the wood of the tree in the Garden of Eden from which Adam an Eve ate. Somehow, through his cross, Jesus’ death offers life and hope, it renews the relationship with God that humanity first had in Eden. On the cross, the affects of our sin are dealt with and God forgives us, and forgives us and forgives us.

Our society wants retribution because we cannot offer forgiveness. We cannot take responsibility for our actions because we cannot receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is acknowledging what has happened, and in spite of it, changing a relationship.

Julie Chimes felt that there was no-one to blame for what happened to her so therefore nothing to forgive despite her horrific attack. If it were me, I’m not sure that I would feel the same. This my friends is surely why the cross is a victory and a triumph for God and us. For through Jesus’ death, God acknowledged that there was much to forgive between Him and us. Each sin of ours, a stab wound to his heart of love. But somehow through the cross - the price is paid for my sin and I go free from its slavery to it to live God’s way. Somehow through the cross Jesus takes my place and receives the punishment due to me for my sin. Somehow through the cross - Jesus ultimately reconciles all that it is to be broken and human with God his Father.

I am forever grateful. My life is so easily a mess - not living by God’s standards, or not living up to either your or my most basic expectations. Yet between you and me and me and God stands Christ’s cross - offering forgiveness and a change in our relationships.

Through the cross we are each offered real hope - the way we are is not the way we should be, says God. For the cross stands between heaven and earth, pointing the way, pointing me again God’s way.

That’s hope. That’s triumph. That’s victory. That’s forgiveness. WOuld you Adam and Eve it? Touch wood...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tired today... and I still have this cold. Oh well...

One of my fave bands, Mansun, their album 'Six' was ten years old on Sunday. So in honour of it, I listened to it again yesterday. A cracking cd. Well done guys.

Ben seems to have taken to Nursery like a proverbial duck and Peter to playgroup similarly. Al seems better today about it too - an emotional thing seeing your babies become more independent!

I'm feeling good 'bout the lead up to the activities for the Autumn. We begin the START course at Leverstock Green School on Thursday. I hope and pray that it might speak into the lives of some members of the school community.

START is you chance to think about the big things in life. In an fun and interesting way it will help you to:

* Think through where your life is going
* Learn to ask questions about the Christian faith
* Discover who Jesus is, what he teaches and why it matters
* consider how you want to respond to it - and to him!

The sessions assume no previous knowledge of anything Christian. Using a mix of video input, time to chat, simple discussion activities and space for reflection, all in a style which is down-to-earth and honest, and which aims to be enjoyable too!

Sessions begin on Thursday at 7.45 pm. Don't miss out!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Herewith a version of this morning's sermon. A cracking service... thanks be to God!

By now you will know that our teaching weekend ‘L!VE iT’ is a matter of weeks away. You will have prayed for it and heard hopefully much talk about it and it’s importance for us this Autumn.

For a moment though, cast you minds back. Many of you here this morning will know or remember that back in 2006 Holy Trinity held an exciting week-long event called 'Fan the Flame' which renewed the faith of many people here today.

For those of who were part of Fan the Flame, I think you will agree that the week was immensely important for us as a church. Through it we examined the basics of christian faith - forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, the cross, resurrection and so on. Many people here rediscovered the uniqueness and enormity of the love of God for them.

It is this enormous love of God that Paul writes of in his letter to the Romans that we have heard some of this morning. It is a love that reaches out to each of us in and through Jesus Christ, and offers us nothing less than an eternal relationship with Him - the way that he always intended. Throughout his letter, Paul argues that all humanity is guilty and accountable to God for sin and that it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can have that relationship restored.

The L!VE iT weekend is an intensive opportunity to remind ourselves of what lies at the heart of Paul’s letter. Over that weekend we will be learning together about our central act of worship - the Eucharist. Those planning this weekend felt that this was a vital theme for us as a church. For in sharing in the eucharist, through breaking bread together and drinking wine, we give thanks to God for, and in a way re-enact, God’s offer of that restored relationship of love.

Any relationship that we may be part of requires work. I say that to every dewy eyed wedding couple I see. Love, I tell them, is not a spontaneous emotion. You cannot just randomnly fall in love or fall out of love. To be in a love relationship means that you make deliberate decisions to do and say loving things to each other. When the Bible speaks of love, it does so as an action. Something that God does to us, and we are to do to each other.

Similarly our relationship with God requires work. We don’t just randomnly fall in love with God. He showed us love first through Jesus. We have each responded to that love in some way. If, though, we do not continue to work at our relationship with him our it will go stale. Paul, as Jesus elsewhere, is quite clear, love acted upon and lived out to God and neighbour fulfills all that God asks of us.

It can become all too easy to take anyone in any relationship that we might be part of for granted. The consequences of that should be obvious in say a marriage or even a close friendship. The same is true of our relationship with God. It should be so much more than worship on a Sunday. It should be a relationship that defines us, drives us, challenges and changes us. And yet, over time, many of us might admit that coming to church becomes nothing more than a habit from time to time. Something that we just do, rather than, as Jesus promised us in the Gospel reading this morning, where 2 or 3 gather expecting to meet with Him, there he will indeed be.

Paul says to us - WAKE UP! If our relationship with God is nothing more than habitually coming to church - WAKE UP! If we are knowingly meeting with God on Sunday and yet slipping easily back into what Paul calls the works of darkness - WAKE UP! Instead let us renew our relationship with God and each other and - to use Paul’s phrase - put on the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, lets work hard at our relationship with him through prayer, service to others, study of the scriptures and receiving the eucharist - that our relationship with God becomes so intimately close to us its like wearing a shirt or a blouse.

L!VE iT is an opportunity another opportunity for us to grow together in friendship and grow in faith; to become both individually and together, more the people God longs for us to be.
The church council, the planning group and I commend the weekend to you, and especially to your prayers. But friends do let this opportunity pass you by. Do not miss out on an extremely exciting opportunity to deepen and renew our relationship with God. Amen.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Here is a copy of an email I sent today. I would value some feedback from any of you who read this, so do let me know!

A simple question, if we were to launch a new service, when would be best for you and would you come? Choose from below:

A Sunday 7pm informal, more adult, quality teaching and a chance to respond, prayer for healing etc
B Saturday or Sunday (monthly) with informal tea. At Leverstock Green School perhaps. 4pm?
C Weekday version of option B
D Sundays monthly - 11.30 am - family service. More informal. Not Eucharist

Watched Secret Millionaire again tonight. I love the fact that, yes the money that is given changes the people and organisations that are in receipt of it, but the people who change the most are the secret millianaires!

If you do not shed even a little tear watching it - you really have no soul! Well done channel 4!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Back from hols and it's fair to say that so far I am rested and relaxed!

I cannot believe that it's September already! L!ve iT is only a matter of days away now and there is still alot to do. That said I am very excited at what God will do through this weekend.

If you haven't committed to coming and joining us over the weekend of 26-28th September then please do. Full details are available at make sure you scroll right down.

For now please do pray for this exciting opportunity using the following prayer:

God our Father,
you have invited us to share the meal
which Jesus gave to the Church:
Transform us by your Holy Spirit,
through bread and wine,
so that we may we be fed by his presence,
and become a family in his love. Amen.

There is a lot going on this Autumn with a course called START beginning on 11th September at Leverstock Green School all about life and faith. The preparation for children 7+ to receive communion before confirmation begins on 20th September at 3pm at St Benedicts church. We also begin our house groups again next week - we're looking at material called 'Worship Changes Lives' which looks really good and the impact on our life together could be amazing - God willing! If you haven't signefd up to come then you best do so quickly - as the groups begin on Tuesday at 2pm, Wednesday (2 groups) at 8pm, and a new group meeting on Thursdays at 8pm.

I am feeling excited also following the skills audit - if you haven't returned your form - please do so quickly. Many people have replied and have graciously offered to serve God in many ways in and outside His church. Thank you very much to all of you who have.

So, the Autumn is a time when the church celebrates Harvest, and thanks God for the goodness of the earth - it's also a time for us at Holy Trinity when we can look to God tending, nurturing and growing our faith and friendship together.

Don't miss out - come and grow with us!