Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Evening! I am enclosing here a link to the blog of a friend of mine, Mark Brown, and an interesting paper about internet usage, the digital revolution and the church. You can download it as aPDF

Here's the link:

Post your thoughts here...


Copy of the Advent resources now up on the church Facebook page and the Five Minutes Space blog (


“Putting the waiting back into wanting.”


Christmas 2008 looks set to be a time of real stress and pressure for many families. The mounting debt crisis and reports of property repossessions means that people are going to find the traditional commercialised Christmas putting a total squeeze on their family finances.

This coming season of Advent can provide an escape from all that and an opportunity to reclaim the true spirit of Advent. As Fr Christopher Jamison (BBC “Monastery”) writes in his forthcoming book to be published later in the year:

“Advent is the traditional month of preparation before Christmas, a time of fasting and intense prayer, a time of eager expectation. It is above all a time to celebrate waiting as a normal part of human experience, when the Christian tradition invites us to wait for the birth of a child. In Advent we rejoice that we are waiting, that there is still time to prepare a way for the Lord and we celebrate the virtue of patience. By contrast, the consumer world tells us not to wait but to ‘buy now.’ Greed cannot wait, so to learn to wait is a simple antidote to greed.”

This advent, we want PROPHETS, not PROFITS!

THE TWELVE “Cs” of Christmas

1.Christ: on whom all our waiting is centred. In the simplicity and modesty of his birth, we find God’s word among us with a clear message: “Live simply.”

2.Consumption: the engine of economic growth which enslaves us and treats creation as a mere commodity there for our use.

3.Community: a true focus outside of ourselves and immediate families directing us to be mindful of those in need around us.

4.Covetousness: the envy that drives so much materialistic pursuit and which is expressly singled out in the Ten Commandment for special attention.

5.Carols: with their multiple and joyous references to the humility of the Christ-child story.

6.Carbon: the by-product of so much of our modern over-consuming lifestyle.

7.Creation: God’s marvellous work, of which we are a small, but key part. God works ex nihilo, creating out of nothing. Even before the advent of humans in the Genesis creation narrative, God looks on at each passing day’s work and declares all that he sees as “good”.

8.Climate Change: our great unchartered experiment with the biosphere. Threats to creation loom large if we don’t awaken ourselves to the call to go back to some basic principles and live more simply, more sustainably.

9.Covenant: God’s faithfulness pledged first to Noah and then through Abraham, resulting in the coming of “God-with-us”: Emmanuel, promised to Israel.

10.Chaos: the disordered world that awaits if we do not live accordingly within the limits of God’s precepts.

11.Candles: four for each of the weeks of Advent, signifying the coming light that will shine in the darkness and which “darkness cannot overpower.” (St John’s Gospel Ch1

12. Commercialism: that which sees the price of everything and the value of
nothing and sees, in Christmas, one sole opportunity: profits (and not

Plan for first weekend of Advent. To divide the Saturday and Sunday into two distinctly different days.

is a day of fasting and abstinence in which we reflect soberly on how humanity has fallen short of our vocation to be good stewards of God creation. It has a pre-Easter, “tomb-like” feel to it, before we break out into Sunday: an unapologetically pro-Creation day.

The readings of the first weekend of Advent lend themselves (with great serendipity) to our theme and offer great scope for reflection.

Isaiah 64:1-9: “that the mountains would tremble before you…all of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…we are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.”

Mark 13: 24-37 “Learn this lesson form the fig tree: as soon as the twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near….Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away. …keep watch for you do not know when the owner of the house will come back.”

There is ample liturgical material that can be accessed from the Iona community for both Saturday and Sunday. In addition, there are some inspiring hymns and reflections in Geoffrey Duncan (Ed): What A World (Granary Press 2002). I cite two here:

A Prayer of Intercession

Father of all,
Creator beyond time, we think of the flow of seasons and generations that is our home,

We remember those who have lived before us:
those whose explorations have left us gifts of knowledge and expertise,
those whose hard work has been the foundation for our prosperity.
those whose sacrifices have become the stuff of our legends,
those whose faithfulness has challenged our ambivalence.

We dream of those who will live long after we are gone:
the great, great grandchildren who will know us as ancient pictures,
the generations of every nation who will trace history back to us,
the people who will shape the world, in part, upon the lessons we demonstrated,
the believers who will know you, a little, through our tesyimony.

Past and future meet in our presence.
So we pray for ourselves and those of our generation:
that we will hand on a world worthy of humanity and of you, eternal God,
that we will measure our treatment of creation against the needs of those unborn,
that we will treasure our world and protect it from ourselves,
that we will be so inspired by your Spirit that our work will bear distant fruit.

And to you, eternal and intimate God,
be all glory, praise and honour,
as it was in the beginning
is now
and for ever shall be
world without end

Neil Thorogood


Come to worship on foot (wherever possible), our pilgrims return.


Most Holy Trinity
We thank you for the beauty of your creation
and for the joy of living in a world so full of wonder,
may all nature join us in praise and worship
adoration and longing love, in response
to the gift of life you have given us.

Lord of all creation
may the beauty of this earth
lead us to a deeper worship of you.
A reverence that causes gentleness.
Fear that leads to holiness
and a peace we long to share.

As evidence of our own creativity and the gifts that God has invested in us, we ask the members of the congregation to offer up, during the liturgy, their own work: that their crafts become a prayer to God (this is extremely useful for engaging the younger children in several weeks before.). Children can be enthused to make use of materials that would be destined for the scrap heap and put them to good use to make:

Animals, flowers, images of their own home and family, the Sun, trees etc.

The mood is upbeat: having Eucharistic faith in the pledge that God will not abandon us and that we have been given the creativity to face up to the problems that beset us.

After the service, people are asked to make their advent pledges: for some this will be to put a cap on the cost of each individual present. For others, it will be a pledge to use their own human creativity to make gifts for their loved ones which are not templates of mass-produced products. Members of the congregation retire for a stint of craft-making.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

During Advent I will be updating a special Advent blog - I hope that this will become a place where you might want to come for five minutes reflection and a chance to pause.

Each day during Advent I will post a short reflection there. I hope that as you spend time at your desk or at home, it might give each of us opportunity to slow down, still down and use Advent - even for just five minutes - for what it originally was designed for... to prepare for the Coming God.

Also, coming up during this holy season:

Sunday 30th November - Advent Sunday
10.00 am All God’s Children - a service for all
3.00 pm Seven Bells to Bethlehem - an Advent Carol Service

7th December - The Second Sunday of Advent
10.00 am A Communion service including a speaker from CMS

14th December - The Third Sunday of Advent
10.00 am A Communion service including a speaker from USPG

21st December - The Fourth Sunday of Advent
10.00 am The Lord is Here - a Communion Service for all the family
3.00 pm A Traditional Candlelit Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Every Sunday
8.00 pm Meditative Night Prayer (Compline)

Every Tuesday
12noon Midday Prayer

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living - an Advent Course. SIgn up in church.

Finally here is a draft of last Sunday's sermon.

We find ourselves at the end of the church’s cycle of readings, at year’s end, today. We have been introduced to Jesus, we have heard him preach and teach and seen his miracles. We have been with him all the way to the last supper, the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. We have walked with confused disciples, following Jesus, who post Pentecost became the Holy Spirit filled leaders and preachers of what became the Church. But where is jesus now?

The end of Matthew’s Gospel that we have been reading through recently is all about preparedness. First of all, there are the foolish bridesmaids, who ran out of oil and so missed the wedding; then there is the slave who wasted his chance of increasing his one talent while the master was away; and now we have the sheep and the goats.

All of these people and groups are unprepared for what is about to happen, and they face terrible consequences. For the stories are not just about the importance of being ready, but also about judgment. But where is Jesus now?
The people in the stories make their judgments. The foolish bridesmaids decide there is no great rush. The slave with one talent decides to do nothing. The “goats” decide that some people are not worth bothering about. God then makes his judgment, and, unfortunately, it is completely different from theirs.

All the people standing at the throne of glory are taken aback by God’s judgment, and, more particularly, by God’s judge. They were not expecting to see the Son of Man up there on the throne, looking completely at home, with angels around him carrying on as if they thought he was God. Here is Jesus....

As the people are separated into two groups, one on the right hand and one on the left of this awesome yet recognisable figure, it is clear that both groups are equally puzzled. They are both, you might say, unprepared for this standard of judgment. Neither group had lived their lives expecting to have them judged by this man, in this way. As their sentences are handed down, both groups say: “We didn’t know we would be judged for that.”

The judge does not explain himself, but he could have pointed to both the Law and the prophets, which make it clear what God expects. The reading from Ezekiel, for example, shows God himself looking for the lost sheep and longing to care for them.

It also shows God’s judgment on those “fat sheep” who kept the pasture for themselves, and deliberately pushed away the hungry and the needy. Any well-brought up Jew listening to Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats would recognise the justice of the judgment handed out to the goats. No one could say that they were not warned about the nature of God.
So how did they — and how do we — manage to be so deceived? How did we manage to persuade ourselves that there would be no real consequences for the way we live? As we gorge ourselves to death, how come we do not realise that we are the fat sheep, pushing the starving millions away from our green fields?

That is what makes Jesus, the Son of Man, such a terrible judge. Judgment is not something alien and distant, but something that bears the human face of the neglected, the tortured, the crucified.

God is not far away - his advent is near - he comes to liberate the oppressed, and we cannot plead that we did not know what he wanted of us fat sheep. We know perfectly well what the hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, sick and imprisoned people around us want. Jesus the Son of Man is to be our judge, and the human face he shows us is all too recognisable.

Because of the terrible nature of judgment, the seemingly awful exclusivity of it, society keeps telling itself that you don’t need to be religious to please God. Although the judge is Jesus, the King, the Son of Man, it is certainly true that the sheep didn’t think they recognised him in those whom they helped. But where is Jesus now?

Today, as every day, we are honouring the one who understands life, who destroyed death, and rose to eternal life in heaven - Jesus Christ. It is he who now has authority over all, things. Where is Jesus - he is everywhere and in every situation. Today he challenges us to continue to see him at work in his world in the poor and oppressed - and to respond, but not just to their need, but as if to him,

When we, his Church, acknowledge him like this as Lord and King in our lives, receiving bread and wine - remembering him as he commanded us, we become his body, we can have no illusions about what that body looks like. Where is Jesus now - but in each one of us...

We believe in God’s great power, at work in Jesus, to bring life out of death. And so we, his body, work to bring life out of the death all around us. We work to pay attention to the real human beings with whom God came to identify, and we look around us for the life that he created and redeemed out of love. Amen.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cracking services this morning but I am exhausted now... Herewith a version of my sermon for Remembrance Sunday (with thanks to those who helped!)

There are very few people left who can recall the slaughter of the Somme or
Passchaendale, but there will be those, who like me, have been told stories about it. It is hard now to believe that Northern France and Belgium were the scenes of such carnage.

There are, though, those here today who remember the second world war. People who know what Dunkirk and D-day were really like, people who experienced being prisoners of war in the Far East, people who lost friends or family members. For them, this act of Remembrance is particularly poignant.
There are others here today who wait anxiously for the safe return of those they care about from Afghanistan or Iraq, knowing that there have been many wounded and killed in those conflicts. And there are those who are not with us today because they are now serving in Afghanistan or iraq.

Remembrance is important for all of us, young and old, perhaps it is of even greater importance for those of us who have not been affected personally by war. For war puts into stark contrast the choices we have in life, choices between good and evil. If we look to the second world war, there were many individual acts of bravery. Men who ran to rescue their injured fellows under heavy gunfire. Those who went back onto the beaches to help another. Those who went into the wrecked shells of houses to look for the injured. Those who risked capture and death by hiding Jews. Not only those who laid down their lives for their country and friends, but those who laid down their lives for people they did not know, who were not of their religion. Is that not the greatest love that humankind can show?

But war is not all heroism. There were those who looked after themselves first, those who gave no thought or respect for individual lives. In both wars there were those who turned their back on the injured. But worst of all there were those who turned their back on love completely. Those who tortured, starved and gassed men women and children.

It is no different today. Nor was it in any other age. We must not forget that we too can be raised so high or sink so low. If we have not been put to the test we cannot be sure how we will behave. We must keep alive the memories of the war. We must tell our children and make sure that they tell their children. For we must all be made aware of the choices before us, and the pressures of war show so clearly where the paths lead - on the one hand to selfless love, on the other to denial of love, denial of our own humanity.

If we turn our back on love, we inflict pain upon each other and upon God.
Yet it is so easy to turn away from love when our prejudice makes us fail to see Christ within another person, fail to see a person at all.

When a teacher treats a child as just another pupil instead of seeing him or her as a unique and valuable individual, when an employer cuts the work force and sees only numbers not names, when a government sees the homeless as an unfortunate problem that is damaging tourism, and fails to care about its causes, when a church cares only about its members and ignores the cries for help from outside its walls, then we are ignoring the soul within, we are loving selectively, we are inflicting pain. These are the seeds that if fed with a little fear and a little hate can lead to Atrocities.

The only God who can be worshipped on this Remembrance Sunday, indeed any day, is a God who suffers with us. At the heart of our faith as Christians lies the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, who reveals God to us, dies. The crucifixion of Jesus rescues us from naïve optimism because it identifies God with our pain and suffering.

The death of Jesus shows God bearing the pain most visibly, God suffers. There is no easy way out, no legions of angels flying to the rescue. God like us suffers. Like us when faced with unbearable grief, Jesus shouts ‘why me’‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’

Yes some of us have personal memories of war and its affects and aftermath, others of us are shocked by its contemprary clinical brutality on other shores, but we believe in a God who speaks to us of goodness in the world. We are confronted all around us by evil, but so too are we faced daily by goodness. There are great saints as well as appalling sinners. The great love that we know in others is a love which finds its source not in a meaningless universe, the result of an accident.

Jesus, the Son of Man, man as God intended man to be, perfect in love, shows us that love by giving his life for us. That perfection of love, perfection of humanity should be our aim. Look again at his story. He was thrashed, then stretched out upon a cross, humiliated, ridiculed, bleeding and in agony. Men did that to him. Ordinary men, with homes and families, but men who turned their back on love, or who chose to love selectively. Each one of us has within us the potential to evil such as this. It can slip so easily, so unobtrusively into our lives that we do not even notice its presence.

Remembrance Sunday is about the past. It is there to honour those who gave their lives for others. Today, here as we remember those who have died, we also remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead. The risen Jesus offers us hope that the power of death and sin in the world do not have the last word, rather God who who had the first word in creating us does! Remembrance Sunday must be about Jesus Christ. For through his death on the cross, Jesus doesn’t just suffer with those who suffered and continue to suffer because of war, rather he offerered his persecutors forgiveness and reconcilliation.

We, by bearing his name, made in his image and empowered by his spirit as we gather to remember today, personally, locally, nationally and internationally, must seek to do the same. Amen

Monday, November 03, 2008

Short and simple. A version of Sunday's sermon... Confirmation tomorrow at Apsley... praying for John, Ustane, Alison, Louis, Harry and Amy...

I was shocked watching Orla Guerrin’s report from the Democratic Republic of Congo the other night. I was shocked to see humanity push and shove itself over itself to get to an aid station to get food. There was no concern for who was trampled on, who was separated from their families, who was injured or crushed only to discover that all the aid station had in stock were high energy biscuits. I was further shocked by the reaction of the staff at the station... some with BBC journalists trying to save as many from being crushed as possible, but others reacting to the unruly crowd by lashing out with large sticks in an attempt to keep control. I was shocked at the contrast between simple human concern and sinful dehumanization.

This contrast is present in plenty of places in the world at the moment - Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan are just three examples. But the dehumanizing affect of war and its aftermath have been a constant theme throughout human history... which we will recall again especially next Sunday... as we recall warmongering, peacemaking, and peacekeeping as three sides of a story told in Ypres, Normandy, Poland, The Falklands, The Balkans, and Sierra Leone.

Dehumanizing actions or words are not limited to the war zones of places like the Congo. We dehumanize ourselves and each other every time we treat someone as less than they are, every time we treat someone as an object to be controlled or despised, every time we time we treat someone or their beliefs as strange.

Dehumanization is a difficult word to stomach, and in the last few minutes I am well aware that I have made it all sound a bit abstract, a bit ethical, a bit lecture theatre and has nothing to do with us. Today. Now. But every time we tell a half truth about what we did with our day, every time we get angry with our spouse or child, every time we that idolize the latest glamourous celebrity more than our husband or wife we dehumanize ourselves and each other.

We dehumanize all too easily. It seems to come all too easily to all of us from time to time in our lives. If only being life-affirmingly human came as easily to us. It’s easy to identify how to dehumanize but what does it mean to be human, life-affirmingly human?

Genesis 1:26 tells us that human beings are made in the image of God. In other words the capacity for life-affirming humanity lies at the heart of every one of us because we are made to be like God in some way - to be in relationship with him and with each other.

Paul and others talk of the call to be saints in connection with the church that they were part of and ministered to. The saints were the church - they are not exalted figures and there is not a halo in sight - they are believers who still have their failings and sins yet who through God’s call in Christ have recognised the sin in the world and in their lives and are committed through Christ, to doing something about it. They are attempting in everyday life to follow the way of

Christ’s disciples. These people are not self made saints, they don’t selflessly suffer in silence, but Paul is clear - we are ‘called to be saints’ (1 Cor 1:2) and are part of the ‘holy and beloved elect’ (Phil 1:1).

Saintliness is something we are all called to as all of us, people of faith and none, are made in the image of God. We begin our saintly journey by acknowledging God and his love for each of us through our baptism. Saints are those who take that relationship with God, whose image they bear seriously, and who deepen it through study of the scriptures, attending worship, praying faithfully and through other special occasions such as receiving communion for the first time or being confirmed both of which are happening for some in this community in the next few days.

Saintliness though as is so often the case with God, turns topsy turvy, what our expectations might be. Saintliness flies in the face of celebrity culture and hedge funds and bonuses. Being a saint is nothing to do with greatness, learning, power or influence, but everything to do with humility, openness, honesty and love.

In a world where we so easily dehumanize ourselves and each, other God’s call to saintliness needs to be seen and heard afresh in our generation. In a world that needs to rediscover the core of what it means to human, life-affirmigly human, lies in a relationship with God and each other, God’s call to saintliness needs to be seen and heard in our generation.

But please God, not a saintliness of otherworldly aloof glass or plaster faces, but one which takes our basic humanity seriously. The humanity Jesus was born into. The humanity that bears God’s image.

Today and every day God calls all of into relationships of love with each other and with him. As we seek to live and grow and thrive in these relationships, God calls us to saintliness, but a saintliness that blesses us and those around us when we are poor in spirit, or mourning, that blesses us or those around us who are meek or who hunger and thirst for what is right, that blesses us and those around us who are merciful or who make peace, that honours those who persecuted because of their striving after justice and what is right for it is these saints that God longs for - sometimes dehumanized by ourselves and others - but through his love, it is to such as these, it is to such as these Congolese, Iraqi, and Afghani, unemployed, depressed, or lonely, it is to such as these (POINT), that God’s kingdom belongs. Amen.