Monday, November 29, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front...

Well, all is quiet here at least during Advent...

You'll find me still blogging daily on my Advent blog until Christmas Eve with hopefully some helpful meanderings to provoke, to ponder and to find peace with during this holy season.

My Advent blog, Five Minutes Space, can be found here...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent Sunday - The Word as a Wordle

Here is the gospel reading for Advent Sunday from Matthew 24:36-44, as a seasonally coloured Wordle...

‘...But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour...'

It is interesting to note that the Wordle highlights the words son, man, one and coming. The Son of Man is one who is coming.

Who or what is the Son of Man? It seems that the phrase over the centuries has meant different things. In the very earliest times it referred most probably to a human being or one's self. For example in the Old Testament in Numbers 23:19
לא אישׁ אל ויכזב ובן־אדם ויתנחם ההוא אמר ולא יעשׂה ודבר ולא יקימנה
God is not a human being (איש : ['iysh]), that he should lie,
or a mortal/son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]), that he should change his mind:
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Ben-adam. The son of Adam. The son of a man.

Later in the Book of Ezekiel in chapter 2:

He said to me, Son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), stand on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 The Spirit entered into me when he spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard him who spoke to me. 3 He said to me, Son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), I send you to the children of Israel, to nations that are rebellious, which have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me even to this very day. 4 The children are impudent and stiff-hearted: I do send you to them; and you shall tell them, Thus says the Lord YHWH. 5 They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6 You, son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), don’t be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you, and you do dwell among scorpions: don’t be afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear; for they are most rebellious. 8 But you, son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), hear what I tell you; don’t be you rebellious like that rebellious house: open your mouth, and eat that which I give you. 9 When I looked, behold, a hand was put forth to me; and, behold, a scroll of a book was therein; 10 He spread it before me: and it was written within and without; and there were written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

Son of man here appears to be a title referring to the humanity of the author, much how the word "human" may suffice in English. It is not a respectful appellation, but a humbling one (in some cases, an arguably abject one), and this use is a consistent pattern throughout Ezekiel.

In other words, the son of man, is a downtrodden figure that the prophet Daniel then links with a divine figure, the coming Messiah, a theological link that was strengthened during the time before New Testament.

In the New Testament, Jesus uses the term in similar ways, but some think he might just be referring to humanity generally.

How do we deal with this this Advent? The Son of Man is coming - that's what Advent is about. Getting ready for the arrival of the Messiah figure - God's chosen leader who would forge a new relationship between humanity and God and free humanity from the oppressive regime that they were bound by. Then it was a longing for a Divine King freeing people from the rule of the Romans. Today it might be a longing to be freed from debt, from habit forming behaviours and led to a better way of living. Or if the Son of Man refers to the whole of humanity, then a longing that a better 'version' of humanity is coming, is made possible by God. Either way it is a hopeful vision indeed... God's take on things, is that He longs to free us and enable us to be the people that He and we (however deep down we may need to look) long to be...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Fest of Christ the King - A Royal Wedding

Everyone loves a good wedding and this week we got news of a biggie! Finally sections of the nation cry... Prince William and Kate Middleton have announced their engagement and are planning to marry next year.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones one of many of the Church’s leaders to congratulate the couple, said that “one of the first sources of tension” for an engaged couple was “the invitation list. . . Don’t imagine that the royal couple will be immune to this, however big the church they choose.” It may be a royal wedding, but it is just a wedding with all of the joy and stress that you would expect.

Cynics are already queuing up to see an alternative benefit for the announcement. Lord Sugar, of The Apprentice fame, encouraged companies to use the announcement to bury bad news. it would seem, whether intended or not, that is what has happened.

Because of the Royal announcement the story about former Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving payments from the government (in return for dropping claims that British secret agents knew they were being tortured) struggled to be reported as did other stories including the loss of up to 3000 police jobs.

Weddings are normally a source of good news and rejoicing. Ours certainly was. It was stressful to organise and if we did it all over again we might do parts of the day differently, but would we get married in the first place. I love Alex and I wanted nothing more to show her that by making public commitments before our families and friends and in the sight of God.

Now whilst the detail of the wedding day begins to fade into the mists of history - nearly 10 years now - the fact that I am married is not in any doubt. How do I know that? I could show you our marriage certificate. certificate - my name is there, so’s Alex’s and it has been witnessed by our fathers’. How else could I and you be sure that I am married? Well, I have a memory of an event at a certain date, place and time with family and friends in a church and then a reception venue in Somerset. How else though can you be sure that you are married - I could reflect on nearly 10 years experience of married life with all it’s many highs and mercifully not so many lows.

Today, on this Feast of Christ the King, we recollect a royal wedding, where earth is wedded to heaven and heaven wedded to earth; where Jesus, God’s appointed King of the universe marries His bride - us. For today we celebrate the completing of God’s work in Christ, offering the world a chance of a lasting relationship with Him and knowledge that all that holds us back from being the people He and we long for us to be - our guilt, our shame, our sin - are taken from us. This royal wedding isn’t a chance to bury bad news. It is the best news in the universe and is shared in joy every time we accept Christ’s kingship of our hearts and lives and of our world.

How do I know that Christ is King in my life? Emily will be able to show you her baptism certificate. The day that she was committed to Christ. Her baptism in itself, doesn’t make her a Christian any more than being born in MacDonalds makes you a hamburger. For Christ to be King of her and our lives begins with an event - for some of us that will be our baptisms. For some of us it may be the day that we made a concious decision to discover more for ourselves. For my marriage to Alex to work though we need to continue to work at our relationship; spending time together. The same is true for Emily’s and our relationship with Jesus - spending time with him in prayer and worship and in reading the scriptures, and in spending time together, seeing her love for him grow and her ability to live and love like him to flourish.

How do I know that Christ is King in my life? Emily will be able, with some help, to recall her baptism day and the people she shared it with - especially her parents and Godparents. For Christ to be King of her and our lives involves recalling not just today, but another event in history where earth was wedded to heaven at the foot of the cross of Christ. How the crucifixon of Jesus offers us a new opportunity of a relation of God is a theological debate we could have, but but that event some 2000 years ago changed the course of history for Emily and for you and me, for through it, we can know God for ourselves and invite Christ to direct and shape our lives and actions. To become what the Bible calls Christlike - not being a holy goodfornothing, but being more loving, joyful, peacefilled, more patient, more kind more good, more faithful in friendships and relationshps, more gentle spirited, and more self-controlled. Sound good?

How do I know that Christ is King in my life? Emily will be able, with some help, to recall her baptism. But baptism is not the end of something, rather the beginning of it. For Christ to be King of her and our lives involves not just the events of today, but the actions of tomorrow. If we long to see our lives changed and transformed and to become the sort of people He and we long to be deep down, it will take Emily and each of us time to live each day the way that Christ would want us to. That is hard, but it is is the experience of Christ’s promise to be with us always, every day every where we are, which gives us the resources we need to try to follow Him, to live and act and speak like Him, to constantly be asking ourselves - what would Jesus do in this situation?

A wedding, however royal, must have as it’s foundation - contract of love between two people - for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health. On this Feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the contract of love between God and Emily revealed afresh in her baptism, and God and you, and me, and all of us; God loves us through good and bad times, whether we know it or not. Unlike the wedding day, this love of God costs us nothing and is available at all times and in all places, but it cost him everything in one time and place. To enter into that love relationship - all you have to do is ask. As of today, with the help and support and prayer of many, Emily will begin to know Christ as King of her life. Would you? Pray...


That was a version of the sermon I preached this morning on the feast of Christ the King. At the Eucharist, we also baptised a beautiful baby called Emily

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Advent draws near...

Which must mean that my Advent blog, Five Minutes Space, needs to be taken out of it's wrappings from last year and spruced up.

Why not head on over to have a look at three online resources I have made available to help you get the most out of this holy season.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Word as a Wordle

A wordle of the Gospel reading for the Fest of Christ the King (Luke 23:33-43:

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This is an amazing song by an amazing, underrated band. Health warning though, the video might, note might, unsettle some of you.

Enjoy the song. It's from their superb new album "Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up."

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Saw this excellent post on the Vernacular Curate's blog...


"When you see that old man walking a little bent, just think he was once a proud young matloe [the nickname for a sailor] swinging along, head held high. When you sit next to him in church and see tears in his eyes when he sings “oh hear us when we pray to thee, for those in peril on the sea” – his thoughts go out to the night he was torpedoed and still hears those cries for help – he survived, but he will always remember those cries.

The man down the road who tells you about his army days ay “Cassino” and the day he went back to the scene of the “battle” [otherwise known as the Battle of Rome, 1944] many years later – he remembers the shattered monastery rebuilt, how lovely it looks, how peaceful; now the organ playing; a place for prayer and outside just the song of the birds. He looks around at the hills and sees the Polish cemetery now so serene and peaceful and then he goes down the hill and sees the German cemetery – he says a prayer for them. They were only lads like himself doing their duty for their country. Then on to the British and Commonwealth cemetery where he sees a headstone that bears a name he knows. He stops to says ‘hello’ and on and on to see many more names and thinks what a lovely cemetery this is, we have done these boys proud – but with tears in his eyes – he thinks of his son and daughter, his grandchildren and then of the families of those boys and what might have been.

Perhaps, when you are walking the dog near that old airfield, you saw a man standing looking at the old ‘dispersal bay’ and then towards the old billets, now derelict. He thinks to himself ‘that was once my home’; he thinks of the good times and the sad times and of the empty beds (usually seven); he looks towards the control tower and can still hear the WAAFs voice calling them home. Now his eyes look to the skies, he is thinking of his old “Lanc” can hear the sound of the Merlins and a feeling of tense fear and excitement runs though his body – he is now on his way to Germany and now back again, sitting down to hot tea, egg and bacon. But he thinks of the last night he saw the dispersal bay – the night he lost six of his best friends. The target was Karlsruhe. One moment they were a crew – a team – and then fate stepped in and the Lancaster was just a ball of fire hurtling earthwards. He still can’t believe how, with his parachute still intact, he was thrown into the air. He is now thinking how lucky he was to be a P.O.W. as now he can come back and look at the old airfield, but now his thoughts go back again to Germany and the boys in that row of graves, and although he had known them only a short time, what a privilege it was to claim them as friends.

Let’s also think of the S.O.E. agents [Special Operations Executive], Odette, Violette Szabo and many more, the Special Duties Squadrons that took them into enemy territory. Theirs was a very silent war and so often forgotten.

As we remember of servicemen let’s not forget the man down the road. When asked what he did, he says “well, I was a firemen”: he didn’t tell you of the days and nights he spent away from home, fire-fighting in London, Portsmouth, Coventry etc. – the smell of death, the bombs still falling; the same goes for so many more unsung heroes who gave so much – the police, ARP, Home Guard, WVS, nurses, doctors, ambulance crews, Salvation Army, Church Army, the clergy, all transport workers, munitions, parachute and clothing workers, the Land Army and so many more. Let us also not forget the brave Merchant Seamen, the evacuees and those who took them in – so many brave people, so many more names. Not forgetting the people who were bombed out of their homes but still kept cheerful, the people who took them in, the refugees from Europe.

At remembrance time let us think of those men and women of all wars, past and present, the people maimed by war and still suffering to this day. Think of the widows and families, especially those too old to visit the graves of their loved ones. Also think of those people who work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who tend those graves so lovingly.

So, when some old “codger” takes a little longer to get on the bus, or pack his trolley in the supermarket, let’s not say, “come on granny or grandad”, but think: these were the same men and women who, when their country called said ‘here we are!’

...instead let us say “thank you, granny and grandad”

This piece was written in the 1980s by Ricky Dyson and his wife Mavis. Ricky was a rear-gunner on the Lancaster Bombers during the Second World War, and was one of a very few who survived. He was decorated with the George Cross for his bravery. Ricky died some time after writing this piece, though Mavis is still a member of our church family. Ricky was a true hero of the War, and I dedicate this post to him, his friends, and all the fallen in our World Wars.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Bad Plus...

For the last decade progressive jazz trio The Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King) have been stirring up a musical stew that defies easy description. Drawing on classical, jazz, rock, pop and beyond, they force their listeners to rethink notions of what differentiates one style of music from another. The London Jazz Festival returns to Kings Place to celebrate their 10th birthday.

"We really care about classical music, and we also care about the more improvisational forms like rock, pop and jazz," says Iverson. "I believe that we can pay composers like Ligeti and Stravinsky and Babbitt the respect they deserve, and we can also recognize composers like Kurt Cobain and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and David Gilmour as poets at the same time." King agrees: "We consider the whole spectrum to be worthy of our detailed attention and worthy of the same respect."

Looking forward to seeing them live again real soon!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Signs of the Kingdom...

A copy of this morning's sermon from one of our Lay Readers, Tim...


This time before Advent is called Kingdom season, and in it we think about the Kingdom - but which Kingdom?

Multiple meanings in the Bible
Kingdom of Heaven - where God reigns, angels, etc.
The future Kingdom on earth - the Second Coming of Jesus
The Kingdom now, Jesus reigning in the present.
We'll look at each of them.

The Kingdom of Heaven
Our gospel reading today is one of the rare places where, before his own death, Jesus talks about resurrection, and leaves no room for doubt about it. We have a sort of folk lore picture of Heaven as a wonderful place with pearly gates guarded by St Peter, but behind that is a vision of a life beyond death, when none of our earthly problems trouble us, and everything is perfect. Most religions, even primitive ones, have this sort of idea, and it's an attractive one. The picture we have in the Bible, for example in the book of Revelation, is rather different.

The Kingdom of the Second Coming
In parts of the New Testament, particularly Paul's letters, we can see a belief that Jesus would come back to earth soon. It wasn't worth worrying about things, because they wouldn't last long anyway.

Throughout the ages since then there have always been people holding this same view. Some of them have claimed to know the exact date; others have just said it would be "soon", and have claimed to see signs in events on earth that point to "the end". Jesus himself said that no-one could know how or when he would return, so there's not much point in speculating about that. He also said, more importantly, that because we couldn't know when, we should always be ready.

I saw fliers recently advertising a meeting in our Village Hall at which someone was going to provide "proof" that we are near the end. Don't hold your breath!

The Kingdom is now - Jesus
When Jesus spoke about the Kingdom, he was almost always referring to the present. He chided the people for not recognising the signs of the Kingdom around them - and for not playing their part in making God's kingdom a reality.

Signs of the Kingdom
People sometimes talk about "The signs of the Kingdom". These are things in which we can recognise God's hand at work, through the Holy Spirit guiding people, ordinary people like us, to follow Jesus, and to do what he would do.
"a real church" - when moving to Manchester

These signs are the equivalent in our time of Jesus himself living and working among his people.

Let's look at some of them:
1. Let's start with the presence of Jesus himself in the midst of his people, visible in the form of joy, peace, and a sense of celebration. We are "Jesus people", and it should show!
2. Next comes is the preaching of the gospel. There was no gospel of the Kingdom to proclaim until Christ arrived. Now that he has come, the Good News of the Kingdom must be preached to all. The preaching of the Kingdom points people to the Kingdom itself. Remember, though, that preaching doesn't have to be in words!
3. Another sign of the Kingdom is healing - Jesus made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the sick whole, raised the dead. These were not only signs pointing to the reality of the Kingdom’s arrival, but also anticipations of God's final Kingdom from which all disease, hunger, disorder, and death will be banished forever. God is still free and powerful and performs miracles today, though we may not all experience them directly.
4. Another sign of the Kingdom is the miracle of conversion, when someone's life takes a dramatic turn towards God. We don't all experience that, but some do, and we've heard of some examples in the Just Ten series and elsewhere.
5. One of the more visible signs of the Kingdom is, or should be, the people of the Kingdom in whom the world can see those Christlike qualities that Paul called ‘the fruits of the Spirit’. We're called to show God's love, and that love inevitably leads to what we sometimes call "good works". So if the gospel is Good News of the Kingdom, good works are signs of the Kingdom. We can't separate what we believe and how we behave.

That isn't either an official or complete list, but perhaps it gives us some idea of what people outside may be looking for when assessing our faith. If those things are not happening, and seen to be happening, where is the Kingdom?

Last night's fireworks certainly lit up the village, and provided a clear beacon for anyone looking for Leverstock Green. Let us pray that Holy Trinity may also be sending out clear signals that God's Kingdom is here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

PORCUPINE TREE - The start of something beautiful

After yesterday's addition, I had to add this as I think this is my favourite PT track of all time...


Sunday, October 31, 2010

The grace of God... and Wayne Rooney...

I am not a fan of premiership football on the whole. As you all know I am a fan of proper football in the Championship and I am probably Hemel’s only Preston North End fan, something of which I am proud. But when our fortunes are dwindling, I was staggered at the antics of one particular premiership footballer in recent days. A certain Wayne Rooney. The news that he was leaving Man United was like a bolt out of the blue. The wage to stay though was breath-taking... When the average UK house price is £230,562, someone seems to be looking out for him.

In biblical times, affluence was a sign of the favour and blessing of God. Abraham is blessed by God in the book of Genesis - evidence of that is all the ‘stuff’ he came to have - cattle, sheep, male and female servants and so on. Similarly in the New Testament in the teaching of Jesus, in the parable of the Rich Fool, his crops have produced so much grain he contemplates building bigger barns to store it all. Now I don’t know if God takes account of recessions or not, but it seems that blessing, affluence and success are to be spoken of in the same sentence - as one follows on from the other. In other words, if you are rich you must have found favour with God.

A prostitute went to see a minister in wretched straits - homeless, sick and unable to buy food for her 2 year old daughter. Through sobs and tears she told of how she had been forced to prostitute her own child to feed her drug habit. He could barely take hearing any more of the story she was telling and besides he was legally bound to inform the authorities if he became aware of any cases of child abuse.

Unsure of what to say to her, to offer her any advice, and so he asked her if she had ever been to church to seek any support. The look she gave the minister would live with him for the rest of his ministry, ‘Church?’, she said incredulously, ‘Church? Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They would only make me feel worse!’

Blessed are you who are poor, you who are hungry, you who weep,blessed are you when people hate you says Jesus. On this All Saints Sunday, the blessing of God, those on whom His favour rests, are not on those affluent few whose lives are measured in tabloid headline inches, but on those who weep, whose lives are poor,empty and broken. The rich, the full, the laughing, those of whom much good is spoken of have already been rewarded of their own doing now and are not seeing or living by the standards of eternity.

To live by the standards of eternity is to live by God’s standards. Living by these standards takes us along the road to what we might call saintliness. Jesus says saintly living is not about a rarified holy way of living, but is simply put - God’s design for life - a better way to live. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

When we consider the lives of those the church traditionally calls saints, what strikes me first is how very ordinary most of them were but how thet tried to live out these words ....from that clutch of Galilean fishermen to a consumptive French nun,from a wounded soldier who spent most of his time dreaming of damsels in distress to a forthright Albanian with a genius for spotting Christ in the slums of Calcutta. None of them looked in the least remarkable – they didn't start out as super-holy beings, nor, I suspect, did any of them spend their days with heads surrounded by a heavenly glow. They didn't even aspire to outstanding holiness but they lived Christlike lives and accepted the gift of grace that God offers to all of us, and in so doing, they found themselves transformed.

The Saints we celebrate today are ordinary people trying to live Christlike lives transformed by the grace of God celebrated in the windows, paintings, statues, icons hymns... and pews around us. Yes you too... We are called to be saints, it is in our spiritual DNA, to strive to faithfully follow Jesus Christ in our day and to proclaim the Gospel in words and works of love.

Part of our saintly calling though is therefore to side with those whom God sides and favour those whom He does.

As we answer His call on our lives to Sainthood, we must also recognise that whilst He is transforming our lives as we worship Him, His favour, His blessing, rests on those in pour community where we might least expect to find it - in the home of the grieving widower, at breakfast with the family struggling on benefits, in the cold flat of the assylum seeker, in the frightened dreams of the child in care, yes even on that prostitute mother... Love them says Jesus. Support them. Do good to them because few are, and why, because as you see your life transformed by grace and new life, so the grace and new life spills out and blesses them through you... God’s blessing is on them because of you.

On this All Saints Sunday, we thank God for His transforming grace at work in people past as well as in us today as we seek to follow Him. We pray that we would not squander that grace He so freely gives us, so that it turns into sour judgement of others in our hands and fills our mouths and lives with bitterness.

Rather let us pray that as God’s grace transforms us, it would charge us with a contagious holiness to be God’s blessing on those in our community, especially on those who need it the most. Amen.


With love and thanks to @goodinparts for part of this...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Word as a Wordle

Here is the Wordle and text of the Gospel reading for All Saints Sunday (Luke 6:20-31)

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame youRejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation. ‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry. ‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep. on account of the Son of Man.

‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

So some initial thoughts thus far...

In this teaching, Jesus is looking at the bigger picture for humanity and her society, with the eyes of eternity. For there seem to be eternal consequences for life and actions in the now.

What does it mean to be blessed? It's something to do with God's provision and providence but it is also to do with invoking God, but here Jesus says that God's blessing on those whose lives did not traditionally show it - not on the rich but the porr, not on those who were happy but the sad, not on those with lavish food but on the hungry etc...

Jesus is encouraging his hearers to a godly way of living that recognises that fact.

There are questions related to this passage about what success is? Are we successful if we are happy, if you have lavish food etc. It is a gospel for the Wayne Rooney generation.

How do we live as citizens of the kingdom of God? We are part of the kingdom, we should live and behave as it's members.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The CofE is making itself look stupid...

This excellent post comes from the "Employment Rights" blog which you can read here. The topic he writes about will cause some people pain, but I believe the time has come for the church to grasp the nettle and get consecrating...


Women bishops must be on a par with male bishops.

The draft legislation in the Church of England General Synod which is going to dioceses will allow women to be consecrated as bishops, if passed by diocesan synods, then agreed by general synod.

It is an issue which has been on the cards for 50 years, but seriously anticipated since 1992 when the first women in the Church of England were ordained priest, some 40 years after other provinces of the Anglican Communion, and many years after the Methodist Church.

Ordaining women as priests or presbyters – elders – presupposes that as priests they can undertake any role in the church even overseer or bishop – episcopos.

Our society is increasingly frustrated by attempts to relegate women to a second class citizenship, to pay them less than men, to give them part time temporary jobs and to give men full-time permanent jobs.

The credit crunch is likely to hit women harder than men…

Yet I can envisage women caring for their families with what little they have while their male partners go down the pub and spend their money on beer and themselves.

But that’s by the by, stereotypes don’t help much do they?

This week I want to talk about the Church of England and women bishops.

You may have heard of the Ordinariate, a Roman Catholic welcome pack for Anglo-Catholics, as long as the bishops aren’t married, and the priests promise celibacy, married or not. Let me quote one of my mentors, a certain Church Mouse: (Reproduced with thanks, though not permission)

‘First up we have the Anglo-Catholics. They seem to be splitting down the middle, with Chairman of Forward in Faith, Bishop John Broadhurst, stating that he is off to join the Ordinariate. However, he has utterly confused everyone by stating that he intends to remain Chairman of FiF and that FiF is not a Church of England grouping. This will be a surprise to the members of FiF, who are exclusively from the CofE. It was also a surprise to the Catholic Group in General Synod who have “distanced themselves” from his position and are encouraging people to stay in the CofE and fight on against women bishops.’

Then there is the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda.’

These bishops and clergy plan on sticking around for the time being, as Bishop Tony put it to me when I asked him.

‘To what end we do not know. In fact the only thing we do know about this society is that this group is exclusively for Anglo-Catholics. I am nt welcome to join. Perhaps FiF wasn’t doing it for them any more, so they wanted to re-brand.

Next up we have the Conservative Evangelicals. Not happy with existing groups such as Anglican Mainstream, Reform and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans UK, they have voted to set up a society themselves. Actually, it was just a majority of the 170 members who turned up to their annual conference who voted for this move. Again, I am not welcome to join. There seems to be a view emerging that societies can be a model under which bishops can be appointed for factions so that the faction can segregate itself from other factions within the church which it doesn’t like.’

I considered founding the Society of Willibrord for Anglicans who plan on staying put, and being involved in mission and evangelism, but it already exists. Willibrord was noted most for going to Germany, hence the humour about staying put, maybe sending others to mission fields! I would be welcome in my own religious society, but I think I would have been short of bishops, except that there are plenty of Old Catholic Bishops whose orders are recognized.

So The Church Mouse on his blog announced today that he is establishing the Society of St. Magnus for Orthordox Church Mice. Again I am not welcome to join: as he wrote: ‘If you’re not a Mouse, please don’t talk to me any more.’ The equality of women is an issue which even the most theologically illiterate can grasp, that’s why women bishops will come, and however much the church embarasses itself parliament won’t allow anything less than full parity for women bishops…but how soon? And how silly will we look with our theological posturing in the mean time?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why new media matter in the Church

The post below comes from Bishop Alan Wilson's (the Anglican Bishop of Buckingham) excellent blog which you can read here


People who don’t get it about new media often assume that the revolution in communications through which we are living is driven by desire to play with kit.
Thus the anxious, especially those who do not want to appear anxious, can stay safe from any requirement that they change, by treating the use of contemporary media as a hobby.

“Phew! real change is happening, but belongs in the world of electronic hobbyists, so it can be business as usual for us.”

In fact, communications revolutions are always driven by the ways they change people. The invention of the printing press did have interesting implications for industrial design technology, but greater far was its impact on people’s attitudes to authority including the Church and the government. Once people could read and write, especially
en masse, the old assumptions were subject to constant critical scrutiny. And, as the dear old CIA used to say, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

The true implication of the printing press only took hold in the twentieh century, as costs came down sufficiently to allow information that had previously been privileged to flow all over the place. Information revolutions never go backwards, mostly because people have an insatiable thirst for information, and you can’t uninvent the technologies that provide it. One World War I song title expressed the rulers’ dilemma in the face of 20th century mass media technology perfectly — “How do you get them back on the farm, now that they’ve seen Paree?” But at least, then, they could try to control the media.

20th Century press was entirely free, as long as you owned a press. Now we all own a press, and we remain voracious information producers and consumers. We want to know the gossip, we want to know what’s going on, we want to be entertained.

Let me illustrate. Back at school governors in the 90’s we had controversy about making seat belts compulsory on school trips. We wrote to a local MP who assured us he was very much in favour, but the European Union, the square banana lot, wouldn’t allow progress on the issue. One governor had a dial-up connection and downloaded minutes from Brussels, where the UK had singlehandedly opposed compulsory seat belts on school buses, as a restriction of free trade. Same politician. Touché! Our dear leader was instantly outed for a bit of hypocrisy that would have been almost undetectable before.

What is called from all leaders in our new context is not necessarily technical skill, though the old pride that “Sunshine Deserts” British managers used to take in not being able or willing to type, an assertion of their superiority, is obsolete.
It’s about radical transparency and mutual accountability. We shouldn’t have too much to fear, for our Scriptures teach mutual submission, redemption, and a call to consistency of life (Holiness). These are not things for which clergy should be too busy (or not). I wonder if our feared deficits in these weightier departments cause as much gut-churning fear of, and resistance to, new media as technical competence or busyness. I hope not.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Living God's Love...

Following the success of the Lent Challenge via text message, tweet and email, the Diocese of St Albans launch a new innitiative called 'Living God's Love.'

'Living God's Love.'

is an invitation to journey.

It's an opportunity
to discover new things about God,
ourselves and the world,
to look with fresh eyes and explore new ways.

It looks like a good resource and a valuable initiative, have a look and why not sign up for the Advent challange here...

The Word as a Wordle

Here it is folks - the Wordle of the Gospel reading for Bible Sunday from Luke 4:16-24...

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.

Social Media for Social Chnge...

As someone who sees the possibilities and uses Twitter and Facebook (feel free to follow me in either or both spaces) to extend the walls of the church into the virtual space, I was delighted to be made aware of this day conference... and I have booked my place...

Social media is changing the way we relate to one another on a daily basis. Globally people are spending more time on Facebook than they are using Google's search engine. Five hundred million people are now communicating via Facebook, and Twitter is reshaping the way that news is spreading around the world. With this amount of change occurring, how can Christians harness the power of social media to bring social transformation?

30 November 2010, All Soul's Church, Langham Place, London
Cost: £15, including lunch and refreshments
Plus, the first 30 people who book will receive a complimentary copy of Leonard Sweet's Jesus Manifesto at the event - so book now to get one!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

God Grant Justice...

I have been gripped by a story of humanity, faith, perseverence, and hope this week. I am of course referring to the rescue effort to free the 33 miners from underground in the San Jose copper mine in Chile.

What was it about this story that so captivated the us? Was it tenacity? Was it human perseverance? Was it engineering skill? Was it the miners’ faith and trust in God? For me, in all honesty, it was all of those and more. It seemed so unlikely that those miners were alive at all. It seemed unlikely that those miners would ever resurface. It seemed unlikely that the miners would be together emotionally in any way and yet, against all odds, their story - a rescue into the pitch black underworld snatching back the stranded one by one, has gripped us all. The rescue moved me because it is a story of the triumph of good over evil, of hope over despair, of life over death.

The other story that has moved me this week is the counterpoint to that of the Chillean miners. This week the inquest opened into the deaths of 52 people when bombs ripped through tube trains and a bus in three locations on 7th July 2005. Seeking justice for the dead and injured, the coroner’s court has heard harrowing evidence about the extent and arbitrary nature of the attacks, but also stories of incredible courage as civilians and members of the emergency services ignored warnings about returning to the bomb blasted scenes to search out the injured and the dying. As the carnage of those attacks is turned over one shard of metal at a time, we notice again and again the hand of human compassion reaching out to embrace, to hold, to heal and console.

This morning’s Gospel reading sounds like it is straightforwardly a parable about prayer. The Gospel writer Luke even tells us so - Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart, and yet as we take a closer look there is more to this story than first meets the eye.

The judge in the story, then as now, has extraordinary power. He is the last port of call to administer justice according to the laws of God. The judge in the story exercises not the law of God, but is a law unto himself as he is not willing to hear the widow’s case.

The widow, throughout the pages of scripture, is a vulnerable victim - she could not inherit her late husband’s estate. Widows were dependent on the generosity and support of others. All the widow wanted was justice, but the judge flouted the judicial protocol of the day by refusing to even hear her. Eventually he relents though because she is so persistent. The judge does the right thing for the wrong reason. Jesus’ story says that if the unjust can be persuaded to act justly, the point surely is that those who pray to a just and loving God should never give up calling for justice in their cause, because the one who is righteous, namely God, can be trusted.

God is the protector of those like the widow and the judge of those who persecute them. As I read and reread the passage three words stood out - God grant justice. Yet waiting for God to grant justice can so often be the hardest part.

To experience the justice of God, we must place ourselves within the will, within the life and in the presence of God. The widow receives justice from the judge because she makes it her business to be in the judge’s face. She is constantly in his presence. Similarly to receive the justice of God, we must be open to the presence of God. There is an inextricable connection Jesus seems to be saying between persistent prayer and the justice of God.

God is like the judge in the parable, in that his justice is unexpected and surprising. God’s justice stands contrary to what we expect, desire or deserve. God is a god who not only forgives a murderer like Moses who killed an Egyptian guard or Paul who persecuted and murdered early followers of Jesus, but uses them to reveal something of His loving purposes to the world. The rescue of the Chillean miners touched me so much because this daring mission brought these men back to the surface alive. In turn it reminded me of the God of justice who engineers a gripping rescue through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, into the pitch black underworld of our lives, snatching us, the stranded, back one by one, back into the presence of His Father whether we feel we deserve to be there or not. God doesn’t write us off as a mission not worth executing, but but instead He goes the extra mile to search us out and bring us back to himself in love.

So often our lives can be torn apart like a bomb blast. Our hearts warped and twisted - whether of our own doing or through the actions of others - and the God of Justice gently and slowly helps us sort through those experiences, offering us the nail-pierced hand of perfect compassion - reaching out to embrace, to hold, to heal and console. To plead our cause in prayer to this God is to not find us ignored by Him. Waiting for that justice to come is painful, but God assures us, it will come.

Three words stand out from the Gospel - God grant justice. To know God’s justice is to know God. His justice is not a piece of clothing that He puts on and takes off like his favourite jumper. It is who He is. But to know God, we must know His Son Jesus Christ; not know of Him, not know about Him in an intellectual way; but to know Him as the one who asks us to follow Him and to discover more about His God and Father through what we see and experience as much as through what He says about Him. All too often though I hear - I believe in God, but He hasn’t answered my prayer. But what were you praying? Are you prepared to get in His face with your request day and night? And who is this God you believe in? I believe in the law of gravity but it will not save my immortal soul and does not love me into new and eternal life.

Friends it is not possible to call ourselves Christians and not in some way be following Jesus. For we are not Christian if we are not in some way going deeper into the life of faith - discovering more about God through what we see, experience and discover with others, as much as through what Jesus teaches in the scriptures.

Friends, if this morning you long for a faith that is more than an intellectual exercise or assent; if you long to discover more about a God who longs to help make sense of the broken fragments of your life and transform for good; if in your deepest being you long to be taken from the darkness into the light and love of His presence then let me assure you that you are placing yourself within the will, within the life and in the presence of the God of justice. If this is you this morning and you want to know this more for yourself then pray with me these words:

Holy God, faithful and unchanging: enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, that we may truly worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God,now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Word as a Wordle - Trinity 20

This week's Gospel reading from Luke 18:1-8, looks straightforwardly about prayer...

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

The need to persistently pray is the purpose of Jesus telling the parable in the first place and yet the Wordle this week seems to show an other angle to this story that I had not really noticed before...
Three words stand out - God grant justice. Re-reading the passage there is a strong connexion between praying and imploring the God of justice to act, especially in favour of the downtrodden and marginalised...

Need to tease this out more in the light of the 7:7 enquiry and the rescue of Chillean miners and our listening to God discerning our priorities as a church...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter - Official Video

Having chatted with someone about love and lost love and broken hearts and hope, I found myself singing this exquisite song from Damien Rice.

The lyrics, below, are all about love, life, loss, broken hearts and ...

Well I hope you enjoy this fragile, musical beauty.

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes...

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We'll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower's daughter
The pupil in denial

I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes...

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?

I can't take my mind off of you
I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind off of you
I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind...
My mind...
'Til I find somebody new

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Fruits of Justice - Bishop of St ALbans Harvest Appeal

This year as a diocese we are being encouraged to support Tear Fund's work in Uganda by raising money for the Church of England's 'Climate Justice Fund.'

What do we know about Uganda?

Uganda map

Approximately 70% of Ugandans earn their living from farming. Until a few years ago, the predictable rainy seasons provided Uganda's farmers with two good harvests of staple foods. But climate change has hit them hard, bringing hunger and malnutrition - particularly in eastern and northern parts.

In the Teso region of eastern Uganda, the floods in 2007 killed 20,000 people and wiped out crops. Poor rains in 2008 and then drought in 2009 meant thousands of people had to survive on food aid and wild fruits and leaves.

Uganda - small map

Uganda is among the world's 50 poorest countries; the country has one of the lowest life expectancies at just 43. 30% of Uganda's 30 million people live on less than $1 per day. A significant proportion of child deaths are due to malnutrition...

The statistics are one thing, but the stories of the people of Uganda are quite another. I was moved by Winnie's story...

Winnie's family lost everything when floods hit eastern Uganda in 2007. For months, the family survived on food aid and wild leaves. Winnie (now 5) and her sister Merab (7) were often sick. Then drought set in.

'It was very hard', says Winnie's foster dad Stanley. 'I felt terrible that I could not feed my wife and children. Merab has sickle cell anaemia and the lack of food made it worse. He joints were swollen and she was in terrible pain.'

'I prayed to God that he would give us the strength to get through. And God answered my prayers. He brought the Church to us.'

With help from the Anglican Church of Uganda's development team, Stanley and his neighbours in Odort parish, Katakwi District, have set up a farming group. They've received tools, equipment and training to grow drought-resistant crops such as watermelons and sunflowers. Stanley (32), the group chairman, has also been given a kick-start with poultry farming - and he now has 210 chickens in the small yard of his self-built home!

'We have benefited a lot' he said with a smile from ear to ear. 'The girls and our two younger sons are all able to eat three times a day. It has been two months since Merab was sick. Merab and Winnie are able to go to school.'

Stanley Sunflower
Merab Chickens

Half the world's population lives in desperate poverty on less than $1 a day. Stanley is one of them. For basic survival, and nothing else, Ugandan farmers need to earn 1 million Ugandan shillings a year (£320). Last year, Stanley earned just 600,000 shillings (£192) - from a small harvest of watermelons and from finding additional work as a brick-maker.

Now, Stanley's watermelons and sunflowers are established, so the harvests should provide a much larger income - as long as the rains come. And his 200 chickens act as insurance for a non-rainy day.

Please give generously to this appeal. £10 will buy enough drought resistant seed for one family for one year. Please give as generously as you can via the JustGiving site.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back To Church Sunday 2010

A little later than planned, here is my sermon from last Sunday's really excellent "Back To Church Sunday' service. Church was P-acked with barely a spare seat and lots of returnees. Our most 'successful' B2CS yet...


I’d like to share with you some very solemn announcements that have been made in Churches up and down the land in recent years. Some are taken from Church Notice Sheets, Notice boards and magazines:

1.A report from the Church meeting: the Vicar spoke briefly and delighted the audience.
2.Next Sunday is the Vicar’s last Sunday before he moves. Our special anthem will be the Hymn ‘Come ye thankful people come’!
3.Ladies are requested not to have children in the church kitchen.
4.A notice stuck to the hot-air hand-dryer in the men’s toilet at church had these words on it: ‘Press this button for a repeat of last Sunday’s sermon’!
5.Tuesday at 4.00 pm there will be an ice-cream social. All are welcome. Ladies giving milk should come early!
6.From a Diocesan Newsletter: ‘You will all be pleased to hear that the Bishop is making very slow progress after his operation’.
7.The sermon next Sunday will be on ‘Hell’. A warm welcome will be extended to all.

All of us came to church for the first time once. Sometimes we might have a a bad experience. Apologise. Sometimes the church may not communicate it’s message very clearly. Our reading this morning picks up on the people who became Jesus’ closest companions meeting him and coming to be with him for the first time and hearing a very simple message loud and clear.

It is reasonable to assume that Andrew and John (the beloved disciple) had heard and met Jesus before this encounter. Our reading from John’s Gospel illustrates how they respond to what somebody else says, what John the Baptist exclaims “Behold the Lamb of God.” They follow because of what they have heard another say.

John the Baptist referred to his ministry in the words of Isaiah, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' " He had been preparing the way even to the point that his own followers would now consider and indeed make the decision to follow Jesus. John the Baptist is pointing the way to the Anointed One, The Messiah.

Jesus is welcoming and he offers an invitation for his hearers to develop their relationship with him. To get to know Jesus, only if they wish too. "Come," he replied, "and you will see."

We now witness the first missionary act in a new ministry that would become Christianity. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

We do not know a great deal about Andrew. Maybe that is because he lived a quiet life as he followed Jesus but he was the one who brought Simon to be renamed Peter to Jesus. Simon has a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter). What a morning that was for Simon Peter. His brother invites him to come and see.

Can you imagine the scene. Your brother rushes home. “Quick Simon there is someone you must talk too.” “Who?” “This is the person; the one John the Baptist has been talking to us about. I have seen him. It is him. I am sure of it. Come and see and decide for yourself.”

What a brilliant brother! You walk with your brother feeling self-conscious hoping that no one will ask you where you are going. It feels a bit strange to say I have an appointment with the Messiah. “There he is” Andrew exclaims. Jesus looks at you and smiles. “Welcome. You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).That’s it. Your life turned around in that very instant. You are now on the path of discovery to who you truly are. “You are Peter, The Rock on who I will build my Church,” said Jesus.

How would you feel if you were Simon? You are standing looking into the eyes of God who looks right into your very being and declares what you will become. He looks at you and you challenges you to follow him. I wonder how he explained that to his family and friends. How would you explain that your name has changed. You are no longer Simon but Peter. That is the invitation that Jesus is offering to all of us. To change and transform us for good, for God.

Gladys Aylward was born in London, in 1902, to a working-class family Gladys became a wealthy family's parlor maid at the age of 14. She trudged through this life of routine until one day after attending a church service a stranger confronted her with what being a Xn really meant.

It transformed her and her outlook on life. She began attending Young Life services and reading about the far-away land of China from books in the vast library of her employer. This birthed an unstoppable desire to go to China herself. Gladys applied with CIM as a candidate for China. After reviewing her advanced age and test results it was determined that she was too old and unfit to learn the difficult Chinese language. At the age of 28, Gladys dreams were momentarily crushed; she decided if she couldn't go with CIM she would go on her own. Every month, Gladys would save all the money she could from the small paycheck she received to buy a one-way train ticket to China.

On Oct. 15, 1932, Gladys left Liverpool Street Station by train to travel across Russia and eventually into Northern China. She carried two suitcases, a bedroll and wore a bright orange jacket. After a long and roundabout journey across Russia, Gladys finally set foot in her beloved China.

Gladys began to lean Cantonese and eventually became a "foot inspector." The tradition of binding Chinese women's feet had recently been outlawed, but due to cultural perceptions of beauty it was still being practiced in many places. Gladys began traveling around inspecting the bones in women's feet. As she traveled she would tell stories from the Bible and many looked forward to the days they could hear these strange new stories.

The people's esteem and respect for Gladys also continued to grow. What was even more remarkable was the ability she had to take on Chinese culture and language. By 1937, when the Japanese begin bombing nearby mountain villages, Gladys had so identified herself with the Chinese people that she refused to leave even as artillery shells begin to fall.

After 20 years in China, Gladys returned to England in 1940. She was embarrassed to find that she quickly became a celebrity. A book, movie and TV documentary were all made about her life. To many Gladys became known by many as "The Small Women," the title of her biography. She continued to travel and speak about her beloved China, returning to Taiwan in 1957.

Humble in spirit, Gladys once made this comment to a friend, "I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done for China. There was somebody else. I don't know who it was --- God's first choice. It must have been a man --- a wonderful man, a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing. And God looked down and saw Gladys Aylward."

What about you and me this morning? What name is Jesus wishing to bestow upon us? Are we fishing in the wrong place as Simon was? Where are we being called to go? 70% of us, according to a recent survey, consider ourselves to be Christians, but being Christian isn’t about being nice, it is (as Simon Peter and the other disciples dscovered) about following and and listening and learning from Christ. Jesus doesn’t ask us to come with airs and graces, it’s not even about how we look. it’s not even about what we think we know about him He simply asks us to come as we are - for He accepts us and loves us just like that - and get to know him for ourselves. Amen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rush - Time Stand Still 3-22-1994

Feeling a bit whimsical this morning. I was aware that my blog has been a bit neglected recently and I hadn't posted some music since the out and out aggression of the Korn track.

I fell in love Rush in the early 80s and I have had the chance to see them a couple of times (thanks Cal I owe so much...)

This song is full of 80s cheese, but I still love it. It was in my head this morning, I thought I'd share this live version.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fraud - a Biblical mandate,,,

Here's a version of my sermon for tomorrow based on Luke 16:1-13...

Money – most of us think it’s the key to everything. Success, happiness, a stress free life, but if we’re not careful it can also open the door to ruin, deception, corruption and greed. Jesus has much to say to us about our attitude towards wealth and stewardship – 19 of His 38 recorded parables are on the misuse of money and possessions, its an issue of fundamental importance to the Kingdom. Its not that Jesus is against us owning things - its just that He is against things owning us.

This morning’s Gospel contains probably one of the most difficult of Jesus’ parables to understand. At first sight it looks as if Jesus is condoning corrupt practices, but when we look a bit closer we realize He’s not, and what is actually being applauded is the steward’s change in attitude.

This parable takes full account of the commercial practices of the day – when many of the estates and businesses were owned by absentee landlords and looked after by stewards whose job it was to provide a reasonable return for the owner. In this case it was a business where merchants received goods on credit, and since Jewish Law prevents the claiming of interest from fellow Jews, the profit from such a transaction were in commodities like wheat and oil.

Although the steward was entrusted with the estate - given latitude to do with the owners resources as he wished and to profit from the way he invested his master’s wealth – he owned nothing of what he managed. But one of the surprising things about this story is that the hero seems to be a crook – a crook who has been found out.

The owner had received complaints that his steward was squandering away his property – so he called him to account and when he was found wanting, promptly told him that he was heading for the high jump.

Here the Hebrew word used for “squandering’ is the same as that used in the story of the Prodigal Son – to describe self indulgence - when the younger son wasted away his inheritance. Jesus’ parable shows us what happens if we fail to use our resources in the right way before God.

Like the steward, we have free access to use and profit from the gifts and resources God provides for this world, but own nothing of what we manage and like the steward we too fall far short of what is required.

The unjust steward was too proud to beg and didn’t relish the thought of doing manual work, so he decided on another course of action, to make friends with the people who were in debt to his master. He used this last opportunity as the legal manager of the owner’s business to meet with some of his masters customers, to give them very significant discounts, so that they will show him favour when he is in need. Here Jesus tells us that we have to be alert to the workings of this world and the opportunities we are given, “...For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light...” 

The story also illustrates the wisdom of spending money with an eternity in view using our wealth to help those around us. “...Use worldly wealth to win friends for yourself so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home...”

The biggest thing about handling God’s resources is the attitude of our hearts. It determines how wisely we use what we have been given. When we borrow something from someone, such as a car, we tend to use it more carefully, work harder to look after it, we know it doesn’t belong to us and that we will be accountable for how we use it. Jesus tells us we need to apply that same attitude to all of God’s treasures that we handle.

The steward saw the urgency of the situation and changed his behaviour. Instead of investing in his present situation he started to invest in his future. Jesus also tells us that stewardship is not just about the big picture. If we are faithful with a little God knows we will be faithful with a lot. If we can be trusted with looking after one lost sheep, maybe eventually we will be trusted with caring for a whole flock. Here we have a man who found himself, came to his senses, and changed his direction and life. He didn’t put his head in the sand, but decided to act for his future well-being, he realized he was a slave to the wrong master, “...No servant can serve two masters – you cannot serve God and Money...” 

Jesus reminds us that our commitment to God must be greater than any other commitment in our lives. Jesus is looking for single minded people - people totally dedicated to God - whose main purpose in life is to serve Him.

As Christians, our first priority should be using the resources that God gives us, to and through his church in the first instance, but are we? Our expenditure per week is £1,344 with 63% of those costs being my stipend, pension, housing & contributions to my ongoing training and the training of new clergy and us paying our part of the cost of running the diocese. And yet our forecast income is £1163 per week, a shortfall of £181. We are not living extravagantly. The issue is not a need to make efficiency savings. The issue is that the money we spend comes from nowhere else. These resources are God’s and we should ask Him for them, but we should also act wisely with the resources He shares with us.

Where does our confidence for living come from - our bank balance or from God? Has money got greater control over us than we are prepared to admit?

A well known speaker stood up in front of a group of people and held a £50 note in the air, “who would like to have this £50 note?” he said. Hands started to go up, “I will give this to one of you,” he said, “but before I do, I am going to crumple it up”, which he did. “Who wants it now?” Again, hands went up. Then he dropped it on the floor, stamped on it, and made it dirty, “Now who still wants it”, he said, still hands went up. “Today”, he said, “we have learnt a very valuable lesson. No matter what I do to this money, we still want it, because it has not lost any of its value - its still worth £50.”

Many times in our lives we will be dropped, crumpled, ground into the dirt, by the decisions we make, and the situations that come our way. But no matter what happens to us, we will never lose our value in God’s eyes. To Him we are still priceless.

Do we value God as much as He values us? Does God take first place in our hearts? Do we serve God or money? We are all guilty of squandering the wealth we’ve been entrusted with. The question is what are we going to do about it? Are we going to wait till the last minute, like the unjust steward, or change now?

Jesus calls us to use our gifts and resources wisely – and in a way that will honour God and ourselves. To invest in the ways that will lead us to Him and eternal life. Its God who puts the money and resources in our hands – so lets make sure we use them for His glory.