Friday, April 29, 2011

The Bishop of London's sermon at THAT wedding

Below is the sermon preached by Rt. Rev'd Richard Chatrres, The Lord Bishop of London, at the wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton this morning. Cracking stuff.


"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."

So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day this is. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.
Many are full of fear for the future of today's world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in the celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.
In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them to the future.
William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to one another.
Spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover that the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

It is of course hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. People can dream of such a thing but the hope will not be fulfilled without a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

You have both made your decision today – "I will" – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely the power which has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. This transformation is possible as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:
"Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon."
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, and mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

I pray that every one present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today will do everything in their power to support and uphold you in your new life. I pray that God will bless you in the way of life you have chosen, a way which is expressed in the prayer that you have written together in preparation for this day:
God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.
In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.
Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer.
We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fake Origins of Easter

H/t to The Church Mouse. Interesting blog post shared with thanks...

 Before the Easter season has passed, Mouse wanted to quote a large part of a blog post from Catherine Meyer's blog on alternative religions.

Every year Catherine gets annoyed by people quoting made up history about the origins of Easter.

Catherine explains:

"The historical record of Eostre is incredibly small: a single reference written by a Christian monk named Bede, writing after the supposed worship of Eostre has already vanished from England. he comments that the word Easter, in English, comes from Eostre, or perhaps from Eostremounth, the mouth in which Easter occurs.

That's it.

Bede doesn't know anyone who worships Eostre, and no worshiper of Eostre has left any records of her at all. There is no mention of a specific holiday for Eostre, and no mention of rabbits or eggs. Most of the claims equating Eostre and Easter, therefore, are entirely made up. The only potential connection is the word Easter and the name Eostre, an issue that only exists in English. In Romantic languages, the word for Easter is based on Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover, which Jesus was celebrating at the time of his execution. And the Romantic language speakers have been celebrating Easter far longer than the English.

Stop repeating the fallacy. Please. And stop presuming world practices revolve around what went on in England."

Mouse agrees, and now you know. So next time someone tells you that Easter was originally a pagan festival called Oestre, you can set them straight.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thomas - the greatest apostle of them all

Victor Meldrew’s cry of “I don’t belieeeve it!” from the hugely popular tv series “One Foot in the Grave” struck a reassuring chord with many in this country, characturing perfectly the now infamous British reserve!  People who loved the series found an ally in him, through his frustration with the modern world, it’s technology, and with life especially in retirement.  His catch-phrase would most often get an airing when he was forced to face the things he disliked, distrusted, and doubted.  It didn’t matter whether that was people or things that make the contemporary world much more immediate, perhaps even things that you and I take so much for granted, like the telephone.  His quiet frustrations turn so quickly to ‘I don’t belieeeve it!’ exposing what he really felt.

It’s true though.  W e don’t like to show others that we cannot cope with life.  So often the life we show the outside world day to day with our work colleges, family and friends, is often one of calm in controlness.  But from time to time we can have our feathers ruffled by the simplest things like a conversation with a friend, an article in the newspaper, or the video not working, and it’s then that we show that underneath we maybe struggling to make sense of our world with it’s changing patterns of family life, society, values, politics and dare I say faith.

Belief and uncertainty or doubt are the yin-yang, the polar opposites, of all of our lives at one point or another. Many who are desperate to believe to share religious faith, wrestle with doubt, question reality, and yet can’t bring themselves to put to one side something so dearly cherished. Many cannot live with faith and yet cannot live without it.

But is doubt a bad thing?  Personally, I see doubt as not only healthy but essential to the Christian life. If more religious people doubted, perhaps the world would be a slightly saner place?

Even as I speak there is news of yet another Iraqi suicide bomber blowing himself up along with any fellow Iraqi or Coalition forces unfortunate enough to be within striking distance. I wonder how many suicide bombers would blow themselves up if they doubted the promises of a martyr’s paradise?

The opposite of doubt is certainty, and yet there can be no room for it in any religion. Give a man or woman certainty and there can be no room for faith, for faith is hope in what is not seen. We can live faith for it is open, endless and eternal. Does not ‘hope spring eternal’? Give certainty and we risk sowing the seeds of arrogance, bigotry, and fundamentalism.

Those with faith, I believe stand much more chance of living in harmony because they recognise within others a seeking after truth and a quest for answers to those illusive eternal questions; the truly faithful recognise that faith is but a tradition to build on and live by.

This Sunday's Gospel reading mentions Thomas - one of Jesus’ 12 disciples - encounter with the Risen Christ.  Imagine the scene, he, like the other disciples, was suddenly thrown into fear and confusion after the man he knew to be God’s son and capable of the most amazing miracles who was set to re-establish Israel both politically and spiritually on the world stage - driving out the Roman occupiers of the land and restoring the eternal presence of God with His people - this man had been captured, arrested, and condemned to death on the cross.  His mission, his vision all had gone wrong.  The day after these terrible events, other disciples of Jesus come excitedly shouting about having seen him alive.  For Thomas, all talk of Jesus his leader, Master, saviour and friend, rising from the dead was just cheap talk, a slap in the face, bittersweet words of comfort in the face of shocking grief.  Could you blame him for doubting?  I certainly can’t.

Thomas is also known as the greatest disciple.  He later meets with the risen Jesus himself, seeing the scarred body with his own eyes and touching it with his own hands.  There is no question, this is Jesus.  Thomas who has withheld himself utterly from the hope Jesus offers, imprisoned by doubt, gives himself utterly, and finds himself freed and he utters the profoundest statement of faith - my Lord and my God, as in the risen Jesus Thomas recognised both.  Thomas finds faith, through belief transformed by doubt.

There are many today who stand at the threshold of faith and say with Victor Meldrew and St. Thomas - I don’t believe it; who ask the profoundest questions; is it all true?  Can we believe it?  The Risen Jesus does not ask any of us to believe in him.  If we begin to explore the depths of the Christian faith we are not suddenly asked to sign on the dotted line in blood assenting to believing everything about the faith - we are not asked by Jesus to verify or falsify what the Bible says as FACT.  Neither though can we simply place what the Christian holds dear into the same category as belief in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy, beautiful stories that enrich but do not change our lives.  Jesus says to us as he said to Thomas and those first disciples ‘Come follow me!’ and that means you if you have lots of faith or little; with questions answered and thousands not.  Faith is not about certainty or lack of doubt, but it is about hope and the future.  Hope is what Thomas saw in the Risen Jesus - my Lord and my God - and it is what he offers us when we come to him in honest doubt today.  So what about the Christian faith, can any of what we claim be true - I don’t believe it, but I have faith that it is.


Here's a Wordle of this Sunday's Gospel reading from John 20:19-31...

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.'

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Leverstock Green Resurrection

A few weeks ago, a 6 year old girl was asked by her class teacher to write a letter with the following question “To God, How did you get invented?” Her father emailed the letter to various churches hoping for an answer, but got none. For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.
Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.
But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.
I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan
That tells me much more about Archbishop Rowan’s faith, in words I can understand than any lecture or synod address. It also reveals the tender love of a man who is writing an answer to a complex question - revealing all that needs to be known.

The same Rowan Williams put it well when he says that when we celebrate Easter;“we are standing in the Middle of a second ‘Big Bang,’ a tumultuous surge of divine energy as fiery and intense as the very beginning of the universe.”

What we are celebrating is on a level with the very beginning of time. And yet whilst both ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Resurrection’ are in many ways beyond the scopes of our imagination, together they do so much to define our understanding of the world. The former brings the world into being and the latter is through which a loving God renews all things in His love and transforms how we see the world and ourselves.

And yet both come without expectation. One of the strongest evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus is that his followers did not expect it. Their world had caved in. The hopes and dreams that had been theirs, now lay totally and absolutely devastated. Their world was shrouded in complete darkness. All that remained was to visit the tomb - those painful visits that we all make in times of loss.

In that darkness, Mary Magdelene and another Mary came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. Matthew tells us of an earthquake and an angel sat in the tomb, with Roman guards outside frozen in a state of petrification. The angel tells the news that Jesus is risen and tells the women to let the disciples know for Jesus is heading for Galilee where it had all began. And then as the women who are by now a combination of joy and fear, hurry away to take the good news to the disciples, they are met by the Risen Christ. And they did not expect it.

Every year we tell these Gospel stories of the appearances of the Risen Christ and none of those closest to Christ expected the resurrection. Why? Because the Resurrection of Jesus was outside of their world vision. For the Resurrection of Jesus cannot but change how we see God, the world and
ourselves. Yes, like ‘Big Bang,’ it is a defining moment as it proves that all that Jesus said about God and himself must be true. I proves that death itself is defeated and it proves that what Jesus experienced is on offer to all of us! And yet so often we live like it resurrection is an every day event, or that it simply doesn’t matter.

I heard of someone who had a dream, and in the dream he dies and went to heaven, St Peter was there opening the gates to welcome him. As he is waiting to go in he noticed that some of his friends were there outside the gates unable to go in, some of them atheists, some of them buddhists, he said Peter what about my friends? St Peter said ah but you know the rules... So he thought, well what about my reference point - Jesus the outsider, Jesus the friend of tax collectors and sinners, Jesus the one who would always stay with those who were oppressed... And he said, you know what? I’ll just stay outside with them. St Peter breaking into a smile says - at last, at last you understand.

God so loved this world that he forsook heaven. That’s why Mother Thersea said, If I am ever to become a saint, I shall be a saint of darkness. For I shall not be found in heaven, but I shall be found outside as a light guiding the way.

Today we celebrate and event that took place some 2000 years ago that changed the universe forever. We beautify our church, we sing wonderful hymns. We go home with a warm fuzzy glow. And yet did it happen? How has it impacted our lives? How does it change the here and now on the streets of London, Libya or Afghanistan?

And is it true? Is it true? Is the resurrection of Jesus a tale to tell in child-like language? Is the resurrection of Jesus only a dream?  No. friends. If the resurrection had not happened why did the Marys and Jesus’ other disciples go and spread the news that continues to challenge and change our world? If it had not happened how was it that thousands of people in the Bible are recorded as seeing, talking to and eating with him. If the resurrection had not happened, where is the body? The tomb? The ongoing evidence to the contrary? If the resurrection had not happened, why did the church begin and millions of our people today talk about having known the Risen Jesus for themselves today? If it is true then what Jesus said about himself and God’s love for us is true. If it happened, then what Jesus experiences in new risen life is on offer to us - today, now. Our universe is transformed and all rules and norms are challenged because of the extent of God’s love for us.

Friends we deny the reality of the resurrection every time we walk away from people who are poor. We deny the truth of the resurrection every time we participate in unjust practises and unjust systems. The resurrection of Jesus did not happen for us to his love for others entombed in our hearts with a stone rolled in front... But we affirm the truth of Jesus’ resurrection every time we stand up for those who are on their knees. We affirm Jesus’ resurrection every time we speak out for those who have been silenced, when weep for those people who have no more tears left to cry and who long for hope and life.

The risen Jesus sent the women back transformed to Gallilee where the story all begins, in the midst of normal life. The risen Jesus stands among us today  us today. He sends us from here with news of love that will transform despair into hope, fear into love, darkness into light - expressed and lived in our lives here. Amen

Friday, April 22, 2011

A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God. And the Archbishop of Canterbury answers

This is lifted directly from Damien Thompson's religion blog in the Telegraph blog and I had to share it because it moved me to tears...


There’s a charming article in today’s Times by Alex Renton, a non-believer who sends his six-year-old daughter Lulu to a Scottish church primary school. Her teachers asked her to write the following letter: “To God, How did you get invented?” The Rentons were taken aback: “We had no idea that a state primary affiliated with a church would do quite so much God,” says her father. He could have told Lulu that, in his opinion, there was no God; or he could have pretended that he was a believer. He chose to do neither, instead emailing her letter to the Scottish Episcopal Church (no reply), the Presbyterians (ditto) and the Scottish Catholics (a nice but theologically complex answer). For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.
Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.
But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.
I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lors of love from me too.
+Archbishop Rowan
I think this letter reveals a lot about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sort of theology – more, indeed, than many of his lectures or agonised Synod addresses. I’d be interested to know whether readers of this blog think he did a good job of answering Lulu’s question.

But what the letter also tells us is that the Archbishop took the trouble to write a really thoughtful message – unmistakably his work and not that of a secretary – to a little girl. “Well done, Rowan!” was the reaction of Alex Renton’s mother, and I agree.


Well done Rowan indeed! This letter reveals the profoundest of theologies expressed in the simplest of terms. It is written from the heart and from a father whose son will continue to ask the same profound questions that we all do from time to time...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Do You Do? I love...

I don’t really like those social events that you sometimes get invited to to where you have to do small talk. I always wonder where you go after ‘hello my name is Simon.’ One of the easy next questions is something like ‘How long have you lived here?’ or ‘What do you do?’ It’s a conversation starter, but we so often define people in those ways, and leave them at that most simplistic level - oh he’s an accountant, she’s a housewife, she works with kids and so on.

We do this in other ways too - we make assumptions about people all the time because of their height, weight, sexuality, gender, hair colour, and so on. Apparently though, we each have already made an assessment of someone and have weighed up their qualities as a person before they have even opened their mouth. We make thousands of subconcious judgements about each other because of our mannerisms and the way we look. It is something we have learned to do.

Today is a day of unlearning. Instead of defining people by what they do, Jesus encourages us to define people by what we do for them and what they do for us. Don’t define people by what you have already made up your mind they will be - an ex con, therefore they cannot be trusted - instead says Jesus, define them by what they are - fellow human beings, made in the image of God, precious to Him from all eternity and therefore loveable by you.
There seems to be a double focus to today - on the one hand the reading from 1 Corinthians designates today as the day Jesus celebrated Passover before he was betrayed, tried and crucified, and instituted what we recognise as the Eucharist. On the other hand our Gospel reading tonight does not emphasize the institution of the Eucharist. Instead Jesus emphasizes that his disciples need to continue to unlearn all of the social rules.  Today is Maundy Thursday from the Latin mandatum, from Jesus’ words - a new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you... Jesus says eat bread and drink wine to remember his presence in our lives and in the world, but He also calls us to loving service of others and we are to do both in remembrance of Him. Both are essential to our following of Him.

The last few years of our life together here at Holy Trinity have been about unlearning a way of being church, unlearning what we thought being a disciple was about. We have rediscovered that we are each in charge of our destiny with Christ and what we must decide is - do we follow Him or not, do we listen to God or not, do we take seriously that we are loved by Him or not. We have have been unlearning that church is something that is done to us, where we dutifully and gratefully received from Him, and learning rather is is something we are as His body here. As we gather at His table for the family meal in the Eucharist, we do as His brothers and sisters. Here He is remembered, re-membered, not as a historical figure on the pages of history, but as we eat bread and drink wine, He is literally present here amongst us - in each other, expressed by the quality of our love.

But we fail as his disciples if our remembrance of Him is forgotten as we step away from His table or as we leave the church building.  For tonight Jesus gives us a new commandment - yes, listen to what He teaches, yes love God and your neighbour and yourself, but that only has any worth if we are practically showing love to one another as Christ himself has loved us.

This is an abstract sort of comment for Jesus to make, so to show what he means Jesus takes off his outer robe, picks up a bowl and towel and begins to undertake the task of the lowliest of servants. ‘Remember me’ says Jesus, ‘by demonstrating the quality of your love practically to others.’

But Jesus, this night, is not interested in forming a heirachical community where everyone knows their place from the master of the house to the footwashing servant, where there are those who wash feet and those whose feet are washed, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ There is to be a mutuality in Jesus’ body where master and servant alike wash each others feet and love each other in turn.

In a world where we make snap judgements on each other’s character, on who are we are deep down in a blink of an eye, Jesus gives us His church, his body fed with his own body and refreshed into eternal life with His blood, a new commandment, a new way of being which calls us to give to others in acts of loving service, but also to receive love from them in the same way in return. It is a way of being which, when people try to catagorise us as a builder or a teacher, and they subconciously make all sorts of judgements  about us but the thing they notice about us is not what we do, but what we do for others - our expression of God’s love for His world and our receipt of in turn.

We love as He loves every time we support a grieving family. We love as He loves every time we visit someone lonely. We love as He loves every time we play a part in encouraging people out of poverty at home or abroad. And we are able to love because he loved us first by touching the leper clean, by raising the dead, by socializing with tax collectors and sinners, by taking a towel and washing my and your feet and dying for us.

It is not possible to make sense of all that Jesus does today and what he will do in us from Sunday onwards, without acknowledging what he will do tomorrow. It is Christ’s willingness to accept the Cross that makes sense of this self-giving love which we are offered and are to offer in return.
Today Jesus gives His disciples a new command as we remember Him - unlearning our ways of judging others, and as we follow Him learning new ways in love. It is that sort of loving that reveals Christ afresh and through it we are all called into deeper relationship in God. It is that sort of loving that reveals Christ afresh that reaches out and through our actions and words, God makes new disciples. It is that sort of loving that reveals Christ afresh and through it, and our changed lives, that whole communities can be transformed as we each unlearn how to be simply human, and learn from Christ’s loving actions how to become children of God. Amen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Klone - Give up the Rest (Video)

Klone - Give up the rest (Live from Wolvehampton 10/4/11)

King's X excellent support act...

King's X - What is This (Live from Wolverhampton 10/4/11)

Maundy Thursday - Wordled


John 13.1-17,31b-35

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

The New Commandment

When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Above is the reading set for Maundy Thursday and a Wordle of it too. Stand out words from the wordle are: wash, Jesus, God, one, also, know, Lord and especially feet.

Our feet are ususally covered these days by shoes and socks. There is still culturally a stigma about our feet. We don't like people touching them and in certain cultures to show the soles of them is the height of rudeness. Yet Jesus the servant Lord is the one who knows this and still washes them also because God made them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Podcast

Here is my sermon from this morning based on Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-42 set for today, Passion Sunday. The sermon is also by way of my Vicar's report for our AGM which happened today.

An announcment

The following was read at our services this morning...

To be announced in all churches on Sunday 10 April 2011

We are pleased to announce that the Rev’d Simon Cutmore currently Team Vicar in the Benefice of Langelei has been appointed as Priest-in-Charge of The Benefice of Mill End and Heronsgate with West Hyde. This is subject to the completion of legal formalities and when those matters have been completed we will be able to announce the date of the Licensing.

Please remember Simon and his family in your prayers.

What Are You Passionate About - A Sermon for Passion Sunday and Vicar's report for the APCM

On this Passion Sunday, I wonder - what are you passionate about? What is your vision? I have spent the last 6 months or so asking the clergy of Hemel this question as part of some work I am doing for Churches Together. The responses have been varied and inspiring and including: mission & evangelism, the transforming power of the Gospel & building community in various forms. I also asked the ministers to answer the same question as if their church members were answering. Again the answers have been interesting & not necessarily the same as the respective minister! They include: the quality of our worship and being community of disciples open to God.

This work has made me reflect though on how I might answer the question? I would answer in part with a quote - a blind person once asked St. Anthony: "Can there be anything worse than losing your eyesight?" He replied: "Yes, losing your vision."

The this year has been marked with me/us regaining our vision. I was privileged and thankful that the diocese & you gave me the opportunity to take Sabbatical leave the this year. During my time off, I spent time with churches that gather around the Eucharist that are growing - seeing what God is doing with them, & seeing if there are any common themes. I also read much about church growth and strategic planning under God. The time was a gift & I thank you for it. I returned with some renewed priorities and fresh vision. Since my return we have begun work on a big piece of work - our Mission Action Plan which is a direct outcome of my time away. My time off also helped think much about the importance of helping all of us grow in Christian faith and have seen some great opportunities for us each to do that & to that end I am delighted that we have now run an Alpha course. The feedback we have had from those who have been on the course is that it has developed new friends & deepened faith in God. This personal re-visioning for me personally has continued as I have attended some very worthwhile training events including a 3 day workshop on change management with 20 colleagues from the Eastern region’s dioceses, an Old Testament study day, & I am 1 of 30 30 clergy from the diocese selected to attend The Weddings project training.

The other big new responsibility that I have undertaken this year, is that I have become Vice Chair of Churches Together in Hemel Hempstead. I am committed to working with other Christians to see God’s Kingdom revealed. The fruit of that work has been a better working relationship with of churches, and a mutual support in ministry - several local churches helped with our Alpha course for example.

Much of this year’s work has been consolidating & building on God’s work in & for our growing church, much of it unseen by the church per se, but all of it enriching and revealing something of the love of God including supporting the key groups and their leaders with a quarterly round of house communions with each group for support and prayer in the context of worship, an increased level of personal pastoral work with a number of individuals in the community, a significant increase in ministry to the dying - I have prayed the Last Rites in the last 6 months more that I have in 11 years of ordained ministry. We have also seen the start a new group for men in the church which has been well supported.

In the last 12 months or so, I have become a member of our Diocesan synod and have and have continued my involvement with the Diocesan Board of Education, focussing on how we support our church schools best and most effectively.

Speaking of education, we have continued to strengthen our links with Leverstock Green school - I am leading worship there once a week and conducting 4 services in church for the school. As Chair of Governors I have a particular responsibility to ensure the school moves from strength to strength and to ensure that the Christian faith is experienced implicitly and explicitly in the life of the school. We are an Outstanding church school and are a leader in the Diocese in terms aspects of our life such as discerning the Christians values that underlie every aspect of the school (love, forgiveness and respect) & working to introduce a quiet space in each classroom for prayer and reflection. It has been particularly challenging year and the Head has required some particular support which it has been a privilege to offer & to give. Involvement with the school has provided the opportunity to walk alongside people in other ways through funerals and baptisms especially.

Talking of baptisms and so on, the number of occasional offices that I have officiated at this year has gone down - there were only 6 church weddings this least year for example and a similar number of funerals in church or the crematorium and baptisms. There are always peaks and troughs in these things. Things are already looking up on that front though with 13 booked for 2011 with a good number for 2012 already. We have also seen the sad deaths of some long standing church members in Sandy Walker, FLora Parr and Sara May. It has been a privilege to know and be known by them & together with them, to know the love of God.

Looking ahead over the next 12 months and beyond must be about, to borrow the living God’s Love headings, going deeper into God - there will be many opportunities for us to do this through bible study groups, our planned quiet day, and a planned Walk through the Bible event; making new disciples - we have a good number of adults expressing interest in being Confirmed in November this year and plans will be laid for another Alpha; and asking God to enable us to transform our communities - I hope for a full and imaginitive review of our childrenswork and plans being laid to provide for the needs of our growing church including the launching of a new service plus continuing to work in partnership with people as diverse as Leverstock Green school and the Leather Bottle pub. Another high will be the completing & acting on the God-given priorities identified in our Mission Action Plan. An exciting year indeed!

We heard in our readings today of a God who offer of new life in the face of death. This hope, says Jesus to Martha on their way to Lazasus’ tomb and to us, is not set at some fixed point in the future at the end of our lives, but the power of God breaks through in the now, subverting our expectations and surprising us with joy. The heart of this morning’s Gospel is not as such the raising of Lazarus but the intersection of three lives with that God in Jesus - and God’s power at work amongst them. At work amongst us today.

Jesus, on this Passion Sunday as we turn our faces with towards the cross, what are you passionate about? What is your vision? No mention of mission and evangelism or the transforming power of the Gospel or beautiful worship. His answer is revealed in the tears he cries at the starkness of the death of his friend Lazarus prefiguring his own death and ours; and in the vision of God to Eziekiel of the long dead warriors of Israel - that the hope, the love, the life of God is at work amongst ordinary people and for ordinary people like us, in tragedy and joy, and in both and in the intersection of our lives with Him, He offers both the power of God in resurrection and life in all it’s fullness. Amen.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Word as a Wordle

Here is a wordle of Sunday's Gospel reading from John 11:1-45 which is the story of the Raising of Lazarus:

'...Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

Jesus Weeps

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him...'

The story is well known to us and full of emotion. It is a very human story. As I re-read it this morning I realised that the heart of the story is not just the resurrection of Lazarus, or even that as a prefiguring of Jesus' own resurrection.

The heart of the story is the interaction of Jesus and three other people - Martha, Mary and Lazarus - in the midst of life's ultimate tragedy, and the power of God at work amongst them...

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Refreshing love of our Motherly Father

Some people are not sure if this is supposed to be mothering Sunday or Mother’s day. I prefer mothering Sunday because it gives more attention to activity of mothering rather than on particular group of people.

Mothering is more than just giving birth. Some say giving birth is the easy bit.
9 months of expectation followed by 24 hours of excitement and pain. These are just a drop n the ocean compared to the years of pain and frustration, which are about to come your way after the child is born!

For mothering is really about two things both of which have to be done with huge amounts of love. One is the protection of the child and the other is development of that child to maturity.

Our reading today Paul takes about putting on the right clothes. We all have spent ages dressing children why? There are two reasons. One practical and hygienic and the other social.

The practical reason is so they are protected and kept warm or cool. We also teach them how it is put on and that it’s clean. The other reason the social one is so they are acceptable to others and fit in.

But that is only part of our task we dress the to develop them. For we are also teaching them to do all that for them selves. Put the clothes on for themselves Put on the right things at the right time Put them on in the right way and make sure they are clean.

This does not just apply to clothes, this applies to every thing we do for children. What Paul says was meant for a church but it could equally to parents and children. Paul says the church must get rid of thing it wears that are unbecoming and put on things appropriate to the new family we have joined.

Once everyone was little better than a slum dweller living on a rubbish heap, as many do in the third world, now we are princes and princesses, living in the palace of king Jesus so we need to wear the new clothes he provides. For when we become Christians, we join a new family Father God’s family.

Now he could have said put on success, fame, and power but he does not, for what we wear effects what we are and what we do. Success, fame, and power are dangerous things and very few are string enough to have them and use them with out hurting themselves and others.

Remember Jesus is more concerned with the content of our characters that the scale of our achievements. That is how he thinks of us as his children. Now we want the best for our children, but so much of what we are told to do is about developing skills, abilities, and intelligence. Not about Character.

According to St Paul, the key values, the Christlike character we should dress our selves are: Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, Bearing with each other and forgiving each other, forgiving as the Lord forgave us. And putting on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

The sort of forgiveness Jesus wants is a huge and wonderful thing and it starts long before anything goes wrong. It is the giving of complete forgiveness. And as far as God is concerned, everything is forgotten. Then and only than can there be true forgiveness and new life. But if you fail and know you have failed, and if then when you are truly sorry and you find forgiveness, then the liberation that is found is truly life changing. The child who knows all this will be more secure in themselves and their world, and more affirmed and content. They will be wiser than their years, and is more likely to become a mature and well-balanced adult.

And all this is best learned from all those who mother us if they understand it because they have been forgiven too. If you can teach and model true forgiveness to your child, it is probably one of the best things you can do. Any child who knows what it is to be forgiven and is able to forgive freely from its heart has an almost God like personality. The point is we are all children of God. Even Jesus calls himself our elder brother. It is he who goes before us and brings us to God. It is he and asks for us to be forgiven, and he does this even at those times when we do not want to be forgiven our sins yet. Now we know that when child disobeys us, say when they go out into the cold with out a coat. We know it can be dangerous for them and we are right to tell them off. But God commands us to dress properly at all times because of what it cost him to give us to us.

This is Mothering Sunday we should be praying to the father so we will all be better parents. And to say thank you for those who cared us so well. Let us also rediscover today how to teach our children to forgive. Let us do that by learning how to forgive ourselves. And finally let us get our forgiveness from God. We would never dress our children in rags. Our heaven father does not want us to dress in rags either.Let us put off the dress of this world and put on the royal robes of Jesus, which are freely and lovingly given to us. And let us walk in joy peace and freedom that is ours. And let us walk in love. The love that can only be found and shared, when we forgive because we know we are forgiven. Amen.