Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Word as a Wordle for Easter 6

Hi folks, here's the wordle of this wek's Gospel reading from John 14.15-21 which you can read by clicking here.

I am really struck by Jesus' words '...This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.  ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live...'

Jesus is going away, but assures us of the presence of God in and with us - the Holy Spirit of God Himself. The power of God in creating is offered to us. That same power at work in an amongst us creating in us eternal (resurrection) life.

That same Creator Holy Spirit is not on offer to 'the world' to all and sundry who do not know God and His hopes and dreams for His creation, but to those who seek to orient their lives into the ways of God, guided by His grace.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Going, going, gone...

In case you had missed this on other platforms, but I am selling my old vinyl records - a catalogues of some of my rather iff musical past - everything from this 12" with the wrong labels on the record, through to stuff by Dogs D'Amour and Ultravox...

There are some rarities and collectable things in there too.

Go on, have a browse here...

The Word as a Wordle for Easter 5

Here is a wordle of tomorrow's Gospel reading from John 14:1-14.  The reading isset in the context of a very real questioning about what Jesus was doing, talking about dying, when His ministry seems to be flourishing. Jesus speaks into the fear of His closest friends, He speaks peace into their troubled hearts.

Everything is up for grabs, 'Show us the Father' says Philip. Who is this Jesus after all? He behave and speaks and acts like God and then speaks of it ending not in triumph but disaster and death.

The wordle reminds me, that Jesus calls us to know the Father, but He does so in the middle of everything that makes our lives - in the middle of life's joys and tragedies. To fundamental questions about life and faith, Jesus comes back with words that echo the words of God to Moses at the burning bush when he reveals His every essesnce... I am...the way, the truth, the life. To know Jesus is to know God Himself.

We can know God in Jesus Christ, but how do we show Him and His heavenly father to the world? By listening to the questions that the world and her people are asking and not just speak of but act showing the love of God...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Podcast

Here's Ben's sermon as an MP3 podcast - enjoy. A fine, fine preach...

Listen to His voice

Here's the sermon preached by our budding ordinand Ben Masters, based on this morning's Gospel reading from John 10:1-10...

The other day I was working with a roofer, I mentioned that one of my customers was religious.  “I hate religious people,” he said, “the other day I went to a funeral, and the vicar want on about shepherds, and sheep, such rubbish I never heard!  Pete my friend, who has known me a little while piped up with a cheeky smile, “You know Ben is going to train to be priest!?” The look on the roofers face was priceless!  It did set me thinking though, for the passage I had been given to preach on was about shepherds and sheep.

This morning’s gospel reading tries to get us to understand a little bit more of what Jesus is like.  A poet will use simile and metaphor to convey a stronger and more definitive point, and so it is here with Jesus.   In 1st Century Palestine a shepherd went before his sheep, leading them and calling them with his voice.  The voice of the shepherd comes up a lot in this passage, the voice, not the words, not the nice collection of little phrases, the voice, for the voice connects the listener with the speaker.  As we gather here today in church, listen for the voice of Jesus, quiet your hearts and minds, as we partake in the Eucharist, and in the singing of hymns and speak the words of the liturgy.  The voice of Jesus speaks today, here and now.  He speaks forgiveness and hope, He calls for repentance and trust, his voice comforts the downtrodden and weary.  He speaks in the Eucharist, an outward sign of an invisible grace, where in laying down his life he brings abundant life.  He speaks in the gospel reading, he speaks in the children’s laughter and he speaks in our pain.  Listen for the voice of Jesus.  
So we hear the voice of the good shepherd, a shepherd who leads his sheep to better pastures.  The voice calls us to follow, to follow the shepherd who knows what is best for us, to follow him when the sun is shining down on us, when the rain is falling in torrents, when the stones hurt our feet, when we can’t see where we’re headed, and can’t remember the way we have been.  We are to follow him when darkness enshrouds us, when we reach the mountain tops and the view takes our breath away, when success lands at our feet. We are to follow him. Follow in the dust of his shoes. Knowing that he laid down his life,  that he has walked the path we have walked, he has felt our joys, our highs and our lows, he has wept with the mourning, laughed with those who were laughing, he worked as we work, he got splinters in his hands! This shepherd we follow laid down his life, died, went to the darkest depths, and rose to life on that Easter Sunday morning.   The marvellous and wonderful thing about the call to follow is that it is for everyone, it is for the youngest to the oldest, it is for the weak and for the strong, it is for the happy, and for the sad, it is for the lovely and the not so lovely.  The call of Christ is for everyone.  I urge you now to consider this call, whether for the first time or for the thousandth time, the call of Christ is as relevant today as it ever will be.  Follow the good shepherd.  
As we follow, as we walk in the dust of his shoes, we begin to know our shepherd, “I know my own and my own know me” says Jesus in the gospel reading.  In the building trade, and other professions one learns their craft by watching, being with, and emulating what the teacher is doing.  The learner becomes apprentice to the teacher.   As we listen to Jesus voice, follow on the path he leads we are apprentice to him, learning his ways.   Things are a bit different as his physical presence is not with us, but as Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.”  So we learn to follow Christ from those who have trodden the path a while longer than us, do you struggle knowing how to pray? Find someone who has got an idea.  If you don’t know one end of the Bible from the other, get alongside someone who knows a little more, the path we walk is not one we walk alone, we walk it together.   Each week, gathered together here and across the globe Christians gather together to celebrate, to worship, and to encounter the risen Jesus, there is something in this experience that also helps us to know more of the “good shepherd”.
I have spoken quite explicitly about our need to listen to the voice of Jesus, follow him, and know him.  Yet, something greater, more exciting, more surprising perhaps is that the shepherd we follow, is the shepherd who “brings” his sheep not yet of his fold, to himself, he goes to find the one that is lost when the ninety nine remain.  He longs to bring us from death into life,   the one who made us, and fashioned us, and knows us, wants to bring us into his fold, into his kingdom where we can be who we were made to be.  He meets us where we are,  I heard it put like this once:
“I am the good shepherd,” says Jesus so that shepherds will understand,
“I am the true vine” so that gardeners will understand,
“I am the light of the world” so that electricians will understand,
“I am the way,” so that search and rescue teams understand,
“I am the truth” so that politicians will understand,
“I am the life” so that undertakers will understand,
“I am the alpha and omega, the first and the last” so that historians will understand,
“I am the bread of life” so that bakers will understand,
“I am the living water” so that plumbers will understand,
He is “the righteous one” so that lawyers will understand,
“The cornerstone” so that builders will understand, “I am“ says Jesus. 
Izzy is going to be baptised this morning, baptism being another outward sign of an invisible grace, in that in baptism we die with Christ, and so we are raised to life in Christ.  What has baptism, got to do with our gospel reading? Baptism is the start of the road, is the bringing into the fold, where the baptised begins their journey of faith and discovery, together with the church.  It’s the start of our listening to the voice of Jesus, it is the start of our following Jesus, and the start of our knowing him more intimately. 
It is quite apt that we had a reading from acts, where we hear of the early church, working out what a church is like, where as part of following Jesus, how this expresses itself in the community.  This is as relevant to us here today as it was then.  For we need to ask ourselves, not just individually, what does following Jesus look like in church? We have a great tradition that forms our expression of worship, but I am not just talking about the worship on Sundays, I am talking about church, on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, Thursday Friday, even Saturday.  How do we live as a church community that expresses our faith, not just inwardly but in how we live, on a day to day basis?
As we come near to the close hear the words of Jesus, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” To hear the voice of Jesus, to heed his call, and to follow in his footsteps, beginning to know him is where we begin to live an abundant life, a life full of love, of grace, mercy and forgiveness. Let us pause for a moment to reflect - listen to the voice of Jesus follow him, and know him,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blogging for the World

This is a great piece from the Church Times Archive by Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham (his blog can be read here and you can follow him on Twitter here...)


Mrs Partington lived at Sid­mouth on the seafront. The Revd Sydney Smith records her gallantry with a mop and pail during the great storm of 1813: “The Atlantic was roused; Mrs. Partington’s spirit was up. But I need not tell you that the contest was unequal; the Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington.”

Confronted by a new wave of communications technologies, some Christians will reach for the mop and pail. Others will just keep calm and carry on. A few will go sailing, seeing the Atlantic as the way to a new world.

New media are the greatest quan­tum leap in communications since the invention of printing. Networked computers are now connecting and reconnecting people all over the world in radical new ways.

This is visibly changing the course of history. Time magazine’s most in­fluential person of 2011 is Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google ex­ecutive who, over a few weeks, mobilised 12 million people to topple the Mubarak régime. He used Face­book, which, if it were a nation, would be the third largest in the world.

The world of social media is large and complex, but three kinds of site are driving the revolution.

Social-network websites such as Facebook connect people, enabling them to share information and stories. MySpace enables people without special technical knowledge to pub­lish personal websites.

Resource-sharing sites such as YouTube publish videos produced anywhere from Hollywood studios to people’s phones; while Flickr and Picasa specialise in still images.

Blogs are websites for personal stories, writing, and comment. The world has roughly 6500 daily news­papers and 200,000 periodicals; 129 million book titles have ever been pub­lished. There are about 156 million active blogs in the world. A really successful religious paper­back might just achieve sales of 20,000 copies. My blog, over three-and-a-half years, has received more than half a million hits.

Twitter is a “micro-blog” — a site for comments and links from other media in a tiny format of up to 140 characters, called Tweets. It pub­lishes instant news, images, and thoughts. Some six-and-a-half million people followed the royal wedding on Twitter.

Social-media sites are en­gaging unprecedented numbers of people, but what is really revolutionary about them, along with the way they all interconnect, is that they give anyone who is con­nected an equal op­portunity to par­ticipate.

The editor of the Manchester Guardian C. P. Scott wrote in 1921: “a newspaper is of necessity something of a monopoly.” In the days of hot metal, you could say anything freely as long as you happened to own a press. Now anyone who is networked can publish anything from home.

The mushrooms are no longer in the dark, and they can talk back, with radical results. The key to using these media is to interact personally and to engage others in conversations, not to shout at them. New media are in­herently anti-hierarchical — some bishops may not take kindly to a world where nobody cares who any of them are, in which they are only as good as their last job.

Christians are the Body of Christ, the Word made flesh. The Lord com­missioned them to be good news. This involves communicating in any way we can. Churches with printing presses led the last revolution; so what are we going to do about this one? We could always do nothing, or perhaps sit it out on our spotty behinds, sullen and cautious, with occasional bouts of whining and nostalgia.

There are indeed dangers lurking out on the ocean. It contains so much information that getting what you need can be like trying to drink under a shower. Privacy is being re­defined in terms that we don’t yet under­stand with confidence. Instant com­munication can stoke up fire­storms of bad behaviour.

The fastest-growing take-up of Face­book has been among people over 55, mainly to get back in touch with former associates.

Every community needs a camp­fire around which it can gather to share stories, build relationships, and make decisions. There is an emer-ging trend among US voluntary as­socia­tions, including churches, to do their internal communications, in­cluding contact with the house­bound, through Facebook.

Twitter, meanwhile, is a good way to collect news, as well as snippets of personal expression, as all the world’s media outlets now use it as their primary broadcast medium for hot information.

Does triviality matter? Frankly, most human conversations are less weighty than the Gettysburg address. Quirky observations and chit-chat are the staple diet of all social gather­ings, including Twitter and Face­book.

If you have more heavyweight observations to offer or stories to tell, start a blog. Almost all serious leaders in politics and commerce, along with a few of the clergy, are using blogs to communicate and develop vision, comment, and ideas.

In Social Media, authenticity is gold dust. Many people expected the internet to be dominated by anonym-ous or pseudonymous bigots, but in general this has not happened, and Facebook goes to great lengths to pre­vent this on its site.

The key to social media is to be yourself. Christians who believe in the Word made flesh should have faith to engage, as themselves, freely with others. There are one or two con­texts, such as confession, which call for anonymity, but, in principle, people who refuse to take personal responsibility for their words almost always detract from their authen­ticity.

Any revolution contains many reasons to be anxious, but I feel optimistic about Christians’ using social media. We have a gospel to proclaim. If it is true, it should be able to stand up for itself in the open market. The New Testament con­tains good examples of Paul and others preaching in the streets, with­out the privilege of controlling the scene, and achieving great things.

Christians have much to say using social media because churches con­tain many ordinary people with en­gaging stories to tell. Now they have the means to do so personally and conveniently. The more they get out there and speak freely, the richer a view of Christianity the world will get, to replace the two-dimensional retro soap that Fleet Street makes of Church.

The earliest Christianity flou­rished on the open streets of a pluralistic world. The ocean is wide. The possibility of getting lost or drowned is always there, but this is a time for courage and im­a-gination, not mop and pail.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sunday Podcasts - yes 2!!!

Here are not one, but two Sunday Podcasts with sermons from 1st May based on John 20.19-31 and this week's based on Luke 24.13-35. Click the bible references to reread the passages. Sit back, and enjoy!

From Jerusalem to Leverstock Green

We spent Friday undertaking an unenviable task - sorting the loft. it is an unenviable task because when we arrived here we were 2 and a bit, and now we are 5 (6 if you count the dog!) and with a boarded loft this end and no boarded loft at the other, we needed to sort with a motto - if in doubt throw it out.

Sorting stuff was was a bittersweet experience - there were records, books, photos, keepsakes, mementos - there were things that brought back good memories, there were things that reminded me of people no longer with us, there were things that reminded me of how far I have journeyed on life since. The sorting made me look back and caused a number of different emotions to surface.

Then yesterday morning I was at Leverstock Green School celebrating the history of the life of the school in this community as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations of the National Society which was set up to promote religious education in this country. It was wonderful to go and see photos and records and stories of the school over different eras of it’s past and to celebrate the journey the school has been on over the years and the impact that the it has made on thousands of lives in this community.

In this morning’s Gospel reading we encounter two people, full of memories about the past, overflowing with emotion, contemplating the journey their lives had taken them on as they travel from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

This story deals in things we know and can grasp and understand - it happens on the way to Emmaus from Jerusalem - roughly equivalent if we were to walk from here to St Albans Abbey, about 6 miles. We are told one of the key players is a man called Cleopas. He’s not one of the 12 disciples, but might have been part of the very earliest of churches. And the other? One of us perhaps?

We know something that they don’t.  As they walk the two travelers are joined by a stranger. THey fail to recognize him as the risen Jesus. Was that because it was so unlikely? So unexpected? Were they so wrapped up in their grief. But would we recognize him? Jesus promises to walk with us, to be with us wherever we go but do we recognize him?

Cleopas and the other disciple are asked by their traveling companion to explain why they are looking sad. Their hope is gone.  So Cleopas explains about the things that had taken place.  ‘We had hoped...’ said Cleopas.  As he retells of Jesus alive, crucified, dead and buried, so they tell of crushed hopes and trodden down dreams with him and for themselves. Gone. But notice, as they unfold the top news story of the day, they describe Jesus as a great prophet, but fail to grasp something crucial - his divinity - He is the Son of God. They had missed something crucial.

By ourselves, through own intelligence, our philosophy, science, our own reasoning we discover much about our lives and the world, but all in all we cannot fully grasp God fully, really truly is using these alone. God is beyond us. We need him to reveal himself to us alongside us.

This weekend we have been celebrating the life of Leverstock Green school in the context of the wider bicentennial celebrations for the National Society. We have been celebrating and giving thanks for the life of a school that has walked alongside this community for over 160 years through tragedy and joy. What we celebrate this weekend is not the buildings, but the people who have walked alongside sometimes unseen, as fellow pupils of the school as well as staff and support staff. It is their presence, commitment and care that is remembered long after the buildings are forgotten because it is that which shapes us as people and has transformed our future.

The stranger walks alongside Cleopas an the other disciple and us and opens the scriptures to them. He reveals the big story of God’s love for creation contained in them, and reaching it’s fulfillment in and through his messiah, his chosen one. Even then they did not fully grasp why this was the most important walk of their lives.

Later, as they share a meal at which the stranger takes bread, gives thanks for it and blesses, breaks and shares it. Suddenly it dawned on them who the stranger is. It is their Master raised from the dead. Jesus himself had had walked alongside them and had revealed God’s promise of new hope and resurrection life to them, but not in the Temple, not in church, but in the ordinary things of life - a walk, a meal, a chat, a growing friendship...

This is such a contemporary story. We make our way through life accompanied by all sorts of people - family, friends, teachers, strangers. Some of the journeys are joyful some are tragic. Jesus comes alongside each of us on life’s journey. He doesn’t force his way into the conversations, but listens attentively to our stories and then asks us what we are saying and where we are going. Some of these journeys will encourage us to ask big questions about life and faith.

Jesus meets us this morning wherever we are on our journey. As we read the Bible he helps us understand the extent of God’s love for us as all. As we break bread and share wine Jesus transforms our hurts to hopes, our sorrow to joy, our death to his risen life. As we leave here he meets us again in the ordinary things in life - a walk, a chat, a meal a growing friendship. In all these Cleopas and the other disciple found themselves filled with faith. As we journey from school to college, to work, to family, to friends in all the ordinary things of life, walk alongside us O unexpected Jesus and share with us the things of God and fill us with faith and hope. Amen

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

JK Wedding Entrance Dance

I saw this video for the first time today as I am participating in the Diocese of St Albans' hosting of the Weddings Project. This was a real wedding in the USA.

We were challenged to think - whose church is this? It's not mine as priest. It's not the PCC's. It's Christ. We are all His guests.

So often the church's answer to couples is 'no' or a percieved 'no.' Christ says 'yes' to us. Shoulndn't we, as the church, say yes to loving couple's celebrations of their love?

I was deeply deeply moved by this and it made me really think

The Word as a Wordle - The Emmaus Road

This Sunday's Gospel reading is one that I would take to a desert island if I could. It is the story of the encounter on the Emmaus road.

I remember it being taught passionately when I was doing my ordination training. The story is significant for in the encounter that these 2 have withe the Risen Christ, the scriptures are opened and they are interpretted by Christ and He demonstrates, He reveals how those scriptures point to Him.

Christ as the key to scripture. The whole of scripture. He unlocks the revealing of God's purposes that those stories reveal. It is Christ who lovingly demonstrates God's call to us - I love you. I want to be with you. WIll you be with Me? God's longing for us as a lover for His beloved is revealed again and again in history, but it is Christ who is not only that supreme demonstration of God's love, but also the means to grasping and experienceing it fo ourselves. He offers us 'zoe' - with-God-life...

Not only are the scriptures 'broken open' and the truth of God's love revealed, but bread is broken. It is in the context of a meal that this stranger on the raoad is revealed. The stranger took bread, blessed and broke it and shared it - the actions that the earliest churches will have recognised as Jesus' reinterpretation of the passover meal. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26,

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.


Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 


Having wordled the reading I am really struck by the way that the significant word that sticks out is 'things.' What things?
1. The arrest, trial and death of Jesus
2.  The hope they had that God's Messiah was finally here in Jesus of Nazareth
3.  The perceived failure of the mission of Jesus of Nazareth
4. The prophesied suffering of the Messiah
5.  The passages of scripture, how the Bible itself as one long love story between God and humanity reaches it's climax in this man Jesus.

And these things are revealed in the normal stuff of life - in grief and tragedy, on a walk, in conversation, in a meal, and between friends and strangers.