Grace 2

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , on September 27, 2014 by fibrefairy

this one is for tomorrow – twice at another church in the same team. I really didn’t intend so much overlap from last week , but there it is…!  ( and another Sara Miles quote too!  (if you haven’t read her stuff..why not? read it!)

Trinity 15 year A

The Parable of the Two sons
recording of sermon for Trinity 15a
Politicians and children often have something in common, when faced with a question they don’t want to answer they do their darndest  to wriggle out of it – they ask a different on, say something unrelated.. you know the scene!

Jesus didn’t always give a straight answer to questions either, but rather than being evasive he tended to turn the spotlight back on the questioner & their motives often with powerfully uncomfortable results!

In our Gospel today Jesus has been challenged by the chief priest and the elders, they’re, as always trying to catch him out, they want to trip him up, probably to catch him out on a blasphemy charge, or some other violation of the Jewish law.

They want to out him as a radical and a heretic.  So they ask him in whose authority does he teach.

Jesus isn’t daft – if he said God’s then he’d be hauled off on the grounds he was usurping authority; if he said his own, far worse, that would be blasphemy too.

But Jesus doesn’t answer –instead he asks them a question – what about John?  Where was his teaching from?  and they realise they’ve been had again. Caught in their own net of rules and expectations.

Jesus doesn’t persist with the authority theme though, instead he talks right into the root of the problem, telling the parable of the two sons.

He doesn’t elaborate, or waste words, but simply says to these religious leaders ,

“tax collectors & prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God before you”

That would have hit them right between the eyes. Jesus has picked two of the most reviled and despised   jobs in society tax collectors were enemy collaborators,  who cheated their country men  for their own gain,  and prostitutes were considered lowest of the low, unclean, unworthy, unredeemable.

These outcasts were entering the kingdom of God, the life and presence  of  God among us??

How very dare he suggest such a thing?

But what Jesus said , shocking and radical as it was, and indeed is, is the truth,

For these religious leaders were blind, so tied up in their notions of respectability and right-ness

So concerned for their reputations and their rules,

They worked  on the basis of who was in & out,

Outcasts were essential to their ways of thinking because outcasts define the centre,  without outcasts,

well it would be unthinkable, everyone would be included.

They’re whole world view was built on

“we know we’re right because they’re so wrong”

WRONG says Jesus,

What’s happening here is that the religious leaders are missing the point

Missing the point of what the Kingdom of God is all about

For the Kingdom of God is not a country or a structure with borders and passports

It’s not a Kingdom  with an immigration policy that wants to legislate  about who is in or out, who belongs or who doesn’t.

The Kingdom of God is about grace, undeserved love, mercy forgiveness from God to all of us

Grace flows from  Jesus  incarnate -God with us, the Word made flesh, present with us.

Grace flows from  the cross and  from the empty tomb.

Grace is radical, generous and yes, frankly offensive.

It offends our notions of right & wrong,  it offends our comfortable status quo, it offends our walls our barriers and our insistence on in & out, worthy and unworthy.

God is merciful without reason,  his love is for everyone, saint, sinner Archbishop, drag queen everyone.

Radical mercy disrupts the mentality of  centre & outcast, it blows it open

Sara Miles says

“ Jesus keeps making the point that salvation doesn’t depend on worldly status or even on religious observance. In a whole series of stores Jesus demonstrates that God deliberately chooses the stranger, the outcast the foreigner, the sick the unclean  – in short the Wrong people – to show the scope of his love”

And we find that hard.

Tucked up in our churches, feeling like perhaps we’ve got this sorted.  We know what we believe and what we’re doing.. and yes if we’re honest we know that a bit because of the people out there – the people we’re not.

And yet Jesus says to us too “you’re missing the point”  it’s not about all this, it’s about Grace, and its free and it’s for everyone,

And we struggle –

Because we’ve made it comfortable, and static, and we don’t much like change or mess.

Rachel Held Evans , a Blogger & Theologian writes “

I don’t like the idea of God using people and methods I don’t approve of and yet that seems to be God’s favorite way of working in the world—outside my expectations, right where I’m prejudiced, against all my rules.”

My rules, our rules aren’t what matters.

What God is doing is what matters and he is working in whom so ever he chooses, not to our direction, or preference but because he offers his grace freely to us all.

And we all need it, we’re all sinners. There’s no centre and no outcast, we’re all the same – in need of God’s grace. We cannot dictate what God does because we’re the ones needing that mercy and forgiveness, as much as the next person, and the next and the next..

The glorious thing about Grace is that we can just say yes to it,   open our hearts and our eyes to what God is doing,  ask for his mercy and join in with what he’s doing – wherever it is.

As we experience the radical grace & mercy  of God we’re called  out of  being  like the second son, lip service and no action,  into being like that first,  changing our mind, admitting our failures and  going off gladly to do our Father’s work.

Let us pray for an experience of that transforming grace in our lives and communities.

Amen

 

Grace 1

Posted in sermons with tags , , , on September 27, 2014 by fibrefairy

The first of two sermons that ended up being on grace! Trinity 14 Year A
recording of Trinity 14

This one got preached three times, twice  in the morning at one church and then at another for Evensong;

The Parable of the Generous Landlord

It’s very easy to cry “ unfair” isn’t it. If you’ve ever spent much time round children you know that they are particularly good at  comparing and pointing out injustices! He’s got more juice that me, that’s not fair it’s my turn. That’s a bigger slice of cake than I have, Why can’t I stay up as late as she can?

If we’re honest it doesn’t stop there does it?

Which of us hasn’t had at least an internal moan about what someone else has, whether material or otherwise? The grass is always greener, someone else go a better deal,  had better weather on holiday, has children with better exam grades, or  something..

And out it spreads –what about our attitudes to  immigrants  or people reduced to claiming benefits,  people being rehabilitated whether from crime or drugs or other destructive behaviours.

“ do they really deserve that  help? “ we ask ourselves, and feel resentful and cross..

There is nothing new under the sun.

Jesus told this parable,  The landowner is hiring;  one group of people are right there at the start –full days work, full days pay –they’re sorted

And a bit later there’s still some need for more workers, so the ones who had maybe dithered or perhaps they were helping a family member, getting the kids sorted, getting  granny up –now they get hired, they’re not expecting special treatment – but wow, the landowner offers them a full days pay –sure thing.

And throughout the day he keeps hiring, and he keeps  offering full pay even to those who for whatever reason – and let’s be honest we don’t know what,  got hired just before knocking off time.

And the early workers kick off… what’s going on –we’ve worked jolly hard all day, and in they come , taking our pay and our jobs, lazy good for nothings…

But the landowner says to them “ you agreed.. I’ve not cheated you, I’ve just been generous to those who came after”

And there’s nothing much more to be said is there? No case for an argument really.

God is that landowner

He calls us all, all the time he is calling us, and them, and the others.

The people down the road who haven’t got a penny, the young chap who is trying to blot it all out, the  city lawyer with the big house and the polished life ( you think) .

The young mum struggling everyday to get up and keep going on no sleep.

He’s calling those who haven’t had a day when they didn’t pray and those who swear more than they say Amen

He’s calling everyone,  because we’re all sinners, and we all need his grace,

None of us deserve his grace, but God is outrageously and extravagantly generous

He doesn’t hold back or impose conditions, he just offers, and all we need to do is accept.

 

He sent his Son,  himself to live among us,  to die, to rise again – to conquer the last  thing that scares , fears and plagues us. Death itself.

He gave everything so that he can give us everything.

All that is God, all that he has, is freely and generously offered to us, to them, to the other, to everyone.

It’s scandalous

Shocking

It turns the world and its values of exclusion and judgement on its head, upside down

But that is what grace is.

It’s all of God for all of us,

Transforming us from within, transforming our relationships our lives and our world. Showing us beauty where we have not seen it,  life where there has been death.

Poured out again and again, from the cross and the empty tomb, this grace…

forgiveness acceptance love change eternity joy…

Remembered at this table as we eat together, extravagantly feasting at Gods table, remembering with thanksgiving his immense love.

None of us can say “it’s not fair” as we watch others blessed

None of us dare,

Because none of us deserved this.

None of us can set the rules as to who is in or out.  We are all “ in”

one of my favourite writers  Sara Miles having come to faith from atheism simply   through taking bread & wine & encountering  God  “ the god I didn’t believe in, suddenly in my mouth, real”

says

“God’s grace is frankly offensive in its indiscriminate love of archbishops and prostitutes, drag queens and bankers, thieves and millionaires”

 

And all we must do is respond with love and openness  and allow this overwhelming  scandalous, generosity to change us daily to become more and more  like the one who gives  so freely to us,

Becoming part of his outpouring of grace to others

Part of his mission of transformation to our world

Not  merely watchers but part of the story.

Reblogged: An open letter to the Daily Mail…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2014 by fibrefairy

 

Hammer meet nail head

This made me cry,  it has so much truth.  MrF is a trustee of a charity that runs basics banks in our  city.  Again & again he says how people don’t access footbanks because they can but because they have no other choice; it’s humiliating and embarrassing and for most people they only do it because theres simply no other option  So thank God they exist;  if only they didn’t need to.  Thank God too there are so many in this world like this blogger bringing up the next generation to understand it’s always better to start with grace & generosity. So what if a few abuse that?  I’d rather take that risk than the alternative.

An open letter to the Daily Mail….

“it is finished”

Posted in faith, sermons with tags , , , on April 18, 2014 by fibrefairy

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“It is finished.”

Like a voice exercise in a drama class it can be hard to know where to put the emphasis in these short three words.

IT is finished

It IS finished

It is FINISHED

And what is it that is finished, and why and how?

Do we read these words as a sigh, a giving in?

Much like at the end of a day,  I’m finished –as we collapse into the sofa with our particular poison – be it trash TV,  a cold glass, a onsie ;)

or after the battle with a dilemma, a puzzle, a situation, – when it’s more that it has finished us, than we it?

Is it triumphant & angry –the expulsion of energy and passion as we gain mastery over a problem, a flatpack bookcase, a flat  tyre?

When Jesus utters these words, what does he mean, what is he saying?

What is finished?

For Jesus “ it is finished” is not just about his life being at an end ;

though it is that; the incarnate being of God comes to an end, flesh fails, ends, is done in, is finished.

He’s not talking about the end of the road for his work.

Yes the ministry he had for three years is over, at least in the way it was;  no more travelling, and wandering and preaching to crowds, and speaking to, drawing in, those on the edges, this now , is finished.

He’s not either talking about the hope they had just a few days ago; the Hosannas and the palm branches, the hope of a King come to save; though that dream is over,  at least in the way it was dreamt by that crowd.

He’s not talking about the end of the relationships he’d built and nurtured; though for sure they have passed.

Peter is still mired in his guilt and shame for denying his Lord. Everyone but John and the women have run off; those easy, if bewildered friendships have now come to an end,

at least in the form that they were.

 

It is finished..it is done, it is complete.

Jesus has shown us who God is, what love is; on the cross  that is fully shown, fully expounded.

Finished.

There is nothing more to be said.

In love to the death Jesus opens up for us the love of God, there is nothing he will not do.

Love is thrown wide,

God is made known, arms stretched, pain wracked, heart torn.

God has finished what he set out to do; to bring love and acceptance to all his creation.

To restore and to heal,  to live in and through the pain.

On the cross as Jesus died,  love obliterated sin and pain and brokenness.

Love broke apart everything that tears us up and breaks us down.

Love has finished , completed,  dealt with,  what we in our sin had wrecked & broken.

Love restores us to God.

On the cross love shows us the way to God; though  & beyond the pain of sin not round it, ignoring it and skirting the issue.

It *is* finished.

The chains are broken,

God is ultimately revealed,

the picture is finished, the work is done.

Through death, the end of death itself.

The gate opens; “It is finished” is just the beginning.

 

 

sewing, soul space & Stanford

Posted in faith, fibres, sewing, Uncategorized on April 13, 2014 by fibrefairy

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One of the reasons I don’t sew   often enough is the fact that since we moved here I don’t have the luxury of a space where I can leave the machines out – making it easier to do the odd half hour here & there. I have a desk in my study  ( in fact  it used to be my sewing table back in the day – its a big old oak dining table with pull leaves I bought for £30) but its rarely clear,  and in constant use for work anyway! otherwise it’s the dining table, which here is in the kitchen.  I miss sewing, I miss the rhythm and the  mental change, the way my thoughts  think and  ideas float in & out as I do something I’ve done for many years, and create something totally new. Sometimes  the mental challenge is in the construction -which way does this go?. Other times I can listen to the radio or to music and  sort of zone out – or rather in.

This afternoon, after enjoying the spring sun in the garden for a bit  I decided to get oh with it -my desk was tidy enough to clear for at least one machine -I had my  ancient Bernina   my overlocker serviced recently too – and I had two small pinafores cut out & ready to sew.

They are Flossie’s Pinafore from Jeanette at Lazy Seamstress  who I’ve known for, ooh ages thanks  to the wonder of the internet  and she’s now designing some beautiful children’s clothes. This pinnie is the sort of thing I’d have made for my girls back when they were tiny,  and I hadn’t been able to resist either the pinafore or the sale at sewbox and so I’d decided to make them for my two little nieces who are about the same  age difference as my two and fourteen years younger!

Having done the cutting  meant I got both of them sewn today! I have the matching bloomers cut out too but  my stash has failed to yield the right width of elastic,  so  that will wait..

Its a very simple but beautifully done pattern Jeanette’s instructions are  very clear and almost soothing. If you were a beginner you could easily make this pattern. for me making something small and the attention to detail that oozes from the  instructions made me slow down and be as precise as I could be. I can be  a quick & dirty type of sewer,  last minute, getting it done,  taking short cuts. Patrick & May would through up their hands in horror! but I do*know* how to sew, and I particularly enjoy doing small clothes well!

Today marks the start of Holy Week, it can be a crazy manic week for clergy, but I always want it to be still and contemplative with space for thought & reflection. sometimes we can search for that in the ” wrong” places. forgetting that there are all sorts of activities that feed our souls, and give us space for thought and even prayer, they don’t have to be “religious” . The peace of my study,  late afternoon sunshine  a Stanford evensong setting on the ipod speakers and the sewing was what I needed. Maybe I need to remember that this week. Creative space for Holy week.

 

ps Mum, you know nothing about these!

 

Lent 3: re-imagining the church

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2014 by fibrefairy

Lent3: Re-imagining the church   John 4:5-42

We re-imagine the Church intentionally connecting and engaging with our local communities in culturally relevant ways. We will rejoice in the richness of the “mixed economy” of all ministry and proactively promote vibrant parochial and breathtaking pioneering ministries amongst ‘missing’ generations, eg children, young people, under 35s.

http://www.winchester.anglican.org/diocesan-life/strategic-priorities/

We’ve all seen the headlines! “Church attendance is on the decline”,  C of E on its last legs, Religion is dead, no one cares..

People are more likely to put Jedi Knight as their religion on the census form than turn to up church week in week out…

people just don’t walk through the doors any more in the way they used to, perhaps in the way we think they should?

Is it true? well yes, this is what the stats  tell us,  -

There are a few exceptions of course, in terms of Sunday mornings, big churches, often in cities, but elsewhere the numbers are sliding, slowly but surely away from traditional Sunday morning church attendance.

Why is it?  It’s certainly tempting to see it as “their” problem. We’ve not changed, here we are still in church, they know where we are, we’ve not moved.

But maybe if we think about it, maybe that’s the problem.

We know how busy life is, we’ve all said “well the children all play sport on Sundays now…” and we bemoan Sunday opening and the fact that everyone is shopping and going out just as on any other day of the week.

What is it we’re mourning?  Is it full churches, families doing things together?  Is it simply the past, or is it the fact that so many people have no idea about who God is and the transformation he can bring to lives?

Maybe, just maybe if there’s even a little of the latter its time not to wonder why  people don’t come to church but to wonder what we can do to make church different, to take church out of its walls,  to break open its musty hymn book image and bring the message of the Kingdom to those around us.

To re-imagine the church.

Our second Diocesan priority says we aim to be a diocese   that re-imagines church. Church is not just the stones and tiles of this building, church is us, church is the meeting of people following Jesus, and church can be all sorts of things.

Reimagining church doesn’t mean to start with that we go all modern & trendy, in the worst sort of stereotypical ways!

Re imagining the church is not just rearranging the furniture, and painting the walls – though it can be part of it.

Reimagining the church is about understanding what will bring the message of Jesus to the people who live and work and spend their free time in our community, its working out how we bring that message best to those who might otherwise not hear it. It’s doing things well and doing things differently. Whether that is Choral Evensong, done amazingly or Messy church after school. It could be coffee & chat & bible study for young parents, or a coffee shop drop-in for teenagers. It might be a band leading worship on a Saturday night or a quiet 8am communion with breakfast served afterwards.

The areas of church life where there is growth are areas where things are being done differently, Fresh expressions of all sorts, new thinking, willingness to change…

In our reading this morning Jesus says to the disciples “look around you and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting”

The workers go out to the fields to harvest, they don’t wait for the fields to come to them, they use the methods that will work according to what crops they are growing.

As we reimagine church we know that we cannot do everything ourselves, no one community can, and so we need too to listen to Jesus’ words, “one sows and another reaps”

We work together, in our community, in our deanery, in our diocese, across the world,

As church communities often our role, our place is to grow those who go out, – many of those being trained and ordained at the moment are what are known as pioneer ministers, they have a calling to do church differently. To set up meeting places and talking places where people gather, to give people who would never cross the step of a church building the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus, to build community  and church outside of the structures we know & love, but they cannot do that without support, without prayer, without traditional church working with them,

None of this is either or, it’s both and.

Last week’s Gospel was about Nicodemus, who came to Jesus… today’s is about the Samaritan woman, whom Jesus went out to meet.

Here are two models for us, meeting people, who come to us, who ask; who follow this more traditional model, Nicodemus was establishment – a Pharisee, an example perhaps of tradition.

And the Samaritan women, the misfit, the outcast, whom Jesus met where she was, something different, something unusual.

For all of us though whether working with traditional inherited models of church or pioneering new ways of being, we should remember two main points from today’s gospel

Firstly, Church is inclusive not exclusive

When Jesus met the woman at the well all traditions and rules stated that he should keep well away, not talk to her, she was a woman, and probably not well respected given that she was at the well at midday, not with the other women,

And she was a Samaritan, with whom Jews did not communicate

Jesus ignored all that and spoke to her needs, into her heart he included her, he welcomed her despite her background and her reputation.

We too need to do that in our churches and in our pioneering. We need to include those we might shy away from, the unlovely and the marginalised, -this is what the Kingdom is, and this is what church is…

It can be uncomfortable, it can make us vulnerable, but welcoming and loving everyone we meet in the name of Jesus is what we need to be about in being church together.

Secondly we need to remember that where we worship and how we worship is less important than the why and the who.

The Samaritan woman questioned Jesus, as Jews & Samaritans believed that different places (the mountain, and Jerusalem
) were the “right” place to worship. Jesus tells her that true worshipers worship the father in Spirit and in truth.

We all have ways & styles of worship we prefer, and that’s fine, but we must not let those crowd out why we are worshipping  at all and of course who are we worshipping –  it is easy to get bogged down it the “ right” way of doing something, and for that to distract us from the main point. Jesus is clear that it is our relationship in the Spirit with God that is important. It is that encounter that will transform us, and renew us, and those around us. That process of being born again of the spirit, day by day, week by week.

Reimagining church is a challenge, It’s not all about what we do, but why, and just as the Samaritan woman went back to spread the good news in her community, out of that transformation of each of us comes the transformation of our church life and the community around us as we reach out to them, as we do what we do in the power of Gods spirit, and to his Glory

Lent 2 : Authentic Disciples

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2014 by fibrefairy

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I f I was to ask you what your definition of a disciple would be, I wonder what you’d say?

One of the 12 men who followed Jesus? One of the group of men *and* women who followed Jesus?

Someone who learns? Someone who follows?

Any of us who want to be more like Jesus?

This week in both sermons and the Lent course we are looking at the first strategic priority that we have adopted as Diocese –“We Grow authentic disciples”

Right from the start it’s rather apparent that disciples aren’t confined to the 1st C.

But we know that anyway –we hear people in all sorts of fields being described as “a disciple of…”

To indicate that they have taken on the teaching values and example of a certain person, whether they are a philosopher, an architect, an author, a religious leader…

Specifically when we talk about disciples in the church we’re talking about t hose who choose to follow Jesus, learning and growing in him, working out his teaching in their lives.

Today’s gospel is about Nicodemus, a rabbi who comes searching to Jesus, initially at night, in secret.

He’s got a desire to find out, to know, but he knows it will cost him.

Jesus begins to explain to him what the Kingdom of God means, what it is, who is part of it.

It must have been an incredible conversation, imagine Jesus answering all your questions, your searches…

And then Jesus says “unless you are born again…”

And Nicodemus just doesn’t get it,

What do you mean?  Born again,

The only birth he can ( pardon the pun) conceive of is the messy human birth, birth he’s been probably kept far from, as a man, birth he knows only to mean pain and often death,

You must be born again…

It’s a phrase which has had a bad reputation; it’s come to signify perhaps a certain type of Christian, a faith journey with a Damascus road moment, a particular sort of theology.

But new birth in Christ is just what happens when we commit to following, commit to changing our direction, to being guided by God and not our selves, committing to our journey continuing on his paths.

New birth is painful sometimes too, it hurts to leave things behind, to make decisions and sacrifices, it can be a battle

But new birth, like physical birth is only the start,

No human baby that is to thrive and live stays the same.

No human baby that will live is not fed, or nurtured, protected and taught.

And it is exactly the same for us as Christians

Our spiritual selves just like our human selves need to be fed, to learn, to grow, to realise our full potential in God

Children change, and grow, but at root they are the same people, you can compare a photo at 2 and 20, and still see the same basic identity, the features, the smile or the eyes.

God created us in his image, we are already made up with his DNA, and he doesn’t want to change that or fundamentally change who we are,

What he is encouraging us to do is to grow more & more like him

More & more like his son, Jesus.

And this involves work and commitment on our part, on the part of the church, in a role not dissimilar to that of a parent,

The first Diocesan priority is growing authentic disciples.

Sitting week in week out in church on a Sunday is not in itself what grows discip0les.

Discipleship involves challenge and change and growth, increased understanding and commitment, grasping hold of what the Kingdom of God means, and how we can be part of it.

of that, to being those who work and strive for the Kingdom of God, to being those who want to be more like Jesus, more compassionate, more transformative , more merciful, closer to God and each other, more living for others than ourselves, all this and so much more!

Authentic disciples, who are following on the road, but what is that, that word authentic?

If you watch the Antiques roadshow or similar programme, you will be familiar with the scenario, a beautiful vase or bowl or piece of silver is placed on the table in front of the experts

They look at it, yes its very much like  what it says it is, it looks that way, it gives every impression  of being what you say it is,

And then

They turn it upside down.

Because it is upside down that the hall mark or the pottery mark is visible,

The mark that shows that this piece is in fact authentic, real,

The real core identity matches with the appearance

This is what it means to be authentic,

When we are viewed from every angle, everything about us says we are disciples of Jesus, even when we’re feeling uncomfortable and under stress, being upside down and shaken round, everything about us says “authentic” real…

We don’t know what happened to Nicodemus, whether the new birth he found so hard to understand became a reality for him, or not

But we can listen to Jesus speaking to us through this encounter, we can embrace the new birth we have, and ensure that we grow and enable others to grow in this challenging journey of  discipleship, hallmarked by the Spirit’s life in us, visible as Christ’s, from every angle.

 

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