Reflections for ‘Celebrating Together’ 20th Anniversary Service 18 October 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2014 by fibrefairy

As part of a conversation  at the service in Winchester Cathedral to mark 20 years of shared priestly ministry , I reflected on the gospel reading, Luke 1: 39-56.

I began though with a comment about how times had changed in 20 years   My colleague ordained in 1994 had remarked that her 17 year old daughter had gained enormous street cred & kudos from having  a mother who was a priest.

20 years on, I remarked,  for my 17 year old daughter there was no such kudos at all! I think this is a good thing , as the ministry of women continues to be come more and more  “unremarkable”, in the best sense of the word.

***********************************

The verse that sits in the middle of the gospel passage – the hinge really, is one that has been very personally special to me over the course of my adult life, there have been times when I’ve known deep down that God has promised something for me, that he’s had  a purpose – sometimes I’ve known what I thought it was – other times it has been just the more general knowledge that he’s promised to fulfil his calling on my life –

 

And there have been times of waiting and trusting – and hanging on to the fact that there is blessing in the waiting itself, and in the trusting and not just in the fulfilment

Sometimes – as it has been for all of us I’m sure it has been so counter intuitive to believe, to keep on hoping, and yet we trust, we believe and we are blessed in doing so.

 

When Mary visits Elizabeth, Elizabeth recognises in her what God is doing, the call on her life and she blesses her

There is support, and discernment, no pulling down or envy but a recognition of what God is doing in each of them,

For each of us, men, women,  whatever our labels and our struggles,   our vocations are our own, to be discovered, discerned and supported, we’re not in competition, in rivalry but in mutality – always recognising God’s hand on the other and blessing what he is doing. It’s such an important lesson –equality  does not  come by pulling everyone down to the same level, but by allowing each of us to rise to where God calls us all.

 

Mary’s calling to bear God to the world must have caused her immense pain – the sword that Simeon spoke of at the Presentation was not just a future one – it had happened already.

The ostracism and  social condemnation,  becoming a pariah in her own village, the moral judgement and the fear of harm & death would have pierced her heart even at the start, and yet she clung to the promise, and its fulfilment,

The promise given to her, her calling, encompassed death, and resurrection,

It was the forerunner of all our vocations, as many of us have dealt in so many various ways with  pain and  rejection, the death of our calling – and  its resurrection in God’s own time. These experiences are universal, not limited to women, for all of us are following the same God, who calls us to die, in order to rise again.

 

So we proclaim with Mary, that he HAS brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly

Whatever our vocation, our calling our path,

Blessed are we who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what the Lord had promised

“He who has called you is faithful – and he will do it”

 

 

 

Trinity 18a ” to God what is God’s”

Posted in sermons on October 19, 2014 by fibrefairy

Trinity 18  : Matthew 22: 15-22

Audio

Don’t you just hate trick questions?  The sort that you know there’s never going to be a right answer to – someone is trying to catch you out whatever & however you answer.

The Pharisees are at it again with Jesus –and this time they’ve hooked up with the Herodians –

Now these two groups are not naturally allies, politically and religiously, pretty much the only thing they agree on is that they don’t like Jesus!

So the fact that the two factions are together is right at the start a warning..

And they give him a bit of buttering up – I don’t know about you but it doesn’t sound terribly sincere to me..

And then they ask their question  “ is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”

A question they think will trap him, make him unpopular with one lot or the other for sure…  bring him into  the bad books of the Romans or the Synagogue..

So What will he say?

Many people underestimate those around them. They think they can delude them somehow, maybe as much as they are deluding themselves..

But Jesus sees right through these manipulators who are trying to catch him out -

 You hypocrites, he says, why are you trying to trick me?

Straight back at them, and while they’re reeling from the shock ( though why they weren’t used to Jesus  by now I don’t know)

He says to them show me the coin used for the tax – in other words, a Roman coin

This coin was the legal tender under Roman rule – it would have had a head of the Emperor on it  – and some reference to the belief that he was Divine –  so  truly devout Jews would not use it as it fell into the category of idolatory.

Jesus is putting his questioners on to the back foot straight away by asking them for a coin – they had  one – he didn’t.

They knew that he knew that Jewish law forbade such an image.

And he asks them to identify the name, Caesar , and the title –often “ Son of God”

And he says Give to the Emperor what is the Emperor and  to God what is God’s

It’s not as simple as it sounds –

Jesus isn’t advocating, I don’t think, some kind of separation of “Church & state”  as it were, this would have been a concept alien to that time , apart from anything else,

Instead Jesus is saying something much more all encompassing.

Much more profound than a sort of “ separate out  the bits of your life and do them both right”

He’s established already that these critics deal in this Roman coinage –

They already pay, reluctantly or otherwise, their secular dues  – they’ve paid the emperor, now what are they also paying God?

Jesus hasn’t uttered two separate but equal statements –it’s not an equation that you can balance out

Instead he is reminding them that everything is God’s

Even what they pay the state,  not just what’s left over, not the extra, the  loose change for the money box in the temple – but everything.

Our lives aren’t separated off into “the stuff that Gods not bothered with” and “ the stuff God is bothered with”

“All things come from you, and of your own do we give you”

is a line we say so often in our offertory prayers – but what does it mean?

How would it look if we involved God in our shopping?  Is he bothered if we shop at Asda or Morrisons, or the farm shops? What do the choices we make about our food and our clothes look like if we’re including God in them?

What about our banking?  Our saving or our borrowing?

Do faith and money mix?

If we really believe that God is God of everything, and all things come from him, then yes they have to.

It’s not about what we do with what’s left over  when the tax and the mortgage or the rent is paid, and the food is bought and the heating bills paid

It’s about all those things too. It’s about doing what God is asking us to do with all those aspects of our lives , living right, making the right choices.

I can’t tell you what those choices are –

I’m not your ethical financial advisor ( you’ll be pleased to know) I’m not the food miles police or the clothes judge –

Though I do think fair trade is the place to start, and I think we have to consider who, how and in what way our clothes are made,

But really the point is that God is God of everything,

There’s not one bit of our lives that God should not be involved in –

I don’t mean that we stand in the supermarket and pray about which toothpaste to buy, God gave us commonsense too.

But too often we’ve  dismissed whole sections of our lives, our world, money in particular,  as being “ the Things of Caesar”  and decided that we don’t need to bother God about them.

When in fact the opposite is indeed the case.

All we have is Gods,  – so what are we doing with it?

This passage really creates more questions than it answers.

And that’s Ok, because they are questions we need to ask of God.

what should I be giving,  where should I be investing, or borrowing from? What should I be spending my money on?

Bringing these questions to him is part of our response to his love, his great giving to us. It’s part of our worship if you like. As is our response to his answers!!

Questions like this are not optional extras

They are part of God’s transforming work in us.

Paul talks of how the message of the gospel came to the Thessalonians  not in word only but in power and in the Holy Spirit.

They were changed not just in what they said,  but in what they did, how they acted.

Our challenge is to give to God all of us,  every aspect of our lives, to be transformed by his power in Jesus, to have those questions answered and to act on what we hear –  as we remember that everything we have comes from him.

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

wpid-1397821943458.jpg

“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!

 

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