why #metoo too

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2017 by fibrefairy

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story. social media has been covered with the #metoo hashtag,  women everywhere saying openly that they have been subject to sexual harassment or abuse, verbal intimidation, body shaming, assault and rape, everything from the stuff we are inclined to shrug off on a daily basis to life-altering physical and emotional trauma.

I took a while before I joined in, I never have with similar memes before, I’ve never felt I’d been hurt enough, or damaged, or that what I’d experienced could in any way compare to the trauma of others.

This time though I felt I should, and what’s more I feel I should tell a bit of my story. It’s not about rape, but it could have been, it’s the same attitudes, the same disregard for women as people,  the same culture  that says that we’re there to be commented on, to be touched, to be taken; that we’re there for the use, and amusement of men. How far that goes is dependent on hosts of circumstances, and reactions.

I hesitated about posting #metoo because I don’t want to claim a pain I’ve never, thank God, experienced. However I did post because the more we let the ” lesser” experiences slide, unchallenged, the more our culture, our young men, our older men think  that these things are OK, and the more that happens, the more we get to a point where one of them will cross a line, and another line…

To understand “no” in the small things means that “no” can be understood for the bigger things too.

When I was 20 I took a job in the summer holidays cleaning offices. I was working for a contract company at a government scientific facility  10 minutes walk from my home. If you know where I grew up you’ll know where I mean, but there’s no point in naming it. It was not  “their” fault any more than abuse on the tube is the fault of TfL. There were lots of things about the set-up that could improve safety, of course, but to dwell on that is to take the agency & responsibility away from the men who perpetrate.

I was working alone,  very early in the morning,  cleaning offices, meeting rooms, rooms with banks of computer racking  ( it was the 80s!). I hated it. But I didn’t  give up the job. I’d been taught not to be a quitter, plus I needed the money. I wish I could say I stuck at it because I was sticking two fingers up at the experiences I had, but the reality is I stayed because  I didn’t want to make a fuss.

I hated not knowing when I’d encounter someone,  the early workers, the intense, focused research students with the awkward conversations. The men avoiding the school run, and gaining some quiet time in the office.

I hated not knowing if I’d be trapped in a room again, with a man standing over the door, asking me questions I didn’t want to answer.

I hated not knowing if the owner of the office I was hoovering would suddenly arrive, shut the door and comment on how I handled the hoover nozzle. or press up behind me when I was emptying the bin.

I hated the fact that the woman who found me composing myself in the loos could only ask what an ” attractive Cambridge undergraduate” was doing cleaning offices, and I didn’t want to tell her how her colleagues behaved.

I hated the fact that walking down long corridors in an empty building made my heart beat faster, and still does, because there were too many doors, and too many places to get hidden.

I hate the fact that I never told anyone, that my parents probably thought I was just a bit lazy when I wished I didn’t have to go in.

I hate the fact I didn’t talk to the friends who had got the job with me and probably suffered the same thing in different parts of the complex, and yet we didn’t speak of it. I still feel guilty about that.

I don’t think I told anyone about it for 20 years,  it was horrible, but you know, it hadn’t been rape, it hadn’t been serious.

As I’ve aged,  I’ve seen my daughters and their friends navigate this crap too, and the catcalling and the comments and the casual sexism seems to get worse, not better. I’ve dealt with comments and suggestions even in the church from people who should know far far better and who carry authority and influence they’ve demeaned by their behaviour.

I’ve come to realise that all of this is part of the same problem. It’s about how we value each other, how men value women, and indeed vice versa,  how power, and perceived power is twisted and used, whether verbally, emotionally, or physically.

I’ve come to realise that if we don’t stand up and talk about the ” minor” stuff, we don’t stand a hope of dealing with the major.

If we don’t call out the wolf whistles, the touches, the intimidation on public transport, and at work,  the “locker room” comments and the inappropriate dance floor moves, then we won’t change this culture.

#metoo is not about attention seeking, no one wants to relive this stuff, it’s not about women comparing  – my trauma trumps your trauma, it’s about recognising we have a problem in our culture,  a problem that needs facing up to and dealing with root & branch.

We need to unpack and dismantle the culture that gives permission for anyone to be considered less than another, that enables power to be wielded in damaging and abusive ways. Language matters, “banter” rarely is,  objectification,  possessiveness, and entitlement need a zero tolerance approach.

If we speak out now, our daughters and our sons will thank us for it.

#metoo

 

 

 

 

 

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The one about food, clothes and celebrity vicars

Posted in sermons on September 19, 2017 by fibrefairy

Audio -listen here

It’s that time of year again when our TV viewing is full of food, and dancing,

Great British Bake off seems to have survived the move to C4, though that talking cupcake advert is going to wear thin soon, and I’ll admit to having had a peep at Strictly for the first time ever in order to see  Richard Coles strutting his collar in Ballroom bling.

Kate Bottley has been cooking up a storm in Celebrity Masterchef -also collared -which makes me feel warm even thinking about it to be honest!

Even without clergy colleagues and friends involved there is something compelling about watching people do stuff… getting it wrong and getting it right

And in our heads perhaps we’re thinking…. “Well I wouldn’t necessarily do it like *that*…”

At the beginning of this week I was at a 2 day conference on preaching. ( might have been best not to admit that  this early in the sermon perhaps?!). The speakers and content exceeded my expectations – it was a very inspiring 48 hours,  -but one particularly speaker struck a jarring note with me, as he talked about how to make a good sermon great he outlined some practical and theological pointers, but at times was very clear that he thought that his way of preparing was The way, even  at one point saying “ and if you’re not doing it like this you’re doing it wrong” -you could hear the intake of breath around the room, from an audience of preachers. I’m sure many of them were like me thinking “ well I don’t do it that way..why am I wrong? “

We all can fall into the way of thinking our way is the best way, and even that other ways of doing and being are invalid. Maybe it’s politics or driving styles, cooking, DIY…. You name it

In today’s passage from Romans Paul addresses the tendency of the Roman Christians, and indeed all of us, to be intolerant of difference.

He’s speaking particularly about the food arguments – not the best way to avoid soggy bottoms, but the arguments in the early church about eating meat (generally because it would have had a pagan dedication, because of the way the slaughterhouses were run) and those who chose to not eat meat to avoid that .

It was an argument that divided the church, Peter had had his dream when God told him that all foods were clean, but the Jewish dietary laws still were regarded by many as binding,  and the issue of slaughtering prayers and methods added a new dimension.

Paul says “God has welcomed (them all) who are you to pass judgement,

We need to take this to heart – God has welcomed them..

He welcomes everyone, whether they like classical music or heavy rock,

High mass or charismatic free worship.

He welcomes priests investments and priests in jeans, and priests who wear both

Children, adults, quiet ones and noisy ones

Suits and tattoos, and both together,

vegans and junk food fans.

Old people, young people, gay people, straight people, people who don’t know…

Introverts and extraverts,

God has welcomed them, us,  all.

 

At the end of the day we are all accountable to God. It is between him and us. Our habits, our tastes our way of being Christian or being church are all between him and us.

As a teenager in a church that was only beginning to learn this stuff, it was particularly difficult to match up my faith with the judgemental pronouncements of those around me on everything from my clothes to my social life. Thankfully it was a place I’d grown up and people knew me and my family, but for someone  coming in, that sense of not fitting would have been magnified,

And yet I believe God didn’t care if my boots were aggressive or my hair was short,

he didn’t care that my clothes were from Oxfam, or that I went to the pub after church.

God cared that he & I had a relationship, that I knew I was forgiven, that his grace was available to me.

He didn’t even mind that I was beginning to argue with and question the practices and theology of the church I was in,

God has welcomed us all

And the reason he has, is because of Jesus.

Paul tells us we will all stand before the judgement seat of God

But the glorious thing is that when we do we stand there in the grace that is ours because of Jesus.

Because of his death and resurrection

Forgiveness is freely available to us all,

Each ofus.

It is not our job to judge each other, but to love

To accept difference and diversity just as God does

To acknowledge in each other the variety and the creativity, the challenge and the collegiality. To welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry,

Without judgement

To Listen to the voices of those who are not heard, to fight for those who have no advocate,

To work for justice

To learn from each other,

To build up not pull down

In the understanding that we are  all part of the body of Christ,

We are all in this together.

It is never Them & us

But all of us

All of us, standing solely by grace,

All of us,  in need of that grace and forgiveness

All of us bowing the knee before our God, no better, no worse than those we kneel with,

different ways, with different voices, in different clothes and with different lives and yet all one by his grace.

 

Trinity 10a: Canaan & Charlottesville

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2017 by fibrefairy

 

“If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

  These words were written not this week or even this year, but in Germany in the late 1930s by the pastor and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The metaphor he chose to describe how he felt he should act in the face of growing evil is frighteningly appropriate even prescient in our current 21C world where cars are literal weapons.

Events in Charlottesville and Barcelona have once more bring to our attention the presence of so much evil and hatred in the world.

They are not events that are “far away” though they may not affect us directly physically, but they are events that affect us, that must cause us to think and consider what our response should be, because not response is still a response;

and as we consider how we deal in our own lives with situations that challenge us, today’s Gospel reading, as so often, speaks to some of these issues.

It’s not an easy passage, either to read or to preach on, and on first encounter  -and particularly in deed in the light of the violence and the language of abuse that we have seen in the last week it maybe is hard to see where Jesus is coming from. This does not sound like the loving inclusive Jesus we know.

Our passage begins with Jesus teaching that it is not what we eat that make us unholy and unclean, but in fact the words and actions that come from us – indicative of the attitudes we hold. What is in our hearts comes out in our speech, what we think of others will be clear in what we say and do.

The disciples come to Jesus and say, “you know Jesus the Pharisees are unhappy, they don’t like what you just said about the food laws…”

I have a mental image of a Life of Brian type scene, with a group of Pharisees muttering at the back of the crowd…

their legalistic clinging to ritual food laws was part of what gave them identity as religious jews, they didn’t want that status and control eroded and I’m sure they didn’t want to be confronted with the reality of what Jesus was saying,

Jesus seems to brush aside the disciples worry about this reaction “every plant not planted by my father will be uprooted” -in other words, God will judge what is of him and what isn’t eventually…

It’s in some ways reassuring, the job of getting worried and upset about what God thinks about people or deciding whether they’re truly following the way of Jesus is not ours,  it is Gods and in his hands,

 

Jesus then moves on to Tyre & Sidon, and encounters the Canaanite woman, gentile, pagan,  an outcast in Jewish society, nevertheless she is begging Jesus for healing for her daughter. Despite being a non-Jew, she recognises in Jesus something of worth, something of God, she calls him Son of David, and in doing so acknowledges who he is. His identity.

His reaction though is puzzling, it’s not the welcoming inclusive Jesus we come to expect.

H says “I  have come only to the lost sheep of Israel”

Which sounds on the face of it rather dismissive,

But is it?

Who are the lost sheep? What is he trying to show here?

As she begs him, things change

He says “is it fair to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs?” the obvious answer to that is no of course it’s not fair, none of us take the food from our families and feed it to the animals,.. but we need to unpack what Jesus is saying, and to understand some of the language nuances that look like they’re being used here.

Dog would have been an offensive term used of non-Jews but the religious people, but the word Jesus uses is not that word, but a related, much softer one, the word that describes a pet dog or a puppy,  a diminutive word. He refers to an attitude that is familiar, commonplace but in   in doing so he’s twisting things,

He knows this woman would be rejected by those around her, he knows she has probably heard that insult and worse a million times, he knows she is in need, and he wants to show that indeed she too is lost and therefore part of the world that he came to live amongst and save. Perhaps the “lost sheep of Israel” is a much wider category than we or they acknowledged.

Perhaps it can even include neo Nazi’s and all extremists, for no one is beyond forgiveness, and redemption, if they choose to turn from their behaviour.

It appears she picks up on this and says “well even the puppies pick up the scraps from the table”

Jesus then heals her daughter and commends her faith.

She has picked up on the message, you are more valued than you think.

One can only imagine what the Pharisees thought of what was going on.

Perhaps this story following on from the teaching about what comes from a person’s heart illustrates something for us,

This woman was humble, she knew her “place” as a non-jew uncomfortable as that is for us to comprehend, and yet she was welcomed by Jesus as one of his lost sheep, and ministered to.

The Pharisees on the other hand, judged and condemned, and were described by Jesus as blind guides of the blind.

By behaviours and not by labels are our true hearts and our place in Gods Kingdom judged.

This week we have seen people who call themselves Christians act in the vilest and most hate filled ways, and people from all communities, praise God, have spoken out.

We have also seen people who identify as Christian refuse to condemn this hatred,

And we have seen many others, who have risked life and limb to stand against it. There are moving accounts of the clergy on the counter protest line in Charlottesville, kneeling and praying in the fact of abuse, violence and threats.

 

Jesus shows us that his way is a way of justice and inclusion, it is not tribal or boundaried by race or  colour or political allegiance.

Time and again he goes against the conventions of his time, deeply rooted   identities, to show that all are equal, all are loved and included in Gods Kingdom.

He subverts the selfish, prejudiced attitudes and puts himself on the line for those values.

As followers of Jesus we are called to live this way of life too, and to stand against those who will not, especially those who exclude and hate and use the name of Jesus to justify it, This is not the way of the Kingdom.

Silence is not an option

The political philosopher Edmund Burke said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Bonhoeffer echoes this when he says

Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.

 

Our call is to stand against evil and to do it with love for all, such a hard path to walk, but this is the way of Jesus the way of the Cross.

Bonhoeffer again,

Christian love draws no distinction between one enemy and another, except that the more bitter our enemy’s hatred, the greater his need of love. Be his enmity political or religious, he has nothing to expect from a follower of Jesus but unqualified love. In such love there is no inner discord between private person and official capacity. In both we are disciples of Christ, or we are not Christians at all.

As we seek to follow the way of Jesus and the Kingdom of God, Justice, love, peace, may we find the courage to speak out against hatred and evil wherever we find it,   and may we learn to love, as Jesus did, without compromise  or capitulation, even to death itself.

 

 

Slow Down, You’re going too fast

Posted in faith, sermons on August 13, 2017 by fibrefairy

A clergy colleague half suggested she might play Bridge over Troubled Water to go with today’s Gospel reading. After I’d written my sermon it was this S&G title that came to mind.

 1 Kings 19.9-18

 Matthew 14.22-33

Trinity 9 Proper 14

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Today’s gospel reading is a very familiar story to many of us -or at least part of it is. Walking on water has become part of our cultural lexicon, a short hand for perfection of ability and skill in a person, perhaps akin to being put on a pedestal.

What has intrigued me about this passage this week though has been less about the spectacular miracle, though we’ll come back to that,  and more about the context in which it’s set, what happens beforehand, and what we can learn from that.

We join the story immediately after the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sends his disciples off to the other side of the lake in a boat -and he remains with the crowds and dismisses them.

What I wonder is going on then, conversation? Healings? Grateful thanks?

Jesus must have been tired, and pretty peopled out – once he is along he goes to the mountain to pray.

This was not uncommon behaviour for Jesus after a busy time of ministry and dealing with people, he needed space for prayer, to reconnect,, to reflect, to be on his own.

It’s evening, and we’re told in a “ meanwhile….back on the lake” kind of way that the boat that this disciples are in is being battered by the waves and it’s a way from the shore, presumably both shores.

And then there’s a blank in the story, because it is not until early morning that we see Jesus walking out towards the boat on the water…

So what was going on through the night?

Did Jesus know that the boat was having a tough voyage? Was he ignoring the plight of the disciples? How were they feeling?

Although he’s not with them, there are echoes here of the story of the storm, where Jesus sleeps on, despite the panicking disciples and the raging winds.

We can only imagine, but probably with good reason, that Jesus has spent the night praying and resting, regrouping, and spending time with his Father God.

Then and only then does he step out to meet his friends.

It is underlined once more for us the importance of rest, of prayer, of stillness.

We live in a busy age, where so much is expected instantly,  fast communications, fast food, fast results. We’re impatient for answers to emails and messages, we want next day or even same day  delivery ( my kids are astounded at the 28 days thing that mail order stated back in the day!)

We expect action, and we expect movement. We are deeply suspicious of doing nothing, or what might look like doing nothing. Time and again Jesus shows us that just being is of vital importance.

Burnout is a huge issue in our society, among all sorts of people and in all sorts of spheres of work and leisure.

We expect too much of ourselves and especially of those around us.

As Christians, we need to learn to spend time just being, it’s been said we were created as human-beings not human doings.

That time of just being is time that contains prayer,  it contains rest, connection with our creator, and our brothers and sisters, and the rest of creation.

We can be seduced into thinking that something is really urgent, that it must be dealt with Right NOW

But very often it needn’t be, The priority of prayer and its rhythm in our lives is foundational. Thought and reflection are vital to how we work, how we exist.

There is a movement towards this in our world, the renewed emphasis on retreat, on mindfulness. There are movements like the slow food movement, encouraging the rhythms of waiting, of thinking , and yes resting. But we need to encourage this, to live it ourselves, to bring balance to our lives.

When Jesus did act, when he went to meet the needs of his disciples, he was able to do something amazing to lift their faith, and to inspire Peter to do likewise.  He had spent time with his father,  in their creation, and then he could literally step out into it, in control, in the right place.

We rush at things, we cram in activities and programmes,  we want quantifiable and tangible results, and yet, counterintuitively, the deepest and most profound work in and around us will come when we are immersed in God, spending time with him,  resting and restored in his presence.

There are perhaps parallels here with the story of Elijah that we heard from the Old Testament.

Elijah identifies himself to God with a list of everything he has done, his activities,

And God responds with an illustration, the wind and the fire, which in all their bluster do not contain the voice of God, and then, the silence and stillness and the quiet voice.

In reponse Elijah once more lists what he has done, and God responds again by sending him into the wilderness, the quiet desert place. Yes, he has a task to do, but the main thrust of that task is anointing his successors. Elijah is not indispensable!

The focus is away from doing, away from frenetic activity and towards the still centre, that is found in the presence of God himself.

Peter rushed at his task… out the boat… Lord let me come to you.  He did exactly what was asked of him, but he panicked, he was frantic,  he took his eyes off Jesus and he began to sink.

When we have much to do when we see tasks and ideas ahead of us. When the urgent begins to push out the important, our only hope is to be still,  to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,

To know that we are created to be before we  do

To trust that from that still place in God, we are able to do everything he calls us to do, and he is there to take our hands, and hold our gaze so that we do not sink beneath the waves.

God of grace and second chances . Lent 3 – Luke 13:1-9

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2016 by fibrefairy

fig-fruit

 

Our Gospel today begins with Jesus being told about a group of Galileans who have been killed by Pilate, a horrible story; presumably these men were killed at worship as we’re told the  blood  mixed with the animal sacrifices.

I wonder why Jesus is told about these events at this point?, are people trying to warn him, on his journey towards Jerusalem? Or are they asking why these tragedies had happened? Have they unsettled people, was this sort of thing uncommon, or a frequent occurance?

We can open our papers or turn on our TVs and see atrocities and tragedies brought direct to our living rooms. We might even become inured to them, distant and detached .

Perhaps in our comparative safety we might even begin to victim blame…

“well they were fighting  too”

“ it was silly place to be”

“fancy  doing that though”

As if any of those were a reason, an excuse for the loss of life or the ill treatment of another.

It goes back to  very deep seated roots about whether what happens to us is deserved or not. Many of us were brought up with that sort of mindset too –perhaps we’ve even  inadvertently taught it to our own children – “  you deserved that…”

The culture in Jesus’s time, amongst  Jewish and Gentiles alike had an idea that bad things happened because of what you had done;  your sin, or your families sin.

We see it in the idea of blessing and curse surrounding children and families;  Just look at the stories of Hannah and Elizabeth –and in the attitude to disability and illness . Whose sin was it that caused this illness, this blindness, this disability? Vestiges of this idea continue to live with us. we can all of us, be quick to judge another, or to articulate some sort of philosophy of “just desserts”.

Jesus is quick to debunk any such thing

“ do you think they were more sinful, that this happened”

Immediately he is clear that  stuff that happens to us is not a result of our actions, we are not judged, let alone punished, in this life for what we do, for what our families have done.

In fact, were that the case we would all be in real trouble

Jesus speaks of Grace, not  the idea we might know of as karma (what goes around comes around..)

He explains that yes, bad things happen to good people, but this is not because of an individuals sin, it is not karma, or punishment, but simply life.

And being Jesus, he turns it to teach them something else!

He turns to those who are talking to him and he reminds them, reminds us that we are all sinners, we’ve all stepped away from God and if we do not change then there will be a consequence –

If we do not turn, repent,  see things a different way,

there will be consequences for us  – not now, but at the end of time.

So far, so much traditional Jewish teaching,  at the end, there will be a judgement..

But then Jesus twists it again –

And he tells the story of the fig tree

Sat in the orchard or the vineyard, doing nothing

Bearing no fruit, taking up space, taking up soil.

The master wants to cut down this useless tree, but is persuaded by his servant the gardener to give it one more year, a year in which the tree will be fertilised and nurtured, cared for and given one more opportunity…

The tree is to be shown grace, given a chance,

God extends grace to us,

But we are not to take it for granted, he demands a response,  a change in our lives.

God gives us so much, but he does not let us stand still

Our encounter with him is to be like that of the gardener and the tree

We are to allow God to nurture us, to dig around a bit round our roots,  perhaps not a very comfortable experience , to spread the manure around us, in order to give us what we need, nutrients for our growth and well being, in order that we might bear fruit.

If we profess faith, if we come to church every week,  if we call ourselves Christians

If we claim to have met with Jesus

And we do not show the fruit in our lives, then yes eventually we will be judged and called to account

But still God is gracious time after time he continues to gives us space time , and opportunity to change,

he calls us to change through love, not by threats and coercion.

Part of the way we exhibit our fruit is in the way we then extend this grace to others;

We all make mistakes

We all sin, not one of us is better in that respect than any of the rest of us,

It is not our place to condemn or to judge others, only to support them and

We have been given the chance to be forgiven

And we also need to extend that to others around us,

Always the benefit of the doubt, always showing grace: in the way we speak to and of others, in the way we relate, in how we act so that they too might know God’s transformation, and bear his fruit in their lives.

Patience and grace are hallmarks of God’s attitude to us,

and they should be likewise marks of our transformation in him as we reach out to others.

God forgives, God extends grace,

So we should forgive too,

always being gracious with each other, for God hasn’t finished with any of us yet.

 

grace and ashes: a reflection on john 8 for ash wednesday

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2016 by fibrefairy

 

Our gospel tonight is an illustration of the immense grace of God shown in Jesus

Not tied by tradition and the revenge and shame culture  that was presented to him by those who had caught out this woman, he lives the very nature of his love and grace.

He does not excuse the sin.

Nor does he ignore the context, the vindictiveness with which others have judged her

So he challenges and acknowledges their sin too

And gradually each of them becomes aware of their need of grace

And their need of forgiveness,

whether they can face it or not, and most probably cannot.

they , each of them clutching their stones, as if by punishing another they might vindicate themselves

they realise that they cannot stand, that  they have transgressed just as she has

Imagine those stones,

Dropping one by one to the ground,

Slipping from hands released from their anger by the presence of grace

Uncurled from an act of violence

And dropping,

Stone, by stone to the ground

As  the accusers melt away,

To think perhaps, to reflect,  but to certainly  go from that place changed a little, or a lot

 

And the woman,

She is changed too, in  that moment

She has come, involuntarily as it was, to stand before the one who does not condemn ,  but who loves, and loves and loves.

who wants to love her, and her accusers into change.

Grace is extended,

she is not to be punished, but she is to change.

All that she is, and has been, is gathered and given to the one who made her, from  the dust,

Who writes in the dust and who transforms the dust & dirt of her life by his grace.

Today we come aware of our own frailties and failings,

Perhaps knowing that “there but for the grace of God “

As we come to be ashed, we come to accept our mortality and our humanity

And within that, our inability to transform ourselves.

We acknowledge our infinite ability to mess up,

To undo creation and make dust from the stuff of life.

We come understanding that only the God who created us from the dust can redeem and transform our dust and ashes,

Only he holds it, and can work with it.

As we come , we come asking for his grace,

Gathering up the dust of our lives, for him to work his creative, grace -filled work once more.

To bring life to the ashes of our life, to work resurrection in us.

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

–Jan Richardson

– See more at: http://paintedprayerbook.com/2013/02/08/ash-wednesday-blessing-the-dust/#sthash.8WcMAgC4.dpuf

 

 

Sermon for Midnight Mass 2015

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by fibrefairy

How many of you have already seen the new Star Wars film I wonder?

The Star Wars fans in my house were counting down to its release  with almost as much anticipation as for Christmas! Any trailer or preview was eagerly devoured, and analysed…“what do you think it will be like?”

They weren’t disappointed, I’ll probably wait for the DVD, and I’m not going to give any spoilers either!

There is definitely a bit of a space theme in the air this Christmas, what with the Force Awakening and  a British astronaught in space  -boldly going where no redheads have gone before!

And then there’s the John Lewis advert…

A man out in space, on the moon, on his own?

It’s a bit of a mystery this one.

Is he lonely? In which case isn’t a telescope so he can see everyone else having fun a bit of a cruel gift!?

Or is he wanting to be isolated, distant somehow, leaving them all to get on with it!

It’s a short film which can be interpreted in many ways, whether or not it makes people do their shopping at john Lewis I don’t know, and last I checked they didn’t deliver to the moon yet –I hope Tim Peake took his presents up with him!

There is a quotation often attributed to the first man in space Yuri Gagarin, but was actually said about him by the then President Khruschev  ; that he’d flown into space and hadn’t seen God… a neat line for the  leader of an atheist state to  use in  his anti God rhetoric.

For many people the idea of God is of someone “out there”, perhaps not logically  in space, but distant, removed from our world, if he/she /it exists at all.

The understanding of God is rather like the man on the moon in the John Lewis advert. Someone watching from afar, leaving us to get on with it.

“Surely”, we say,  if God was God he’d do something about everything that’s going on in our world”

Wouldn’t he help?

The message of Christmas, is that yes he would, and yes he did.

For thousands of years the prophets of Israel were bringing out trailers and previews of God’s great plan,  the Messiah was as eagerly awaited as a blockbuster movie,

We read many of the word of these prophets  in our Christmas services,  they herald the hope that God will come and save his people.

The last of these  previews came in the form of John the Baptist, Jesus’s cousin, who said “ he’s here , he’s coming and he’s going to be a world changer”

God’s plan for our world , for us, was not to remain distant, nor to “ sort us out”  by remote control,  like  a sort of divine drone  mission.

Instead God came himself.

And he came not like an alien invasion, but as one of us , as a child

Into the world in the same way we all came, born of a human mother.

Jesus was God and he was human,

And in him lived everything of God and everything of humanity..

God came to live with us, to dwell with us, literally to pitch his tent alongside ours.

That image speaks to our world today, God is alongside us, moving with us – tents are mobile, not static, our world is fast moving, ever changing, many people are forced to keep moving; but at our core we are the same human beings, with the same needs and emotions.

Jesus lived our human life, he knew sadness and joy, pain and rejoicing just as we do

God with us came to show us a way of living that was and is radically different;

loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us.

But the key thing is that these are not dictats from afar.

Jesus is the New Hope for our world,  he is God among us,

He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not put it out.

In his death and resurrection he conquered the power of death,

And he offers to us a new way of living, a way that will change the world,

Not from the outside but from within, from us.

When we allow him to live with us, when we acknowledge  our need of this new life and hope, then  the force of God’s transforming love will truly awaken in us; and  the light that can never be put out shines in us.

The Kingdom of God is not far off,

Peace on earth is not a distant nice idea.

Jesus didn’t just come as a little baby to look cute in Nativity plays

He really did come to change the world, but not on his own., although he’s perfectly capable!

He calls us to join with him in this work of transformation. This re-creation, which begins with our own turn around,  our own change.

He calls us to be the answer to the question “ so what is God doing about it?”

and we need to chose what our  response to him will be

Will we acknowledge him as God, and allow the light to shine in our darkness, to change our world and our lives

Or would we rather God at a distance,  left in the manger,

So near and yet so far.

 

This Christmas, how will you answer the question

“what on earth is God doing?”

God is with us, the Light shining in the darkness.

Will you carry that light in his world?

 

 

 

 

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