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?

 

 

 

 

On why we can rejoice …

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , on December 13, 2015 by fibrefairy

lighting-the-rose-candle-adv-3

Today is Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice!  the 3rd Sunday of Advent ; a ‘twin’ of   Laetare, the 4th in Lent when traditionally Advent fasting restrictions were lifted a little;  over half way through Advent, where the focus turns to the future and we allow ourselves to glimpse the light. Today we  remember John the Baptist in in the Advent themes,  his heralding of  Jesus and of The Kingdom of God.

The liturgical colour for today is Rose,  symbolising a lightening of Advent purple, and we have lit the rose advent candle.

The name comes from the opening prayer or Introit in Latin Gaudete! –Rejoice and is taken from Pauls words to the Philippians, and as we have heard, echoed in our readings.

Zephaniah tells us that the Lord will rejoice over his people with singing, that we are loved and renewed

And Paul exhorts us to rejoice always! And again rejoice!

Only the gospel it seems hits a slightly jarring note…

“ you brood of vipers” John hisses at the crowds, it doesn’t sound as though there is much here about rejoicing!

But in Johns message there is indeed much to rejoice at,

But also much to be challenged by –because true joyfulness does not come easily, and it is all the more joyful when it has been achieved well rather than easily won.

John calls his listeners to bear fruits worth of repentance

He seems in this to be talking about actions –  we hear him calling various sectors of society to account in the way they carry out their life and work. He calls all people to live out their lives in a way that has integrity and Kingdom values,

However  to change the way we behave is difficult – to act in the way of the Kingdom, the way to which John points is not an easy call.

John is pointing, as we know to Jesus, who he says will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire

This then  is the key. We are called to repentance – a change of direction, a complete turn around,

Not just  about individual issues or sins but the whole of our lives, our direction of travel. Not just a once off, but continually returning to the path, redirected like we might need  to do with a distracted toddler or puppy

& so  in  doing that, in understanding that need to change,  to direct our lives towards Jesus, we are given the power of the Holy Spirit in us, not just for that moment but  continually.

The Holy Spirit works in us, refining by fire, rejoicing over us, encouraging us. Transforming us, from the inside out

And then,  only then the fruit comes,

We cannot “bolt on” the fruit of repentance any more than we can tie apples to a tree & say it’s fruitful. We cannot really live that life and behave in the way of the Kingdom without first having turned, and received the power of the Spirit from Jesus.

We need that refining fire in our lives, burning away the dross and the sin, changing us from within to be more like Jesus

This is our hope, our calling

This is what it means to live by Kingdom values, only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit, as we constantly turn back to God.

& when we do! When we know God singing over us, renewing us, and when our lives bear the true fruits of repentance, then that really is something to rejoice about!

something about sadness

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2015 by fibrefairy

there is something about sadness…

it is a weight,

it is damp & thick, but  not cold, enveloping, suffocating. stifling breath.

it tastes like , well,  nothing; bland disappointment, food that needs salt.

my sadness is slatey blue,

it is an ache,

a swelling over the heart,

heavy

present.

I don’t think I could draw sadness, but I could hear it;  sonorous chords, a minor key

or the rumble of the unexplained.. thunder? explosives? a plane flying off to who knows where?

sadness has  reasons,  those heavy chain links do not always join, they lie on the floor, trapping us nonetheless.

there are rarely words.

today i am sad

i am sad  for the hurting and the lost

i am sad because we cannot be sad without arguing;

are we’re sad enough, or too sad?

is blue sadness  worse than grey sadness?

whether the chords have a resolution

or if there is an accidental dischord

whether the words we’ve tried to use for the wordless are the right words,                         better than no words?       or silence.

i am not angry now

i am sad

and i am tired.

we are all  sad ;

let’s not make it worse

 

 

 

 

wars, and rumours of wars…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2015 by fibrefairy

Today’s sermon, following Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris and the  attacks in Baghdad & Beirut. As ever it was written to be preached rather than read!

When the unspeakable tragedies that are occurring almost every day around the world are brought particularly into focus, due to proximity or  magnitude or the bias of the western media, or a combination of all these things,  we can often be at a loss as to how to react,  how to deal with them.

The all pervasive nature of our news & social media, whether it’s radio, internet, papers brings it to our attention,

The speed of global communications, the ability of bystanders and eyewitnesses to communicate in the moment with the world gives us unprecedented amounts of information, opinion, emotion.

We are required to have ever more sophisticated discernment between truth and propaganda, bias, motive and fact. It can be hard to cope with, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually too

Today our hearts and our prayers go out to the people of Paris, our neighbours,

Prayers for the bereaved, the traumatised, the frightened, the injured,

Prayers for the leaders, the politicians, the priests, the imams

And prayers for the watching world,  trying to make sense of it all

And we pray too for those in Beirut,

And those in Baghdad who died even as they mourned

For Japanese and  Mexicans  in the aftermath of earthquakes

We remember that all life is valued and all loss of life is tragic.

Jesus said “there will be wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed, this must take place” he talked about earthquakes, and famines., about grief and sorrow.

Throughout all of history there have been wars and rumours of wars, there has never been a time in human history when there were not wars and atrocities, nations rising against nations, tribe against tribe

For this is the world in which we live,

A broken, sin soaked word, damaged and fractured by our selfish behaviour,  the outworking of  the little seeds of anger and resentment that we all know we carry,  and only by God’s grace can we overcome; stunt and weed out.

The time in which we live, in which humanity has lived for hundreds if not thousands of years is  in many ways a liminal time,  a time of endings and beginnings, a between time,  the now and not yet.

God has promised to build his Kingdom;

Jesus came, God made flesh to live among us,

He said “the Kingdom is near”

We glimpse the glory in him, we glimpse the hope and possibiliagoty in each other, reflecting the image of God,  his life in us which we share with those around us.

But we know too that the Kingdom is far away,

That our broken world feels so very far from being the Kingdom of justice and peace that Jesus spoke of.

These weeks before Advent are known in the church calendar as Kingdom Season

We live in that space of now and not yet, we’re waiting for the waiting, …

But we are reminded that we are called to build the Kingdom, with God,

To live the hope, the justice and the peace,

To commit ourselves to be glimmers of light in a dark world, as Jesus is The Light

We are called to speak out, to stand up for the weak and the oppressed, to champion peace and forgiveness, reconciliation not revenge

To live our lives in the upside down, tospy turvey values of the Kingdom of God, sharing the life of God in us with those around us. And what is the life of God?

It is love,  it is forgiveness, it is transformation.

We hold the flame of hope in us.

The world is perhaps no darker today than it was 100 years ago in the midst of the Great War,  or over 200  years during the French Revolution.

Those living by the sword or the bullet do so in the same ways as the Franks and the Vikings and the Picts did,

And the Church of Christ is called today, as then to live in the light,  the Light that shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That is as true today as it was in the first century.

As we wait for the  coming of the Kingdom our waiting is not passive but active, we know that the light will come, and we live now in that light, working against division and anger, against prejudice and selfishness, working for justice, for peace, sharing the life of God, the Good news of Jesus with our world.

Open to the Holy spirit to transform us, to shine the light of Christ on our lives, to live in that light and to know its hope.

We are called to live and proclaim our ultimate hope, the ultimate hope for our world, the coming of God’s Kingdom in Jesus,

– now and not yet,

But let it begin in us.

Including the excluded :Easter 5

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2015 by fibrefairy

I’m still  between posts  and it’s been a long time since I last celebrated mass (palm Sunday)  so I was hugely grateful for the invitation from my fabulous friend Simon to visit St Peter’s Mill End to preach  &  preside.  I did a placement here during my curacy which was the most amazing  growing God filled time,  a total oasis of friendship worship learning &  collegiality.  I learnt so much in those weeks about my own vocation,  the priest I was and wanted to be,  and so it was with a real serve of anticipation that I drove through hideously storm swept motorways yesterday to get to St Peter’s. 
I have to be honest,  I don’t know of anywhere else that I have felt the presence of God so consistently and so tangibly as here.  It hits you as you walk in the door.  Even sat in the car about to leave after a wonderful afternoon of lunch &  catching up with Simon & the family the church and that sense of presence was pulling me,  like gravity is the only way I can describe it.
It was wonderful to be back,  it really did feel like home,  such a privilege to minister,  to speak,  and to receive far more than I gave and once more to have such affirmation &  confirmation of my own vocation on going.  Thank you all,  and here’s my sermon notes! (it did get a bit expanded,  but it didn’t make marathon times!!)
Easter 5
I’m sure many of you watched the coverage on TV of the London marathon last weekend, maybe you were even running it – or knew someone who was.

Election  distraction !
New distraction =Royal baby

It’s quite a spectacle and of all the city Marathons all over the world, London is the one that has the reputation for being the quirkiest, the one where you’re as likely to see a Gherkin, or Princess Elsa or a slice of toast taking part in the race as you are an elite Olympic runner.

To my knowledge – and I’m happy to be corrected, I’ve never known someone preach a sermon while running (and I promise this one isn’t coming in around the 3 hour mark!) I’m not sure, even if I was much of a runner that leading a bible study  or preaching would come into my  “top things to do while running” I doubt that had entered Philip’s head either when he was sent  by the spirit  to the wilderness road between Jerusalem and Gaza..

Of course all this talk of running rather presupposes that the Ethiopian in today’s reading from Acts was actually travelling in his chariot, rather than having taken a break at the side of the road, and that in order to speak to him Phillip had to run alongside, until thankfully he was invited to join the Official in the chariot –if they were moving what a relief that must have been!

The really challenging thing about this story though is not whether or not Philip could preach & run, but about his inclusive and obedient response to God’s call.
He is called out, to the wild place, the wilderness.

Outside of civilisation and cities, away from what feels like home, and safe.
But he goes, not knowing what lies ahead, at that point with not much idea of what God is asking if him, but he is obedient to the call “so he got up and went”

Often we hear God’s prompting, but we’re unsure – we want the whole picture, the road map. We want to know that the ending will be ok and that there will be a reason and a point that we can articulate.

God’s call is not often this way. He calls us to obedience, step by step. He calls us out of our comfort, to trust that HE is in control.

Sometimes we do not feel up to what we think is ahead, sometimes we might feel it is less than we’re capable of. Our first step is to get up, and begin to respond. God takes care of the rest.


Philip was pointed to this Ethiopian official, out here in the desert, in the wilderness, outside of safety.

This placement is no accident – it underlines for us the exclusion of this man, a Gentile, who has been to worship in Jerusalem, but despite his searching and his questing, his desire of understanding and his recognition of God in worship he would have been excluded, considered an outsider.

three times on the outside,

he was a foreigner, – race,

He was a gentile, a non Jew, however devout , his religion separated him


And he was a Eunuch, a castrated man, whether for personal, social or status reasons ,

his sexual identity puts him on the outside.


This outsider, out in the desert is longing for more of God, he is studying scripture, and Philip, in answering this unknown call of God is now here at the right time, in a place where no one should have been, but he is.


And he explains, he teaches he answers the questions the man has on this passage from Isaiah.


Philip responds to the spirit of God in the Ethiopian,
He responds to the prompting of the Spirit of God within himself,


And he chooses to include,
In this place of exclusion, of outsideness, Philip talks about Jesus and his good news his grace and his love and inclusion.
And when the Ethiopian understands and requests to be baptised in response, there is no hesitation on Philips part, no need to check, to tick boxes, to fulfil criteria.
The man has found faith in Jesus, of course he should be baptised!


I wonder perhaps whether in the tone of that question” what is to stop me from being baptised” the Official thought that there might indeed be a reason why not,
But there isn’t, because the grace of Jesus includes everyone.


Philip was learning this lesson,  he was part of a church that was trying to work out what it meant to live the way Jesus wanted them to,  it wasn’t easy as Jews and Gentiles worked out how to do that together


But as he responded to God’s call he learnt again that story of grace and mercy that is for everyone, regardless. No exceptions.


we ponder our own callings and learn to step out as we hear God,

  we consider how we might vote this coming week

we work out what it means to live   rooted fully in the grace and mercy of God,


How will we treat those who our church, our society, our world puts on the outside?

How will we act to live out the Gospel of Grace for us all?

Easter..

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2015 by fibrefairy

I know I haven’t finished my easter reflections..  So I’m placeholding
!!

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