Archive for the faith Category

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

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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.

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“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!

 

Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you

Posted in Church, faith, Ordination, personal with tags , , , , on November 24, 2012 by fibrefairy

Today I am furious, steaming angry, and I’m afraid those around me are bearing the brunt. I know what I’m doing, I’m deflecting the anger and de -valuation I feel after the vote on Tuesday, I’m blaming other people, I’m just bloody angry and  today its blinding me to the good that’s around and the people who care.

Today I am also sad, sadder than I was on Wednesday, when I felt numb and shocked and also defiant, as if putting my collar on and going out & being a  priest with boobs was about the most two finger sticky up thing I could do. Which is good, cos that’s what I’m called to do. ( not the two fingers thing, the priest thing!)

I went and led 6 year olds in worship, and encouraged them to keep on keeping on for the things they believe in, the things they can do ( and yes that was on the terms plan for worship) Those 6 year olds don’t give a stuff about my chromosomes,  they’re not fussed if I wear a skirt or trousers, they love me and they share their lives with me and let me in to bring God into those lives -that’s being a priest.

I stood behind an altar, I prayed, I prayed for wounded broken people, here, in Gaza, wherever they might be, and I preached,  not knowing what was going to come out of my mouth because I hadn’t prepared anything, and I spoke about  how we can see our God, who was, and is and is to come, who  sees us and holds us and all eternity in his hands, and that because of this we can trust that “All will be well and all manner of things shall be well”

and then I broke bread, and remembered why any of us are here at all, and how being broken is a prerequisite for service. Cracked vessels, so God can get in, and out.

and boy, did I feel broken.

Wednesday was also my Mother in Laws (4) Years Mind, and a reflected on the process of grief and bereavement, the shock, the numb floating feeling, almost cocooned. The anger, the wrenching sadness and tears that come unbidden, provoked by the slightest thing.

I was in London on Tuesday, I sat in the gallery and heard the verdict. Shocked but unsurprised. All through the debate it was impossible to tell, but the conservative evangelical arguments banged nails and stones into us as we sat listening. Time and again we were being told,  you can’t be used like this, God only calls men to priesthood, let alone episcopacy, what we heard was, you’re  in the wrong place,  stop aping men, leadership is not yours. The argument that we’re the same but different, equal but with different roles to play fell dull and heavy on our ears, if only there was something men weren’t allowed to do in the church it might not sound as empty.

apparently enormous numbers of young men will be  put off ministry if we allow female bishops. They said that in 1992 and I haven’t seen a let up in them coming to offer their lives to a church they already KNOW has no  theological objection to leadership being female…

and afterwards, a solemn shocked gathering of like-minded people, from Curates to Canons, and a few Bishops too, men and women alike, sharing tears and wine,  prayer and comfort. Such a sense of oneness in grief, and  right in that place the anger the sadness, the doubt and the determination to go on, to fight on.

I seriously doubt there is now “something better” in terms of provision for those who disagree, after over 10 years of discussion, how likely is that, and what anyway would satisfy when the real issue for many Conservative Evangelicals is women in leadership full stop?

I’ve been so grateful for so many people in all of this, knowing we don’t stand or cry alone, knowing that there are women like me who are questioning and doubting, considering leaving, determined to stay, flying the flag and hunkering down and getting on quietly -often all at the same time.

Grateful too for the men,  those who fully support our priesthood and potential episcopacy, those who almost wish they were women so they could properly understand our pain (if that’s not an incarnational notion I don’t know what is..!) Those who are finding their voice, realising that they’ve been too quiet for too long.

For this is not a gender issue. This is a theological issue. Its an issue about men and women, working better alongside, equal. Its an issue about health, of ourselves, our church and our nation. It’s an issue of priesthood -together male & female we represent the full image of God, not half missing, not falsely hierarchical, but side  by side, walking together each step of the way.

I’m grateful too for those who don’t agree with me, those prepared to talk, and to give me listening opportunities, bruising though it was I learnt a lot on Tuesday,  not the well rehearsed party lines, but the heartfelt convictions, and the pain that crosses all the boundaries. We will carry on listening,  and sometimes people will say the wrong thing, deliberately, inadvertently, but carrying all this and bringing it to God, thats’ being a priest too.

So today I feel sad, and angry, today I’ve considered my resignation  and my  future plans in the church.  I’ve been despairing and hopeful, Today I’ve cried and shouted, and finally I’ve written this!

There’s no one way to deal with grief

There’s no one pathway  through it,

but broken glass reflects light differently, it makes rainbows.

Gather everything that happens, trivialities included, without reservation, regret or nostalgia, in inexhaustible wonder. Set out, going forward one step at a time, from doubt toward faith, not worrying about the impossible ahead. Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you.                                             Br Roger of Taize

Kneel and adore Him

Posted in Cambridge, Church, faith, holidays, music on January 6, 2011 by fibrefairy

January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany: I have been reflecting today on both the persistence of the Magi, who followed the guiding hand of God even when they didn’t really know or understand where they were headed, and on the graciousness of God revealing himself to us in Jesus…

“To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel”

from  the Nunc Dimittis; Book of Common Prayer 1662

(and yes I know that’s kind of jumping on a  couple of weeks!…)

This Epiphany hymn is one of my all time favourites, I love the words, and the tune  to which it is commonly sung, it’s one of my special ones and means a lot to me.  It wasn’t part of my childhood, and I remember  exactly when I first heard it aged 19 when it spoke to me both powerfully and reassuringly, as it still does.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!

Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness,
high on his heart he will bear it for thee,
and comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.

Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine;
for truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on his shrine.

These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the Name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!

words:John  Monsell

you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find anything approaching a good version of this wonderful Epiphany Hymn on youtube so excuse the little introductory bit on this one!  My favourite recording is by the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge.

Holy Saturday: the now, and the not yet

Posted in Church, faith on April 3, 2010 by fibrefairy

On Twitter yesterday a friend said ( in more than one tweet of course)

” The promise of Easter is resurrection and new life, the reality of Good Friday is that it doesn’t always feel like that! The promise of Easter is salvation for a broken world, the reality of Good Friday is that it doesn’t always feel like that! The promise of Easter is freedom from pain, sin & suffering one day but the reality of Good Friday is that it doesn’t always feel like that.”

I can really relate to that this year.  the stuff going on in my life at the moment is stuff that is more fitting with the mood and focus of Holy Week, facing hard things, pain, carrying the pain of others as well as my own.

Holy Week observance for me this year has been a chance to  engage with that, for it to feel more real, and ” ok” rather than feeling out of sorts and dysfunctional in my pain.

Here today on Holy Saturday in that liminal time between  death and resurrection I wonder what tomorrow will bring? In this journey from pain to rejoicing how far can I travel right now? For my reality now does not yet match the promise.

I don’t think Jesus’s disciples understood the promise either. He had told them of the hope to come, but on this Saturday they too huddled together in fear and grief.

I pray that their unexpected joy maybe mine tomorrow too. The reality of living  is that each day contains both death and resurrection; We believe Jesus rose, we live daily in that reality, the reality is also  that we cannot experience new life if we haven’t known and understood pain and death, we can’t truly celebrate tomorrow without living through this last week and without waiting by the tomb with our pain, and our hope.

So I anticipate tomorrow with hope, and also a little apprehension, it is not time yet for  healing & joy  in many situations, and that creates an uncomfortable dissonance and tension, but experiencing the force of the  joy of the Resurrection at Easter again gives us hope that that time will come.

Corpus Christi and other thoughts

Posted in Church, college, faith, journal on June 13, 2009 by fibrefairy

On Thursday I went to a fantastic Corpus Christi service in a neighbouring parish. I don’t think I’ve been to one since my Little St Mary’s days in Cambridge.
I was brought up in a very non sacramental tradition, non-conformist, and somehow I knew something to be missing for me but had never had the experiences or the teaching to put a label to it. When I went to college I started doing the church trail in Cambridge and explored the length of the candle in the C of E, discovering why I liked what I did and how God was speaking to me. I loved heartfelt liturgical worship, and more and more the Eucharist became more important to me. I didn’t and still don’t have a physical Real Presence theology, but the words of the hymn sum it up ” Thou art here, we ask not how”.
I am immensely grateful for the chances I’ve had to explore all this. I feel really privileged to be equally comfortable in a New Wine marquee with charismatic evangelicals as in an incense filled church with my Anglo Catholic friends. The Spirit is still the same Spirit 🙂 I joke sometimes that an ideal service is one where you can cross yourself and raise your hands in worship in the same meeting! Perhaps it’s not so much of a joke, and perhaps it’s not such a leap between the two either. The last weekend that I was in college I had several conversations about how both Anglo Catholic worship and Charismatic worship are experiential, they are rooted, both in the interface between something spiritual happening and something physical happening, whether that’s a sacrament or a physical expression of worship – and if a sacrament is as the old definition goes, and outward sign of invisible grace, then there is something sacramental too about physicality in worship, whatever your churchmanship. Perhaps?
I’m reading51B6N4c2QQL._SL500_AA240_ at the moment ( click for detail) and finding it absolutely fascinating. I’ve been trying to tell people round me that modern and relevant doesn’t have to mean ditching the old, and this book is confirming that.
anyway – back to the Corpus Christi service! I’d had a tough week, essay writing and dealing with ” stuff” and God met me in that service in an amazing way – a way that yes I’d still probably associate more with New Wine or a big evangelical church, not clouds of incense and beautiful liturgy, but I’m still learning you see…

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