Archive for the sermons Category

“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.

 

 

Love as He loved : a Sermon for Remembrance Sunday

Posted in sermons on November 9, 2013 by fibrefairy

John 15

One of my favourite places to visit when I was a child growing up in SW London was Hampton Court Palace –I loved the maze, except when I got lost, I loved wandering around the rooms imagining I was a Tudor Princess and I was fascinated by the Great Vine,  I it was planted back in the 18thC and is the oldest and the longest vine in the world. All over it are hundreds of branches, twisting & turning off the main branch, and producing bunches of grapes – I believe it has its own team of dedicated gardeners to look after it.

Although it fills a huge greenhouse all by itself and many of the branches and bunches are a long way from the roots, they are all part of the same plant, and were you to chop one off or it was to break off, it would no longer grow, or produce grapes, and the whole vine would be much poorer for that.

In our reading this morning Jesus talks about being a vine, and he likens us  his followers to the branches.   If we remain connected and rooted, drawing our sustenance and source from him, we, like the vine produce good fruit, we fulfil our purpose, and we grow and flourish ; but disconnected from him, from God and our roots, we end up withered, and useless.

Jesus calls us to keep his commandments, in order to stay rooted and connected.

But what does he mean by this?

Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus is asked about keeping the commandments,  he tells his listeners that there are just two –that encompass all the law Love God with all your heart & Mind & soul and love your neighbour as yourself.

They sound terribly simple, and yet, they are probably among the most challenging words ever spoken; and Jesus says if we keep these commandments we remain in God’s love and will bear good fruit.

In  todays reading Jesus goes on to say “ this is my commandment , that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

Again & again Jesus says to us, Love each other, love as I have loved. Jesus’s love for each of us went to the Cross, and beyond, through death and out the other side,

His love for us gave up everything, even life itself,  in order that we might know God and remain in his love.

And he calls us to do the same. For everyone.

And calling up to be prepared  to give up everything  means exactly that.
It means being prepared to give up ourselves and what we hold so dear, to enable others to flourish as much as we want to.
It means holding our stuff, our hopes our needs, lightly, and always  looking for the good of others.

But being called to give up everything, even life, is not a justification for war or violence,  it never was.

The fact that we are here today, that we still have  men & women to honour and remember is not a cause for celebration or glorification.
We’re remembering with honour those who died; who are dying,  because we failed to love our neighbour as ourself,  because we  failed to put others before our own needs.

Our world has not remained in God’s love, the love that lays itself down for  others,  and so today we come in remembrance but also in penitence.

We come to honour those who had to lay down their lives and to pledge that we will work for a world where love wins and rules, where  we remain in God’s love, keeping his commandments to love as he loved us, sacrificially;  looking not to our own needs but to the needs of the other, whoever that may be for us.

We honour the memory of those who gave their lives, by working for a world that lives by the words of Him who gave His life for us all, that we might know His love & his peace

Amen

 

 

Bible Sunday : In which you get a whistle stop tour of oral tradition & the story of Scripture

Posted in sermons on October 26, 2013 by fibrefairy

Sermon recording

 

There’s a maxim that goes “the country that doesn’t learn from its history is doomed to repeat it” which may or may not be the case! – What it highlights though is the need to pay attention to where we’ve come from, and to listen to what has been. As Families we often sit together, especially at significant events, weddings, birthdays, funerals, new babies, and we tell stories, “ do you remember when?” we rehearse our history – finding our place in the stream of time and story, repeating the highlights, processing the events, learning.

Today is Bible Sunday –   a particular day when we take some time to recall the importance of Scripture to our lives and our faith,  to remember how fortunate we are to have the Bible readily available in our own language, and  to have so many resources  open to us to help us understand it.

The Bible is more than *just* a story –but it is Story –it is the story of God and his people,  it’s our story –

In our reading from Romans (15:1-6) Paul says

“whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope”

Its just one verse that points to the importance of this written record of Gods dealing with his people throughout history

Knowing the story of which we are a part gives us hope and encouragement as we make our own journey of faith.

In  ancient times, story was important – and none of it was written down – parents told the stories of their family and their tribes to children, elders  and young ones repeated the familiar stories, and words, the stories themselves become part of the story, the good news and the bad,

Communicating the values and the faith of the people.

The  Israelites were no exception to this, the stories of Abraham and of Moses were passed on, from generation to generation, each one adding in their part of the story to the whole,

In exile they began to record these stories in a more permanent fashion, beginning to create the scriptures that we know today –telling and retelling the stories of Gods dealing with his people, celebrating the good news, reminding  everyone of his faithfulness and love for them all.

And in with this story was teaching, and order and rules,  some to stand the test of time, and others for the time they were from, but all of them adding a bit more to the jigsaw, the picture of God and his people.

And as these stories continued to be told, there were too recorded the prophets, the people who spoke out when the story had got forgotten, or twisted or  misused

Those who heard the word of God and proclaimed it afresh, proclaiming His past, his present and his future.

And through all of this speaking and listening and telling & writing, the Holy Spirit has held the threads and inspired and drawn together the story, the love of God for his people, and his calling to bring us all to a place of reconciliation and restoration.

Throughout history God’s story has spoken of justice and freedom,

Or love and forgiveness,

Of hope, and  joy

And so when Jesus began his ministry,  he stands up in the synagogue and begins to read from the scriptures, and he reads from  the prophet Isaiah

 the spirit of the lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, sight to the blind,  to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

He reads words which  when they were written cut sharp into the heart of the people at the time.  A People in Exile, oppressed and without justice,  political or economic, a people looking for their salvation, physically as well as spiritually –and  in that time God brought leaders to begin to do these things,

Jesus read words which, as he said, applied to him now.

The heart of the story of scripture, the fulfilment of the prophecies and the culmination of Gods purpose for restoration and reconciliation with his people.

Jesus himself is the one that God has anointed to do all these things –to proclaim freedom from sin, and all its effects, to usher in his kingdom where justice and mercy and freedom will prevail. Through the cross and resurrection, the purposes of God are made known and made possible.

As we hear these words again though we are reminded that we are part of this story that Scripture begins,

These words of Isaiah are for us too, as we build with Jesus for his Kingdom.

The threads of God purpose and Gods story are still drawn together by the Spirit and we are called still to live out Gods purposes and to continue his story. We are called to proclaim freedom for the oppressed -, spiritually economically socially,

We are called to proclaim release for the captives – emotionally, politically, mentally

We are called to proclaim the year of the Lords favour –the time of God to act.

Because, as it ever has been, Now is the time for God to act. He is always at work, and in this generation it is through us  that he chooses to work.

We continue to tell the story that lies at the heart of Scripture, at the heart of the Gospel.

Freedom, release,  Good news…

The story continues.

Amen

Small as a mustard seed

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , , on October 5, 2013 by fibrefairy

 

Audio of sermon

Jane_Spice_Yellow_Mustard_Seeds_full

In our house when we  suggest  getting a takeaway meal what usually happens is a  5 or 6 way debate on what we should get –

Pizza or curry  or fish & chips? Sometimes there’s someone who wants a burger or something else entirely – seeing as we don’t live in a great metropolis which has all  those choices in one spot, we have to end up making a decision.

I have to confess  that 9 times out of ten my choice would be  curry, and when the children were smaller, unless  we were eating without them, that was their least likely choice.

“ it’s too spicy” was the usual cry, or as  it often came out “ it’s too spikey”

If you’ve ever made your own curries or other Indian dishes, and attempted to grind your own spices – you’ll know that mustard seeds are slippery little characters, small & round and determined in every way to escape the grinder, but they are essential to the flavour and finished heat of the dish.

They may be small but they would certainly be missed.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus tells the disciples that if they had faith  like a mustard seed they could command a tree to uproot and plant itself in the sea. In other words, something extraordinary –just from something so small.

We often feel that our faith is so small, we couldn’t possibly shift a blade of grass –let alone a whole tree.

It’s very easy to become dispirited and disillusioned.

We can ask ourselves, “ why does nothing change” Why do I feel so disempowered? I don’t *even* have faith as small as a tiny seed…

What is faith about?

I think part of Jesus’ meaning here is not just about quantity of faith and how much of it you need  to believe that God can do things,

after all God will work regardless  of whether we believe in him or not –

He works regardless of whether we think he’s doing the right thing, or he’s answering our particular prayers, because he’s much bigger than that, much bigger than our small boundaries and limited imaginations.

Faith is not about willing God to do something because we really really believe it… or really really want it.

Some of you may have read the books of Adrian Plass, a very funny Christian writer and speaker –he wrote  his Sacred Diaries –based on a similar format to the Adrian Mole secret diaries  and in one entry he is sat at his desk trying to move a paperclip in faith

Monday January 6th “Went into the Christian bookshop on my way home from work tonight.
“All those books!
“Gerald says Christian paperbacks are like Chinese meals. Very satisfying at the time, but it’s not long before you want another one.”
“Bought a really great book about faith this time, though. It’s called ‘Goodness gracious–in God’s name, what on Earth are we doing for Heaven’s sake?’
“A very witty title I feel.
“It’s all about how Christians should be able to move mountains by faith, if they are really tuned into God.
“Very inspiring.
“Waited ’till there was no-one around, then practised with a paper-clip. Put it on my desk and stared at it, willing it to move. Nothing! Tried commanding it in a loud voice.
“Gerald came in just then, and said, ‘What’s all the shouting about, Dad?’
“Could hardly tell him I was shouting orders at a paper-clip.
“Said I was practising voice-projection.
“He said, ‘What for?;
“I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Felt really stupid.

Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 ¾

Faith is more about understanding how much God can & will do in our lives and our world, if we’ll just let him.

Faith is like the key, unlocking the potential of what God has for us,

It’s the spark that lights the fuse, that sets off the firework – the spark on its own won’t set the sky ablaze but the firework won’t light without the spark.

Faith is small, but powerful, like the mustard seed, without which the curry will have no heat and flavour and the meal will taste bland.

To have faith like a mustard seed is to have hope,  hope in God,

Hebrews 11 says

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 

And in the translation The Message

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 

Faith enables us to trust in Gods plans for us, it enables us to hope in what he’s promised, and to work with him to build for his Kingdom.

When we have faith we begin to have a can do attitude,  not because we  think that we can, but because we know that God can.

We bring our prayers and our hopes to him, in faith,  understanding that his  ability to do more than we can imagine or think is there, at our disposal.

In our faith we say ”yes” to God’s power working in & through us, transforming our lives, and our world.

Flavouring our plans our hopes  our work with the firey taste of life.

Our faith can be as small as a mustard seed, but it is a faith in something so amazing, so powerful and so transforming.

Our faith may be small, but it packs a punch because it is faith  in the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead!

If we have even a tiny faith in that power, imagine the consequences.

So when we feel discouraged, and that our faith is weak or ineffectual, let’s not think about what our faith looks like, or how big it is, let us focus on what , on who, our faith is in, –

Our great God, who can do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine –to him be the glory, for ever.

Amen

Sermon for the Feast of St Michael & All Angels

Posted in sermons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 29, 2013 by fibrefairy

1380400454722 With Angels, and Archangels and all the company of heaven,

we worship you Father Almighty with songs of everlasting praise

Audio of sermon

St M & AA is a festival I’ve had a soft spot for since I was about 11 and started secondary school,My best friend was a Roman Catholic and began to introduce me to the rhythms of the church year and the marking of the saints – It seemed to me that a Feast for All Angels was a particularly appropriate one for an Angela to adopt as “hers”.

Apocryphally when I was born & my parents announced what I was to be called my grandfather muttered, “You can’t call her that, it’s tempting providence”

[not in the sermon but linked writing about my name…]

I’ll leave you to your own opinions on that one, but it does begin to illustrate where our minds go when we start to think about Angels… all the phrases that come to mind “ oh he’s been a complete angel”  “ would you be an angel and…”  “they behaved like little angels”

In our cultural mythology angels are all sorts of things, they’re our departed loved ones, or our guardians, they’re cute or muddled up with fairies & can grant wishes.

In short, we often don’t know what we mean when we talk about angels

Today is the feast of St Michael and All Angels, Michael being one of the archangels spoken of in scripture, and All Angels, being, well… All Angels!

Angels of all sorts appear throughout scripture, they’re often a bit mysterious.  Not often described, but they make regular appearances through the stories of the OT and into the New.

Often the phrase The Angel of the Lord occurs, and this has been variously interpreted as being a euphemism for God himself, or one of the archangels

Angels are frequently depicted as heavenly messengers –those acting on God’s behalf: there are very many stories particularly in the Old Testament and the very start of the New of Angels appearing with messengers from God.

Right back in Genesis we read the story of Abraham and the three strangers who came to visit him and brought him the message of his son to be born, fast forward to the early days of the New testament story and we have Gabriel’s messages to Mary, The angels appearing to Zechariah and to Joseph and of course to the shepherds..

Angels were seen as God messengers –the  only bridge between heaven and earth, before God himself was incarnate and made that  connection, but continuing as that link between the divine and the human,

The readings for today contain the story of Jacobs’s dream, of a ladder, with angels descending up and down, and God reminding him of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants.

Angels are heralds of God’s Good news, but it seems to be clear from scripture that their primary purpose above all is to worship God and to be in his presence.

Which is not so very different from us,

“The chief end of Man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” says the Westminster shorter catechism of 1647!

We gather together, Sunday by Sunday, and at other times to to “worship”> Christians the world over have argued and debated what worship is. Debates get caught up in differences in style and content, whether there is a Eucharist, or extended singing, or an anthem. Whether there are x scripture readings or y.

But we do not conjure up worship by means of the music or the words

Worship is from our hearts, a reaction and a response to the presence to God with us. When we encounter God, we worship. When we get caught up in the worship that is happening around us, we encounter God.

This is a pale illustration of what is happening in heaven

In the presence of God the angels are constantly worshipping, because there is no other response to being in the presence of God than to worship, to pour out our hearts, to give him our everything.

In Isaiah 6 we read about the vision which Isaiah had, of God on his throne and all about him were angels, continually singing Holy Holy Holy… their eternal song, in the presence of the Lord God Almighty. Isaiah thinks he will die, because he sees God, he has no words, no human ability to react to the amazing presence of God, and  then he is touched, and forgiven and able to join in with the worship – not that we’re given a description of what he says or sings, but we know from his reaction & response –Here I am, send me –that his heart has joined the worship of the angels at the throne.

When we worship here, what we are aiming to do is to join in with the worship of the angels… what we pray we might do is by the power of the spirit experience Gods presence and join in with the eternal song of the angels, whatever our words here.

We pray in the Eucharistic prayer

“With angels and archangels and ALL the company of heaven”

Our worship is not something that stands alone –it’s about tuning in and joining in with what is constantly going on in heaven before our God –its like singing along with the choir –

When we begin to grasp this it can transform our experience of worship here, not just in church but in every minute, our reaction to the view out our window, the beautiful music on the radio, the sunset, the newborn baby, the dog or the cat, the hug from a loved one –all these things start to tune us into the worship of the angels in heaven.

Angel means messenger of God. And proclamations of the good news is the other key task of the angels -and ours

We’ve touched on already the many stories of Angels coming to earth, to humanity to proclaim good news –from Abraham to the shepherds, we read several times of this idea of angels ascending & descending to & from earth, bringing to human kind a knowledge and understanding of Gods message to us, a message fulfilled in Jesus, who even as he returned to heaven had angels speaking to the disciples, and telling them that he would return in the same way,

Angels heralded his birth and his resurrection, and we too should be joining in with their work of proclamation, speaking out God’s good news to those around us. Its not an easy task. Confronted by angels its is no surprise that  most people needed to be reassured –Don’t be afraid, is almost the Angels traditional greeting –and so with us, we com to those around us in God’s name –to reassure them of Gods love and his purpose, not to scare or berate.

In proclaiming the Good news we little by little push back the darkness in our world, eating away at the culture of greed and selfishness,

Our reading from Revelation this morning reminds us of the story of St Michael –fighting with the dragon, Satan, symbol and figurehead of all that is broken and wrong in our world.

We too can be Michaels in our broken world as we echo the the Angels calling to proclaim good news, and be heralds of the Kingdom of God. Traditionally St Michael has been the defender of the faithful, defender of the good, pusher back of the darkness -and as we worship and proclaim good news, we too protect and fight for what is good and right, awaiting that day when we will all stand in the presence of God and the worship of All the company of heaven, including us, and all the saints and the angels and the archangels will be complete.

1380436394962Today’s stole choice dilemma! I went with the one on the right…

Challenge to change -a sermon for Evensong for St Matthew

Posted in sermons on September 22, 2013 by fibrefairy

This was a sermon preached for Festal Evensong for St Matthew. Three parishes, including one of mine, have a tradition of joint choral evensong every so often. We massed a choir of over 40 and a congregation of 116 on this occasion -and an extremely good tea

Audio of sermon

 

Although the quotation has been attributed to several different sources , it is widely considered that it was Benjamin Franklin who commented that “‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind wrote that there was never a good time for either of them –and added childbirth as a third general inconvenience.

Today we are remembering St Matthew,  the disciple of Jesus whose former life was that of the tax man.

Tax collectors at that time were a symbol of oppression and corruption ; although often locals, they were in collusion and collaboration with the Roman Empire,  able to add a margin to what the Romans were demanding in order to turn a profit –

We see them listed in the undesirables category by the Pharisees, along with drunkards & women of ill repute,  they were indignant and angry that Jesus could spend time with what they saw as such dishonest  people.

So such a person was Matthew, and when Jesus called him, the material cost  of leaving all that behind was very great, no longer would he be in a position to come by easy money, or  line his pockets while hiding behind the Empire.

Matthews calling is not though unusual,

It’s quite illustrative of the challenges Jesus placed on people when he talked about following him. He didn’t set out to make it easy and superficially attractive by a long chalk.

Jesus was always clear that following him was a big deal, a commitment that needed to be followed through – not taken up  on a whim and  given  up on when the mood changed.

We heard just the other week of his call to take up the cross, -an image familiar to his listeners in this Roman Occupied country and one which conjured disgrace and pain and suffering – and incidentally not an image as yet associated with Jesus himself.

Jesus never issued easy to accept invitations, instead he challenged with invitations to change;  to change direction completely and to have the courage to continue on that path.

In our reading this evening  a certain rich young man comes to Jesus. “ what good deed must I do to have eternal life”

It’s an odd sort of question – it gives the impression that eternal life  is some sort of vending machine affair –press the right buttons, do the right thing, and  you’re sorted.

Jesus says “ if you wish to enter into life keep the commandments”

It’s an interesting response –“ enter into life”  immediately the tone has changed –it’s not some sort of reciprocal deal that’s being offered here but a direction for life that will bring true life.

The young man is still after a deal however

“which ones”

He’s negotiating…. What’s the minimum offer?

Jesus lists off a few of the commandments – all of which the man has kept –but  he is still searching for something more…

And then comes the killer punch..

“ if you want to be perfect, go sell everything, give it to the poor and come follow me”

Ouch.

And off the young man went, grieving, because this would just be a step too far.

Jesus knew that what was at the heart of this chaps life was money –his material physical possessions, we know that this is the case because of how he reacts –the price  he has to pay to gain the peace of mind and life he craves is just too high.

It’s because his money had such a grip, and was this chap’s heart, that Jesus challenges him so strongly.

Like the young man, when we encounter Jesus he doesn’t just reassure us that we’re doing ok thank you very much,  he doesn’t give us easy answers

He comes to challenge us further, to push us out of our comfort zone. The road on which to follow Jesus is one that requires work & commitment to keep on – we’re not given a soft option.

When we encounter Jesus he challenges our attitudes:

Like the rich young man, we’re challenged to think again about what is important, what means the most to us, what we have and what we do with it.

We’re challenged to think about how we react to people,  Jesus included those who were socially beyond the pale –the tax men, the disgraced, the ill and unclean,  -the women.. he showed respect and value to each of them –all of them made in God’s image. What are our attitudes to those in our society on the margins? The asylum seekers or the teenage mums, ?

When we encounter Jesus we’re challenged too to change our behaviour –We’re challenged to change what we DO as well as what we think and say. It’s very easy to trot out the right words,  but as both Matthew and the rich young man knew –it’s much harder to follow that up with actions that go deep and make a difference. What do we DO with our time, and our money,  -are we showing with our actions that we have changed direction in our lives  or does it look to the outside as if we’re following the same path as everyone else?

When we encounter Jesus he challenges us to change our expectations. Life isn’t going to be the same ever again,  whatever path we choose, and wherever we go.

If the rich young man had hoped for a bit of a pat on the back and a “ you’re doing great” from Jesus, he was going home disappointed on many levels. Rejecting Jesus’s challenge to his attitudes and actions meant that he knew now what he was really missing out on. If he was mildly unsatisfied before, imagine how he now felt!

We are challenged to life our eyes higher, to seek first the Kingdom, to revel in & delight in its topsy turvey values –where the lowest will be the greatest , where  in the words of the Magnificat the proud are scattered and the lowly are lifted up, the hungry are fed and the rich are sent away empty.

Matthew took on the challenge –walking away from the values and material wealth of the Empire, and embracing the radical subversive equality of the Kingdom –

The rich young man couldn’t do it.

Which, I wonder are you?

on this rock -sermon for Petertide 2013

Posted in sermons on June 29, 2013 by fibrefairy

Who are your role models?

I’ll take a bet most of them seem to be pretty good at whatever it is you’re  looking to them to model, whether its  creative or musical skills athletic ability,  leadership, academic success, parenting, .. the list goes on.

No one usually picks a role model with a list of flaws as long as their arm,  much less are they picked  to pioneer  & found  something as important as the church,..

Today along with  Paul, we remember Peter.

Peter probably the disciple we know the most about from the Gospel accounts –

Peter  perhaps the disciple who we all relate to the most.

But possibly not the one who was voted as “ disciple most likely to succeed”

Possibly not the one who sprang to anyone’s mind as a role model.

Peter was the enthusiastic visionary, the one jumping up and down with all the ideas.

“ lets do this..”

“Hey yes I can walk on water”

Peter was probably the one who when he spoke the others rolled their eyes or facepalmed .. oh no,whats he said NOW…?

Peter was too the disciple who failed spectacularly, denying  3 times that he ever knew Jesus,

But Peter was also the disciple who knew more than anyone the restoring power of God’s love, and forgiveness.

Peter gives us all hope –because he is not some kind of  perfect Saint – Perfect Peter he is not,

But Jesus loves him all through it and never loses his belief in what Peter can do, is called to do, will do.

To the others, to us, Peter is hardly the one who might be called the Rock.

He’s as flakey as a box of cereal,

To Jesus however he’s got a calling, to be the Rock, the foundations, to build the church,

to grow the Kingdom, in partnership with his Lord.

We don;t always make the right judgements about others

Or about ourselves

We fail to see the abilities and gifts we have been given –

We seek strength,

Forgetting that it is in our weakness that Gods strength is made known

We look for perfection and castigate ourselves when we fail,

Forgetting to understand that it is in our restoration that we become stronger and learn, and are given the ability to grow into our calling.

Jesus’s statement to Peter  comes as a result of Peter’s declaration about him

 You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God

To which Jesus responds with

 You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church

Perhaps the rock on which Christ build his church is not just Peter himself but the rock of  faith,

that statement itself “ you are the Christ”

This is  the rock on which  our faith, our church is built,

The proclamation of Jesus as God’s son, the anointed one,

When we proclaim Jesus, in word, and in action

When we proclaim his love for us all

When we proclaim his forgiveness and his restoration to the broken world in which we live – then  the foundations of our faith grow, and the walls of the Kingdom are built

When we proclaim Jesus as the Christ our own lives his strength and restoration strengthens us,

We too like Peter become rocks, on which the faith of others can be supported and grow.

Our life as church,  here in this community and gathering and a s the whole church, the family of Christ  is built on the proclamation of Jesus as the son of God. A proclamation that strengthens each of us, and gives us our foundations.

Our faith and that of those around  is a corporate faith, we’re in this together.

Like Peter we fail and fall, we open our big mouths and put our feet in,   but like him we can know forgiveness and restoration in our own lives and to offer it to others.

Like Peter we are also to be enthusiastic for our faith , for our relationship with God

We are to proclaim it loudly,   some of us are going be more prepared to leap out of the boat and get our feet wet,  others have louder voices!

We must remember we are family

None of us are too flakey or flawed  that we can’t be restored & called & used by God

None of us have it completely right either,

We welcome each other into this family for the first time and every time, acknowledging our different gifts and callings and promising always to support  each other,  to be rocks for each other as we walk the path of life together, and build Christ’s church by our love and  our actions.

 

 

 

Amazing Grace -Trinity 3

Posted in sermons on June 15, 2013 by fibrefairy

AUDIO

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15  Luke 7: 36-8:3

I’m sure many of you have seen the film or the show Les Miserables and  remember the  character  of Valjean. Convicted as a criminal  simply for stealing bread he spends time in prison becoming ever more hardened and dejected,  and when he is finally released, struggles to find work because of his reputation;  he travels for many days until  surprisingly a bishop offers him food and shelter.

He says to him

 “You need not tell me who you are. This is not my house, it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering, you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome… What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it… your name is brother.”

That night however  Valjean makes off with the family silver, and is brought back to the Bishops house by the police.

He is greeted not by recrimination and accusations of ingratitude, but by the  bishop exclaiming that the silver he had was not stolen but a gift, and  further more being delighted that he had returned as he wanted to give him some candlesticks to add to that gift,

This  double act of unwarranted love transforms Valjean, who goes on to show grace & love to others, including the policeman Javert who  cannot get over the fact that Valjean “got away” with his theft.

Throughout scripture we see two ways of relating to God and allowing God to relate to us.

Grace and Justice.

In our Old Testament reading we understand a little of the workings of God’s justice – and it can sound hard  and harsh to our ears –David has been challenged by the prophet Nathan about his behaviour in sending Uriah off to war to be killed and taking his wife.

He is told “ now the sword shall never depart from your house for you have despised me”

But David recognises his sin,  ( and we know how deeply his remorse and anquish went from many of his Psalms, especially 51) and Nathan tells him that the Lord has “ put away your sin and you shall not die” but his child will..

The law demands a life for the life that David ended, and it is his baby who pays that price – although David is forgiven, there is still justice to be done.

Sin has a consequence, it is serious and we see this vividly  illustrated here –

This is the working of justice, the law based way of relating to God, a way that always leads to our condemnation, because none of us ever make the mark.

Maybe we don’t do as David did, but we know ourselves in our hearts where we do go wrong.

God in the old Testament often seems to us like  Javert the police inspector in Le Mis –continually pursuing us  to make  us make good the wrong we have done.

In our Gospel reading Jesus is having dinner with Simon the Pharisee:  When an unknown woman bursts in and starts to wash Jesus’s feet with her tears, and anoint him with expensive perfume oil he is outraged!

Perhaps he knows her or know of her reputation, but whatever the situation he certainly doesn’t think Jesus should be condoning this sort of behaviour – or letting a woman like this touch him –bear in mind to let *any* woman touch a man  in public was pretty outrageous anyway.

Jesus challenges him with the story about the  two debtors, who were both let off their debts –which was more grateful?  Of course the one who had the larger debt cancelled.

Jesus then goes to show Simon that this woman’s extravagant & outrageous actions, the showing of love and hospitality far outclassed anything that Simon had done for Jesus, even that which might have been expected of him as a host.

This woman, whoever she was, had experienced forgiveness, she had experienced welcome and inclusion and her gut reaction was to love and to show that love , because despite all her background and her offence and her unworthiness, she knew that in Jesus she was accepted and loved.

Jesus affirms this too “ your sin is forgiven, your  faith has saved you”

This is grace –this is the unmerited and surprising way in which God relates to us in Jesus

Grace is unmerited and unbounded, it is inclusive and surprising

Grace requires an acknowledgement of our sin of course it does – but even as we do, we turn to find acceptence and love, and our faith saves us.

In Jesus we find acceptance for each of us, whatever our past or our future.

The woman in this story pours out her love to Jesus, in the same  moment that she is forgiven,

Like her our response to grace and to our forgiveness  is to be love.

In Les Mis, Valjean experiences the transformative power of grace, his response too was then to love and to live this life worth of the grace that had been bestowed on him.

We do not love in order than we might be forgiven, to try & make it better;

We love because we HAVE been forgiven, because the only  possible response to  Gods incredible amazing grace is to love, to love him, to love ourselves and to love those around us.

How many of us really feel that way though,

How easy is it to feel that we are still living in the law ?

To feel that  God is a judgemental judge,   be in a place where we know technically in our heads that we are forgiven,

but our hearts don’t sing with that song that KNOWs that we are –

Where we look for the stuff going wrong in our lives and say to ourselves

“ well I’m sure I deserve it really, “… this is because I did…”

because we have not grasped the wonder & the awesomeness of Grace

Undeserved grace.

Grace does not turn us into perfect Christians

It doesn’t make everything go right,  we still fail, we still fall, we get disillusioned and broken, and we make wrong choices,

But because of Grace this is not the end,  our faith, our acceptance of this grace means we are in a right place with God, and he will help us,

Grace does not mean we can go off and wilfully do our own thing either, grace demands a response – a willingness to live the life we have been called to, and to experience this transformative power.

Transformation is not instant, it is not even fast in most cases, but by grace it is possible and so we welcome it, in our own lives and in the lives of others.

God’s grace is inclusive and   surprising, we cannot limit it, and neither does God,  we don’t earn it, we don’t own it, we just are able to live in it because Jesus offers it,  offered it fr

Each and every person we meet can begin to know the transformative power of grace, step by step , even the ones we think are beyond it, or the people about whom we cry inside  like Simon the Pharisee “ they’ve got away with…X”

Grace is for everyone, and that includes you, and me, and all of us, turning that faltering step towards God, like the prodigal son, and being overwhelmed by his welcome, his forgiveness and his transforming love.

I’d like to finish with a short passage from Brendan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel –

Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last “trick,” whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school; the deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust, and raped the earth. “But how?” we ask. Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” There they are. There we are—the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith. My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.

Manning, Brennan (2008-08-19). The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

As I have loved you – Easter 5

Posted in sermons on April 28, 2013 by fibrefairy

 AUDIO

John 13.31-35   Acts 11.1-18

We all have different reactions to new things.   The words “New shoes”,  are always music to my ears, but probably less joyfully heard by  the bank manager ( if  he or she even exists these days!)

For others, its new technology,  a shiny new gadget…

Or a new book, and the prospect of a good read.

Maybe you prefer the old & familiar, the comfortable walking boots you’ve had for years, or the saggy old sofa ( I have to confess, I have a couple of those, and  you couldn’t persuade me to get new ones!)

But what about new ideas, new ways of doing things?

In our Gospel reading today we’re back in those hours before Good Friday, Jesus & his disciples are celebrating the Passover – a meal with its roots  in the beginnings of the Jewish faith, a meal which represents history and tradition,

Community and cohesion and  celebration

And in the midst of all this “looking back” Jesus says to his friends

“A NEW commandment I give you,”

He’d already turned things on their head when he took the role of a servant at the start of the meal and washed the feet of those with him.

Now he talks to them, about what that had begun to  signify

Love one another –

But more than  that

As I have loved you, love one another..

So he commands, and at the same time teaches – he gives them an example to follow

This love he’s taking about is not abstract or nebulous

Its not a nice feeling or a concept that everyone can philosophise about

Love one another – as I have loved you.

Its inherently practical,  and radical, because was not living his life  in a way that was old & comfy and familiar, like my beloved sofa

He was turning things round, and starting to make people think.

*this* is how  you will be known as my disciples..

Not because you speak like me, or defend my teaching or build structures and organisations

This is  how you will be know.. because you love one another – as I have loved you.

Down the years this challenge comes to us too.

Even now 2000 years later, this commandment of Jesus is still new & radical in our world of self, and self interest.

Loving as Jesus loved is not a comfortable place to be,

-How *did* he love? What is our example?

1) He loved individually:

Each of his disciples was called  for themselves –Jesus drew each one of them to him in different ways and for different reasons. He knew them all, and knew their stories. He used their names – he challenged them not in general but from where they were. Whether they were mending fishing nets, or collecting taxes for the Romans, he met them where they were and called them to follow him.

He knew them, as people, as names, as his friends, he knew them as individuals.

Perhaps this is a challenge to us. Do we know people for  themselves, or are they “ the school children” or “ the young mums” or “ the older people”

Do we make the effort to find out ?  to break through stereo types? Do we look at others as Jesus did, individuals, dearly loved ?

2) Jesus loved inclusively:

There were no barriers to the way Jesus loved those around him, and it didn’t gain him friends or influence! His immediate disciples included fishermen, political activists, a thief & traitor,  a tax  official – they would have come from all social strata, and all sorts of experiences.

He got himself into trouble with the authorities & self appointed arbiters of “ rightness” by mixing with people of dubious morality,  party animals and drinkers,   prostitutes and  foreigners,  he treated women as equals and didn’t stand on ceremony with anyone because eof their rank or job or family background.

He had a no holds barred no barriers love for those around  him.

Radical and inclusive, this is how Jesus loved, and how we are called to.  No one was left out, no one was considered wrong or too sinful,  too poor, too messed up, too smelly or too disturbed.

Love your enemies –turn the other cheek. Even those who we find hard to love, those who wind us up, those who make us angry because of their behaviour to us or  to others, all of these too Jesus loved.

no one was excluded from his love.

Can we say that about our churches and communities?

Can we say that in our own lives? I know I can’t,  but this is how Jesus loved and how he commands us to.

3) Jesus loved practically:

The Gospels are threaded through with practical examples of Jesus’s love & care.

The physical reality of his love

Starting with the miracle of water into wine at the wedding, its continues in that vein..

Feeding the crowds,

healing the sick. Making sure those he healed , or indeed raised from the dead, had food –Peters’ Mother in law and   Jairus’s daughter for example

Practical arrangements for the Passover meal

Fish on the beach after the resurrection

It doesn’t seem to me any coincidence that  so many of these are connected with food & feeding.

Like the Jewish community in which he grew up,  for Jesus feeding was an important way of showing love,  practically and symbolically.

Right at  the heart of our faith and our imperative to love each other, is the amazing practical  and powerful gift of food.

At this same meal where Jesus is commanding his disciples to love, he also institutes the very meal by which we remember him and meet him here each week. The Mass, the Eucharist lies at the heart of our faith, our expression of love  and our mission,

It is no coincidence at all that  in our reading from Acts, when God wants to speak to Peter about the way everyone is to be included in the community regardless of their ethnic or religious origin, he starts by giving him a vision of food – food is so central to our community life – to our family life – we gather around tables to celebrate, to mourn, to care, to argue & debate. The radical inclusivity that the new born church is called to  model and live  is symbolised in food – shared, without boundaries

From the humblest value rich tea biscuit to a full on banquet, we offer each other food to show our love.

Its central to our identity and our make up as human beings –

Our God given God created humanity –which Jesus shared, recognises this need to feed each other.

In his life  on earth Jesus fed us,

In  the Eucharist he continues to feed us withhis very self,

From this table we are sent out, fed By the Body of Christ to BE the body of Christ, the body to feed those around us.

Spiritualy, practically.. inclusively , individually, totally

This is what it means to Love as he has loved us.

Few years ago I read a book which really deserves the label life changing –

I know Simon has read it and has very similar opinions on it  too, so  you may well have heard about it already, but Id like to read to you a short passage from “ Take this bread” the story of a woman’s life transformed by being fed by Jesus in the Eucharist –and her very practical outworking, as she was called to feed those around her.

It may seem deluded to assert that people can still be fed with this ordinary yet mystical bread, so besmirched and exhausted and poisoned by centuries of religious practice, in ways that will change our own real lives, not to mention the world, for the better. But this is my belief: that at the heart of Christianity is a power that continues to speak to and transform us. As I found to my surprise and alarm, it could speak even to me: not in the sappy, Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity, or the blustering, blaming hellfire of the religious right. What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely; that upsets the established order and makes a joke of certainty. It proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new. It offers food without exception to the worthy and unworthy, the screwed-up and pious, and then commands everyone to do the same. It doesn’t promise to solve or erase suffering but to transform it, pledging that by loving one another, even through pain, we will find more life. And it insists that by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more of the holy, since, without exception, all people are one body: God’s.

 

 

Love One another, as I have loved you

Just 8 words,  easy to say, or to sing,

But within them, is the most powerful, and most radical way to live our lives.

To take this seriously is to begin to change the world we live in, and to change ourselves.

It is to turn our selfish notions of love and  community on their heads

It is to practice a radical , inclusive practical way of living,

A way of living we simply cannot manage in our own strength and by ourselves –

But when we gather round the table,

And we feed on him to gave his life for us, so that we might live.

When we group as his family , his body and take strength from him and each other

Then we can turn to the world, and offer them this same love.

Take this bread,

Feed my sheep

Love one another.

This is not an exclusive meal for a chosen few –

This is the heart of Gods love for us, abundant generous and inclusive –

Let us let it transform us, and through us transform our world..

A story of Thomas, FOMO, Resurrection & being The Body

Posted in sermons on April 8, 2013 by fibrefairy

AUDIO

Missing out is never easy –whether it’s by accident,  -something happens when you’re not there – or events conspire against you, or by design,  a somewhat inevitable  situation

Sometime’s it’s as minor as your team scoring when you leave the room to make a cup of tea or get a beer,

Or it might be not making it to a loved one’s side quickly enough,

Or just looking the other way when a celebrity walks past you & your friends in the street.

Thomas must have felt a bit like he’d missed out in our gospel reading today –

I always feel rather sorry for Thomas –he seems to have gone down in history as the one who doubted – Doubting Thomas – and yet that doesn’t seem such a terribly fair description to be landed with. I think he probably reacted just about the same as any of us would do given similar circumstances

The other disciples had seen & talked with Jesus –they’d  been  in the room , and seen his wounds and spoken with him, He’d blessed them and breathed the Spirit on them.

Thomas, for some reason – we’re not told what, wasn’t there.

And so when they got together again you can start to imagine the grump he was in

So many emotions –the unfairness of it, the isolation, the feeling of being the last one to know anything and the bottom of the pile

So he snaps –unless I SEE him, and his wounds, I will not believe.

This isn’t the voice of a doubter is it?

It’s the voice of someone who feels left out and on the edge

Who feels something momentous has passed him by and he’s frankly quite cross about it

And so, he’s not going to just take their word for it.

It’s all or nothing –

A week later –when doubtless, (!) Thomas has had plenty time to stew on it all,  Jesus appears to them again, and he goes straight to Thomas and shows him his wounds – shows him exactly what he needed & wanted to see & touch.

Thomas needed to be drawn in to the group again, to have the same experience to feel that he was important.

By coming to him specifically, Jesus does that, he doesn’t expect him just to pick up what’s happening from those around him,

HE knows what Thomas needs and he gives that to him.

He brings him back into the group, into the community with their shared experiences and life.

How often do we feel like this?

How often are we aware of others around us feeling like this?

perhaps it’s in our church community, and people feeling somehow that those in the “centre” have some sort of understanding or knowledge that they don’t,

Or maybe it’s us who feel that way

Part of building the Kingdom is about drawing people in, who feel they are on the edges,

Sharing our own thoughts & feelings,  so  that others don’t come away with the impression we have it all sewn up somehow –

This is often where small groups like the home groups & lent groups are important and useful.

Living the resurrection life and building the kingdom means looking out for those on the edges and bringing them in to a full part of the community.

It’s addressing the needs such as Thomas had. Its meeting people where they are.

The story of Thomas says something else to us too,

It reminds us that we’re all physical human beings –

The resurrection itself emphasises this,

If the physical side of our life is not important  -why do we need bodily resurrection?

But here we have Jesus, living once more, in a resurrection body.

A physical touchable body.

Body & spirit are both important –

Greek philosophy held that the body wasn’t – it was just a hindrance and something that got in the way of true spirituality

– but by rising again in bodily form Jesus showed that wasn’t true in God’s way of thinking.

He knew before he died that this connection with the physical was important –

His followers needed tangible things

At the Passover meal, itself a physical reminder of something that happened years & years ago, a tenet of the Jewish faith,

Jesus instituted the lords supper, communion, Eucharist, Mass..

He gave his followers something real physical and tangible to use and work with to remember, to feed on.

The classic definition of a sacrament is the visible sign of invisible grace –its more than just a symbol, but it conveys on the outside something of the working inside.

When Thomas touched Jesus, it was seeing & feeling his Master made him believe – & it cemented in him  something that was internal,  it made what he believed real, and grounded it –

It was proof, but something more.

The Eucharist is a memorial –in remembrance –  but it is more than just that  – it is a reminder our faith is grounded in the physical,

It is faith creating and faith building.

John Wesley who was an Anglican priest and became the founder of the Methodist church,  believed that the Eucharist was what he called a “ converting ordinance”

In other words, it created faith, it was an encounter in the physical elements with the Risen Christ that   faith in people,

Rather like Thomas’s physical encounter with the Risen Jesus

Something visible on the outside, triggered & fed something internal.

Later when Jesus left the disciples,  that physical presence  he’d had with them had grown faith in them,

 

The Eucharist is also  about community

Thomas was angry because he felt left out – he felt excluded and marginalised – until he  encountered the risen Christ for himself and was drawn back into the community

When we eat together, and encounter the Risen Jesus, we draw each other, back into community –

though we are many we are one body because we all share in one bread.

When we invite others to this table, we draw them in too and  offer the chance for  faith to grow in them, and for them to be part of our community.

And the Eucharist is about celebration – its remembering what Jesus did, his death *and* his resurrection,

It’s about looking forward to the great Heavenly banquet and celebrating the life we have in Christ now.

We have something concrete to remember, to draw us in, to feed us and teach us and with which to celebrate –

Like Thomas  -we need something physical, because we are physical beings.

In the risen Christ we see confirmation that our physical natures are celebrated and affirmed, we see community and inclusion made central to our common life and in the Eucharist we celebrate now, we have all these things combined.

Therefore let us keep the feast –Alleluia!

%d bloggers like this: