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citizens of a different Kingdom

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2018 by fibrefairy

‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’

If there’s one thing we can guarantee in the news at the moment it’s the topic of Brexit, it seems to dominate every bit of discussion, every news programme, all the comedy.

Whether you voted in or out

whether you prefer hard or soft,(is it just me that thinks of eggs there?)

are prepared to risk a no deal or would rather we abandoned the whole thing

it’s certainly something that is important in our national life right now.

One of the central points of contention is free movement, the right of all EU citizens to live and work in other member states -the burgundy passports that show that whatever language is inside, and badge on the cover we’re all identified as Citizens of Europe

& of course for  Brexiteers the return of the blue passport would be an identification that we are British citizens, with all that that implies.

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The last Sunday in the church year, when we remember again that ultimately Jesus is King, that he reigns, that we will see that reign fulfilled  and that we live, we are called to live as citizens of his kingdom,

We don’t carry a passport or identity papers, but we live as citizens of the Kingdom, so that our identity is noticed and known.

So what does it mean, what is this Kingdom and how are we to be its citizens?

 

Over the last few weeks our gospel readings have dwelt on the subject of the Kingdom of God,

Speaking of the Kingdom was one of the things that Jesus spent a lot of time doing,  he talked about  the fact that he was establishing the Kingdom, that  the Kingdom was near,

 And that the kingdom was in the future –

the Kingdom of God is both now, in and with us, and not yet, still to be fulfilled when heaven & earth are made new and Jesus reigns over all,  bringing to fruition the victory he has already won, but we wait to fully know.

The Kingdom of God exists not just at some unspecified far off time, but now , today, this week.

 

International  and domestic politics, terrorism and war reminds us of the capacity of humankind of hatred and evil.

But there is much too that illustrates our capacity for good – we are after all made in God’s image, however chipped and tarnished that image might be.

So what does it mean to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God?

We  can so often  try to be a prophetic voice for change, but every time we are confronted by our own rubbish, inadequacy. . we feel that we are unable to stand up for what is needed, what we know is right,  it us hard to  go against the flow.

We can get angry and upset about the state of the world-

There is nothing wrong with righteous anger, with calling out, injustice with campaigning – nothing at all.

but often we can hide behind it,   because it can hide us, protect us, justify us not actually  living the way that a citizen of the kingdom should live. We get angry and speak out, instead of living in a way that grows the kingdom of God.

We can convince ourselves that it is enough, or we can use it to try & kid ourselves that we’ve got it sewn up, we’re morally and spiritually  sorted, we’re on the “ right” side of various ideas and issues.

But we are broken humans, in need of forgiveness and mercy each one of us.  No better than anyone else. Always works in progress.

But ,  If Jesus is Lord of our lives, King of the Kingdom, then we are challenged to live the way he has taught us to live.

And the hardest but most defining attribute of the Kingdom of God and its citizens is this:

Love your enemies

Pray for those who persecute you

 

Not just the strangers and the foreigners, we can maybe cope with loving them, caring for the homeless, the refugees, at a distance, doing the right thing…

But what when it’s a all a bit closer to home?

Jesus asked us to love our neighbours  & our  enemies,

We don’t get to pick & choose who our neighbour is, and we certainly don’t get to choose our enemies.

Sometimes its just as hard to love our neighbours, the people in the chairs next to us, the people we see every day,  our friends and families.

What happens when we disagree, fall out (as we will do) what then, how do we love how do we live as citizens of the Kingdom.? How do we live when our neighbour becomes our enemy, just for a moment, in a meeting over an issue?

As Christians, we know , we are convinced, and we need to live  in the knowledge, that evil will not be  defeated by  bigger, better weapons, higher fences, greater security.

We know too that personal power, control and self interest is not the way to conduct our relationships,

But its hard… so so hard.

The thing that wins ultimately is costly, self sacrificial love.

The love that God showed on a wooden cross at a Roman execution,

ushering in a kingdom with a crown of a thorns and a cross as a throne.

living by this code, loving this way is what really marks us  as citizens of this Kingdom…

Jesus calls us as citizens of his kingdom to live in a radically different way.

Not one that is easy. It’s not a way of living or thinking  that comes easily to us, comes naturally.

But he told us, “my Kingdom is not of this world

If Christ the King does not rule over a radically different, world changing Kingdom, then what is the point?

There are a thousand “little bit better” societies and rules that now lie in waste along the road of history.

Christ as King on the other hand, turns the whole load on its head.

Father forgive,”

And so our lives in him should be lived to that tune,

So impossible in our own strength, by our own will

But in his strength, by his grace, world changing, life giving and Kingdom building.

As you begin a period of vacancy, a little uncertainty perhaps

I’d like to remind you, encourage you, that you are citizens of the Kingdom of God,

your identity is in Jesus, and in living his kingdom values, even when that seems the hardest thing to do.

Keeping your eyes and hearts focussed on the Kingship of Christ in your lives and the life of this community is the only way to live.

Loving your enemies, forgiving those who hurt you

Listening to those you disagree with, working together.

Nothing that happens in the next months matters unless it is rooted in living for the Kingdom;

where leadership is about serving, not power,

where love, justice and mercy are defining values.

Where our own agendas drop away so that we work together to build faith, community and the Kingdom of God.

The hymn puts it like this -“self on the cross & Christ upon the throne”

You have everything you need in Him, see where He leads, don’t get in the way –

you have future and a hope as individuals and as part of the church in this city,

you have within you the gifts abilities and faith that God has used, can & will use.

Seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness, and everything will be added to you.

This is Christ’s Church, and he holds it,

Keep him at the centre, live as citizens of his kingdom, and all will be well, all manner of things shall be well

 

 

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Remembering

Posted in sermons, Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 11, 2018 by fibrefairy

What, I wonder is your first memory, something major,  or something trivial but personally significant – mine is both. The moon landing and my grandparents moving house on the same day.

Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth recalls that her first memory was the celebrations at the relief of Mafeking –

I wonder if a life lived in the shadow of war made that more likely to have remained a memory?!

Remembering is a vital and important part of a human existence

Memories are part of us, they shape how we view the world, our earliest experiences colour our character, later ones form us and shape our opinions.

Good memories, bad memories

Half remembered memories

The memories we’d rather forget, traumatic events, loss, grief

The things we cling to

Memories that are half forgotten, evoked by a smell, a sound, a face.

Memory plays tricks on us too, yesterday Tim & I went back to see a house we’d viewed previously. Each of us had remembered things differently, smaller, larger, brighter, darker.

We have all I’m sure been back to a place we knew when young and exclaimed at how small it seems now.

Part of the reasons we want to forget some things is because we want to change what happened, and we know we can’t

We block out, either deliberately or our neurological system does it for us, the bad, traumatic things that have occurred, it’s a form of self-protection.

However, some things are so bad that we must remember

War is one of those things.

The commemoration of Armistice day is a multi-layered thing,

100 years on there are few alive today who lost fathers brothers and friends in the 14-18 conflict, but families and communities still remember the holes in their collective lives, we mourn the loss of potential, of individuals, of memories that were never made.

And of course, we remember and mourn those lost in successive conflicts, WW2 and others almost too many to name.

Corporately, nationally, one of the reasons we must remember is to prevent such a wholesale disaster recurring

The Great War was known as the war to end all wars.

The Peace of 1919 also saw the beginnings of organisations such as the Peace pledge Union, the League of Nations -now the UN, and post WW2 the rise of peace campaigning such as CND and others,

 

And yet, we live in a world that is riven by violence, war terrorism and all manner of conflict.

Clearly just remembering is not enough.

Are we doing the right kind of remembering?

Are we drawing the kindly veil of time over events in the past?

Are we romanticising history?

The philosopher George Santayana said;  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it;

 

It’s a particular kind of remembering that enables us to change…

As Christians the centre of our faith is remembering.

Every Sunday we obey the command of Jesus to “do this is remembrance of me”

For some, this becomes ritual, habit, tradition

The bread and the wine are just part of what we do, moving perhaps, important of course, but they have no impact beyond the door of a church

But what Jesus asked us to do was to bring that moment, the moment of his death and resurrection, in to our present.

To remember afresh each time as if it was now.

To be overwhelmed by his love and his presence each time bread is broken and wine outpoured

And for it to make a difference.

For us to experience that love so deeply, so transformatively

that we are changed, and we leave the building where we are, equipped to make a difference in our world.

This is what Jesus meant when he said “do this to remember me”

We commemorate A,rmistice in church because in 1919 the church was the centre of the community, a bedrock for many a gathering place.

But if we are to do that, if we are to remember the war dead and to pray for an end to war then our remembrance must be active

It must enable us to bring the horror and grief of war to the foot of the cross, right here in this place of worship and enable us to be transformed to work for peace in the power of the Prince of peace

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, he had not simply taken up the nearest and cheapest available form of transport

He was smashing the expectation that people had of the coming Messiah.

Many had already hailed him as the Messiah, but they were mistaken in how his messiahship would be exercised.

They were after a warlord, a rebel, someone to rid them of occupying forces and to establish the Kingdom of Israel, by force and might

Jesus came on a donkey instead of a warhorse to show them he was different, his Kingdom was to be one of peace, and justice.

Not weak and pathetic and a walkover

But powerful, transformative, seeking equity, freedom and justice for all peoples.

It was brave move and he was much misunderstood, and it led to his execution. After his resurrection his disciples spoke out, they risked the same fate, and indeed often suffered it for preaching the Kingdom of God and Jesus as Messiah rather than a ‘still to come’ warlord rebel.

The early church spoke out and lived out the truths of the Kingdom;

The upside down topsy turvey first shall be last Kingdom of God. They shared their life together, the cared for those rejected by society.

When we remember Jesus at the eucharist as he commanded, we too are proclaiming that Kingdom, a kingdom that stands against the values of our world, the Eucharist is not about  status quo and establishment,

it is a radical act of defiance against those things.

A proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

As we remember all those, who died in so many conflicts we must also find our voice, and in their memory fearlessly speak out against injustice, violence and war, working towards the time when swords will be turned into ploughshares, the lion will lie with the lamb and there will be peace on earth. We won’t necesarily make friends that way, but if we’re here for anything it is to speak out, and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

If those we remember today died for anything it was the hope that evil violence and war would end.

Remembrance is active, the greatest memorial to those who died is a world striving for peace.

In Jesus, who we remember at the altar, and in whose power we live, we have a command and a mandate to speak and live and work for that day when his kingdom comes, and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.

Lest we forget…Amen

 

 

 

 

why #metoo too

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2017 by fibrefairy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#metoo

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity 10a: Canaan & Charlottesville

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2017 by fibrefairy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Which sounds on the face of it rather dismissive,

But is it?

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

As she begs him, things change

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus then heals her daughter and commends her faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Silence is not an option

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

Bonhoeffer echoes this when he says

Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.

 

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

Bonhoeffer again,

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

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

 

 

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

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2016 by fibrefairy

fig-fruit

 

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

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

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

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

“well they were fighting  too”

“ it was silly place to be”

“fancy  doing that though”

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

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

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

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

Jesus is quick to debunk any such thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then Jesus twists it again –

And he tells the story of the fig tree

Sat in the orchard or the vineyard, doing nothing

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

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

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

God extends grace to us,

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

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

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

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

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

If we claim to have met with Jesus

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

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

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

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

We all make mistakes

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

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

We have been given the chance to be forgiven

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

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

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

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

God forgives, God extends grace,

So we should forgive too,

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

 

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

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2016 by fibrefairy

 

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

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

He does not excuse the sin.

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

So he challenges and acknowledges their sin too

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

And their need of forgiveness,

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

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

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

Imagine those stones,

Dropping one by one to the ground,

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

Uncurled from an act of violence

And dropping,

Stone, by stone to the ground

As  the accusers melt away,

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

 

And the woman,

She is changed too, in  that moment

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

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

Grace is extended,

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

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

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

Today we come aware of our own frailties and failings,

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

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

And within that, our inability to transform ourselves.

We acknowledge our infinite ability to mess up,

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

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

Only he holds it, and can work with it.

As we come , we come asking for his grace,

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

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

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

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

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

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

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

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

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

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

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

–Jan Richardson

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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