Slow Down, You’re going too fast

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

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

 1 Kings 19.9-18

 Matthew 14.22-33

Trinity 9 Proper 14


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what was going on through the night?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To know that we are created to be before we  do

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2016 by fibrefairy



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

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Sermon for Midnight Mass 2015

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s the John Lewis advert…

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

It’s a bit of a mystery this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t he help?

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

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

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

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

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

Instead God came himself.

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

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

Jesus was God and he was human,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not from the outside but from within, from us.

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

The Kingdom of God is not far off,

Peace on earth is not a distant nice idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So near and yet so far.


This Christmas, how will you answer the question

“what on earth is God doing?”

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

Will you carry that light in his world?





On why we can rejoice …

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


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

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

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

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

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

Only the gospel it seems hits a slightly jarring note…

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

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

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

John calls his listeners to bear fruits worth of repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then,  only then the fruit comes,

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

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

This is our hope, our calling

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

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

something about sadness

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2015 by fibrefairy

there is something about sadness…

it is a weight,

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

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

my sadness is slatey blue,

it is an ache,

a swelling over the heart,



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

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

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

there are rarely words.

today i am sad

i am sad  for the hurting and the lost

i am sad because we cannot be sad without arguing;

are we’re sad enough, or too sad?

is blue sadness  worse than grey sadness?

whether the chords have a resolution

or if there is an accidental dischord

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

i am not angry now

i am sad

and i am tired.

we are all  sad ;

let’s not make it worse





wars, and rumours of wars…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2015 by fibrefairy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we pray too for those in Beirut,

And those in Baghdad who died even as they mourned

For Japanese and  Mexicans  in the aftermath of earthquakes

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

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

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

For this is the world in which we live,

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

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

God has promised to build his Kingdom;

Jesus came, God made flesh to live among us,

He said “the Kingdom is near”

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

But we know too that the Kingdom is far away,

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

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

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

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

To live the hope, the justice and the peace,

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

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

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

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

We hold the flame of hope in us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– now and not yet,

But let it begin in us.

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