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.

Including the excluded :Easter 5

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2015 by fibrefairy

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

Election  distraction !
New distraction =Royal baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

three times on the outside,

he was a foreigner, – race,

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

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

his sexual identity puts him on the outside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  we consider how we might vote this coming week

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

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

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


Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2015 by fibrefairy

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

Saturday II/Sunday I

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2015 by fibrefairy

I should never be surprised.  After the empty day of waiting,  the self questioning I arrived back at the cathedral for the Vigil. This first part was held in the darkness in the retroquire,  where history,  family history and His story mingle ,  where Bishops,  saints and the other many faithful are remembered.  In the darkness we listened to the overarching story of God at work: and I remembered once again in the small span of my life he is at work ,   sometimes unseen,  unrecognised,  but always there.
The story retold, we moved to join many more waiting in the nave,  in silence and anticipation.  The fire lit,  the Christ light renewed,  slowly the cathedral filled with light from hundreds of small candles,  a reminder that we pass the light of Christ to each other in our lives. The exsultet,  the song of resurrection proclaimed  *This* is the night….
And à fanfare,  joyful cacophony as we proclaim  He is Risen! Alleluia!  He is Risen indeed!  ALLELUIA.


I had forgotten up to this point that the setting for mass was Mozart’s Kronungsmesse,  one of my complete favourite settings and the one that was used at my ordination.  Gloria in excelsis Deo.
I love the Easter Vigil and to be in what is, as a priest in the diocese, my mother church, was very special.  The joy of the baptisms and confirmations,  with renewal of baptismal vows and the Bishop flinging water around with glee all combined to make such a rich celebration.  Such tangible joy,  such resurrection hope and also moments of quirk. The bishop suggested that as crepuscular creatures perhaps it may have been that among the first witnesses to the resurrection would have been cats..  Who knows.

At some point in the afternoon I had realised that I was free to visit my sending parish for their dawn eucharist &  breakfast,  the thought of celebrating with long time friends pulled me in.  This was what I knew I was missing. The full sense of community in this journey,  and despite not having walked Holy Week with them I decided I would go,  before returning to the cathedral for the Festal Eucharist.  So after a short night I got up at 5 to make the trip,  rejoiced with friends,  but witnessed too at the moment of lighting of the Paschal candle,  a cat creep through the churchyard,  look at the unaccustomed activity at that hour,  and move on….



Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2015 by fibrefairy

Friday night I felt unsettled.  Physically on edge.  Like something was about to happen,  but I didn’t know what.  I’m learning to live more in the emotions of this time.  I think when we immerse ourselves in Holy Week and the Triduum it’s no surprise our own emotions start to coincide. Perhaps this “detached”  Easter is helping me see this with a bit more clarity,  earlier rather than later in the moment.  The twitchy feeling has persisted,  the feeling of being constantly on the brink of tears,  the saying the wrong thing,  waking too early.  But like Mary,  I’m in limbo.  She was constrained by Sabbath law.  Trying to continue through the day as normal,  wanting to go to the tomb,  and yet fearful,  did she need reminding of what happened yesterday? What if she couldn’t get to the body,  what if…  Not trusting her own emotions her own reactions..  But they are moot reflections. She wasn’t going anywhere.
I’m doing normal too,  mum taxi,  this blog,  coffee.  I want today over,  to move on,  and yet I don’t.  Perhaps I’m needing to stay in this waity Holy place.  In my in-betweeny state right now it’s the place that fits,  that names &  owns me.  Detached,  alienated,  having no home.  Perhaps I’m scared of Easter Sunday because I’m not there yet.  But then I think I think this every year, and when it comes the relief is immense.
Life might not be Sunday yet,  staying in Saturday might appeal,  but tonight in the Vigil we hear the stories, the pattern of God’s hand through time..  And we know we are part of that story,  again &  again at different points,  in different years, resurrection &  redemption come.  Even when we’re not there now,  Sunday promises is that we will be. 
But for today we wait.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2015 by fibrefairy

Good Friday; a day of sadness, anticipation, emotion, silence, shouting .

In my childhood it was dominated by the Walk of Witness, a gathering of the churches in thetown to walk through the streets, singing badly and in my mind witnessing only to the fact we were a bit weird. We were *supposed* to be quiet, which in some ways made it all much worse, because as soon as you’re supposed to be quiet  as a child of course you can’t be. This was too the era of the Baptist black shirt wth full collar, when the minister wouldn’t be seen without suit and shirt front and the ring of confidence.

We would assemble at the green in the centre by the Methodist church where a short service was held, and we could then be let loose on the hot cross buns with margarine (it was the 70s , but this is significant) in the church hall. Honestly. Butter or nothing. Do Not Ever desecrate a HCB with marge….

My teen years allowed me to miss the increasingly straggly Walk because I was involved in preparing for the service, playing or reading or doing some bit of drama. For this relief, much thanks, as the bard said…

My experience of Walks of Witness since has not been much better, they seem only to witness to the fact we’re still weird, nuttery in fact, the increase in Good Friday as a full on Bank holiday shopping opportunity has only emphasised that. What is more we witness to this weirdness and then tend to disappear into a church building for the bit that  might make more of an impact – the gathering and vigil around the cross.

I’d scrap the walk for any more than the shortest of gathering processions and  have a simple outdoor service, Christians gathered together, the cross at the centre, simplicity, silence, visual more than words and hot cross buns with butter. Good Friday morning is also/alternatively the time to really involve the children. Workshops, simple GF activities, stations, reflective activities and short time of worship. This involves the families and the community and keeps the afternoon free for the Three Hours, it’s more than just icing biscuits though, this is the opportunity to really immerse young people in the story (their parents too) multi sensory stations, visuals and music. The sort of stuff that gets to the non verbal bit of our brains and spirits.

Today I set off for the Cathedral again for the Three Hours ( no walks involved). The Preparation was led by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I’ve read a lot of his stuff but never heard him, a dead ringer for Dumbledore (see, more Hogwarts !) he spoke in three parts about the companionship of Christ, the true sympathy he has, touched by and sharing in our suffering, sharing it but also showing us the way out. Suffering man, suffering God.
He spoke of the fact that it was not just physical pain that Christ endured, but the emotional agony, perhaps deeper and more severe than physical pain, as he prayed in the Garden. Only with this emotional side too can we begin to comprehend the totality of his suffering.
What more could he have done for us that he has not done?

He is with us in our utter isolation and detached state, in our loneliness and rejection. Truly he has suffered as we do.
“he came to his own and his own did not receive him ”
Christ accepts being cut off even from God for our sakes. All for love.
The Cross was not a disaster put right by the Resurrection. The Cross is victory, hidden victory, the Resurrection makes that victory manifest. The wounds of Christ are seen on his risen body, the continuity. The marks of his suffering will always remain, though risen & glorified he is not separated from the suffering of the world. At this moment Jesus is suffering what you suffer and helping you to overcome.
The Cross and Resurrection are one event, one victory. We need to see this, perhaps they are illustrated in the two sorts of crucifixes, the dead Christ and Christus Victor.
It is finished is not a cry of resignation but of triumph. The victory is won. A victory of suffering love. “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”

That line from John 1 has often seemed to me to sit oddly in its tense, reading it as we often do at Christmas, should it read the darkness did not overcome it? No. For this victory over darkness is not in the past it is continual and present. That hit me again.

The Preparation over the choir sang the Litany, in Procession and the Liturgy of Good Friday followed with sublime music for Psalm 22, and The Passion according to St John.
Sophie Hacker had created an amazing corpus for the Cross, unveiled at this point.
It seems to me to combine a twist of agony and a gesture of triumph the suffering and the victory combined and so spoke directly to me of what the Archbishop had been saying.
So few words are needed to convey so much. The Reserved Sacrament was offered, each host broken into the recipients hand “the body of Christ, broken for you” The Reproaches in a setting by Sanders and Tenebrae by Poulenc, and we left. Pitched into the business and bustle of the bank holiday city.

Father forgive them for they know not. … How will they know unless someone tells them?

Perhaps this post has come full circle.. The walk of witness should be our lives.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2015 by fibrefairy

The mood on Thursday plummets pretty fast. For clergy it starts with Chrism Mass, a powerful reminder of our ordination vows, a chance to be anointed for ministry once more and  a great chance to meet and chat with colleagues.

Then Mass of the Last Supper, churches still dressed in white and gold, a celebration, albeit it solemn, of the gift of the Eucharist given to us. Then the Sacrament is taken from the church, the fittings are stripped, the sanctuary is left in  emptiness  and just as Jesus and his disciples went out from their party room  to the garden, we follow the Sacrament to its resting place in a side chapel, decorated with palms and leaves, lit with just a few flickering candles (In the cathedral for a few minutes this setting was very Hogwarts as the choristers flitted around in their black cloaks before disappearing off to bed in the boarding house or home with their parents.)

I have always struggled with the Watch. in every other circumstance faced with an hour or two praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the dark and silence my soul would, sing, breathe deeply and relax.

On Thursday night I twitch, I fidget, I wonder ( or I have in the past when Ive been at “home”) how many people will stay,  I count those leaving, I fret about whether we advertised it well enough, I shiver with cold and fidget some more. Then I feel bad that I can’t do what Jesus asked..watch & pray just one hour even. I feel like this precious time is wasted as my thoughts wander. I feel like the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament is distant and disconnected from me.

and then, suddenly, tonight, it hit me. It’s *supposed* to be like this.. I am feeling exactly how the disciples did, uncomfortable, twitchy, unsure, guilty, probably cold, tired.  this isn’t a blissful prayer experience it’s raw uncertainty, waiting; everything I’ve felt  on this night before is the right thing to feel. it fits.

I felt a bit better, as I tried to pray struggling with words and pictures in my head, and then another revelation.  Jesus is in the garden praying for *me*. I don’t need to struggle with words or thoughts,  he just asks me to be aware of his prayers and to join with him in them. As he struggles with what lies ahead, he prays for each of us; as we wait & watch he prays. Holding us.

The watch ended with Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
0 good Jesus, hear me;
Within Thy wounds, hide me;
Permit me not to be separated from ‘Thee;
From the wicked foe defend me;
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints I may praise Thee
For ever and ever. Amen.

which sent me home with an earworm of Soul of my Saviour

The Path Ahead

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2015 by fibrefairy

I’m between jobs at the moment, so it is I find myself without services to lead and things to prepare over  Holy Week and the Triduum. (or at least after Wednesday anyway) . More on the leaving another time, but  conscious of the need to travel through these days  in a place and with a community, I have decided to worship at the Cathedral. Beautiful, imposing and intimate; linked with my family’s history and my own personal story this is *my* cathedral and will be  ( now I have a job in the diocese) for at least a good few years more. It is not like a stranger that I come to worship in this place, but as someone who belongs, as you do in your parents or grandparents home, even when you do not live there day by day.

I hadn’t thought about blogging until I was on my way home from the Eucharist of the Last supper and Watch.  The posts that follow may be slight or they may be momentous. It’s a journey and we shall see how the path winds.


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