Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On a scale of one to ten holy are you?

If celebrating All Saints Day either on 30th October, or 6 November readings can be taken from Sirach/Ecclesiaticus 44:1-15; Rev 7:9-17;Matthew 5:1-12 We are privileged in our parish to have a Church dedicated under the title of  All Hallows Though it is often mispronounced - All Hollows I sometimes wonder if people think we are shallow or empty but we are not And people often make the mistake  that All Hallows means "All Ghosts" or "All Spirits" because of the connection with Halloween (why would you so dedicate a church?) the word Hallows actually means Saints. (and the 31 October-Halloween connection is because it is the Eve of All Saints Day -Nov 1 ie Hallows Evening...but I digress) Now Anglicans love All Saints Day (November 1) and I think it is one of the series of Saints Days  which is a reminder of what it is like to be  God's person. Because that's what Saint or Hallowed  means In the early days of the Church (eg when the New Testament was written) that's what Christians where called  Saints...or Hagioi which is Greek for you guessed it Hallows!!! All the baptised are Hallowed (made holy) by God. Set apart not to be separate from the world but commissioned to bring people back to God. We are not always good at this but that's probably not the point As I think about Frances, and Maureen,  about Rob and Cathy, about Jenni and Bill,  about Kath and Cath,  and Peter and David, Elizabeth and Wendy Judy and get the picture there are a number of us and quite a few who went before...Hilda and Doris,  Norm, Cec and Rex and Luke, Jean and Rene, Bill and Esme....too many to mention, many of whom I have never met personally. At times we must have pleased God with our faithfulness and at times tried God's patience At all times we have been loved by God and some times we have been able to show that love to other people. It is our absolute joy  to be under the title of the Apostle of Love St John and the title of All Hallows. May Jesus' name be praised in all we seek to be and do. Alleluia!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hearing the word

A reflection I Thess 2:9-13 for Sunday 30 October 2011..The 20th Sunday after Pentecost

St Paul writes in this Sunday's epistle

 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

what does this mean to receive teaching as God's word?
Does it mean it is a sort of fairy story? Not quite earthed, and having an air of the supernatural about it?
We sometimes think of the Bible like that.
When we are really desperate and tempted to flick open the Bible 
in the hope we will get some inspiration
or direct message from God (hoping not to get Matthew 27:5)
we are rather treating the 'word of God' with a high level of contempt.

Paul uses the expression "God's word" 
to the matter of his own teaching
This is a useful thing for us to remember.
We actually think...teaching, and preaching
and perhaps counselling and other ministries
...are not just dumping of information
they are one of the ways (and I use that expression "one of the ways" advisedly)
that God communicates with us.
How different might this make the way we approach the Sunday sermon or homily
If God might be speaking to me 
then perhaps I need to try and listen
(I am bad at this a preacher I am not always good at listening to others)
So we should (and I try to) discipline ourselves to say
something like
"I expect to hear you today"
Even though the words, and the delivery, and the preacher themselves
may be flawed
That's not the point.
If God is speaking then perhaps we should try to listen.

Our Christian tradition suggests also
that we receive the Word of God through 
Bible reading
Christ speaking directly to us
In the way we encounter Christ in the poor, the marginalised and those who the world finds hard to love

Again I say: If God in Christ is speaking to us
Perhaps we should be listening.


When I heard preaching this week what one  thing did I hear? Did my anger, my carelessness, my apathy mean that I heard nothing?
It is not that God is not speaking. It is more likely that I am not listening

Can I read some Scripture this week...not as a magic trick...but take one of the Gospel stories and talk to Jesus about what he might be saying?

In my life what one thing has happened this week that would seem to me to be God speaking important words into my life?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vision and insight

Some reflections on Deuteronomy 34 for Sunday 23rd October 2011

I am not quite sure where I will be when you read this 
(you could check my personal blog
and I may have had opportunity to post)
but as I will be in the Holy Lands 
I will be considerably closer to the place where Moses died  than I normally am!
Although this chapter at the end of Deuteronomy 
tells us that we are not sure where 
the actual burial place was
This gave rise rise to the legend that he was taken up (assumed) into heaven
but how are we to know such a wonderful thing?

The figure of Moses towers over the Exodus story 
and the journey to the Promised Land.
But he dies before the great journey is completed, 
and it is left to Joshua, his successor, 
to complete the work.

We often make the observation
that it is not about the destination
it is about the journey.

This is true of Jesus
Although Jesus' journey is to Calvary
he is only briefly there (three hours)
as dramatic and climactic as the Cross is
it is not the ultimate destination.

He moves to it, though it, and beyond it.

We need to think about our own lives not as destinations
but as journey.
It is easy for me to do this this week
because I am in the midst of 
what is, for a Christian,
a pilgrimage.
Not a destination 
but a journey.
I will leave Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem
the sea of Galilee, Cana and Capernaum
They will have been important places.
But as St Augustine puts it
our hearts are seeking not a shrine
or a country
but they are restless until they find their rest in you, God
A modern commentator observes
there is also a sense in which God is restless until
God finds us
Can we stop and let God catch us?

Where am I missing God in my ordinary life's journey?
Am I seduced by false destinations, or lost commitment 
to keep journeying
Can I find some way today to offer myself more wholly to Jesus.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Truth seeking

For Sunday 16 October...18th Sunday After Pentecost...thinking about Mtt 22:15-22

When I was a young man I liked nothing better than  to have a good argument about almost anything. It was hereditary. Both my father and his mother, my grandmother, were rather like this too.  I well remember my mother saying about her mother-in-law "She could argue black was white"
And so could I, and so could Dad. And we sometimes did.
As I have got older I have rather tired of this sort of "death by argument" sort of existence. These two little stories in Matthew 22 perhaps give us an insight into why this might be so.
First, they both have a sense that they are 'tricky'.
That is, although they seem fairly straight forward we soon discover they are not.
"Is it lawful to pay taxes?" Should immediately alert us to this
In our own country as soon as we started calling the process to price carbon not a charge but a "tax" people became wary.
Although we may like the benefits of taxation, none of us likes paying it.
In reality it looks like the questioners are not interested in the answer. They are trying to trap Jesus.
If he say "Yes it is lawful to pay tax" then the people will hate him. If he says "No, it's not lawful!" then he may be hauled before the courts
We may have arguments, we may ask questions.
But there is often a deep seated hidden agenda.
I suspect my grandmother, father and I really liked beating people into submission.
Not so much about the subject, as about power.

The second story is intriguing the 21st century person is left with a sense of the unreality of this question...Who will you be married to after you are dead? It is a a question about a religious divide which we don't fully understand...again 
it is rather like the political arguments of today
no one is being convinced
but that's not what they are trying to do
they are attempting to expose the foolishness of their opposition
rather than get at the truth.
Mostly when I discuss this passage, people look blankly
it is clear WE all think that as interesting as this all might be we have moved on!
Jesus, in entering into the discussion, only seems to make it more ridiculous.
I suspect he is exposing the futility of it all by taking it to the logical extreme.

A reflection
As important as it might be to correct error
we are often self-deceptive about the way we question and debate.
What looks important for Jesus is not the sort of logical niceties
and the technical merits of an argument
but rather the character of relationship
St John says (15:13) Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends
This is one of those cornerstone verses
The gospel in a nutshell
Love is not shown by pointing out the error of their ways
or by winning arguments
But by self-sacrificial service 
This is the message of the Cross.
It's often easier to argue
and may even be abusive.
It is far harder to love

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Who get to be a saint? -who get invited to the wedding?

Lectionary Readings for Sunday 9th October include Exodus 32:1-14, Psalm 106:1-6,19-23; Philippians 4:1-9 & Matt 22:1-14

No sermon I have heard about saints in the last 50 years
has failed to remind the modern Christian
that "We are all saints"
As we look at this parable (
Matt.22:1-14) of the wedding feast
read it online here)
We might ask ourselves what Jesus says
in this in answer to the question
"Who gets to be a saint?"

I do

In many ways the last line of this parable reminds us of the inescapable reality
"Many are called!"
God does not hold back on his offer of fulness of life.
So, as we ask, 
Who gets to be a saint?
We can at least answer:Everyone gets the opportunity."Many are called!"
I am fortunate in that I can recognise
that there has never been a moment of my life
when that has not been true.
Less than a month old, I was walked across the road
 St Peter's Church, Kells
and I was baptised.

Baptism, in this sense, is a reply to the wedding invitation
that this parable is talking about.
The invitation to participate in a relationship
with the living God
which is called "eternal life"

(I sometimes think we understand that term better
if we say 
fulness of life or abundant life)This gift is so abundant and free is truly gracious, freely offered...
that we can and should say
Many are called...perhaps we could addavailable for allWhat we also need to remember and add
is that 
this version ends with the words 
Few are chosen
This process of selection
is not a sort of
whimsical game that God plays with us
it is, as these parables demonstrate,
also a process of self-selection

They do

The invitation is extended
but some, even many,
choose to not come
Two things happen
as a consequence:
those who have heard the invitation
but who choose not to come
are excluded!
And those who we don't think are the ones
who should be chosen
actually get the chance.
In historical terms
Jesus might be addressing
his own people
Pharisees and Saducees
who hear his teaching and yet
they fail to turn back to God.
We see then he turns
to social outcasts
poor tradespeople
fishermen, and anxious young men.
More than that
there are the tax collectors, the lepers
and the prostitutes.
These people with empty, desperate lives
are the ones who hear
and receive Jesus gladly.
As we reflect on religious history
this sort of pattern has often repeated itself.
In our terms (as of old)
it is the people who have always known
the Gospel
whose parents walked them over the road
to be baptised.
They have heard
and in many cases
This parable might remind us
that we have to live with that
as a reality.
It might also remind us that
when we try to focus our energies
at bringing people in
it is to the highways, and the byways
we should be going.
Can we honestly critique our parish life
and say
We are geared to welcoming
those who are usually rejected?
I think not

I don't

There is thena salutary warning for those of us who are "in"
it is not a game.
It is a genuine invitation
which requires a genuine response.
If we think it will be about -game playing-
dressing up, social nicety or pretense
then we are mistaken.
We are to be clothed properly.
We are to set about our job.
It is this that we see the saints doing in their different ways.
Whether it be through faithful hours spent caring for the poor,
or a diuligent devotion to bringing up children,
it may be simply a commitment to live
a decent and honourable Christian life
as best we can.
It is not particularly about coming to church,
it is about how we live our life.
This is a serious mistake we often make
with these parables of the kingdom.
We some how seem to think
that they are about our involvement in 
That is not the case.
It is about how we choose to live 
life.Not about how oftyen we receive communion
but whether we practice forgiveness
and care for the poor.
Not about how much we give
but about our relationship with God
Will our life show that we take this invitation seriously?
Take some stock this week,
ask a telling question...
you know one of those tricky ones..
if I was on trial for being a christian
would there be enough evidence to convict me
Would the jury find love, mercy, forgiveness.
Reaching out to the poor, standing alongside the weak,
caring for the sick and the lonely.
It is not a game.
Do we say yes to the invitation
to eternal life?
Do we say no, to the hypocrisy of pretence?
Nothing less will do.