Monday, October 29, 2012

Did you ever know that you're my hero?

There is any number of passages that you might include for All Saints' Day, which is on November 1, and is often kept on the Sunday it will be in this parish:
 Isaiah 25:6-9, Wisdom 3:1-9, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6, John 11:32-44

Each of us has heroes.
In the Church we call these saints.
And because of our particular take in the Church
on the issue of humility
we often find it difficult to use
the language of hero...but heroes they are.
Psychologists might tell us 

how important heroes are.

I was intrigued to realise a few years ago
how all those stories of knights and their adventures
which I had lapped up as a boy
contain the recurrent themes
which are the stuff of life.
The crusade, the slaying of the dragon,
the wounded hero,
the return with the prize, 

the search for the holy grail...and so on.

These are the stories of antiquity
but they are the stories of today.

This is true of these people we call the saints.
Whether it be ecstatic visionaries, 

undertaking the single-minded pursuit of God,
showing selfless devotion to the poor or the sick, 

desiring to learn more of the mysteries of God,
or with missionary or educational zeal

they seek to advance and improve the lives of others

They catch our imagination and inspire our Christian life.

The eleventh century teacher and holy man St Bernard, the great teacher of the Middle Ages,
tells us that saints might inspire two desires in us:
The first is to be in their company and to try to emulate
their life and work.

We emulate the people we admire.
We might make two comments about this,
The saints are a very diverse group of people.
In many ways it is easier to contrast them
with each other than to compare them
Some, like Francis or Mother Teresa,
inspire us because of their wholehearted desire to serve the poor.
Others inspire us because, like Gladys Aylward the missionary to China,
they are single-minded in their pursuit of their task
and do not see the obstacles that would put you and me off.

It is in this context that we often have Patron Saints,
people who particularly appeal to us,
whose way of serving Christ,
is something that we find meaningful and attractive.
You may like to think who you would take to be your patron.
There are many to choose from.
We look at their lives,
not with a view to making a photocopy of it
in our own life
but learning from their example.

Who will you take as your Patron,
and How will you let that colour your life?

The second thing that Bernard says
that inspires us about the saints
is their closeness to Christ
and that Christ, who is our life, may manifest himself to us
as he does to them.

This is not a magic formula
but rather another dimension of the first aspect.
We see in the example of these people
that their devotion to Christ
is so real that they know 

the closeness
with Jesus 

that you and I long for day and night.
We follow them, and associate with them
so that we may know Christ.
If we look beyond people
like St Francis, St Mary Magdalene, and St Ignatius...
we will probably find in this group of people
who are close to Christ
people called: Nana, Charlie Moncrieff, my old teacher,
my friend at church
and others who have influenced us more directly.

What attracts us to them, so often,
is that in them we see
people who could talk about Jesus
as though they knew him.

Because they did.

Gather your saintsAt a conference  a speaker once told  us
that a good part of our daily prayer
was to "gather our saints"
To sit quietly and bring to mind
those whose Christian example
means something to us.

That is, it makes sense of the Gospel.

This is rather what we do at All Saints' time,
We gather our saints.
We are not worshipping them,
but rather we look to them
for some inspiration,
and some idea of how to be close to Christ.
These saints may be our patrons,
but often they will be the people
who, increasingly, we identify
are the ones we know to whom Christ
is genuine
and we could well follow their examples
So let us look to our heroes, the saints of old,
and the saints of today
and try to keep company with them
by seeing in the examples that apepal to us
something of value.
And let us try to earnestly know
what they know.
The reality fo the presence of Christ
from day to day

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Simon and Jude . Our Ancestry Dot Com

Deut 32:1-4; Ps 19:1-6; Jude 1-3,17-25; Luke 6:12-16  These are reading for the Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude which is also on October 28.

I rather think the rationale for this festival, so close to All Saints Day, is that we actually know little or nothing about these two apostles
or indeed most of the Saints
We can paint together a whole lot of things from tradition
but we don't know a lot of it to be actually true
Simon may have been the groom at the wedding in Cana
he may have been a political enthusiast
or what was called a Zealot.
Or it may just be that Cana, where the wedding happened, and where he came from
happens to mean "enthusiasm" or "zeal"
Perhaps we know a little bit more about Jude, because there is a single letter under that name in the Scriptures
He is called the brother of James...but which James we don't know
and it seems unlikely that it was James the brother or cousin of Jesus
as surely then he would have been referred to as the brother of Jesus.

Life of course is like this
and this might remind us
that we are part of communities and that we get talked about
and over time
the stories get foggy.
But it is a very important part of what being a saint is all about
The Apostles' Creed says we believe in the Communion of Saints
It's an idea that says we are not just privately religious or spiritual
but that our story is interwoven
with the life of others
and we should pay attention to that.

  • Could we this week pray for another member of the Communion of Saints and explore how our life connects with theirs
The Apostles also remind us that we are people who are called
They were called by Jesus to be sent (that's what the word apostle means)
St Paul's idea is that each of us who is baptised
is called by God and gifted by the Holy Spirit
to be ministers of Jesus.
We are called to be and are
The Body of Christ
Christ's real presence to the world?

  • Could we this week be the Body of Christ, the presence of Jesus. What might that look like?  Are we called to be sent to talk about Jesus?
  • Am I an agent of healing, a minister of forgiveness?

Jude reminds us that this is what this Community we belong to does. It is Christ.
Like a good coach or boss, or parent or friend
he reminds us that we should take care of ourselves
and do what we are called to do
Build up your most holy faith!
What might that look like for me this week....what should I do
Read, pray, acts of charity....try to love and forgive properly

Holiness is not only something God is doing in us
but also something we need to work with
to protect, guard, and nourish

  • Could I this week do one thing that is going to draw me closer to God?

So so the saints are calling us to remember three important dimensions of our Christian life

  • Community
  • Call
  • Holiness
Not to just be passive recipients in a sort of hit and miss Gospel
but actively cultivating my membership

  • One person to reach out to
  • One call to put into action
  • One thing to draw closer to God


Thursday, October 25, 2012

What we really want

If we were really honest with ourselves, which is often not the case, we would find that we spend an awful lot of time and energy on things that are not terribly satisfying...or even what we want

In our parish this week we will celebrating a Saints Day, Simon & Jude, two of the more obscure apostles. Then next Sunday we will be keeping All Saints Day but below are the readings for the Sunday of the year.....Proper 30

Readings for Pentecost 22, Sunday October 28  2012 include Job 42:1-6, 10-17, Psalm 34, Hebrews 7:23-28, Mark 10:46-52
Most of us have only a fleeting glimpse of what we really want out of life, relationships or from God
What do you want me to do for you?
If we were really honest with ourselves, (which is often not the case)
we would find that we spend an awful lot of time and energy on things that are not terribly satisfying…
really not even what we want
Yet it is, of course,
what we really want
that drives us.
We may want to be liked.
To feel financially secure.
Or even just to be left alone!!!
The gospel shows us what we sometimes experience
-that in crisis, or difficulty, at a time of great stress
that “what we want”
may be clearly focussed
This perhaps gives us an insight into one of the benefits of those tough times;
that it is at moment of our greatest need
or difficulty
that we can be particularly receptive to God’s grace

We are often not inclined to think like this.
For Bartimaeus, he can see very clearly (interesting for a blind man)
what he needs from Jesus
and he will not be silenced.

Can we get that very clear focus?
It is particularly of note that Jesus is able to respond to Bartimaeus in his genuine need.

What particular troubles do we have on our plate at the moment?
What might God be able to give us if we allow him?
Can we have the courage to cry out, and the determination to not be put off

Monday, October 15, 2012

Approaching suffering through experience

Suffering is the great mystery. We struggle to understand it but don't find it easy. 
Maybe there is not 'an answer' in the narrow way we often think of such things

Readings for Sunday 21 October, 2012. Pentecost 21, (Proper 29) Job 38:1-24; Psalm 104:1-26; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:32-45. These readings can be read progressively through the week to prepare you for Sunday 

Is the "mystery of suffering" revealed this week? (See Job 38)
I don't pretend that the "answer" that the book of Job gives to the purpose, cause and meaning of suffering
is finally satisfying.
It does however point us to an ultimate reality or two!

We do not comprehend everything.
We live under the misapprehension
that everything is ultimately knowable.
If only we can get enough information
or if we can gain enough experience
then we will utimately arrive at the answer.

The story of Job suggests to us that this is not entirely true.
We will never understand the mystery of God
how he creates, renews, restores
The best we can hope for is, like some sort of calculus,
to draw close to the absolute limit of our understanding
but we never reach the complete finality.
I suspect our own experience 
would tell us this too

Entering into the mystery

The gospel passage (Mark 10:32-45)  gives us another way in
To James and John, who quite miss the point 
of what life with Christ might be like
and seem to think that it is about 
some sort of power play
Jesus says "Can you be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?"
When this question is asked 
they glibly say "Of course!"
But one must wonder if they would have spoken so boldly 
on Good Friday
or 20 or more years later.
What Jesus is reminding us in this passage is 
that there is a cost involvedand we might  better say 
we begin to understand the mystery of life
as we engage with it.
It is necessary to enter into the mystery:

it is not an idea
it is an experience.

It is not a series of theologies
it is relationship.

This is evident  when ministering to those at great points of difficulty
like grief, or relationship breakdown
or depression
I am sometimes led to say that this sort of experience
is an extraordinary opportunity
as well as an enormous difficulty.
Quite often people affirm this insight after the event.
It is, after all, another way of stating the mystery of the cross.

If we are to look at how God operates 
then we should turn to the powerful events of our faith
We will be brought to the point
where our life might be extinguished
and we can choose to encounter this
as Jesus does
and in so doing
we pass through it and are transformed
or we can play religious, theological, or philosophical games about God
when we are actually being called 
to encounter the reality of God.

Where is Jesus calling you to respond to challenge and the Cross?
What are the practical demands that this places on my life?
Pray for the courage to accept this challenge.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cutting both ways

Can we believe that God honours the promises made to us in the Scriptures? The idea that the Word of God cuts us to the very core is a powerful and active connection with the God who does what is promised.

Job 23:1-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31 
Readings for Sunday 14th, Pentecost 20, Proper 28

There is much that we would ask God if we had the opportunity
more of that shortly....
We are not terribly familiar with swords in practice
so when we read about the two edged sword
we need to understand that it is a highly toned weapon.

It cuts right and left, up and down
It cuts going in and it cuts coming out.

It pierces and and it disects.
It set out to do what it is designed to do
The writer to the Hebrews likens the active of word of God to such a weapon.
It achieves what it sets out to do.

In short, God will do for us everything that God promises to do.

If you begin to recite all the promises that you remember...and they are many
Some of mine are:

  • Come to me and I will give you rest
  • I will make all things new
  • I am with you always, even to the end of the age
  • Whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord's
  • I will send my Comforter, the Holy Spirit to be with you
  • In the valley of the shadow of death I am with you, my rod and staff protect you .......and so I could go on, 
you can think of your own
indeed each of this week's readings is littered with promises.

If we allow them to 

these words cut us to the very core
they do what they set out achieve.
Sometimes this is surprising,
we don't always know
what we are asking for.
Like Job, the realisation that God is acting
and acting powerfully,
can be terrifying
St Ignatius Loyola tells us that
most of us have no idea what God will do for us
if only we would let him.
When we, however tentatively, permit God to act
(remember God will not overpower we talked of in the previous post)
then God can and will move effectively to achieve what is promised.

There is an example in this Gospel reading we have this week (Mark 10:17-29)
the man comes seeking eternal life.
He is intelligent and religious, and he can ask and answer the right questions.
He is seduced by Jesus's clarity of thought:
But, he asks "What else must I do?"
So Jesus tells him...Young man, for you the attachment to material goods gets in your way,
He knows he has heard the right answer
and he doesn't like it.
Even Jesus's disciples are shocked.

What about me? It isn't fair!
What question do I really want to ask Jesus?
I actually want to encourage you to ask it.
More than that I want you to try and listen to the answer.
This is not always easy
We don't easily receive what we don't like to hear.
Are you concerned about why you can't love better? I am!
Do you wonder why those who you want to love seem distant and remote?
Why is my life so boring?
Why can't I make sense of what is happening?
What is your question?

like the young man
the questions seem innocent and easy enough
but if we really want to hear the Word of God
then expect the two edged sword.

We don't need to fear.
But it may not,
and indeed probably won't
be easy.

This week
Take a little time
to reflect on what you would ask Jesus if he were with you.
Then remember that he is indeed with you...all the time!
Do you want to have the conversation?
In the quietness speak gently with him,
and listen to what he says
and how he speaks.

This is the way Ignatius teaches us to engage in prayer with the God
We need not fear.

It won't be easy
but it will be good.

But it needs to be authentic, personal and open

Monday, October 01, 2012

My will versus God's will!

Although we may try to inoculate ourselves
against pain, suffering and the effects of evil
this is not possible in this life
readings for Sunday 7th October 2012: The 19th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16. Plenty of good readings for each day!
Most of us at times are overwhelmed by the sense of things going wrong in our lives.
The readings for this week tap into some of the most common and obvious tragedies that ordinary human beings face
Job, a man of legendary faith, has to deal with sickness in his own life and tragedy in his family.
The letter to the Hebrews is written to a church which feels itself in great danger and constantly under threat of persecution
The Gospel opens up the question of what divorce might mean in people's lives
and in reminding us about the great treasure that small children are
almost every week we are faced with the awfulness of people who abuse the trust of children committed to their care

So we might (and do) ask:
Where is God in all this?
Is the all powerful God not really in control?
The traditional, but not necessarily satisfying, answer is that
much evil is due to our own wilfulness
and it is wrong and innacurate (even though tempting)
to lay it at the feet of God.
God did not cause a maniac to shoot young girls,
or war criminals to torture and rape
But we need to ask the legitimate question:
why does God permit these things?
(Perhaps we also need to realise, too, that
this is also not a correct way of naming this issue and that
God does not permit it either!
But we do insist on inflicting it!)
God does not stand in the way of our wilfulness.
To do so would be to cause individuals to become little more than robots.
But we are more dynamically and powerfully created than that,
this is because above all else we are created to love.
In order to be able to love
we have to be able to choose to do it.
Love that is not freely chosen is not love,
it may be blackmail,
or bribery or selfish seeking of advantage
but it is not love.
To love requires that we give ourselves unconditionally.
We cannot love and say.....
I will love you if you love me
We cannot say I will love you as long as things are going along OK
To give any meaning to love at all means
that we give and do not count the cost.
This is hard stuff
at times we find that we will fail
which is why in our system of belief there needs to be scope for forgiveness and repentance.
We will sometimes get it wrong,
we will sometimes be betrayed.
We will sometimes be the betrayer.
As with all these things we see in the life of Jesus
love demonstrated dramatically.
And we see there persecution and failure.
We see the need for forgiveness and the need to start again.

This week
As we reflect on our human relationships:
where are we called to give this unconditional love?
Do we hold ourselves back?
Is there a way we can be more open, more vulnerable?
Are there aspects of failure and wilfulness in our loving relationships
that we need to seek forgiveness for
are there places where the strategy is repentance
we might interpret that as meaning weighing up the failure of the past
and looking for a small way to begin again?
I do not suggest that this is easy, or without cost.
It is indeed, very costly?
In seeing our failure to love
the question is not so much why are we and others so bad at this
but will we keep on trying to love unconditionally