Faith’s warning label -16th Sunday after Trinity

Faith’s warning label -16th Sunday after Trinity

By chapter 17 of Luke’s gospel, we are now approaching the end of what is called the journey narrative. Jesus’s disciples will soon welcome him into Jerusalem, for some brief moments of triumph, and so it is fitting that the main focus of his teaching now moves to them. By now his audience is well primed to favour the ‘poor’ over those of riches and privilege. But, just because you might be considered among the more blessed poor, Jesus warns them, don’t think for a moment that you are exempt from responsibility and judgement. Even in the Kingdom there is opportunity for scandal and the need for repentance and forgiveness. How might that warning apply to us in our own time and very different circumstances?

Which side of the gate is safest? – 15th Sunday after Trinity

Which side of the gate is safest? – 15th Sunday after Trinity

The idea of the ‘gated community’ has grown enormously in recent years. They are a symptom of societies that are so divided, so unequal, with such a small proportion of those who might be called well off and a vast number of those living in poverty, where such communities fear that at any moment the dreadful reality of their society could come crashing into their lives and homes. Gated communities are an attempt to deny the truth, to create a bubble of existence, that shuts its ears and eyes to the pain and suffering of society, in which one is actually involved and of which one might be also a cause. In today’s gospel reading Jesus confronts the timeless reality of injustice and indifference.

Showing who we are – 14th Sunday after Trinity

Showing who we are – 14th Sunday after Trinity

In Amos, the guilty are directly addressed – “…. you that trample on the needy and bring ruin to the poor of the land.”

And as he continues to travel towards Jerusalem, preaching as he goes, Jesus tells those with him just what it means to be a ‘disciple’.

Many of those with him would be the poor, the outcast, the oppressed, so a story about a rich man, moreover the most hated kind of all, the absentee landlord, would go down well. The master directs the cruel policy, the manager, the steward enacts it.

A tragic story not unknown in this land too.

And Jesus goes on to speak of money, how in their case, but also how for us, our attitudes to money can reveal who we are.

Lost, and found again – 13th Sunday after Trinity 2022

Lost, and found again – 13th Sunday after Trinity 2022

Jesus tells the parable of the hundred sheep, the ninety-nine in the shepherd’s care and the one who has wandered away and become lost.
The Pharisees and the scribes were quite certain, totally reassured, without any doubt, that they were the ninety-nine and that those of whom they so readily disapproved were the lost. No doubt there are some Christians today, equally convinced that they stand in the full and enduring glow of God’s approval, that they are the elect, the favoured ones, the ones who are certain and guaranteed and secure. But if we are honest, and have true spiritual humility, which of us, can be in any doubt that oftentimes we are in fact the one? Hoping against hope to be found – calling out here I am, please find me – bring me home!

Are we just a drop in the ocean? | 12th Sunday after Trinity

Are we just a drop in the ocean? | 12th Sunday after Trinity

Today’s gospel message seems to create extreme pre-conditions for entry into the Kingdom: a willingness to break family ties, a willingness to face radical self-denial, and a willingness to renounce all material possessions.There may be some consolation in the fact that Luke was employing a typically Palestinian form of expression of its day, where the word ‘hate’ denotes not so much the emotion as a sense of priority, but nevertheless this is strong stuff. In wrestling with the passage we need to confront our notions of self, of society at large and lastly what, who, how we conceive God to be. We may come up with different answers to the people of Luke’s day – as well we might. What does it mean to be a drop in the ocean?

Exposing the great deception | 11th Sunday after Trinity

Exposing the great deception | 11th Sunday after Trinity

Sadly, in our modern world we have bought the great lie. The great deception. The famously wealthy businessman and politician, Nelson Rockefellor was once asked “how much money does one need in order to be happy?” His answer – “Just a little bit more.”

Coveting is based on fear, fear that only our possessions guarantee security, fear that we have nothing that we can put in place of the great lie. Coveting today is not only condoned, it is promoted and praised. We are told to be demanding customers, for whom good is never good enough. To be discontented. Except maybe that small still voice inside, telling us that we surely are meant for higher things.

So how then, can we be truly free?

All are free or none are free | 10th Sunday after Trinity

All are free or none are free | 10th Sunday after Trinity

In the time of Jesus illness was not just a terrible burden in a time of primitive medicine, but also seen as a sign of guilt and divine punishment; freedom from illness as a sign of virtue and of moral worth. In today’s gospel the synagogue leader castigates Jesus for performing an act of healing on the Sabbath – his piety and fixity on the rules cancelling out his compassion. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks not only of healing, but also of setting free, of emancipation from the strictures of false piety and prejudice. Are we prepared to follow his example?

Fighting the right battles – 9th Sunday after Trinity

Fighting the right battles – 9th Sunday after Trinity

You only have to look at the issues of gender and sexuality to see how churches have become obsessed with fighting changes that wider society has long since adopted and recognised as moral progress. The irony is that there are real battles to fight. Many today live in denial of their own spiritual needs, of the need to feel connections beyond themselves, to their community and the world that surrounds them, to the landscape, the creatures that we so often treat as mere things for our use and the environment that we continue to pollute and abuse. How can we as disciples recapture some of the passion and energy of the heroes of the Christian faith, and provide true moral leadership, without regressing into some of the narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism of the past?

Who are you? Who will you be? – 8th Sunday after Trinity

Who are you? Who will you be? – 8th Sunday after Trinity

In writing his gospel Luke has a number of issues to address. As eye witnesses of Jesus’ life and teaching are passing away, he wants to leave a lasting record and legacy of those days, he wants the gospel, the good news to be freely available to all who are ready to hear, and also he wants to stiffen the sinews of those who continue to follow Christ, to put iron in their resolve, to bolster their determination. So he relates the story of the householder and the servant, part encouragement and part admonition and warning. In our own way, we too are subject to the same concerns and obstacle to our own spiritual growth. What is holding us back from becoming the person we are meant to Be?

What is rich? Is it a sin? – 7th Sunday after Trinity

What is rich? Is it a sin? – 7th Sunday after Trinity

A gospel that preaches “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and “Alas for you who are rich, you have had your time of happiness” can cause us to shift uneasily in our seats. For in reality who of us, using a comparative measure, is not rich? The term ‘rich’ is rather imprecise. By comparison to the starving even those with a loaf of bread are rich, would it not appear that Christianity and particularly St. Luke’s gospel carries an almost universal condemnation?

But something changed between the short-lived and urgent days of Jesus’s ministry and the faith as it came to be considered by the writers of the gospels and Acts. Is it a sin to be rich? Is it a virtue to be poor? How are we to live lives usually considerably longer than Jesus and his disciples? Do the lessons of Luke’s day have something to teach us in our own time?

How can the Kingdom come? – 6th Sunday after Trinity

How can the Kingdom come? – 6th Sunday after Trinity

One could argue that each era of the Church has been typified by an emphasis, an over emphasis of one aspect of the Trinity to the detriment of the other – interacting with great tidal movements in human history; in part shaping them, but also being shaped by them.The earliest church was a Jesus movement, founded by his closest disciples, people with personal experience of him, who then handed on to the next generation who remained faithful to a person who they had never met, but who still felt close enough almost to touch.

Almost overnight, and on the whim of one particular Caesar, the Christian faith went from being the most dangerous choices one to make, to one of the safest and the most socially advantageous, no longer outlawed but out in the open, adopted by the Roman Empire as its official religion, the cult of a person transformed into a vast organisation that matched, in certain ways, the structures of power and domination that had adopted it. And a price was paid. How deep and how long that price extended is a burning question for today

Sorting our priorities? – 5th Sunday after Trinity

Sorting our priorities? – 5th Sunday after Trinity

In the story of Martha and Mary, perhaps all of us can feel rather sympathetic to Martha, some from more personal experience than others, and we might also be tempted to think that Jesus reacts, or at least Luke has Jesus reacting, rather typically as a Palestinian male of his time. He has blithely accepted the hospitality, seemingly taking such work for granted as a woman’s rightful place, whilst at the same time as he disparages its value. Would he prefer to have gone hungry?

So, I can see how this story has the potential to be rather irritating to all those people who selflessly and often without the credit that they deserve, give so much to the church and their community behind the scenes.

On the other hand, we could read this story rather differently. But not focusing too literally on the words reportedly exchanged, but on the lesson that Luke is trying to teach, both to his readers at the time, and also to us.

Can we become sanctuary? – 4th Sunday after Trinity

Can we become sanctuary? – 4th Sunday after Trinity

Today’s gospel reading lays out in one short story, not only the very essence of the Christian faith, but also its connection with the past and the profound change that it ushers in as Jesus both evokes that which has gone before at the same time that he radically breaks with it. For Jesus stands within a great continuity, but he also represents in himself and in his teaching a great disruption, a refining clarity of mind that is able to strip the faith to its absolute essentials.

We like to think that we would always be the people to welcome Jesus if he knocked at our door, and if he asked to stay, we would surely invite him in. But are we really prepared for him to turn our lives upside down, are we ready to make the changes he would require, the sacrifices he would expect? What if it turns out, that we might be the wolves? Are we ready to set Jesus free, or would we decide to lock him up?

Keeping Jesus locked away – 3rd Sunday after Trinity

Keeping Jesus locked away – 3rd Sunday after Trinity

In the Gospel reading Jesus says: “Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves…… Whenever you go into a town and are made welcome, eat what is set before you, heal the sick in that town, and say to the people there, “The Kingdom of God has come near you.’ ”.

We like to think that we would always be the people to welcome Jesus if he knocked at our door, and if he asked to stay, we would surely invite him in. But are we really prepared for him to turn our lives upside down, are we ready to make the changes he would require, the sacrifices he would expect? What if it turns out, that we might be the wolves? Are we ready to set Jesus free, or would we decide to lock him up?

Faltering first steps – 2nd Sunday after Trinity

Faltering first steps – 2nd Sunday after Trinity

On his way to Jerusalem Jesus instructs his disciples in the demands and the expectations to come. Discipleship is a hard road ahead he warns, you had better be prepared for what it will require of you.
We know in our hearts that we always hold something back, out of caution, out of fear, out of the simple desire to place our own desires, our own advantage, our own comfort before the call of Jesus that we can hear, that is often repeated to us, but we have learned to temper, to compromise and to water down.
But if we can acknowledge this tendency, we are at least taking the first faltering steps towards spiritual growth and the development of our souls

One and All, Individual and Universal – 1st Sunday after Trinity

One and All, Individual and Universal – 1st Sunday after Trinity

The story of the healing of the afflicted man, sometimes referred to as the Miracle of the Gadarene Swine, is a story about one man, a profoundly personal experience, but also about the wider community of his time, the way that mental ill health and spiritual pain were both viewed, and indeed created, by the socially and politically oppressive systems of their day. We should also note the seeming disregard of the narrative towards the suffering and death of the pigs, and the terrible loss of their owners. Are they both metaphorically and literally ciphers? Is the antipathy in fact directed elsewhere? What does the story teach us about the time of Jesus, and indeed our own?

Trinity Sunday 2022 – We are our relationships

Trinity Sunday 2022 – We are our relationships

It was once said by a famous politician that ‘there is no such thing as society’, but one could counter by saying that there is actually no such thing as an individual. For our experiences of one another, temporary as those encounters may sometimes be, can well influence who we are and who we later become. And if even transient encounters can shape us, how much more profoundly might we be affected and re-made by some of the most loving and powerful relationships of our lives? We do not remain the same, we are not untouched – we grow, we are moved, we become a quite different person to the one who might have been. We live our lives, we find our meaning in and through relationship. When we look at the Trinity we see this reality already expressed, already lived, timeless and eternal.

Pentecost 2022 – Flames of Transformation

Pentecost 2022 – Flames of Transformation

People’s imaginations are ignited; they can be fired up with energy, emotions can become inflamed, someone has a fiery temper, our hearts can be on fire, we can have a burning desire to succeed, or a burning hatred. When we use the imagery, the metaphor, the meaning of fire we are saying something very clear, very dramatic. That whatever is happening goes far, far beyond the everyday, the normal the expected, the controllable. When we say something, a place, an emotion, a person, is on fire, we mean that they are energised, passionate, erupting, growing, expanding – out of control. When something is on fire it rages, it spreads, it is reaching out, running away with itself; it is wild, elemental, untamed, unstoppable. People can often ask the question ‘What actually happened at Pentecost?’ I wonder whether a more fruitful question is ‘What happened after Pentecost?’.

7th Sunday after Easter and Ascension – Our Theology is our Psychology

7th Sunday after Easter and Ascension – Our Theology is our Psychology

In the annual sweep of gospel readings we have come this week to a profound moment of change. It is still Easter, but though the story of the risen Christ continues, for the disciples at least, Jesus is no longer among them.

Whenever and however the actual events unfolded, and whether the story of the Ascension is largely symbolic and allegorical or not, it powerfully describes both a single time in history and also a universal experience. Our world and our lives are constantly in a state of change and flux, that which we felt to be fixed and permanent can often disappear before our eyes, to be replaced by new realities that we could scarcely imagine. The church too, perhaps at its best, occupies the liminal space between the world and the divine, between the temporary and the eternal. Ascension is such a time – a hinge, a turning point, a watershed, for Jesus and the disciples to be sure, but also for us, both in itself, and as a symbol of all that is both permanent and impermanent in our lives.

6th Sunday after Easter – Hearing the Spirit – Living the Spirit

6th Sunday after Easter – Hearing the Spirit – Living the Spirit

How many times have we heard people speak of the Spirit moving them to a certain course of action, only to notice that it is indeed a fortunate coincidence that the Spirit and their own self-interest and prejudices seem to be so neatly in tune? As Galatians exhorts us, are we patient and kind, generous, faithful, gentle of heart and action and speech, do we hold back from advancing our own comfort and instead seek the comfort of others? Or do we create false boundaries around ourselves, and see some people as less than, not as worthy or as loved by God because they come from a different country, speak a different language, worship God in different ways, or perhaps they love people of they own sex, or have identities and lifestyles that we find new and strange? What role do our own personalities play in hearing the authentic call of the Spirit?

5th Sunday after Easter – The Logic of Love

5th Sunday after Easter – The Logic of Love

Of the three virtues that Paul names as over and above all, faith and hope and love, it is love that he names as the greatest. In many ways faith is not only a gift but also as an act of will. We can now see what the disciples later came to perceive, that mutual love is the hallmark of the Christian community, and without it the community cannot claim to be Christian at all. However, this love must extend beyond the demands of mutual dependence and reciprocal service, one hand washing another. It must extend beyond the group that merely cares for its own members and reach out to those beyond its boundaries and notions of what is fitting, included, or acceptable or worthy. Former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once said ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members’. But if we believe this do we truly live out the logic of that statement?

4th Sunday of Easter – A choice between two Empires

4th Sunday of Easter – A choice between two Empires

‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’

The feast of Dedication was a very particular festival of the Jewish year, and a very profound statement about allegiance and faithfulness, contrasted with disloyalty and betrayal. You can imagine that now under Roman rule the Feast of Dedication took on new meaning and relevance, with this time Roman pagan invaders, and those who resisted as best they could, set against some in the Jewish elite who sought to curry favour with their conquerers. In certain ways our modern world, with its accelerating inequalities and divisions resembles the Roman world of Jesus, into which he delivered his Gospel of hope and of choice. As a church and as individual Christians, those choices come starkly to us again as once they did before, though perhaps in new and updated ways.

3rd Sunday of Easter – Two Visions – One Gospel

3rd Sunday of Easter – Two Visions – One Gospel

Today’s gospel is a rather curious reading.

You might get the feeling that underneath the words on the surface there is a sub-agenda. And you would be right. On the face of it, the rather convoluted words appear to say one thing, but something else is actually taking place. Because John is drawing together some loose threads in this final narrative, this epilogue of his gospel. The main action concerns the relationship between Jesus and Peter – something needs to be put right, something needs healing; but in the background there is also ‘the beloved disciple’. The relationships are clearly complex, at times anxious, perhaps needy, certainly all too human. What can we learn from the episode itself, and the lives that the disciples then go on to lead?

2nd Sunday of Easter – The Triumph of Hope

2nd Sunday of Easter – The Triumph of Hope

On one level one could interpret today’s Gospel as being about doubt. After all the expression ‘Doubting Thomas’ has become a well-known saying – this episode in his life is in danger of defining and confining him to a stereotype – an object of scorn or at least disapproval.

But is this really an accurate impression or is it merely a cardboard cut-out, one-dimensional portrayal of the real man. What do we really know about him, and the entirety of his life? And if there is more, much more to the story, then what can we learn, about him, and about ourselves?

Easter Sunday 2022 – Faith decluttered

Easter Sunday 2022 – Faith decluttered

We now live through a time when Christianity seems under threat as never before, at least in the West, but through violent attack or suppression but through indifference, scepticism and the sense that the insights of philosophy, of psychology and the natural sciences have made many of its claims and historic taboos no longer relevant and no longer believable. How are Christians today to respond? By doubling-down, by defending the past errors? Or by learning from the insights and instincts of some of the earliest ages of the Christian faith, but re-examined and re-expressed for our modern age.

Palm Sunday – Faith with Humility

Palm Sunday – Faith with Humility

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and is hailed by all, so Luke tells us, with cries of praise, even adoration. And yet a few days later that same crowd, we are told, were baying for his blood, this man of peace, calling for his execution, in place of a man convicted of cruelty and violence. How are we to account for this turnaround, how are to square this circle that starts with adulation and ends with condemnation? Are there merely questions to be asked about a single week, two thousand years in the past, or does that week shine a light on the present, and are there questions we need to ask today?

5th Sunday of Lent – Love without boundaries

5th Sunday of Lent – Love without boundaries

Jesus is dining with his friends, Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, now restored to life. It is a loving and intimate occasion; people who have a deep connection and understanding. The Passover approaches, people are making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There is expectancy in the air, excitement, but also the stress of being in strange places, having to rely on strange people; for some there is even a vague and growing sense of foreboding. Certainly Mary, perhaps more intuitive than the others, seems to sense it, even at an unconscious level. She kneels before Jesus and anoints his feet, note not his head but his feet, with, we are, told the costly ointment of pure nard. In fact so costly that its value equated to a year’s average salary. She also dries him with her hair. Are we meant to take the story literally, or is there a deeper meaning that John is trying to communicate in a theatrical way?

Mothering Sunday 2022

Mothering Sunday 2022

We are half-way through Lent. And this Sunday we leave the strictures aside for a day, to take stock and re-group as it were, for the final three week push to Easter. Keeping ‘Mother’s Day’ is in itself a good thing to do, to say thanks for all that Mums do, but celebrating ‘Mothering Sunday’ is of a quite different order; it has deeper roots and even greater meaning.

And particularly at this time, in this year, in this month, the emotions, the opinions and the actions of mothers may have an enduring influence, not only on our own lives, but on the course of history. We might yet learn what mothers can achieve, when the cruelty of man meets the overlooked, underestimated, but relentless power of mothers.

Third Sunday of Lent – The injustice of suffering

Third Sunday of Lent – The injustice of suffering

In the time of Jesus there was a widespread belief that suffering and misfortune were a sign of God’s displeasure and punishment, indeed many religions and cultures have clung to some form of ‘karmic determinism’ where we are deemed to be rewarded or punished according to our worth and our actions. Let us be frank we can even fall prey to the same superstitious beliefs today, despite the fact that our past century has witnessed terrible injustices, on a vast scale, where the victims suffered systematic and impersonal violence, wholly unconnected with their individual character, values or behaviour. This is partially what Luke is trying to communicate, by reporting these words of Jesus, but he is also, of course, looking back at Jesus’ teaching, after the destruction of Jerusalem, an event that happened nearly forty years after Jesus’ arrest and execution. Our hindsight is of a vastly increased length, and seen through cataclysmic events of our own time. How are we to understand suffering, is it punishment, are the victims really to blame?

2nd Sunday of Lent – Holy and Dangerous

2nd Sunday of Lent – Holy and Dangerous

Violence in and against places of worship around the world has been steadily rising in the last two decades. Tragically the conclusion one must draw is that the holiest places known to man are also some of the most dangerous places on earth. The very sites that are symbols of peace and faith and devotion, self-sacrifice and prayer, are also drenched in blood and violence and hatred.

There is a whole world of difference between a faith firmly, devoutly yet humbly held…… and a faith that brooks no opposition, a faith that sees no other way than its own, that mocks and denigrates and holds up as inferior and evil those who do not exactly share each and every minute article of faith. Fitting then, at Lent, that we should reflect on the sin and weakness that leads to such desecration.

First Sunday of Lent – Renouncing Violence, Defeating Violence

First Sunday of Lent – Renouncing Violence, Defeating Violence

In Jewish mythology the Exodus from Egypt catapulted into freedom a people who had been oppressed and enslaved. According to the legend, it was into the desert that Moses had led a group of slaves. Oppressed and bewildered, terrified and doubting, but by the end of the story of their journey through the wilderness, they were a nation, the people of Israel. The people of God. In the time of Jesus brutality and dictatorship was once again oppressing the people.

The choice before Jesus was to submit or answer violence with violence – he chose neither, and defined a new and ultimately victorious and enduring path. In the suffering of the Ukrainian people, their courage and endurance, we see some of that ancient history being replayed – the oppressor seeking to strip a population of their identity but only achieving the opposite – the rise, the affirming, the founding of a people – a nation.

Sunday before Lent – Thinking outside the box

Sunday before Lent – Thinking outside the box

Today we hear that Jesus takes three disciples – Peter, John and James – on a mountain to pray. There, we are told, Peter sees Jesus transfigured: His face changes, and his clothes become startlingly white. In his bewilderment, Peter proposes that three tents be made, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. It is an odd thing to propose – but he is trying to interpret what is happening and who Jesus is, according to established customs – to fit the strange and the new into the traditional and the familiar, perhaps even to constrain and control what is happening. How often are we tempted to do the same thing – to resist the unexpected, to contain the extraordinary, to damp down the fire of the Spirit?

2nd Sunday before Lent – Brave the Storm

2nd Sunday before Lent – Brave the Storm

In the west of Ireland, we have our fair share of storms. Storms, quite literally, ‘go with the territory’. But they do remind us of the tremendous, untamed, unpredictable power that dwells close by, the fragility of the homes and lives that we all too often take for granted, and yet are dwarfed and overshadowed by the force of the elements. In today’s gospel story, Jesus and his disciples venture out into the sea of Galilee and a dangerous, terrifying storm suddenly arrives. To the ancient Hebrew people, the great waters acted as a metaphor for evil forces active in the world and especially for the tribulations of the just. In their mindset the sea was mysterious, elemental, which God alone could order and control. So much for the fears and superstitions of the ancients – but how can the story speak to us today?

3rd Sunday before Lent – We are not utterly fallen

3rd Sunday before Lent – We are not utterly fallen

The Kingdom of God is not something that we will one day simply be given, after we have waited long enough, suffered long enough, been patient long enough. The Kingdom of God is not to be imposed on us, as recalcitrant children, who despite it all are to be taken on a picnic. Unless we assume the duties, the sacrifices and the responsibilities of its construction. However, underlying much of traditional Christian theology is an assumption sometimes spoken, sometimes implicit, that we are incapable of doing so. The story of the Fall as an historic event, that we have lost something that we once possessed, that we need to recover a previous blessed state, is not only false, but it is bad anthropology and bad theology.

4th Sunday before Lent – If Jesus asked – what would you do?

4th Sunday before Lent – If Jesus asked – what would you do?

By the Sea of Galilee, Jesus goes up to two brothers, going about the comparatively lucrative business of fishing and tells them that he has chosen them as disciples. Conscripted, commandeered, requisitioned. James and John, the same thing, ‘Drop all that, your father and the rest of the family can keep the business going, get your coat, we’re off.’
If Jesus called you to serve him, if he came to you right now and said “whatever you are doing, stop that, follow me’ what would your answer be?

Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ – Looking back and Looking forward

Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ – Looking back and Looking forward

Simeon is described as a righteous and devout man, steeped in the law of Moses, obedient to it, an example of enduring faithfulness. A symbol, in his very person, of the old covenant, lived out, honoured, being brought to fruition. And yet he senses that there is something more to come, that the story is not finished. In that he is quite correct, for actually the story never ends, revelation is never final or full or complete, the mystery of faith is that its fullness always lies just beyond our understanding, always out of reach, yet beckoning us on.

And this is what Simeon, in the maturity of his years and spiritual depth, knows to be true. Whilst the temptations of old age are to settle in our ways, to repeat old patterns, to withdraw into the past, Simeon, and Anna, look forward. They are free. Free to think as their hearts and their consciences guide them, free to think beyond the limitations of the set ways, the general consensus, the way things are done. So too might we strive for that same freedom, that same vision.

3rd Sunday of Epiphany – Rejection and Acceptance – Past, Present and Future

3rd Sunday of Epiphany – Rejection and Acceptance – Past, Present and Future

By the time he wrote his gospel, Luke knew that the people of Israel had largely not only rejected Jesus, but also the proclamation of the gospel. The problem this caused for the early church runs throughout the New Testament, but perhaps nowhere with more urgency than in Luke’s writings, indeed unlike the other gospel writers who use this story later in their narratives, he puts this episode right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. But what happens when the rejected, the outcast become those of power and influence, the ‘in-crowd’? What happened to Christianity when we moved from a proscribed sect, under sentence of death in the Roman Empire to its official and only religion within the space of just a few decades? ’Success’ presents its own challenges and problems – power is a very heavy burden to wield and bear. How did the Church live up to the challenge in the past, and can we do better in the future?

Epiphany 2 – Same-sex marriage – a means of grace

Epiphany 2 – Same-sex marriage – a means of grace

The sacraments are gifts of God to meet us all in our moments of greatest need, vulnerability and dependence on him. They are available to anyone who asks for them, anyone who needs these means of God’s grace – to feel God’s presence and blessing in their lives, at some of the most joyous and heartbreaking moments they will experience. …..except that is for some people. Support for same-sex marriage within our churches has gone from a minority opinion a few years ago to become now a mainstream point of view. It seems to be on its way to becoming the majority view. And yet this means of God’s grace is still being denied to so many. What kind of witness is that to our modern world – what kind of love and compassion can that claim to be?

The Baptism of Christ 2022 – Don’t judge a book by its cover

The Baptism of Christ 2022 – Don’t judge a book by its cover

Even by the standards of the time, John the Baptist was bizarre. Dressed in rags, scavenging for food including wild honey when he could find it and eating insects including locusts. No wonder the people were questioning. But the truth can come to us in unprepossessing forms and can tell us things we may not wish to hear. John’s message was unsettling to a population that previously had been assured that they were chosen, singled out, privileged and assured of God’s favour. So why was this unattractive message in an unglamorous package taken so seriously? In this service we shall look to square that circle.

Epiphany Sunday 2022 – Even Kings bow down

Epiphany Sunday 2022 – Even Kings bow down

The three Kings, or Wise Men – the Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, men who are no doubt respected, even feared in their own lands, draw near to a mere baby, nervously and as humble subjects. Their worldly power dwarfed and overwhelmed by the simple majesty of a child, whose power lies not in riches, or armies, or even worldly learning, but in humility, gentleness and selflessness. We accompany them on this task for we are pilgrims too, on our own holy journey.

1st Sunday after Christmas 2021 – A family made Jesus

1st Sunday after Christmas 2021 – A family made Jesus

Considering the central importance of Jesus in the New Testament and the prominence given to his Mother Mary in later Christian devotion, it is curious that the Bible tells us so little of his family origins and about the members of his family. So much of the Bible is concerned with just the last three years of his life and of his public ministry. And yet his experience of family life must have been crucial in forming his personality, the standards that he demanded of himself, and others, and the courage and determination that he displayed in the face of terrifying cruelty .

Christmas service 2021- Memories of a snowball fight

Christmas service 2021- Memories of a snowball fight

In many ways society progresses, we enjoy a higher living standard, at least in material terms, than ever before. We are healthier, live longer, we are becoming more aware of our environment, albeit slowly. But progress has come at a heavy price. The downside of consumerism and the pace of life is that all too easily we have become isolated in the shrinking bubbles of our own homes, shared experience, shared culture and values beginning to fade away in the 24 hour media on demand, internet shopping and Facebook driven. We should celebrate and always remember that this is the purpose of the Church – true community – to be in communion with each other and in so doing to be in communion with God.

A Christmas Miscellany

A Christmas Miscellany

One of the great themes of Advent is the journey from darkness into light. Like liberation from bondage and return from exile, light in the darkness is an ancient image of human yearning – especially powerful at times when for much of their days people lived in darkness, were subject to it, limited by it, fearful of it. And so at Advent we explore themes of hope and trust, of fulfilment and expectation.

3rd Sunday of Advent – John the Baptizer

3rd Sunday of Advent – John the Baptizer

Today we reflect on a man called John, in the Hebrew, Yohanan. It is tempting to see John as an historic figure, wild and eccentric certainly, hugely influential of course – but essentially sometime whose time came and then departed. But John’s work did not cease with the coming of Jesus, nor did it die with him. He still calls for repentance and a radical change of life, that it is not good enough to trust to your belonging to a community, your acts of worship, if at the heart of you – nothing has really changed.

2nd Sunday of Advent – Cry out in the Wilderness

2nd Sunday of Advent – Cry out in the Wilderness

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” As a recurrent theme, the wilderness expresses hardship and testing in unyielding and often dangerous surroundings; and it is also a place where transformation can take place, where the old can be discarded and the new can be taken on and practiced. And now it is we who are called upon to be the pilgrim people who journey together through the wilderness in search of our destination, in search of our true home.

Advent Sunday 2021 – Be alert and be alive.

Advent Sunday 2021 – Be alert and be alive.

Advent is a time of year when we are called upon to have a greater sense of urgency, to attend to our spiritual lives now rather than later. For we are not called to passivity, we are not meant to be idle recipients of the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not some outward imposition.

The start of a new church year offers a second chance to rediscover freshness and renewal, a time to be alert and prepared. We are to be alive to the opportunities that will and are presenting themselves everyday to make our contribution to the building of the Kingdom.

Christ the King – But what sort of Kingdom?

Christ the King – But what sort of Kingdom?

The festival of Christ the King is one of those times in Church life, I believe, when one needs to distinguish between the event itself, and that which it does, or could and should, properly celebrate. It is not a particularly old or traditional feast day. In fact, it is a relatively recent addition to the western liturgical calendar, and it is worth looking into the original story behind the inception of the day, to understand what it might mean for us in our day. What kind of king might Jesus be for us – and what kind of kingdom?

Remembrance Sunday 2021 – We must never forget

Remembrance Sunday 2021 – We must never forget

Today we make an act of commemoration but not celebration; we hold in our prayers those who have died and suffered in two world wars, in countless regional conflicts since, and in peace-keeping duties across the world. We mourn their loss and their suffering; the failure of politics and diplomacy that led to their sacrifice on the altar of human pride, obstinacy and indifference, and we also confess the darkness in our own hearts that all too often gives way to anger and seeks retribution. We pray that humanity may, before it is too late, consign war to the sins of history, and instead walk the ways of conciliation and peace.

3rd Sunday before Advent – Follow me Now

3rd Sunday before Advent – Follow me Now

Jesus approaches some young fishermen, in the middle of their work, at a critical point in their work and calls them to drop what they are doing. Forget everything else, drop everything now, don’t look back, don’t prevaricate, don’t set pre-conditions, but follow me now. One might well ask is that the message of today’s gospel, is this really what I am being asked to do? To forget job, home, family, commitments, all other duties for my faith? Or is there another way to read today’s gospel, just as urgent, just as demanding, but within the context of our own lives and the commitments that we already have to honour?

Revered and Loved – All Saints and All Souls

Revered and Loved – All Saints and All Souls

This Sunday we are combining two important commemorations, ‘All Saints’ and ‘All Souls’. At All Saints we remember certain people and legends that the church through long years of tradition and prayer holds up to all of us as examples of faith and courage – human ideals to inspire us all. At All Soul’s we remember not people who are particularly famous, nor are they generally examples to many, but those who are so inextricably linked with us that they may well have been amongst the most important influences in our lives.

Harvest Festival 2021 – What are we Harvesting?

Harvest Festival 2021 – What are we Harvesting?

Harvest, at least for the older generation can still evoke some of those long-past, nostalgic memories of long summers, fields ripening in the sun, a time of school assemblies singing hymns, playing conkers in the playground, a time when we felt more at peace with nature, and perhaps as a result, more at peace with ourselves. But now, and only recently, we have frightened ourselves. In our thoughtlessness and arrogance we are swiftly destroying our very home. We once thought ourselves to be master of nature, but now we seem to lack the ability to even master ourselves. What can be done, and who is to do it?

Becoming a Disciple – 20th Sunday after Trinity

Becoming a Disciple – 20th Sunday after Trinity

James and John, the Sons of Zebedee, ask Jesus if they might sit at his right and left hand when he comes into his Kingdom. Perhaps they think that Jesus will be crowned King, as rightful heir to David, when they arrive in Jerusalem. But Jesus tells the brothers that they just don’t understand what they are asking. For the challenge he issues; to drink the cup and to be baptised as he is baptised is also a challenge to share in his suffering. That invitation and that challenge is also offered to us, as disciples in our day. The question is: are we prepared to sacrifice for our faith?

Pin It on Pinterest