The How, When, Where and Why of prayer

Luke 11- 1-13

Nobody really knows why Luke’s Lord’s prayer is shorter than Matthews. It’s just one of those things, but what both versions show us is persistence is vital. Each one a vital petition that we say on numerous occasions, I think the Lord’s prayer is mainly for us, it’s about keeping us on track and giving us a prayer to say keeps us persistent. That makes sense because prayer as someone said
Prayer IS God, it is the movement of God to man and man to God, the rhythm of encounter and response. The more we move back in focus toward God the more he responds.


The mistake we can fall into is to call prayer that moment we bow our heads and clasp our hands.
Why because even a passing thought as to what God might be is that he is always, has been and always will be, is that he doesn’t wander off. He is always present. That means there’s nothing we do that we cant give to God, do as if Gods with us, because he is.
Something that really reached me when I heard about it is Benedictine spirituality. The Benedictine monks lived lives of prayer and hard work. However, St benedict said that we never need to separate the two. Because we can bring God into all our mundane activities. This teaches that everything we do can be done to the glory of God, everything we do can be a sacramental object where God is made present. We don’t have to wait for a eucharist, we can turn the washing up into a eucharist. A thin moment where God is with us. I recall doing the washing up once and really making sure it was perfect, because this was an act that God was present in. Because its self evident God is always present, Paul knew the separation or lack of awareness of God was artificial.

Paul uses the phrase to be “In Christ”, and Christ tells us he is in us and we are in him. Christ can no more be separated from anything we do that to say our Leg isn’t with us on a walk. It’s us that sort of lose sight of him and forget he’s around. To say hes always watching, makes it sound creepy, but he cant not be around, hes every where at all times, in us and with us and around us. Ive been married 30 years this year and Mrs T has seen me at my best and at my worst, and that process deepens our relationship and bonds. Its no more intrusive having God around while I do the washing up and having Mrs T around. In fact that chatter while the mundane acts of life continue is truly relationship.
So This means if I do the washing up, and give that act to God, I should do it to the best of my ability because he is in that act. He’s there anyway, but we can make everything we do an act of prayer that we bring God into, share that moment with God. As st Benedict said we can make the Hoe and the scythe as holy as any sacramental object on our altar today.

To look at that point in a different way, The liturgy of a service is different between our three churches, and liturgy is the act by which we cultivate the feeling of a presence of God, the differences reflect not God but us, how we relate to him. Christ is in all our churches, but fair to say he is in the checkout at Aldi’s, and the car wash, and in dinner making, and the hoovering. It’s us who lose awareness. Our churches and our services simply heighten that awareness.
That’s why Jesus wants us to knock, not because God needs a wakeup call, hes not asleep, we are.

The process of knocking helps us to wait for an answer, to expect or hope for his presence.
God does not sleep, if he does, hes not God. Its about practicing his presence, the more we practice the greater we become at being aware and guided by him. Prayer brings us into contact with the greatest force in all creation, a force that loves us enough to die for that wants to be with us, and for us to be close to him. Really, however, we do that is fine by God, because the formulaic prayer we say in church, or the whispered prayer at work, or the practice of awareness of him is really all he wants, he wants us to knock.
This continuous prayer, that we bring into all the nooks and crannies of our life, may bring God into places we would rather he not be. Bit we are a little ashamed of, that we wouldn’t look at too much because we don’t like what it shows us. So this in turn demands we need to lose our scruples when praying, As alain fenelon said Just as water quenches fire so do scruples act on prayer. Without going into the full quote, basically what he means is that if we are so eaten up with how to pray, and our own self loathing or guilt we become self-obsessed, or obsessed with detail. The object of prayer is then lost, and the well spring of grace emanating from prayer because we are put off prayer. The lack of prayer is far more crass than any sin we will not bring before him, because we cut ourselves off from him. The word sin means moving away from God, and lack of prayer does indeed move us away.

This isn’t news by the way St Benedict knew it, and St Ingatious as well. The examen from st Ignatius takes all those parts of the day and lays them at the foot of God, we give thanks for everything we get, we petition that ourprayer be fruitful (so pray our prayer is good and helpful, , we review our day and bring all of it too him , the we ask for and receive forgiveness taking on board we have been forgiven, and we try to move on with all those things supported by grace doing our lives a little better than before.
Hopefully what you can see is what Jesus is asking for here, persistence, practice, and praxis, the doing of a thing.

That point is essentially what today’s reading is all about, God wants us to pray. Pray in church, pray with out hands clasped, eyes shut or dancing, or driving, of fishing, or golfing, or watching our footy team (as a west ham fan they need a lot of prayer) , playing with our children, mowing the lawn.
God wants is to come as we are, lose our scruples and bring whatever we are to him, whatever we have become, whatever he made us to be, to the greatest power in creation.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

The thing that will be given to us is the wellspring of Grace waiting with just a small change in focus on him. The Lords prayer is an excellent tool for doing so and it’s a way of pestering God for these things, and as in the way of prayer those things get turned back on us as we enable others to have their prayer answered with daily bread and sins forgiven, with a sincere desire to make his kingdom come a little closer with each deed we do guide by him. This idea in Benedictine spirituality of being present in every little thing we ensures this is a constant ebb and flow throughout the day. We never need to leave him.

Its why our Christian life is so blessed with mindful meditative forms of prayer, such as the jesus prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living god have mercy on me – a sinner, said repeatedly out loud or to ourselves and like all good meditation we focus back on those words alone. The aim is to practice the presence of God. The journey this takes us on is described in one of my favourite mystics Terese of Avilla , we journey from conversion to companionship and ever deeper into a relationship with God, into every more interior castles, were we open ourselves ever more to God, removing those scruples that Fenelon so despised.

But hopefully, what today was is a few thoughts about what prayer is or. Its certainly about more than clasping our hands and bowing our heads, that as well, but its more about bringing him into every little thing we do. Imagine this for a moment, when you next speak to whoever your significant other is you say to them, in this relationship I am only going to really be with you for 2 hours on a Sunday, and when I want to speak to you or feel drawn too during the week. I think they may think you had just lost your noodles.

We all know that’s not how relationships work, not how they survive, not how we learn who the other person is. Relationships happen over a thing that just is, all the time, day on day out. Over the small things of life, and the big things. Sometimes we need that chat over the dining table, but mostly its just about being there.

That’s where he has asked to be, simply with him as much as we can. Like the child that asks for attention, knocking , asking, so he can share his love and his wisdom. We don’t give our children or loved ones, windows where they have to ask for our time, we want them around us and in a free and easy relationship where we are simply with each other the whole time.

Like any good relationship really. That’s it, all there is to it.

Amen

Who are we responsible for in the good samaritan?

I’ve been fortunate in my life and met many good men (and women too by the way) that have for some reason gone out their way to help me, show me love and been there for me. Their blessings go on through many lifetimes, and I hope I share a little of what I have been given.

I hope if you think for a moment, you can think of a few.
and In simple terms

Today’s story at first glance is simply about a good man, doing what a good man does. Nothing more complicated than that really. A bloke needed help, and someone found someone like that and helped them.

Its also about a lawyer wanting to clarify what he was legalistically supposed to comply with to work out where his responsibility ended.
He was trying to understand what he needed to comply with to get the payoff!
The software I work with these days helps people understand what they sign up for in a contract. What are the clauses that might cause us pain if we sign on the dotted line and we don’t like what happens as a result? I’ve seen companies go under because a company discovered a loophole in the contract and we didn’t get the payoff.

But contracts that we don’t like are hideous if we sign them and that’s a fact.

Is it any wonder this is what the lawyer, the expert in the law, who would have looked at the world in a very similar way was looking, or trying to understand if he knew all clauses in the contract? Its basically what he says.

So what do I have to do to inherit eternal life? I love the lord god with all my heart etc and my neighbour as myself. Jesus affirms this as correct. But to make sure that this is enough to fulfil the law, and get him into heaven the lawyer checks.

29 so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
What’s the contract regards who is my neighbour. What do I have to do to fulfil said contract and get the payoff of eternal life? Who am I responsible for?
Lets look at the story in jesus used in reply and then lets at the answer?

First off….
He could have just said “everyone” and left it at that.
Why didn’t he do that?

A man is stripped naked and beaten by robbers. So at this moment, he is an anonymous, vulnerable bloody mess. A man without tribe, country, or creed. Vulnerable and needing a neighbour he has no identity apart from human and male.. Like the tomb of the unknown soldier, his anonymity means this man represents us all, he could be any one or any one of us.

Then a levite priest, , passes by. Levites are those chosen by God to serve in his temple, so chosen in amongst Gods chosen people. Hes a levite, those who set and ensure others abide by the law. His law declares this man unclean, and anyone who touched him would be ritually unclean. This Levite priest hurried by the poor man leaving him lying naked in a bloody heap on the floor.

Then a Samaritan arrived . A Samaritan
The context of Samaritan mustn’t be lost on us.

Samaritans to Jesus audience did not belong on the land they occupied. They were of a strange culture, they dressed differently, probably sounded differently. They had occupied the land while the jews were in exile, and now they weren’t going back, in fact they had no back, they were 2nd, 3rd, 4th , generation. They practiced a strange version of the religion of the jews.
For all these reasons they were despised looked down on and considered unclean by the jews. They seen as taking resources, and land, and were disliked simply for being Samaritans . In another story the woman at the well who was a Samaritan was shocked that Jesus even spoke to her, both because she was a woman and a Samaritan.

So we have gone from one end of the scale to the other. From the lauded to the dregs. Those people we rather look down on and would rather not be around, those whom we blame when it goes wrong by default, those with less privilege and standing in our community, those we find very few of on a day-to-day basis, and don’t know how to talk with them when we do, where the culture gap is hard to bridge, the religion strange. The disliked, distrusted , unwanted, bottom of the pile. Mostly they are anonymous to us, invisible, when we think of them, very few kind thoughts might arise.

But this Samaritan He stops on the road from Jericho when he found the injured man.

and he stops on the road to Jericho….

The road to Jerusalem from Jericho was known as the way of Blood, because so much blood was shed by robbers. It’s a winding road with steep sided and lots of twisting turns as it drops a 1100 foot from above to below sea level.

In certain respects I can sort of relate to this. Like those estates in the 80’s that had so many perfect hiding places for muggers that the council like to give them in the 80’s.These were places that you had your ears and eyes open, you certainly never stopped and moved as fast as you could. When I used to catch the late train home in forest gate I always breathed a sigh of relief when I got past certain known mugger hotspots. I avoided the steel bridge at all costs., Rushed past places that had deep shadows where people could come from all of a sudden. So I sort of know that feeling.

But the Samaritan

He stops and shows real –

and the word I am going to use is Altruism,

The word Altruism is defined as when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves.

He definitely shows more than pity, the priest showed him that but , pity demands no action. The Samaritan, journeys between pity and altruism and he acts, taking one more step into dangerous altruism on this fearful road.

Jesus making the man naked and anonymous means he has to show universal altruism. Altruism of a sort that goes beyond the boundaries of his own tribe.

Then he gets him safe at the inn, and pays his bills to get better. 2 denarii, about £50, at that time about 2 weeks wages on average, so costly in every way.

There’s no law here forcing this man to take a risk, no law forcing him to do this, indeed the priest who knew the law rushed by, not wanting to be made unclean, not wanting to be next, let alone give up 2 weeks wages.
This is Jesus defining who is our neighbour and who is worthy of altruism.

In this story Jesus has told us there is no clause in the contract t, no boundary to love, no end date to the contract, in fact don’t seek a contract.
Its just outrageous love we are asked for. Jesus tells us that example can be set by anyone from any culture, and also that can be asked from anyone from any culture.

By making the injured man vulnerable and stripping him of all associations with creed, tribe religion etc . Jesus makes him every and anyone in need, We are simply one race, the human race. Whether the refugee comes over on a dangerous boat ride, or from a war-torn place. We have to show altruism that may put us at risk. How can there be an illegal immigrant, if Jesus just threw away the contract ? When in Jesus example where this man came from , why etc is deemed unimportant, in fact its actually deliberately stripped from him. this story shows we are simply asked to stand up for, stand in for whatever human happens to be around.

They were going down that road…. That’s all we are shown. Then we are shown what love is. Its more than altruism, or dangerous altruism, its excessive, it costs us, to risk out lives, to travel more slowly with an injured man on our horse while we work, it costs. It takes time and trouble. Its excessive well beyond anything that could reasonably be asked of us and it’s given without question to whomever we meet that needs our love.

The joy of this story is that whoever we are and from whatever standing in our or any community, we can still shine and be lauded and laudable in Jesus’ eyes.

Also to answer my earlier question.
That’s why when he was asked who is my neighbour, Jesus didn’t just say everyone. Because Jesus wants active, not passive love, he certainly doesn’t want sympathy, but active dangerous outrageous altruism.

Bonhoeffer said the biggest mistake we make is to try and work out who we are responsible for.
This parable shows we are all responsible for each other, in the human race.

it was that realisation was one of the key moments for me, this is why it’s the only way the world works.

In simple terms, Jesus asks us to obey the unenforceable clause, go beyond reason, beyond risk, beyond culture creed and religion actively not passively.
To stand up for and stand-in for whoever needs our love, out active love.
That is what the kingdom of God is like. We have been given the task of showing what that sort of love is like, in our lives as Christians. That’s what we are asked to witness to others by our behaviour. It’s when we bear witness to the kind of love Jesus asks us to show when we see our neighbour as Jesus asks us to as simply human and nothing else? When we stop asking who are we responsible for. That our faith becomes powerful and stands out.

I really wish the Lawyer hadn’t asked that question, because now we can’t say we don’t know, But he did and now we know, all of us do, and now as Jesus’s followers of the way, we know the way. All of us.

Amen

The how, the why, and the certainty of being Gods sheep.

john 10 ,ezekial 4, psalm 23

I am going to tie five things up together today
• Our personal experience
• The experience of sheep
• How that ties into todays story and todays psalm
• How our psalm and our story intertwine
• How all of that is borne out by our personal experience

First a question today, who has felt the lord’s presence in the last two years of lockdown and beyond?

IF YOU ARE READING THIS ONLINE – pause for a moment and think

Who here feels guided by our lord?

Who here has felt comforted by our lord at various times

Remember those answers

However to something slightly different

As a boy from Forest Gate, you can imagine my sheep husbandry skills are somewhat limited.
I took Lauren to the lambing at Marsh Farm children’s farm one year is about it.

So, I had to check that whether sheep must be chased by a sheepdog or whether they will indeed follow the shepherd?

What do we think, chase, or follow?

It’s both.

First, I discovered sheep aren’t stupid, they are among the most intelligent of farm animals, second only to pigs.

I found out they will follow someone they trust, and you only have to get the lead sheep to follow and the whole flock will follow.

But they must trust the shepherd, and they have to be fed when they follow. If the food stops the lead sheep will feel tricked and then won’t want to follow.

However once trained, the shepherd can get the lead sheep’s attention by calling them.
So our lords metaphor works well.

Sheep dogs do work as we all know,

Sheep dogs it turns out is the sheep running from a threat, the flight response. A sheep dog knows it and turns the lead sheep and the others follow. The sheep dog causes enough fear to move the sheep but not enough to kill the sheep through stress. This is why your domestic dog getting into a field of sheep can cause such harm, they just scare the sheep to death, literally. A trained sheepdog will harry the sheep just enough.

So chasing the sheep causes fear, trusting the shepherd means the sheep follows his guidance through trust.

How does that metaphor work for us. How does our lord lead his sheep, how does he tend them, wy and why do we follow?

In simple terms
Our lord wants us to trust him, the sheep do have a choice. They aren’t stupid
Those who do so, can hear his voice through prayer and the holy spirit. So we can follow him.
As jesus says “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. “

Our psalm this morning explains the why way better than I ever could.

Jesus leans heavily on the Psalms and our psalm, psalm 23 would be well known to his audience.

Our passage this morning leans on that psalm.
The lord as the psalm says is our shepherd that means we shall not want? Where green pastures wait for his sheep where we lay down, which means an abundance of everything we need. So we want for nothing, Our food is the bread from heaven, and we trust our shepherd, and that’s we we follow him

The Psalm makes it clear we still have enemies and we do still suffer, and all walk in the valley of the shadow of death in this plane. But that he is present in the suffering, indeed a shepherd’s rod is used to protect the flock from suffering (literally to defend from anything that attacks his sheep) and his staff is held wide and used to guide his sheep.
But suffering is part of our lives, even though we are protected and guided, our shepherd is always present and never sleeps. With his rod and staff to both protect us and guide us. The man nailed to that cross, suffered with us and for us, and stays with us to this very day.

Through this suffering our lord made it so we can be with him, guided by him by hearing his voice more clearly as eternity roles onwards.

In Ezekiel It is prophesied that the lord will become our shepherd because the Israelites were doing such a bad job and they are berated for not looking after all his sheep, including the poor and the weak. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.

Today’s reading is our lord assuming that role of the shepherd. The role of guiding us and protecting us, as he says My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

The reason why they follow and do not perish is explained in our psalm today this is where they intertwine, Jesus is the act, and our psalm is the why

Because Jesus is my shepherd, we shall not want.
2 Because he makes us lie down in green pastures,
where the bread of heaven is abundant, so we have everything we want
so we trust him and follow him

he leads us beside still waters where we will be refreshed by him
3 And where he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in the right paths to eternity with him[c]
for his name’s sake.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever

Going back to our gospel today
This is why we hear his voice, and follow , this is why we trust him, this is why we belong to him, and he will I give us eternal life, and we will never perish. And as Jesus repeats twice to make sure he has been heard. This is why nobody will snatch us out of his hand, because the father and he are one. United in the desire to bring his creation close, in a loving trusting relationship, led to eternity.

This makes us part of a story, all of us who put our hands up, were predicted by Ezekiel, spoken about in the psalms, , and claimed by Jesus.

We are here today part of that story, an active living thing going on every day for eternity.

This is why so many of us feel him guiding us, this is why we feel guided and comforted by him. This is why we feel protected by our lord. It is literally our reading and our psalm in action. In our lives, for eternity

Amen

Easter – The birth of the good news.

Easter
From this moment on we know these five things.
Jesus has a past
Jesus Died (past tense)
Jesus Lives (present tense)
and Jesus has a future. (Future tense)
and if we give him his proper place of Lord – so do we.

These Five things should colour every aspect of our lives.
Because on Friday we remembered Jesus’ death and the seeming hopelessness of that moment.
From today we can never be without hope because we share in his future.

We must always remember that Christ always had a future, but he wanted us his creation to also have a future.
So, for us also he did something else even more wonderful, he broke the sin of Adam that was laid on us all.

Our broken nature remains, But it is forgiven. As Paul says “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”
We are made alive, given new life, and propelled into the future certainty of a new world free from sin and death and illness and decay through him.

So we live in the now of God’s kingdom, with the assurance and a way to share in the not yet, the future of God’s kingdom to come. When Christ will rise again.

He had every single one of us in his mind on that cross, he has every single one of us in his mind right now. He knew you before you were born, he knows you now and he will know you when you rise again in a new bodily form with him on the blast of the horn.

These facts, for they are facts, in the truest sense of the word mean that we can never be without hope. We live the assurance of a present forgiven from sin, and a future free from its presence.

We live forgiven our compromised present nature, and a know we have a future made whole and perfect without compromise.

But what do we do with those things, these facts have to affect us
Those things have to affect us right now don’t they?

If you knew you had a future free from every worry, concern, disappointment ailment and negative thing this world has to offer. If you spend a moment and think about all the things you have had happen in your life that you wish hadn’t gone All the things you wish weren’t happening right now. Fixed,all the broken or tense family relationships, all the illnesses all the stress, and concern gone.

If you knew all that was to come, it would affect the way you behave now, wouldn’t it? Well, here’s the deal. It is to come, it is happening to you and to me, on the moment he rises again. We are but a short sleep away from such things.
That hope affects and colours everything we do, it’s like the certainty of winning the lottery.
This is why we are people of hope. Hope like that shouldn’t be parked until you are lying on your death bed waiting for your eyes to close. Hope like that should imbue our lives. We know we share in a perfect future, we know our present is embued with the perfect love of God. We have that past present and future love shared, and to share.

When we leave here today we should have a little spring in our step, because we are forgiven. Death is no more than a sleep, and all the worries of the world are transient, and small compared to eternity with our lord.

God has made us his friend today, friends never to be parted, friends love dearly enough to die for. The resurrection of jesus is the start of a new creation, we are part of that new creation free from the wounding, decaying, perverting outcome of sin. Free to be made whole, free to love knowing we are loved. Given value because the creator of all things values us enough to die for, and wants us with him forever.

Nobody ever, no matter who isn’t loved enough by god to die for, loved enough to die for right now, and nobody ever doesn’t have the choice to share in his future. We share God’s future.
Whoever you lay eyes on today and forever is precious enough to die for

That’s special isn’t it, there’s hope in that, that’s good news, isn’t it?

Why?

The world so needs that news, if they knew all the things they were fighting for would be Judged and set right regardless of whatever they do, why would they fight.

If they knew everyone was loved enough to die for, who would they kill, hurt, or call names? Because you are calling God precious things names.

If we all knew nothing can affect our inherent value, because they are gods special thing, how much anger and resentment, and sadness would that resolve, because nothing could ever make us feel worthless, do demean, or devalued. How differently would we behave if we really knew every soul was precious.

How much of the corrosive effects of shame would be lost, If we knew they were forgiven, how much could we forgive. If we knew in fact the object that needs forgiving in our eyes is forgiven. Why not forgive as well. You on your own

These are the changes gods love brings to our past present and future

This is the good news og Gods love for us, our friend,, our father,

This is the good news. It’s happened, happening today, and is yet to happen. We share in it.

So go out there and tell people, they don’t understand, they have forgotten. But they aren’t forgotten, they are loved. Its our job to remind them.

Because Christ is risen
He is risen indeed 😊

Alleluia

Good Friday – the day it all went wrong

Its all gone wrong
His followers have scarpered
Apostles that ate, slept lived with him every day
Have run away
The world is calling him names
Today, Today
At this moment its certain that by any empirical logic this was a false promise
Nothing is pointing to him being anything other than dead.

You can logically see why they may run.
Messiahs don’t do this
They remove the oppressor
They bring victory
They restore honour
They restore the temple
They bring the world to the worship of God
They assume the role of Caesar
They don’t get nailed to some rough wood, paraded through town and then die the worst
In no version of the story one might logically predict or expect ends like this.

Now the world hates them, these Jesus followers.
Betrayed by one of their own
They are hunted men now
They have nowhere to go
Nowhere to run
Their own people despise them
Forced to deny him
His own mother had to watch him suffer on the cross
Hes let them down.
It’s all gone wrong

We look back at our lord and remember and give thanks
But for us, its not easy still to stand up and be counted
For us there are other tests.

If you speak up about your faith at best they wont know what to make of it
Or they make mock, or call you names.
Call him names
Call our church names
Tell you your dreaming
You have been and are mistaken for following him
So we have our own trials our own reasons for disowning him

It’s as easy for us as the people in scripture before the cock crows

However even here we must remember there is always light in the story
And Late in our story today, we find them.
Like in our story today some stick by him
It comes in the shapes of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea

While others hide.

They take the body down and enbalm a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds
Much more than in the mary and Martha story.
More than the three kings
They find him a new tomb
New tombs are rare and expensive ostentatious when everyone is hiding

They Place him in it. Embalm
This is embalming of a king, costing lots and lots.
A visible Act a futile act on the face of it brave and foolish when they are on the run
Joseph is a rich man,. Spoke out as the counsel boiled up to this moment
Nicodemus who had met jesus in secret, he was a voice of dissent in the council as they led up to this
Afterwards after their best efforts, when its all gone wrong

These two
They don’t know where the dawn comes from
Logic says hide, he let us down
But they are not only spending a fortune they are taking a great risk
The world hates the followers so they have to do these things In secret
So this is very brave when there’s no logical reason for it, he has failed, in ignominy
When he’s so badly let them down

Made them pariahs

There’s nothing left here but faith in him despite everything, in the face of everything

What about us today though
today for us we have lessons to learn from these two today today.
Lessons for all people of good Friday
How many times have we faced this moment in our own lives.
When it all seems like Jesus promises have not come true.
When hes let us down.

If he was real this wouldn’t have happened
If he was real the world wouldn’t do X or Y to us
The Psalms are full of people crying out
Saying how its all so unfair
Where if it had all been true he would have stopped this

None of us know what we will do in that moment until we face that moment.
Until our lives take a turn for the worse
Then we will know.

One day in our faith story we may find its all gone wrong.
And he hasn’t come to rescue us

for our church today?
Outside this church the world goes on
Our congregations shrink
shops are open
consumerism has slowed a little

It may seem our lord seems to have abandoned us
The world seems to have moved away from our lord
It may seem hard and even pointless to have faith in our lord.
The world has moved away from us
But we are still here
Then There are more mundane abandonments
On a mundane day to day basis we may have to defend our faith to those that are bemused
detached, angry, or who don’t have a high opinion of the followers of Jesus or anyone of any faith.
So in that respect we all live in good Friday.

Society lives on in ways that ever more resembles the hopelessness of Good Friday
Or in our lives or we may face our own good Friday moment when real and existential things happen to us
When hope seems silly illogical thing to have, when common sense says this is mad!
I think at that point we may have to simply find a way to carry on

Like Nicodemus and Joseph today.
Even when its all impossibly dark
Despite all logic they carry on
Certainly don’t waste a fortune on this failed escapade
Nothing logically says carry on
But here they are, they are present for the lord.
even when its at its worst
At its most illogical
This is what their actions in todays story asks us
Each of us here today

How we live, how we might react when everything points to it all being untrue?
This is what Good Friday asks us.
This is what we have to ponder today
When hard times hit
When our churches empty
When everyone thinks we are mad to follow a Jesus that is so clearly not a real messiah
When people laugh
Blame
What we will we do
what did we do
what should we do.

The hopelessness of good Friday, the seeming logical futility of faith when the world says everything points to it being wrong?
on those days when we struggle to follow a God we cant find, or see, or know, or pray to.
What is our church going to do
what are you going to do.
These are the questions Good Friday asks
These are the questions Jesus asks us on good friday
The only answer is yours.

What is the reason for hope?

What is God?
Can we imagine God, can we relate to God?
Is he an old white man on a cloud?
Is he everything, all realities, all substance, everything, everywhere, ever?
look around and at the stars, God, look at the ground, see an ant. Look in a microscope and see God, look at a mountain, see God, look at the stars and infinity, see God.

that’s the physical realm in every realm God is present, God is in every thought we have, in every prayer, in every breath.
God knew you before you were born. The list is endless, where God is, and I mean that literally.
The problem is, anything big enough to be God, that I could imagine would not be God.  

If infinity is real god is in  and of the infinite, if its not God is the boundless holder of a defined reality
In short

God is unimaginable.  Too big too vast. We cant get our heads around him.
How do we fixed in time and space love a thing not fixed, that’s in all time and all space? Whenever you imagine a fixed point he runs away, in infinity


 
How do we love that God, when we try and put our arms around him, try and enclose him with love and make him ours, he slips away somehow? We know we don’t know him, we know our tiny part? How can we love something that is so far removed from us, how can we love a thing that in almost every way is incomprehensible, too perfect for us, a thing that cannot be less than perfect,  that our imperfection cannot meaty with, how can that love our imperfection?

in so many ways something that we can’t even begin to know to comprehend? The answer to so many questions we don’t even know to ask. The bible talks about a fearing God, that is an entirely appropriate response for a thing so big, so vast so powerful.  But how do we bring that close, into our mundane lives? How do we make that God part of everything we do?

Today, God gave us a way to do so , as of today we can, today he has made himself a newborn baby, even  more? a small defenceless refugee baby
On the run from a despot, in meagre surroundings a long way from home.
Mary is a long way away from her mum, and support system, and as clueless as any new parent might be. Truly as defenceless and threatened as any baby might be, truly exposed to the mess of it all.


Any mother knows that regardless of what mess we are in babies need protection  and love and care.
He lays wrapped in swaddling and just like any other baby and needs all the things a newborn needs.

We can all love a baby, we can relate to those needs, we can put our arms around a baby. We want to protect a baby, we don’t fear babies.



But this baby, this one is different
Promised, and prophesied by all scripture, like our reading by Isaiah today 500 years before and more recently promised to mary by an angel
This baby they look down on is God.

All babies are gifts, all are known to God.
But this baby is God. He is God, everything that God is, is now enclosed in the diameter, in the physical space that is taken up by the object the size of a small baby.
From the unimaginable to the most helpless object in the world. A new-born baby.

So God has gone from so vast we cannot imagine, to a thing we can all relate to, either has been one, or have had one, or met one. A baby. That’s how small and defenceless God has made himself.

From something that holds everything ever in itself, to a thing holding our finger as the first thing it can focus on and grasp as an object in space.

But why, why has God decided to do this? God doesn’t do accidents or mistakes?
So why has he done this?

Be assured, Everything about this scene is deliberate, the deliberate action of God. To decide to become fully human while remaining fully God. In God maths are his, so there’s not two halves but two wholes. Fully God and Fully Human. But make no mistake there’s no mistake in this scene.  This tiny baby is God, from everything everywhere to a thing as limited to time and space as a baby.


But why God, why this way, and why at all.

Why, the answer is because everything in this scene screams hope.
Hope for everyone, he has done this, in this way to bring hope in your lives.


Why hope?  because here is the greatest thing ever, in this place, and it shows wherever you are God not only can be here but is liable to place himself there. Hope because however bad it gets, you know God isn’t worried about getting his hands dirty, he’s been in bad places himself and knows what it’s like.


Hope because this proves that God loves you enough to come here to know you in whatever mess our lives are and call you a friend.
This god isn’t going to write a book, give you a set of instructions and wander off. He’s going to join you where it’s messiest. In amongst the dung, literally and figuratively. This child is the flickering candle in the darkness that has not been overcome by darkness. Proof that darkness can never overcome his light, proof that nothing that happens in this life is beyond his experience.

This baby knows you, every single one of you, and when he reaches thirty is going to say and do things that will shake the world and turn every power structure on its head. He’s already started doing that just by being born like this.  Every king of this world has just been put into perspective, every power in this life the same. They got usurped in their power by a defenceless baby, and that shows what power in our lives amounts too. They have limits, this baby does not.  This baby breaks the shackles any power may have over us, and that’s why we call him lord and nothing else.

This child is both the object hoped for and hope itself, this child goes on with us forever as he sleeps, and looks up with eyes that cannot yet focus on the eyes of his mother. All ending events are no longer endings, but steps on a journey of love with the source of love.

We as Christians are people of Hope because we know we go on over the horizon, nothing is permanent, every pain is transitory and a briefest second of eternity. Everything will be made whole by a baby in an animals water trough. This fact changes everything, so we are loved by God enough to die for, and his dying opens up a place where we know nothing in this life is more than a scratch on our journey into an eternal relationship with God. Nothing can ever affect your value again because this baby which is God, has decided to die for you, so you can never die again. That’s how long he wants to love you for, forever.


Simply by being an object in time and space, God had broken the shackles of time and space for all of us. Our lives are forever imbued with hope, by this child’s arrival, this, moment was the moment hope became a reality, where hope became more than a wistful pipe dream, or a wishful idea based on nothing more than a sunny outlook. Our lives are not shackled by sin and our brief struggle with little or no point to our tiny spark. Our lives are now predicted, made, valued, and cared for enough to die for by a God that joined us. He proved all that today.

God made himself real in our reality,  and in doing so he made hope a reality, for all that follow this child in this life and the next.

He is here to be our salvation, and salvation simply means being made whole, all our brokenness is gone from this moment. One day we will all be without all the things that hold us back, pain, anger, illness, cruelty, and even death is defeated by a baby.  Despair is gone, we can never despair or be without hope, because this morning Mary can pick him up and show him, love.

This morning hope is a reality, and therefore so much more than just a hope. Hope is a dream, god made that hope real. The difference between a dream and a reality is a and his plan is now ours.

We can never be lonely ever again. As we pray today, we know that this child is still with us every step of the way, and we can talk to this child through prayer. Ending loneliness forever, because

We can never be alone because he is with us every step of the way and we can share in this so easily? He can talk to us, and direct us, the sure and certain hope, as Paul says

All we have to do, is follow him, today, and this morning 2000 years ago,

 he came to show us how.
Amen

John the Baptist, Gods value system and ours

Sermon on Luke 3 7-18
In a reasonably high church I was dressed very scruffy and unshaven

This sermon has been on my mind since before I knew I had to write it. To the extent poor Sue got her Monday compline session gazumped by me doing John in compline when that was hers.  I was imagining doing this sermon before I had read this week’ readings.  Also originally I wasn’t doing this week for a sermon I was considering before I knew I had to write it.  I don’t believe in coincidences like that.

I think the reason why I am so attracted to it, is that it contains one the most important messages we can ever know about the love of God.

It begins with the reason I am dressed up like this.

John is dressed up in the most un priest like garb of all, unshaven, dressed in camel hair, eating locust and honey.  

This is Jesus cousin, the first person to know Jesus when he leapt inside his mothers womb, foretold by the angel Gabriel, prophesied by Isaiah and the man who baptised Jesus in the Jordan. The man Jesus called the greatest of all. Dressed in the clothes far removed from priestly garb. Baptising the outcasts, dressed in the most irregular garb.

And he’s baptising Tax collectors, and soldiers and they are asking him what should we do.

Meanwhile, those dressed appropriately that are in charge of tradition and the rites of religion are called  “a nest of vipers”.

Take note, no tradition, no rite, no dress, no social position, no respectable look, or dress is valued here.  What is held up as the path to righteousness is baptism, which leads to repentance that leads to change that leads to dealing with people fairly and as valued human beings.  Maling straight paths for Jesus.

Honestly, if you want to know the very kernel of what John is saying doing here, it is just that. Changing direction after coming into contact with the holy spirit and being baptised is what matters.  However, none of these things works on their own.  

The Pharisees who came to be baptised thought a quick dip and they are sorted.  John rather eloquently informed them that the axe was sat at the bottom of the tree for those who were the nest of vipers.

So that’s it, that’s why I am dressed like I am today, because being dressed in priestly garb may serve many purposes in clarity of what role we have, and in the liturgy of the church but it has zero effect on salvation.

Also what society thinks of us, again this is not important, he showed all of us how to be Christian.  John was not dressed in Garb liable to gain him top seats at the table.  What matters to John is being who he wants us to be.  He was helping the occupiers and their agents come before God, he was wiping their sins clean and setting them on the path through asking them to repent which isn’t some punitive thing, it’s simply changing direction. Not through the threat of the axe, but through being willing to do as the other outcasts do and ask what they need to do t follow  and then follow.

I sat in that pew a long time ago and said I’m doing it all wrong, I’m not worthy and I need help.  Throwing yourself at him and saying help me. 

when I did my studies I comforted myself that he called pagans (Abraham), persecutors (paul), Tax collectors, Matthew, and so on and so forth.   I used to use a saying when I felt unworthy of my calling to LLM. “If he can change Saul into Paul then there’s hope for us all. What we are, what we were, how we dress, how we sound like, what we think we could do, how valued we are in society etc etc all those labels we place value on and set store by and give people status.

They matter not one single bit, not one single bit. There cant be any clearer example of that than today’s reading, here’s a bloke dressed like a tramp, baptising people. People are called to his example, and he’s baptising the outcasts and castigating the pillars of society. Not because they are pillars but because of what that’s done to their ability to throw themselves at Jesus’ feet and ask how to change and then change.

That is the value system of God, I want you to think about in the next week, what does this reading where a tramp baptises outcasts and they ask what can I do? Where the pillars of society are as nothing, and those who feel they are nothing important are valued.  Again, not because they are pillars, but because the things they value are not the things God values, the two are not mutually exclusive but if we get them and hold them up internally as proof of being righteous. We missed the point.

That’s why a man dressed like a tramp can preach, a man that isn’t following tradition here today. But the point is as long as we all do what the outcasts in todays story do and ask the question “what do I have to do” and change direction we have got the point of today’s story. 

The great and good of societies and the value system of God is on display here.   We need to aim to be seen as followers of the love that is coming into the world of jesus, as opposed to anything else.


That’s so powerful by the way.  Because from that moment on there is nothing, and no one that can affect your self-worth in this world. Not a person, or an organisation, or a job, or a car or anything or anyone! Ever ever again.

You are precious, and righteous and valued in the eyes of God.  God sets your worth and he came into the world to share our mess and die for us. Not dressed a a lord, but as a child with nowhere to go, like a reviled refugee coming over on a boat, when the inn or the country was full.

what did he do?

He just tipped our world on its head.

So apologies for the garb or lack of it, but you see.

Albeit it serves some purposes, It actually doesn’t matter. None of it. My worth and yours is entirely, defined, owned by and shown by a god who died for me and for you. Nothing that happens in this world or the next can change that fact.

You, all of you, every single person ever born  can never be unworthy or less than loved to the extent you are precious enough to die for.

In advent we await that loves entry into the world, announced by John.

Amen



Are you ready for Jesus?

The following story is based on true events, but at different times in my life I may have been either driver, in my teens and early 20s I had an XR3 these days I drive an audi.

I was stuck at some traffic lights waiting for them to turn red.
This chap had been cutting me up and he got alongside me.
He was revving his engine, and looking over. He clearly wanted to go first.

Paula was like – let him go. which I was prepared to do.

A pause, lights when you are waiting for them can seem to take an age.

The lights went amber, I was surprised he didn’t go.
Oh well I thought…

Then Green, he must have jerked his clutch up way too fast. Because he leapt 2-3 yards on in frog hops.
He stalled his car he wasn’t ready, as he missed the orange light.
He had drifted off… then
When green came it obviously caught him by surprise.
he made a mess of it and frog hopped down the road.

The signs were all there, but you never know when the lights going to go green. They stayed red for a long time. In that time he lost concentration.

Who knows where he had drifted off too? His mind was not on the task at hand.

How does all that relate to today’s reading?

There are some similarities.
Jesus is telling us today

We are at that place of waiting for the lights to go green, however unlike the traffic lights there are more stages than just ready, get set, Go. There are far more things to do in these stages, than just wait and be alert.

We don’t get to sit nicely and wait, ours in an active waiting.

Ours is a calling while we wait.

To follow Christs example in calls us in so many ways,

We have to call him Lord, and know truth in our hearts that he is the source of all truth and love, and to rule that as Jesus says

“3 Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away.”

And we have to stay the course, don’t do as the chap did and get distracted while he was waiting…. We have to stay focused.

As Jesus said
” Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, “

I doubt that chap, was carousing, but maybe he had drifted off on the anxieties of life. Got so caught up worrying, or gnawing away at a problem. Maybe that was what was making him so anxious to get round.

who knows, but Jesus warns us about that, and asks us to stay focussed, because that focus can help us when we are worried.

Like the old hymn goes what a friend we have in Jesus.
Our friend wants to carry our sins and griefs.

One thing that does hold true from todays metaphor is that Lights change without warning, we may if we sit at traffic lights long enough get to know how long they take. But in the time of waiting for Jesus we have no clue,how long before the lights go green.

However

One thing we know in the first week of advent is that the clock is ticking, because in the first week in advent we await, Gods affirmative action, deliberate action of Jesus arrival.

That ladies and gentleman was when the clock started, from red, to amber.

From stop to get ready.
Who has to get ready? When jesus said “this generation” doesnt mean the generation of Jesus day it means all the generations of humanity since he came. This generation in Gods terms means the group Since the clock started?

Today we await, the entry into the world of Gods redeeming love, brought into the world as a defenceless baby, I am sure over the next few weeks many sermons will talk about that fact. That the way he set the clock ticking to our salvation was not through force, but by the exact opposite. Today in advent week one we imagine a world that was firmly at “stop” and on his birth knew it had to get ready, and we learned from his example that he came to show us how.

Jesus showed us, that we become powerful when we give up our ideas of power, when we give love we receive so much more.
He started a journey roughly thirty years between his arrival and his resurrection, and theres something in that, the pace of our lives arent the pace God moves very often, most often he moves at a pace of lifes phases and things change when we are ready. He opened the gates of salvation, but it may take all our lives to get ourselves ready for him to come again.

How do we maintain that metaphorical car that focus, how do we keep our driving skills? Or better put how do we keep our eyes on him let him into our lives to keep us on the right track. The answer is simple – prayer. Prayer opens the garage door; prayer is us knocking on the door of the greatest power ever. A power that loves us very much, and wants to welcome us into his world, of peace and justice and love.

And all this is what it means to be ready, it means so much more than simply prepared, we need to know who he is, love him, follow his example and show love etc etc.
Like that chap from the lights, theres so much more to being ready, you have to learn to drive to even be sat at the lights, maintain your car etc etc.

Then you have to stay ready and not let all those things drift, let your driving habits get so bad that you stall and you do this by practice and staying alert.

This is what Jesus is asking today, that we maintain all the assets and edicts of our faith, trust in him, love for all, readiness to sacrifice, study so that we really know what he is asking, and prayer so that our study is led by him etc etc etc

We worship in an Anglican Church and our faith is built upon tradition, scripture and reason. All of those are nourished by prayer.

That I think this is, the real value of our church, and all our theologians, and our priests, our bible study, and our prayer. Getting us and keeping us ready.

Then comes the next task. That’s every person who knows jesus shows jesus in the way that we act.
That is our task in this life. Getting as many people ready for when the lights change as we can.

He came to show us how to et ready, his salvation gave us the means to move forward with him when the lights go green.

Our task is to ponder on him all of our lives and be as ready as we can be

As we move through advent, as we think about all the lessons contained in why he came, what he tried to teach us. The question we have to ponder over and over again with prayer, with thought, with love, in companionship, listening to the words of our service that show us. I mean we are just about to hear the words of the creed. When we hear all those words, we need to ask

is are we ready?

because in advent week one, we prepare for his arrival, and we know in that very moment the lights have changed to amber.

Amen

Bible Sunday Sermon 2021

Bible Sunday, the word of the lord is praised today

I laid on the floor a large stack of bibles, and explained their translation and the reasoning, GNB, NRSV, ESV, NKJV, etc explained the misogyny of the KJV (male verbs are used either where no gender was said or even when the female was used) , Each had different roles, different translations. The GNB is easier to read, NRSV is the official translation of the church of England.

Explained my story about when I was lonely in a small flat outside of Bournemouth and asked for help,. I came from an large noisy atheistic family, but this little red bible had followed me around from the day it was given to me at School.. I was from a busy family where everyone did shift work, so the house never slept, to a tiny village in Corfe Mullen. This Beautiful, remote and very very lonely for the first time from him. One day I sat on my bed and was at a very low ebb. Held that little bible and prayed.

I asked him for help , said ,I am really lonely , and I need help, please help me and the room was filled with love.
Unalloyed, perfect, real, almost filling the space of the air, love. Also I have never felt lonely or alone since that day.

He came into my heart that day, and been ever present ever since then.

I have had a relationship with him since that very day and then showed the little red Gideons Bible I held in my hand that day. Explained that my leader was Matthew

What do we have in the Bible, 66 books, of poetry, history, biography, law and prophecy, Apocalyptic, Wisdom and Gospels that were first spoken and then written down?

 Such human books, in the bible we find love. Anger, greed, hatred, sex, and sin etc etc, The list is endless. The entire human condition is discussed, check out Song of Songs if you think anything’s missing.


Its clearly written by people, real people, living lives, and facing the tasks and challenges of the human experience.  Paul prefaces a lot of his letters with things like, I’ve got timothy with me, complains about his eyes, he sends his regards to and from various people,  asks the receiver of to look after onesimus his slave, and asks for a guest room to be prepped as he hopes to see you soon.  Calls something complete scoobilon which is left untranslated from the Latin for dung.

All very human things that show us these are humans just like us writing these things, not aliens that get turned into typewriters by God.

Also, we work with a translated text that was from the very first time Jesus spoke. Jesus words were Spoken in Aramaic, heard remembered and eventually written by Greeks, Hebrews?

So from the moment, Jesus spoke his words were translated from Aramaic into the native language of the apostles many of whose mother tongue was something else.

We worship using a translated book. That was written, Some by authors we know, some lost in the mists of time.  Then some of the words and grammar and meaning of the oldest translations we have left written in Greek say don’t have direct translations to English. Hence that pile over there.

However let me be 100% crystal clear, let me not be misunderstood.

The Bible is undoubtedly the word of God with every word inspired by him and through scripture and prayer, we can peer through a glass darkly at the plan God has for all humanity and for the minutiae of our lives.  If for one second, I doubted that I would never dare to stand in front of you today or any day.

  Some might ask how given all the variables I spoke of before I can have such certainty.  Because how else would a God who made himself human talk to us except through humans in a human way, he so wanted to do that he became human.  Through his creati

 I was called by the God who wrote that book, who works with that book to mould us into all he wants us to be, the book of Common prayer says there’s no health in us, but today we are going to look at how god’s love works through the bible and makes us whole.
Takes us on the journey to being made whole.

So how do we work with God to learn from scripture, how do we learn from our master through this wonderful thing?   Jesus tackles this very thing today.   When he says….

If you believed Moses, (addendum in scripture ) you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say


That is it in a nutshell!!, That’s it,, The Bible brings us to him , but we have to let him take over. when I first read the bible, Jesus was alive for me, and remains alive. Jesus came alive through that book (Matthew was the first passage I read in a little Gideons Bible). So for the Jews it would be Moses because that’s what they had, for me it was Matthew but whatever scripture resonates for you, you have to believe him p, you have to let him in.

 That is the secret to the Bible, Once Jesus is alive in your life then all those things that I spoke about earlier become Nuance and the fabric that Jesus can use to work with us.   Jesus speaks through the spirit, through that book, and through us.


The spirit is in us, and as soon as we plug into that and its awoken by the book, the three of us work together, Jesus, the spirit and us, who he made us to be.

However please don’t think I am asking you switch off your intellect

He doesn’t want us to park our brains at the door marked “scripture” he wants us to bring all that we are to the process.  There he meets us, and works with us, as he always did. 

What then the typewriter theory, the idea the apostles were turned into Dictaphones. Lost in the idea these words are divinely inspired, and work for all of us regardless of where our little spark of life happens in the millennia to bring us closer to God.  The church of England has as one of its 39 articles that “HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation:”  and it indeed it does, everything you need is here, but you need to bring everything you are to them, let god take them, always always pray before reading , to learn from them, your heart, your prayer, prayer, your thought. Richard Hooker one of the founding fathers of Anglicanism used the idea of the three legged stool, Scripture, tradition and reason.

 I would argue that isn’t enough. The stool needs many legs, it needs prayer, it needs learning, it needs robust and repeated action to bring his words to life.  Most of all it needs the real knowledge of a living god brought alive in our lives.  Then because all scripture is breathed by god. As the hymn goes, we will be filled with life anew.

Then we can bring scripture to life in our lives because it is breathed on by a living God.  What then all those things of a translated faith? The universal truths of the bible, are from God are never ever diluted. The multiplicity of the various methods used in the bible are just the tools God uses to bring his words to life.

This is why a legalistic view of scripture alone is never enough, and what got Jesus so excised today. His living word alive in our lives is greater than Moses,. As Jesus said today

 If you don’t for if you do not believe the one he sent. 39 Even if you study[a] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. .  If however after this , 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

You missed the point, the bible is the word of God. This is the word of the way the truth and the life.  But letting him into the story, letting him into the story of our lives is the only way to God. The bible is a special precious thing and truly the word of God, but its as useless as a hammer lying on the floor when a nail needs used, because without him being alive in our lives, it becomes something  else, a book, a set of laws, an antiquated thing. 

With him in our lives it’s a living word, that doesn’t just overcome its translation, its million authors, its genesis.  It becomes his living word,  and all those things become things he uses to come to life in our lives.  Through poetry, prophecy, biography etc and yes a all the translations. He uses them to find you, and share universal truths

Through scripture.

As Paul told Timothy

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is [9] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

On bible Sunday that’s what all we need to know,

Amen

World Homeless day Sermon

The car park is noisy when I arrive for my first day, 

two people are fighting, the rest gather round yelling them on, some to try and stop them, some to egg them on, some just cackling with amusement as the comedic ballet of two drunk people swaying and missing each other.  Tables go over, hot urns are moved out the firing line. Shouting and swearing fill the air.

It smells, spilt coffee, cannabis, ancient alcohol and sweat.

There is an assortment of people you would normally rush by, dressed sometimes in Rags, sometimes surprisingly well (some really do work on their appearance). How they look is hardest to describe because their clothes are as varied as the handouts and hand me downs, the availability of clean water, and hair cuts

Then there are the helpers, trying to not lose todays food which someone cooked and brought to the car park, trying to stop the “guests” as they call them from

 a) Hurting each other

 B) encouraging the police who sort of put up with us from arriving

 c) losing too much of tonights much needed food.

They never worry about themselves, whether they get hurt, always the kitchen and the guests. Over our years we see that time and time again, as they almost fought to be the ones that served through the worst of Covid. Not all the youngest either, so very much taking a risk.

Me and Paula pull back our car somewhat, filled with our first night gifts of clothes, blankets and food. If it wasn’t for those things we may have drove off.

I would have missed out on the place i felt God more often than any other, more consistently, more thinly than any other.  Because as our scripture shows us this is where he would be if he were alive today. 

And we worship a living God, so this is where he is.

Every week I go, I always know he’s here, always feel him and try to be steered by him.

This is church, this car park of life’s damaged, misfits. 

which is also of course is what we all are

But this was week one and it was Paula who said come on, lets get out, Paula who dived in found a place straight away, serving food, chatting to the other ladies.

I found my place on the fringes, albeit at the time I saw it as lost and confused. Now we all know it, mike goes to find those to scared to come into the light….

This is some of their stories

STORY ONE

The first person I meet, says the weirdest thing to someone hes never met…

Why does god hate me?

STORY 2

On my first night a young pregnant lady with a baby in a pram lands in our car park with very skimpy clothes. she had been thrown out by her pimp because the baby cried so much. she was from foster care and had fallen apart, and fell into the oldest profession all of them were blue when we found them

STORY 3

Joe and his guitar the car park is a happy place, joe used to sing all the old 60s songs on his old out of tune guitar . we all sang along, and laughed and loved him. some lads smashed his guitar up as he slep one night..

he lasted three winters

STORY 4

Trevor whom I loved because he was so like my dad. but he wasnt lovely when drunk, and was often violent. He was abused by his dad, and had boxed for england, he sobered up many times, but always got drunk and violent. he lasted 3 winters.

STORY 5

The man and his dog – I fed the dog and got picked up

STORY 6

the man shot  into nationwide and hurt someone and will never find forgiveness in his eyes, to anaesthetise his guilt he drank

STORY 7

the street pastors

STORY 8

those on the edges who wont join in because they have been left out so long crowds scare them

STORY 9

Abuse makes them

STORY 10

fostering

STORY 11

the ones who want to be out,? They are a myth really, they are just damaged in another way, the few that I have met, really are just damaged enough to have lost anchor, never know where to stop, sometimes they want too, but then old shadows catch them up, abuse, parensts, drubgs drink. they arent wandering minstrels loving the open air, they are running away and moving on stops there demons from catching them 

STORY 12

the ones who the police say never to leave a women around

STORY 13

Lionel who had come to feed those who looked after him after his wife left him and his brother 

Happy tomshare these stories if ever you ask.

Now we are at St Vincents, and when I dont go I miss it

This is where I want to being Jesus, here I am his voice, his hands, and feel most Christian, I feel like I truly am his eye, hands feet when I am in this place,

Ill always go I always will  to  join him in his car park