Sermon Matthew 16:21-end

In certain respects, our weekly readings can be like watching a film in segments, ten minutes here, then minutes there. Like any film if you watched it that way you would either not understand whats going on, or, perhaps get the wrong end of the stick, or it may be because you have seen the film before you know roughly where we are.

I think this week reading requires a long view, see why people have reacted this way. Essentially to get under the skin of todays reading I think we have to work on a little context. 

Imagine it, a chap comes wandering past you while you’re at a steady job fishing, collecting taxes.

He asks you to follow him

You sense something, drop everything, follow him every day for three years.

Eat, Sleep, talk, pray, wander with him as he preaches in town after town.

You learn to love him with all your heart, and all your soul.

You learn that in fact he is the son of God, the Messiah.  

That means different things to different people. The saviour of your people, or the one that is going to bring back the land from brutal oppression.

Messiahs were expected to bring power back to Jerusalem,  deliver political and military victory over the current occupying force.  . You totally believe in this one. Previous claimants had ended up with
with roman justice, roman empire , roman peace celebrated because the Jewish leader had been killed 

Various Prophets all died, having had their say, tried to get the word of God to be listened too.

But this one , this one was different. He performs miracles, feeds 4000 people , heals people, comes out with stuff that makes the world make sense.

He asks you, one of the chaps that’s dropped your steady job, left your family, followed him for three years.

He ask you Who do YOU think I am – you tell him – you’re the Messiah, and you KNOW he knows what that means, what each and every one of you has invested in that word.  You’re going to put it all back, get rid of the romans, put Israel back on top! You’re going to be all that those very dead prophets promised.

He tells you a simple fisherman, the impetuous one, the one that always gets it a little wrong, that you are the rock he is going to build his church around. Hows that going to make you feel, promised that by the Messiah.  That’s trust way beyond anything a fisherman ever expected.

Then he says – don’t tell anyone I am the Messiah.  Which isn’t denying it at the very least, and confirms it in most peoples  way of thinking about that, and you know in your heart that he is, you dropped everything for him, got more than you ever imagined, saw things that will stay with you forever. This is the son of God.

THAT’S where we step into today’s segment of the story, that’s where we restart the DVD, or pressed play on the Netflix movie.

So with this context we move on to todays reading

From that time on he starts telling you he has to go to Jerusalem, the seat of power that hates him, the most dangerous place any of you could go. Then he says and here’s the kicker.

When I get there I am going to suffer and die!

Because your Peter, the rash one , You sort of grab him by the arm and say “God Forbid it lord this must never happen”!!

So many things would elicit that response, Love for the man in front of you, the fact the man you left your home for just calmly said “I am going to suffer and die” 

The man you believe is the messiah, who said your going to be the rock! Is going to die, messiahs don’t do that! They don’t die!

His reaction is a rebuke, Get behind me satan! Then he calls you the stumbling block to him, (the very opposite of a rock your going to build on).

Then he says, the thing that we still struggle to get because we are human.

The only way to follow me is to deny yourself.

(which sort of works, because you denied yourself a LOT to get here)

Then he says the real mad strange thing

The only way to save your life is to lose it.

Save your life is to lose it,

I don’t know about you, I like to win at things. Scrabble, Monopoly, win at work, win arguments with the wife (albeit that never happens).  I like my football team to win , albeit I support west ham and winning happens only slightly more often than I win arguments at home…

On one level Jesus just said, the only way you win is by losing.  In Alice through the looking glass, Alice finds out the only way forward is to step back, the only way up to go, is to go down. This is like that isn’t it? It makes no sense, sometimes even to us who have the fact of the resurrection, who are post Emmaus.

 For The disciples following Jesus logic meant he just stepped through the looking glass.

Actually what Jesus did was explain the actual only way Christianity makes an ounce of sense. Without this idea when you boil it down none of it works. Get this idea and everything fits, miss the point and it whooshes past in a whirl of confusion.  Things contradict, and jar with the world and his message. Get it and everything sort of works, what he said , and what we are supposed to do.

My mission today is to try and work towards that point, that Jesus was making.

Don’t get me wrong  I dont think we can relax after we get this; but what Jesus was talking about today we have to grasp to make the rest make sense.

It’s a bit like when I was a kid and I missed a lot of maths classes through being ill.  You cant do Algebra if you don’t know how to add up, subtract and divide.

There’s still algebra to come here, but the essence of this story, the principle is right at the core of our faith

Jesus is the ultimate example of self-sacrifice. Why;  because he is an immortal, eternal God , complete in every way, needing nothing, that made  himself small enough to be a man through love. Dying and resurrecting opens the way to salvation for us all, and he has to do that for us all.  Gave us victory over sin, defeated death. 

The mysteries and models of atonement are another day’s conversation.

But there’s also the question of what do we, here today do with this story;
And that’s the other thing  also he’s showing us the only way the world works; and that’s where I want to spend the rest of my time.

He knows that when everyone gives everything to everyone,  then nobody wants. If we give everything to each other regardless of whether we like them or not, nobody wants for anything.   The only way to reach that point is when enough people break the chain of taking from each other, and share love from the limitlessness of God.

We as Christians are taught the only way to make it work is to give to each other, the only way that we make his kingdom come is when give to each other because then we receive from each other as well; to give when we don’t want to, to give when we would rather hold on to what we have.

Fortunately, Paul takes Jesus point and explains it long hand for us,  what does this giving achieve. That is exactly what Paul is explaining today, what Jesus was doing times a million and what we have to do to replicate that in our small way.



Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9 – end)

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 
So when Jesus said “get away from me Satan” its because in protecting life, protecting what we have, we take life, protecting Jesus from Giving was being overcome by evil, and he wanted to overcome evil with good.

The limitless giving of our god,  has as Paul explained to be replicated by limitless giving,  giving to each other?

Limitless giving is how our lord saved us, and gave us salvation and

Salvation most academics think is better translated as making whole or healing

Our lord gave everything to make us whole,heal us to be who he wanted us to be

When we give to each other we make each other whole and he wants us to give without limits

That’s the way the world works, do I think we can do that?

I know I can’t, but I have faith my lord will help me try, and that faith gives me access to grace.

Grace overcomes the shortfall, in my efforts  and Ill rely on that.

Jesus knows we can’t, we aren’t able the worlds too broken but he wants us to try. To try and give as much love as we can to each other to try and lift each other up and make the other whole.

So, to conclude
Peter had Grace when he missed the point, and grabbed Jesus arm and said “no that’s not happening” 

We all have grace when we miss the point, that’s why we need grace so much. We as Christians must keep trying, we try because we have been shown how to make it work, how to make each other whole by giving..

Thy Kingdom come is Jesus asking us to do that, make each other whole.

Grace is for the times we miss the point

Father Jo once said to me if I get to heaven I want our lord to say nice try.

I say
Amen to that.

Christ as Sister

The other day I ran a prayer session and referred to Christ as mother, brother , father and sister.

It raised an eyebrow or two

Why did I leave that in?

Because faith is what saves us, through relationship with the risen christ,

Christ was male whilst on earth, because he came down into a society where unless you were male it would have been hard to be listened too.

While we was here

He said that we can call him a friend, He is called a light, a lamb, . the alpha and omega, the narrow gate etc. The saints often called christ names that transcended gender? Julian of Norwich referred to christ our mother? This is because she saw the relationship of the trinity as more than gender specific and wanted to explain aspects of his love.

Indeed when john said “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – John 1:29. John the baptist was most likely Essene and would have spent his days buried in scripture. As such he knew the Scriptures perfectly well, and knew what he was saying, he would not have called a man the Lamb of God, when in fact, the offering for sin is a female lamb.

He was making a leviritical reference

Leviticus 4:32 If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish.

In regards to a prayerful relationship, I think if your male relationships are broken, invested with ideas of the patriarchy, unwholesome etc, loving christ, coming into relationship with him in whatever way opens the door for you? That’s what counts?

He said we are made in our image, plural, more than one gender or type.

If he can be a lamb, he can be a sister, because I don’t he’s a white guy sitting on a cloud?

Maybe all our metaphors lack something? How much of gender do you think is preserved when we die, and rise again, if we join him in heaven?

More importantly for me however

Christ wants us to love him the very best that we can, that’s what really matters? As a subject for prayer, a way of coming closer if your male relationships are broken, come to him as a sister, its the agape love that counts. Because his love includes aspects of love that are mother, brother, sister, father, light, lamb etc. We can love him in all of those ways…

IE what paul said in galatians

Galatians 3:26-28 New International Version (NIV)
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Come to Jesus whatever way you can but come to Jesus because in him there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This kingdom is within us…

Sermon BCP 28-06-20 Luke 17:20-37

When I was a kid growing up in the east end of London when it was probably as rough as it can be today, I found that if you found yourself in a tight spot often a way out of it is to say something that’s a little in context but off the wall.

Make people go “what did he just say”?? and they lose their anger and you can talk to them, and more often than not get yourself out of it. They don’t compute for a second and your off and away 😊

Once I was confronted by a gang that were building up for trouble and I offered them all cigarettes 😊 They were so non plussed,said thank you and they sort of wandered off…

Jesus does just such a thing today

When an angry mob of Pharisee’s are trying to catch him out, saying COME On whats the date, so they can yell “heretic” and cart him off.

His reply was you cant see the kingdom?

The kingdom of god is within you  

its that phrase I want to examine

Within you

The worod used here for within is Entos

The Greek word  Entos is  disputed among translations

Entos  >> our KJV: of God is within you.

GRK: τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστίν
NAS: the kingdom of God is in your midst.
INT: of God in the midst of you is

Entos is used in once more in matthew 23:26 and everyone agrees its “inside”

New International Version
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Jesus used that word and it must have thrown them, did he mean, within, in our midst, etc.

I think he meant all three

Like the KJV within, connotations for in our midst, in the midst?

Paul tries to use that idea when he uses “Being “in Christ””

To do justice to the full spectrum of Paul’s thought and language, the terms union, participation, identification, incorporation

So when Christ says In the midst of or within he means truly in something even more fundamental than your dna, more fundamental than your atoms.

Fused like milk in your tea, irredeemably part of you.

Some shy away of this translation of Entos as “within” because he’s is speaking to the pharisees and how can he be inside those who hate him, or won’t follow him.


That’s a poor reason because he’s inside all of us sinners that’s for sure. He joined us physically, spiritually, experienced our condition in every way and left us the spirit.  Truly

In our midst, within, inside,

I think that’s where jesus wants all us sinners to look for the kingdom of God, in our midst, and inside, and within.

That’s where we find the kingdom of God

Maybe that adds a little tension to our most common prayer.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done

That’s not a petition not to make something external happen, or maybe not just external.

Thy kingdom come has to happen in all of those ways, inside, within, in our midst and among us.

For me thats the take away from today

With his help, thy kingdom come is up to us.

We are people of hope.

Evening prayer BCP 24-5-20 Ephesians 1:15 End

I think todays reading should give all of us hearing this in lockdown great hope.

Albeit the world has gone a little mad, and nothing seems normal, that which fills everything in every way has risen and has created the hope which we all share.

Albeit we can all become lost in our circumstances, we can all become lost in fear, we all become disoriented Paul has shown all us Christians today our true north, the well spring that nourishes us.

Nothing has really changed, nothing is truly broken, that which was broken has healed and we who believe in him have had the separation healed. We are no longer broken or enslaved, or held ransom but we have been given the greatest gift ever.

I would like to pray Pauls prayer for you today
This is the prayer
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

That’s a wonderful prayer for Christians, that the eyes of our heart be opened, by his spirit, and we know that we are never alone

and no matter where we are, or whats happening to us we know the hope for which we are called, and the inheritance given to those that know the way the truth and the life.

I pray that whatever circumstances you are in as you hear this today. That all think of all the people doing BCP today and praying to have our hearts opened, so that we can see hope, have been given it and know hope.
We are people of hope, Christians are people of hope and with all the people praying Pauls prayer today, I pray that you feel that hope, wherever you are. I hope you do, because hope is whats been prayed for all over the world today 😊
In Jesus name – Amen

Sermon on Colossians 1:15-28 and Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)

To Prepare for this sermon I took a ball of string and passed it through the entire congregation from the back to the choir.

Please sit down

May the words of my mouth

And the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in the sight of he who Protects, saves and redeems

Thank you for having me.

What I want to do today is join two of our readings together Colossians and Luke

To do that I need a piece of string shared out

(start at the back and wind to the front)

Once done ask them to get the notices page and let’s look at today’s readings together.

Imagine that piece of string Is Christ, and as it says in our readings today, he is the beginning and the first born. So although we began our piece of string here in this church it really begins with Adam, the firstborn. And it goes on through creation.  as we say when we  pray as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever

So if you have hold of that string you have hold of eternity

Also like the string which is holding us together it says in scripture in him all things hold together


The other thing about that string is that like all metaphors its not perfect because if that string was really Jesus then it would be IN you!

So that’s what paul means when he says the
Christ that’s IN YOU – Christ in you, the hope of glory

Cos that bit of string starts at Adam and goes on for eternity. Have that string in you and you’re joined to eternity. If I pull this string that’s the pull of eternity.

Also in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. So if that the metaphor that string represents is Jesus, and that string is in you then God is in you, eternity is in you.

Paul uses the term “in Christ” in many ways Union, participation, identification and incorporation.

I think we can see many of those themes in today’s reading.

Also the other imperfection of today’s metaphor is that the string isn’t a living, sentient thing.

Christ of course IS. He is a LIVING LOVING GOD in all things and like that string through him all things bind together. He is the string that makes creation whole.

Also when we feel pain, when we suffer he suffers. People sometimes ask where is God, in suffering?

He’s in that string? He’s in us, he suffers with us because ha cannot suffer, he HAS to suffer with us as he is IN us. He takes that pain, that suffering, that sin and absorbs it into the string that binds us called Christ.

Also, Christ is the cure for loneliness because we THINK we are separate human beings. But I want you to TUG that string a bit.

When you tug it, the person next to you feels it, because the same thing IN you, the Christ IN you is in the next person, so the interplay the action, the reaction is shared by others. 

Christ resolves the incognito of the other, we are ONE with every single human being here today that lives and will ever live.   Our lives are ripples, everything we do ripples along eternity , felt by those around us.


We truly never suffer along, because the suffering lord suffers with us because he is IN us.

He created us, planned us; there is NO break in that string, he knew your place in the string that binds creation before you were born.

Because he present tense  IS  simultaneously in every person that ever lived, and ever will live he knows every person you knew, know and will every know right now simultaneously.  Because the string is unbroken through every single person ever. He knows them present tense.

This string that binds us absorbs our sin, our hate, our anger and shares love.  Makes us right as me move along our place in the story towards the eternity he has prepared for us and knows already.

This string that binds us to eternity knows it and is in us, we know eternity and we feel its pull.

As it says in our reading today, the Christ in you is the hope of glory, attaching you to eternity, presenting you to god mature in christ

Lastly to tie the Martha and mary reading,
I think we imagine ourselves as either Martha or marys, too busy to really be with Jesus. Or happy to sit and listen to him. The active or the contemplative. Truth is we are all mixes of both.  Sometimes we bustle about, sometimes we contemplate, as the rhythm of life slows down and speeds up.

Also we look that this story an almost historic, a thing of the past a bible story.

We cant see Jesus like martha or mary, so it’s a nice metaphor but they had Jesus in the room?

  I want you to do a very unbritish thing.
Take a real look at the person next to you, look at them holding that string, That string that represents Jesus.  Know that string is in them. In every person you meet, will ever meet has ever met, That string created, planned and loves them. And he did the same for you.

so when we contemplate our fellow man we contemplate the Jesus in them.
when we love our fellow man, the Jesus in us that loves us, loves them too,

we can join in that story too real-time. The Jesus that was present in the Martha and mary story is present here today and goes on like a continuous thread through all creation

Let us pray.
Lord help us to know you at all times in everything we do.
We know that you bind us together and are in all your creation, that as it was in the beginning , is now and will be forever .
You Our lord are present,  When we love you, we love all your creation because your love is in all creation for all time. Help us to to take time to notice you in everyone we meet and love them as we love you. In Jesus name  Amen

Why is Bonhoeffer even MORE relevant today?

We live in a world where God is no longer central to our culture.  We live in a world where angry voices sometimes make being a voice of peace much harder.  History shows that others have faced these challenges before. Their experience can help us to understand the role our faith has in a society that has gone far away from God.  This is the story of one of the great theologians of our time who faced just such challenges.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on the 4th February 1906 in Breslau Germany into a middle-class family. The First World War saw the Bonhoeffers lose one son and another wounded. They suffered the privations of the Allied blockade and the treaty of Versailles for which Dietrich never forgave the allies. Dietrich was given the best education and it was a great surprise to his family when he chose to study theology.

 As Hitler’s power and persecution of the Jewish people grew in 1933, he spoke out on their behalf calling them “Worthy Citizens”.   This open opposition of the tide of hatred robbed him of a blossoming career.

It was perhaps unsurprising then that Dietrich saw Christianity as a faith that has a cost to its followers. In 1937 he wrote “The Cost of Discipleship” which spoke of, Cheap and Costly Grace. “Grace” can be defined as unconditional love toward a person who has done nothing to deserve it”. “Cheap Grace” essentially is grace where we know we are forgiven and carry on how we like, and it’s the grace without the following, grace without the discipleship. However, then he talks about the flip side, costly grace.

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.

He then says “Costly Grace” may call us to do things we may feel unworthy of or unprepared at the time we are called. Our job is to follow the call.


“‘Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours.”

One thing that makes this journey easier is that with Christ as our mediator we become one humanity.  This binding of us through Christ makes intercessionary prayer the most powerful thing we can do. The Christ that mediates and acts in us, exists and acts in our brothers and sisters.   

“However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however, sound our psychology, however frank and open our behaviour, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul.

Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbours through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbours, and corporate prayer offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship” (Take a look at Ephesians 2 and see how Paul explores the same theme of “One Humanity” mediated by Christ).

His explanation of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 shows that this fellowship extends beyond the tribe we belong too.  The first mistake Bonhoeffer thinks the lawyer made was to ask, ‘who is my neighbour?’   I think you can hear that question being asked today in our time, and of course, Bonhoeffer could hear that question in his time. Bonhoeffer’s response to this question is as follows.

We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbour or not. We must get into action and obey – we must behave like a neighbour to him. But perhaps this shocks you. Perhaps you still think you ought to think out beforehand and know what you ought to do. To that, there is only one answer. You can only know and think about it by actually doing it. You can only learn what obedience is by obeying. It is no use asking questions; for it is only through obedience that you come to learn the truth.

In simple terms, Bonhoeffer says that discipleship should always cost us something and change the way we behave.  That Christ is in all humanity, and that means we share in the suffering of Christ and of our fellow humans. That all of our fellow humans have Christ in them and as a result become our neighbours. That like Peter as he left his nets, this call and response should be immediate and without question, as should our love for our neighbour.

As Hitler’s power grew, he created “Reich Churches” which removed bibles and replaced them with Mein Kampf. In response to this Bonhoeffer helped create the illegal “Confessing Church” and became the leader of a seminary in Finkenwaldein.  Here he wrote “Life Together” that still influences Christian communities on what it means to live a life before God.

The major themes of this book are that Christian communities have been built to become a dwelling in which God lives.  Various ministries should be present in these communities, Meekness, Listening, and Helpfulness, Bearing one another’s Burden, Proclamation and Confession.  

At one point he escaped to America but felt he had to come back because he felt that he could not lead the church in Germany after the war if he had not tried to do so during it.   He was at arrested on a minor charge in 1943 and taken to Tagel Prison.   While in prison it became clear he was involved in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler. His correspondence became the posthumous “Letters and Papers from Prison”. 


In them, he wondered what a Christian’s role is in a Godless world where God isn’t needed for answers.   Where God is no longer “A Priori”, that is to say, a given, or an automatically assumed truth. How should Christians behave in a world where God isn’t used for guiding our ethics, science etc.

On July 18th 1944 he wrote to his friend Eberhard Bethge in response to this question

“The human being is called upon to share in God’s suffering at the hands of a godless world. Thus, we must really live in that godless world and not try to cover up or transfigure its godlessness somehow with religion.”

The conclusion he reached from this is that

“It is not a religious act that makes someone a Christian, but rather sharing in God’s suffering in the worldly life. That is “μετάνοια,” not thinking first of one’s own needs, questions, sins, and fears but allowing oneself to be pulled into walking the path that Jesus walks, into the messianic event, in which Isaiah. 53 is now being fulfilled!”

This is the relevance of Christ in a Godless world for Bonhoeffer. Humanity is unified by the Christ in all of us. “Religious” rites do not make us right with God. Our Lord wants our discipleship, our following. Our Lord suffers because his children suffer, and as we have the suffering Christ in us, we share his suffering.  The only resolution, therefore, is to love our neighbour and to know that everyone is our neighbour. We must do this openly and, in the world, not cloistered away, letting the world see, this is why we are as we are.

If all that has left, you thinking Bonhoeffer was some sort of “Superman” that we can neither aspire to nor learn from?  My last words are a poem he wrote shortly before his execution on the 9 April 1945.

Who am I?

They often tell me

I would step from my cell’s confinement

calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I?
They often tell me

I would talk to my warders

freely and friendly and clearly,

as though it were mine to command.

Who am I?
They also tell me

I would bear the days of misfortune

equably, smilingly, proudly,

like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I know of myself?

restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,

trembling in expectation of great events,

powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.


We only have Bonhoeffer’s early work as he was murdered at age 39. 

I hope you learn to love him as much as I do.

Lets Focus on Lent

Please sit down
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in your sight.

So here we are on the first Sunday of Lent?

The traditional thing for lent is giving something up, chocolate, or something we will miss.

Last year I tried a “bad words” box, but I have a teenage daughter, a stressful job and I commute on the M25 and I support west ham. So the odds were stacked against me.

Also on reflection I had sort of boiled lent down to giving something up, I wasn’t thinking so much about how we should approach lent, or how this tradition added to it, why was I doing this, and all the other things we do?

Then I got the sermon on the first day of lent and thought maybe we could here today think about that, maybe we could wonder, whats it all about?  Not just the tradition of giving something up thing, but  “what is lent about”?

Whenever I hear the word tradition, I hear rowan Williams, he says it’s something we should take notice of but not be bound by.  That’s very true some traditions are very old, and very grounded in great theology, and some need to be sort of rounded out,  are we doing this today for a good reason, what was the reason it became tradition, is that reason still around today, have we forgotten why we do a thing, have we simplified the tradition too much, or made it far too complicated.

Our new testament reading which is why we sort of deny ourselves in lent has Jesus fasting that’s where your pining for chocolate comes from, or the being off caffeine or beer or bad language and that hitting the buffers on the m25.

It shows that a famished jesus was for forty days was “supposedly” tempted by food and by power,

I think jesus wasn’t even looking at them, the bread that rots, and the power that fades had become something much less than what Jesus actually had his eye on. He had his eyes on what is spoken about in the other two readings today. The inheritance prepared for us, things that have been made ready for us,  the generosity of the love that saves us. He had his eyes on a greater story than anything the enemy had to offer.

The story today shows us is that when we are focussed on our lord, the enemy loses his power, his words and deeds become empty to us.  That really when we have our eyes on our lord the enemy will just depart until an – wonderful phrase – an opportune time, and we as fallible people will give him an opportune time. But that’s why he came because he knows we will do that, we will wander off, lose focus, forget the promise and see the thing in front of us.


Maybe THAT ’S what lents all about, Focus, maybe its all about Focus?

The tradition of denial is less about the denial in and of itself, but about clearing away distractions finding our true north, following our leader, our king, our saviour, and our shepherd?

That we should copy Jesus not so much in denial but in that focus on him that lessens the noise and the distractions the world brings to drag our eyes away from him.


SO how do we do that, how do we get to that point of being that focus on our lord?

Lent is a 40 day march

Christ being hunted by Herod,  parables of fig trees that have to be looked after to bear fruit and children that sin, mary washing jesus, kings that arrive on a donkey, the betrayal of our closest, to the worst death the world knew, to the greatest victory ever known.


it takes time to work through the story of it.  Maya Angelou said stories are a persuasive means of relating to the human spirit, and stories take time to tell


I think perhaps that might show us a clue about how to do this thing called lent,.  Lets go on the journey.    In these days leading to Easter, “be” in the moment of the story, don’t lets let ourselves off with “Sunday’s coming”, its all going to be alright.

Be focussed on him, where he’s going, why he’s doing what he’s doing, stay with the narrative.

We should celebrate as he comes triumphant, on a donkey,

Maunday Thursday, imagine yourselves washing feet, or having your feet washed,

In the last supper be a disciple that’s not got to the point of this story, and listen to Jesus as he alludes to whats coming.  When Jesus is arrested imagine the fear of being his disciple, knowing your now an outlaw.

and when the crowd says, “let him be crucified” and we know hes innocent?. Let yourselves feel a little outrage at an innocent man being murdered for messing up the system, for saying things that challenge the powers that be, for making claims that undermine earned status.

What will the affect of that be, if we immerse ourselves in the story and take it step by step?

Maybe that might lead to a different sort of lent, one where we see what it means to be his disciple in a way that’s much more true, to the story that’s being told,.

I think doing that will show us what a man called deitrich bonhoffer means by what he calls “costly grace”, bonehoeffer knew what he was talking about as he stayed true to his faith and the ethics it espouses to the point where he was imprisoned and mudrdered by the nazis.

“grace” by the way is  “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who has done nothing to  deserve it.”


We are all recipients of grace,

But Bonhooeffer says there are two types cheap and costly,

He says…


Cheap Grace essentially is grace where we know we are forgiven and carry on how we like, it’s the grace without the following, grace without the discipleship.

But then he talks about the flip side….


Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,


it’s that idea of keeping your focus on him, following him, being a disciple, re centering I think Is what lent is might be all about.

By doing that, Lent can make the distractions of the  world recede to the point where the enemy loses all influence and simply melts away,  help us receive a love that brings us back, brings us home, that makes, fishermen leave their nets, tax collectors to just get up and follow as  boenhoffer says … not because he thinks that he might be doing something worthwhile, but simply for the sake of the call.

because they know,  he leads us to safe harbours, to lands prepared.  


That’s Grace.

Lent should help us remember, and remind ourselves all the way through,  that it’s not about what we give up,

It’s about keeping our focus on him

so we know what he gave up for us


and what we are being given

I hate to disagree with Ghandi but..

Ghandi said

“In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” That sounds great until you think about it.

For us as christians we need to always know it is grace that leads to prayer being connected with our lord, not our prayer, not our “quality” of prayer.
Whether we feel our heart isnt in it, or our heads are working against us. Whether stress is in the way, or we are angry with our lord

Nobody would disagree that some of the most fervent prayer can be found in our psalms. However the Psalms of Lament make up quite a large chunk of them. These are psalms written in times of massive disorientation, pain, anger, sadness, jealousy, fear, illness poverty of most kinds.

We in our daily lives when we feel anxious, fearful, lost, angry, jealous, unworthy, distracted etc. We take ourselves away from prayer, we dont want to do “bad prayer”, come before our lord feeling unworthy.

That mistake contains two mistakes. The first is that we require grace at all times, on our best day and on our worst. Our Lord’s love abolished the power of sin and death when we came to him and asked him into our lives. His atonement for our sins borne from love, and a continuing outrageous love means that however worthy or unworthy we may feel we are our Lord brings us close to him with a love that has no memory.

The second mistake is that the power of prayer lies totally with our lord and so even our weakest prayer is heard,because of love. Our lord is self sufficient, he wants us close to him. So whether our prayers are like the most wonderful music and poetry intertwined with a sincerity that comes from our innermost being, or whether to our ears they sound brittle and insincere, fake, unworthy, the power in them comes from our Lord. So head or heart, one or the other or neither. Our lord has the grace to hear them

Do we love our children less as they learn to talk, or try to come to us falteringly across the kitchen, do love them less on their worst days as they try to come close to us when angry, or sad, or bitter? I think we love our children every day, and our love is less perfect than he who gave us the gift of love. The fountainhead of love never falters, the source and the creator of love never runs dry.

What does this mean?

It Means dont “quality control” your prayer. Yes, on the days where we can pray like the angels, enjoy the joy that brings as you draw close to a loving God.

But on the “other” days and they will come, rest assured the power of your prayer rests solely with the Lord your praying too. They rest within his grace, within his boundless love that has wiped out your sin and wants you to heal and draw close. That treasures every step towards him, and calls you home.

Prayer is the Lords gift, the most powerful thing you can do, but the power of prayer is the Lords, and your prayer isnt graded by him. Its simply loved and answered with love.

So mister Ghandi you were correct our Lord see’s what in our heart more than the quality of our words.However to disagree slightly, his grace overflows our weakness, and the power of prayer lies with him and him alone.


Back to work? Give it to God.

The nation is slowly crawling its way back to work after christmas. The tinsel is starting to look slightly out of place, the presents losing their joy at every use, carols have gone off the radio, and even from our shops.

However it is with a sometimes heavy heart we start the commute again, what was a long crescendo at the end of the old year is now a very long year ahead. My calendar seemed to rejoice in reminding me that three hundred and fifty nine days remain in 2019. Paired with the reality of work that seems like a long slog ahead.

Christmas for christians is a time of rejoicing at the birth of Jesus but we have to catch the 7:35 out of X or Y station long before epiphany. However I think this loss of joy is partly because we celebrate the birth of our Lord and then act as if he is gone? Our lord is alive and involved in everything we do?

This is what St Benedict thought of how we should think about work.
“First of all, every time you begin a good work you should pray to him with total commitment to bring it to perfection, so that he who has already been kind enough to count us as his sons will never be disappointed by our doing wrong”. (The Rule of Benedict Penguin Classics) .

Why does St Benedict think this? Because he knows our Lord is alive and takes joy in every good work we do that we bring to him. However menial, in fact the most menial of tasks done for others, or for him reverberates around heaven forever.

Work done in the service of our lord never dies, and work done for others never dies. Our Lord see’s and rejoices in all of it, every second.

The Second degree of Bliss as Julian calls it.

As she says….
The second degree is that all the blessed in heaven will see that glorious gratitude of our Lord God, and God makes the soul’s service known to all who are in heaven.

So give all your work to the Lord, let him know your doing this for your family, and loved ones, that the commute is for his glory and done to perfection and that you KNOW he is alongside you every step of the way.

Remember even if your boss isnt grateful, our lord is, and his gratitude lasts forever. Because as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, he never left, he is alongside you right now.

All you have to do is give it to him.






Why does it hurt to be Christian?

In various places Jesus reminds us that he is in us, and we are in him.In fact Jesus is in every person born and unborn, been , present and will be. Therefore every person that has, is or will ever suffer is in Jesus right now, and this is why when we become Christian we lose the ability to ignore others suffering. The closer we draw through prayer the more impossible it becomes to do so.

Also it becomes clear that we lose patience with tribalism, nationalism, disunity, separatism, bigotry, etc. This is for the same reason, we are one humanity under Christ and cannot separate ourselves from the undivided whole that is the omniscient Christ.

My prayer as we end this year, is that we are all not so much undivided but a single spirit, a part of the Trinitarian whole that is made whole by the outrageous love of Jesus Christ. One humanity under God.