Sabbath, what is it, why, and how?

I stand here today giving the first sermon on the subject of Sabbath, being as it’s the first I thought I would spend a little time looking  Sabbath, what is it, how can we do it, what is it not and why? And reflect on what Sabbath is and how we might observe Sabbath in our modern context. What does God want?


The first thing many of us learn about the sabbath was, that when  God made everything, he rested, on the seventh day he had a rest.   Did he go have a lie down? Did he sort of let creation do its own thing for a bit? Like when we leave our kids with the iPad for an hour and go put a wet flannel on our head?

Here’s the thing, as much as we try, humanity is not going to stress out God to the point of needing a lie down and neither is making everything. God is omnipotent, all powerful inexhaustible and does not need a rest. God did not need to rest, so why is this in scripture?

This is God setting an example to us, showing us what we should do moving forward.  He’s saying 6 days of toil and then we stop, he loves us and only wants whats best for us, and so he’s setting the cycle by which we should live, for many more reasons than just rest.

There have been many versions of what doing nothing on the Sabbath means in the bible, the Hebrew noun for Sabbath, “Shabat” simply means stop or cease. The first time Sabbath is mentioned by name is in exodus verse 20 chapter 9-11 in the ten commandments, where God makes it a holy day, and says everyone including the foreigner has to stop work.

Making a thing Holy really means setting it apart as special. The dictionary really points us in the right direction when it defines holy as “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.”.  Hence the reason why Ezekiel criticised people for continuing to buy and sell sheep in the sabbath, basically keep the works of industry moving, but Isaiah was more interesting, he wants us to celebrate the sabbath as more than just as an exhibition of piety, but to do so properly meant to ‘learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’.

That’s not really stopping as such is it, so what is it? Isaiah also foresaw when the Sabbath was for more than just gods chosen people but for all humanity and included us here today. 

But if it isn’t as simple as just stopping and watching Netflix, or a good book whats it  all about?

 Jesus often ran into the Pharisee’s legalistic view of the Sabbath when he healed people and walked through fields of wheat eating corn, this  was seen as breaking the   strict laws of Sabbath, His response was that the sabbath was made for humankind not humankind for the sabbath.  

Essentially God made the sabbath for us to be released from bondage not to be interned by another sort of bondage of legalism. So for Jesus Sabbath had a greater meaning than just doing nothing on a Sunday.

Also it hasn’t always been on a Sunday, for early Christians it followed the Jewish tradition of starting on a Friday to a Saturday evening.  It then moved again to the “lords day” on the first day of the week in acts.

 The Sabbath was a day of rest, but the Lords day was a day to gather in community and worship God and concentrate on his word. As our faith moved to the Gentiles community Paul said that they don’t need to follow this Jewish rite but encouraged them to set aside a special day to worship the lord if they decide to do so, but they are free of the legalistic duty.

Essentially as Christianity separated from Judaism to create its own identity they moved from a legalistic sabbath to a “lords day” where the emphasis was on worship.

So what did our lord want us to do with this day? Old testament law was not abandoned in the new testament but fulfilled, properly fulfilled. Take Jesus pronouncement that where the OT says do not commit adultery, anyone who looks lustfully wishfully at another woman has done so.

The  law is about the betterment of society, Jesus is concerned about whats going on in our heart. So it is with the Sabbath, as we move from the legalistic rite of Sabbath bound up in laws and a burden to all, so as we as modern day Christians work out what to do with old testament ideas of sabbath we must overlay the idea’s that Jesus came to fulfil that law, to bring it to its proper purpose.   This is in part what the Jews listening to Jesus saying in matthew

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”.

would have heard, their yoke was twofold, the burden of an occupied society, but also burdened by a legalistic faith that used the Old Testament law as a tool to keep their culture intact but also to make a straitjacket that all had to be bound by.

So Jesus yoke is easy, and his burden is light. But there is a yoke and a burden, he wants us to follow the law by having a day of rest, but the yoke is he wants us to spend that time concentrating on him, pondering him. Closer to the lords day of the early Christians.

 As the old testament scholar mark scarlata said “Sabbath is God’s way of drawing us into a place of rest where we might begin to tap into the divine imagination and wisdom that brought the entire universe into being.”  Being still and knowing he is God as it says in the psalm, only by being still and turning ourselves to him can we access the true meaning of Sabbath.  I recently gave another sermon about Jesus being the bread of life, and someone asked him how they can access that bread.  Jesus response was  “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”.

By taking ourselves away from the pursuit of the bread that spoils, in our ever more commercialised world we can stop and meet the bread that never spoils in our lord Jesus Christ.  By being in his world for a day or so, we are driven by what Boenhoffer called costly grace, the grace that costs something in our lives and drives us to sacrifice ourselves for others , that drives us as Isaiah said “‘learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’” or whatever our society needs us for, by letting him into our lives we become his body on earth, make a rebellious statement about what we think is of real importance by turning of and tuning into him. We make a statement that we believe life is more than the frenetic gathering of wealth.

This ethic takes us right back to the time of god and his  overthrowing the Pharaoh and exile.


Each time God sent a plague Moses demanded god free his people  Pharaoh had   his people making more  bricks and with every twist he removed the means to make bricks but increased the demand, he wanted Israelites firmly focussed on mammon,

Whereas as soon as God got them, he asked them to stop on the seventh day, eat the bread they had already collected, but focus on him. Focus on him and leave mammon behind

This is what our Sabbath should be, its why I was happy to work on my studies on Sundays as I trained to become an LLM, because that wasn’t about mammon it was about God, its why we should gather here each Sunday and focus on him.  Because ultimately this is fulfilling the law of the sabbath, not meeting it legalistically but truly in our hearts.  Making time, real time each week to focus on him,  our Sabbath.

Which by the way in our busy lives doesn’t have to be on a Sunday because it has moved around,  in the past both through our Jewish heritage and as a means of setting our faith apart from Judaism  and sometimes it has too, wherever it settled it was always encouraged. Because wherever it is ,  the idea is we must set aside time to be with our lord each week. Proper time that we regard as sacrosanct, not of mammon and to state openly to the world this time is his.

What a statement, my life is yours, I think your more important than everything else I might be doing. That’s rest and witness all at once!

So to sort of cover off what is this sabbath and what isn’t it…

Well some of that is informed by the fact

God doesn’t need a Sabbath, but he knows we do, that’s why he models and commands it for us

Also Jesus railed against a legalistic sabbath and

It’s easy to be legalistic about observing the Sabbath, but that doesn’t get to the heart

It’s easy to be blasé about the Sabbath, but then we miss the rest we need that helps us refocus on God

Properly observed, Sabbath is a light yoke and an easy burden


Because ours is the lord of the Sabbath, and we should give our Sabbath time to him.


Because that’s what he wants,  that’s sabbath our time focussed on him and being his body here on earth, acting for him, in ways that please him, and bring his wholeness to the world.

When we reflect on sabbath that is  what we should reflect on both on defining it, and doing it.


Our Lord Jesus Christ 

Because it’s his

Amen

Sermon on the growing seed and mustard seed

June 13th: Second Sunday after Trinity

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Psalm response ‘We will call upon the name of the Lord our God

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 4: 26-34

Note to reader – St Marys runwell is a very lovely saxon church with a very large copper beech tree outside its door. The day I gave this was HOT and as everyone files out I knew we would all be under the shade of the tree. We would be surrounded by the many gravestones that sit under it.
They are quite formal in service, and the church has many people who have come for most of their lives. 

Has anyone at St Mary’s ever heard of Radulphus?

The earliest rector ever recorded here at St Mary’s was Radulphus in 1181. I wonder what sermons he preached and how many times he said something that resonated with someone listening, sat not more than a few feet from where you are today.  We sit here today part of that story, and I wonder what lives they all had. I wonder what lives all the parishioners had since then. What petitions did they bring before God, what were they? What I wonder have all the people sat where you are today asked for, as they bowed their heads in prayer?  

I wonder did God give them what they wanted, or in what way did he help them see what’s happening? If at all, quite often, we are clueless to see what the heck is happening, especially in the midst of everything. 

How many of us look back on our lives and see where God has known better than us, or how many times have we prayed and seen the velocity of our lives change course long after a prayer. Sometimes we wonder why our plans have gone awry and plead with God to put them back!  Sometimes when we look back, we see that if X or Y had not happened, our lives would have missed some real purpose that God had in store. 

How many seeds has God sown, all unknown in all the lives that have been sat where we are today, and really we cant see them or they are held in the dark until they are fully grown?  

That’s what our first parable is about today, things that God sows in our lives in our world that we don’t see until he is ready to show us or that we may never see.

This parable is about the things that God does in the dark or at the same speed that mustard seeds grow into trees. Things that grow so slowly or things over a tree’s life span, which means we may never see them bear fruit because it won’t happen in the lifespan we have?

A Sermon by a famous French theologian in 1866 contained the words,
Blessed are old people who plant trees knowing that they shall never sit in the shade of their foliage. Maybe that’s got some wisdom for today.  In all the lives that have sat where we are today how many planted seed’s that grew into tree’s real or metaphorical that we sit in the shade of? 

How many of them did things guided by God, in the dark just like a seed grows in the dark, that affect our lives today?  

We don’t know how mustard seeds are created inside a pod but we know they need so many things to flourish, and planted, and watered, and tended for. 

Only God knows how, and why, and what for and that’s the story of our first parable today. The things that God plants that we don’t know or notice until the tree has grown bore fruit.  All those stories precious to God, working to contribute to his purpose, add their bit to his story.

He also reaps what he sow’s, and we await the day he harvests and brings us all home to rise again with him.  That idea brings us on to  the next parable of our pair. We live in that space of now not yet in our lives. Jesus planted the seed, the seed that grows into a large tree that birds sit in the branch of, that gives life to our planet, that we sit in the shade of.   That seed that has a secret life as the roots burrow down in the soil and live in harmony with our planet. So as with all Jesus stories, there is a mystery here. We, as Christians, live with mystery. I think mystery is a significant part of both our stories today. The seed’s planted in our lives and the countless lives before or after that we don’t see until God’s ready to show us, or maybe we just don’t see in this life but maybe in the next.  We await our turn in God’s harvest, knowing that when he brings us to him, we will never die nor need harvesting again. Maybe then we will see more of the things he created, and tended and sowed and harvested. 

Planted through love, and love always has a choice. God won’t force us to listen to him.  Love never forces anything on anyone but tries to pull and cajole and caress its beloved into a place of safety and wholeness. Love is willing to die for its beloved, as our lord died for us, planting the seed that allows us to come to glory. God’s harvest is us with him forever made into everything he wanted us to be. One day we are promised to see that come to fruition, we believe we will rise in glory to share that glorious harvest.


When you leave today have a look at the tree outside. I am reliably informed it’s a copper beech tree. 


Maybe wonder, who put the little sapling down, and tended it until it was the magnificent things we see today. They maybe imagined what they might look like fully grown, but we get to see the glory of them.

That’s what our parables are about today. Knowing who planted the seed, and tends it sometimes without us knowing who tended them, who created the seed, who will harvest the seed and the promise of seeing the story come to its magnificence crescendo of eternity with him.  You, me, all of us, including  radulphus and all who believed with him 😊

I wonder if part of the thread that really joins us to radulphus,

a bishop long ago once said If I get to heaven I think I will be surprised by three things, one that I am there, two people I expected to see but don’t, and people I didn’t expect to see 😊

That loops us to part of our purpose here, is to sit here and wonder what do we have to do, to be, to say, to act like to know in our hearts, to have faith in, so that we become the seed that God scatters on the ground

that when the harvest comes

One day we will all rise in glory.

Amen 

Where has God been in the last year?

Sermon on John 12 20-33.

Before I start, I would like you all to do one thing for me write down in percentage terms how much God has been a support for you in lockdown? How present has he been? As I am speaking please just put a number , zero being not at all, and 100 a total all-pervading presence. It’s a rough tool but have a go?

NOTE if you are reading this – Press stop and write a number down?
Don’t go ahead till you have answered this question!
!

Just type the number in the comments section please, as I speak? We will come back to this at the end.

The Greeks had come to see Jesus, the gentiles, that is us,
These were strange people knocking at the door, they had check before letting them near him.
Gentiles asking to see a Jewish rabbi was a bit weird, but being as the disciples had probably seen lots of weird, they checked, before possible sending them on their way.

Before we stir up any more problems best check.

So the Greeks asked Philip, Philip told Andrew, who told Philip who, told Jesus. The thing here of course is this was happening just as his own people rejected him, and the pharisees were trying to catch him out , here are strangers, from outside his people, outside his faith asking to see him. Big news if you ask me? His message is getting out!
When asked , can they come in, Jesus does as he often does and rather infuriatingly for those of us who want a nice easy to understand text so that can write a sermon, Jesus gives one of his sideways answers and starts speaking about seeds. Not how lovely let them come in , or what? Not today thank you, his answer is about seeds.

The disciples are probably as confused as ever because after they had plucked up the courage to ask whether the gentiles can say hi and then to hear their messiah say he is going to be glorified and then talk about seeds dying. They probably wouldn’t have seen it as him speaking about himself because of course messiahs don’t die?

Whatever this message means it does sound disturbing. But he tells them he is troubled, so they are probably right to worry despite not really getting it. We do not find out if the Greeks ever got in to see him.

In our gospel reading today, writing much after the event, our apostle John gets it because he’s writing his gospel many years later and he explains to the reader that Jesus did this to speak about , the kind of death he was going to die. So, we are all the readers since then are also in on it, and its with that context we are going to have a look at what Jesus means with all that stuff about seeds…

So what did Jesus mean about seeds and whats this got to do with having Greeks at his door?
What metaphor is Jesus illuminating?
Anyone who wants a crop this year is either awfully close to planting or has put their seeds into pots and is probably waiting for some green shoots (I’m probably late again, I wish Fred was here as he would know). Our fields around us in Wickford have been tilled and are ready for the farmer to sow his crop. As average a gardener I am I know when you plant a seed, you bury it in the soil, and wait. The potato we plant shrivels and dies and becomes many potatoes, the tomato seed disappears as soon as the first root pops out and then the plant takes on a new life.

In or story today Jesus was troubled by what was to come but he knew he had to be buried, lost from sight to make new fruit, he was the seed that had to disappear to make new fruit. He had to head through lent, to the period of darkness that is Good Friday to make easter happen.

Why did he have to do this? I think that’s why the Greeks at his door sparked off this train of thought. Because he knew he was here to make disciples of billions of gentiles rather than just the few that had come to see him. To make that happen and open the gates of eternity he had to die. I think the Greeks at the door may have been seen by Jesus in the same way I noticed the tiniest shoot in my greenhouse this week. A tiny shoot, but not enough, nowhere near what he had come to do.

To make more

He had to disappear to reappear, he was the seed that had to die to make new fruit.

But what do we make of this? What lesson is there for us in this story? How do we relate to this story?

I think many of us may understand what it’s like to be buried this year, our homes have become very small boxes. We have tried to find as many legally inventive ways to be free from. We have been entombed like the potato or tomato seed. We have tried to be faithful servants, and many of us have tried new ways to worship him, via zoom or YouTube. How many of us used zoom for the first time as a result of all this nonsense? But we are all his servants and we remained faithful.

Here in this act of death and renewal , is a message of hope for all of us who have had bad times in this last year. For all of us who have felt this was like a time of being buried, of darkness, maybe we can see the green shoots of spring. Our church has seen itself in new ways, worshipped and carried on and been Christians in so many new ways. Its forced us to revaluate the importance of this building, as much as we missed it we have learnt that we can carry on regardless. We can’t unknow that we are more than bricks and mortar. Also, we have found new ways to reach out, and be church, and we have had much time to reflect on those things that we have missed. I bet very few of them are grand things. A cuddle from a loved one, dinner at a nice restaurant, being able to move around and breathe fresh air.

What long term change this year will bring about ,but online church is here to stay, maybe online bible studies and lent courses. Who knows? So, what will we do differently in our communities once we can reach out again? Asking ourselves what can we do with these new tools we have made will be important things maybe on our next parish day or reflection day at pleshey?

Also when I listen to peoples stories from lockdown its amazing how much of a presence and a steadfast pillar of strength God has been for all of us. How much part of this year he has been.
We can’t unknow that, where to turn when the world goes mad.

So, turning back to Jesus metaphor of the seed,

When we put that seed below the soil, think how pleased are we when it pops up again as a new shoot. Both at prospect of lots of lovely tomatoes but also as a sign of spring.

The end of the burial of the seed and a season of plenty is round the corner, as we approach good Friday the thing is we know Jesus knew it was the only way to easter Sunday. He was of course referring to himself knowing his death would bring billions of gentiles to his door for all eternity and he was going to his death for each and every one of them and us. He knew when he burst forth the world would see signs of spring, for the whole of humanity.

But I also think there’s a message for us who have been buried away for a year now. Hopefully when we can all be together again soon and we will meet with the vigour and joy of what was seen as mundane being wonderful, we can share that sign of spring with others. Maybe just maybe spring is round the corner in this life, as we know it is in the next.

So as we endure the last days of lockdown, maybe we can console ourselves that albeit we have been locked away, locked down, hidden away. When we come back and speak up people will have questions. Maybe the only way we could make new fruit is to be buried, and we have been buried, but who knows whats round the corner.

He knew that the Greeks coming to see him were just the beginning, that was why he answered as he did. He knew he was the seed that would bring forth all the fruit in the world, he was the living water to bring that fruit from the darkness of the soil and set it free and into the light.

I think that might be a lesson for us and a cause for optimism. That all the things we have learned in this period will hold us up and embolden us when we step back into a more open life.
When we emerge from darkness maybe we can bring much light into the world, we can share knowing how much we relied on him, how little he relied on this building and how much of the church was in us

What is your score please comment? Have look at some of the comments I hope have gone up? Some of those scores

Those scores should give us that confidence so that we can tell of our experiences with God and have new tales to tell our community about what being a follower of Jesus is like. When our community says where was God in this we can answer from confidence, from experience he was with me every step of the way. We know from our stripped back lives how important he is to life, we can say that with total confidence because think just for a second how much have you relied on him this year. Hopefully borne out by the numbers going up? We know that much more now than we may have done before, just how much he is with us in hard times
Jesus has been with us in our darkness, he will be with us in the light. He was with us in our solitude, he was with us in our community. We can be the seed that was buried, the seed that fell to the ground but grew into new fruit. We can witness to others how much he has been with us, when people ask where’s he been, think of the number you put up, and know that. Tell others about that number, tell them hes been with us all.

So now as we stand at the gateway the threshold of the literal and metaphorical spring we can take these new tools, these new ways of doing things and move forward. Remembering we are Christs body here on earth, we are the ones he expected to him bear new fruit and he is with us. When he said he knew that the only way was to fall into dust to rise up that includes us.

That’s the lesson here today , that with that knowledge of how present he has been we can help show the world that Jesus is the only way into the light forever so that Jesus that was the seed that died , will through rising again and his body here on earth , make new fruit forever.

Amen

The sign of the Manger

When I give directions, I often point out landmarks, when people come to my house, I tell them 10th house down with a Blue Audi outside. When you get down my road, count roughly to ten and look out for a Blue Audi. There’s enough information in that direction to think this is about ten houses and the chances of there being another Blue Audi are slim, especially in the next 3-4- houses and the fact it was given to you as a signpost makes it very likely you have found my house…
The Audi signifies that this is my house.

That was the thing about the manger. A roughly carved stone drinking trough with a Baby inside was unusual enough that when the Angels said they would find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in and there he was, they must have been sure this was the child Angel Gabriel had said to go see.
The other thing about the oddness of it, is that it sorts of proves they hadn’t lost their marbles, or the cold had not given them a funny turn, and an Angel really had directed them this way.

Even more importantly if we have seen an angel and he was right about this strange location for a Baby, and they had found them to prove they hadn’t imagined it. The angels were right about one other thing, and this was the messiah. What with the census going on it might be expected a few mothers and children might run away? But the manger was a signpost, this particular baby, in this location, in a rough drinking trough.

The manger was a sign.
This sign of the manger was given to Shepherds. Shepherds at this time were considered as very lowly people in society. They could not give testimony or be a witness, as they were not considered reliable. In a rigid honour based society, they were among the lowest..
So not only was the sign of the manger one of poverty, but it was given to the poorest and those regarded as the most unreliable.
These low born people were also his first heralds. They were the first ones to go and explain what had happened.

God’s and Messiah’s do not in our worlds view enter into the world like that. Our royalty leaves the king Edward hospital in the west end with the worlds press and world leaders as heralds and the woman looks very smart has her coiffured hair styled perfectly with. Dad in a very expensive suit, both smiling, holding the perfect baby as the cameras flash, and enter into a life of conspicuous privilege to lead a life detached from the day-to-day reality of all of us.
This view of royalty is one of detached, entitled perfection. It’s given to us as an aspirational thing. However, as Christians we recognise it is the precise polar and exact opposite of Jesus. But with that in mind we have to come to terms with the fact this place, this location, this poverty, displacement, and helplessness was a deliberate choice of God .God made that choice.

So we have to ask? this way God?
Why hasn’t Jesus been zapped out of the sky, been heralded by trumpets, prime ministers and princes, had roses thrown at his feet. Why hasn’t he turned up on a Gold chariot, with hangers on, mothers hair coiffured with Joseph in a Saville row suit in front of the worlds eager press .
Why has he not been led into glorious wealth, and led a detached life, while issuing ethical advice from said detachment about how we should all live? Why has god decided this way?

This is not an accident, God is complete, in every facet, in every part of his nature and being, he lacks nothing and is in everything. Omnipresent across space and time, knowing everything. However, not content with reducing himself from a thing with no boundaries in time or space, to an object, a creature with form and shape and limitations “the word” the ultimate, the alpha and omega etc. he joins us as a homeless baby

This is a god that instead of standing back and pointing the finger at everything bad. Joins us in it, born into poverty, on the run, placed in a drinking trough , literally in the mess made by animals, scared, met by and announced by societies outcasts. Totally reliant on parents, who themselves are exposed to danger, a refugee, essentially homeless,
That reason for that choice is the same reason I am a Christian, the reason for all the faiths for me this marks out our faith as unique.
Why Lord why? What should we make of this choice?
Because the only God I could ever worship, is one who met me at my lowest, who knows me at my worst, joins me in my suffering, loves me enough to die for, one who isn’t big ,scary and detached. But a baby who you could pick up and smile at, and who needs the care of a scared mother to survive. Who chose angels , a mum and the lowest of the low to announce him?

That’s the perspective the manger gives us, Christianity does not start with “Jesus saves you from your sins.” It starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This means we cannot reduce Christianity to a method of being saved. It is a way of viewing reality and the narrative of scripture should influence our view of reality, how it was made, what are we, where we fit, what are we to God, what are others, etc. This view of reality in today’s shows us a lot about our lord, who he is ,who he chooses, where he is.

I don’t think he ever left the manger really; I personally feel closest to him among the homeless in southend. We often feel him most strongly when we are lost or alone, or scared or vulnerable. This is because this God knows what that is like to be vulnerable, and reaches out. This is where he is today in our story a helpless babe among the helpless, hapless and unreliable

The other person of course who shared this story is his mother. This is a mother’s story. Scholars think by the way that it was Mary that gave Luke this story. Unusually Mary’s name comes before Josephs in the text, and the fact that her reflection is mentioned in this is Luke making it as clear as he could where he got this story from . This is a mother recalling a night no mother would forget a detail about. “ But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. The other thing that indicates this is Luke making it clear she did these things.

This is a God for 2020 isnt it? When our lives meet the real mess of life. A mother remembering giving birth in a smelly place with animals, and placing your child in the animals trough, on the run, sore, scared, worried, with a fresh burden of a new mouth to feed.

Mary’s prince is probably clearing the dung in the stable, emptying the trough, staying with her despite his young wife having given birth in a very odd way and not really understanding whats happening. His vulnerability is a sign to us , same way the manger is a sign to us, that where we should be, not pointing a finger but with others, helping saving making whole, clearing up the dung. So when we and so many are at our lowest point, I have no doubt that’s where he is, right there with us. Not pointing a finger, but with us, helping ,saving, making whole, loving us.
That’s where our lord put himself. Not by accident, not by mistake, but because that’s where he chose to be. He hasn’t locked himself up on a private island to rule us from the internet. He’s in our pain, in our loss, emptying his completeness into our loss. The angels made sure the shepherds knew him by the very fact of his poverty. The manger marked him out. The mother passed on the story, The outcasts announced him.
Also
The shepherds show us we don’t need to be among the worlds elite to announce him, and that’s such a comfort to me personally. This story helps show that those who may feel themselves or may have been made to feel unworthy can be his heralds, and announce who he is. He doesn’t need the worlds press and the paparazzi, he can have a shepherd, an ordinary mum, or a slightly sweary east end boy.

This story is shared by the angels, the shepherds, Mary when she told luke, and me, and hopefully you.
All quite different beings but all given the same job.
Inthis story we are also shown how we must announce him, where we are to begin when we speak about him.
The manger marks our God out as one who’s selfless love meets us at the lowest point imaginable.
When we speak about him, we must begin at the manger, when the shepherds in our story did as was told in out scripture “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” , they were said to be amazed, almost certainly like us, amazed that God had chosen this way to enter the world. With the lost, placed in a drinking trough, with lowly scared parents, heralded by outcasts.
That gives us all hope , and shows us where to begin when we explain him, not from a lofty perch handing out great advice from above but from the perspective of fellowship of those who may not always feel worthy, but are worthy of being Christ’s heralds. We should be where the worlds at its messiest, and meet it with love, and see the world as inhabited by Gods precious creation worth enough to die foe

When we meet the outcast, the lost, the sad, the refugee, the desperate we have to meet them as if they were precious, parts of Gods creation , worthy of being heralds of Christ, because they are . So wherever you reach out to the lost, dispossessed, helpless angry, and bring peace through love that’s being Christ. Meet them at the manger, from the perspective of the manger, this is a God who met the world from the manger, used it as his sign. Share it from the perspective of the Shepherds,as someone who may be unreliable witness to some but chosen by God to share his good news, or the mother remembering her beloveds first day,
Oh and we share a helpless babe, that shows us that when we are at our wits end, when we are lost, clueless, worried, feeling unloved, scared by the future that’s being helpless is Christlike as well.
We have all had our days in 2020 when it all got on top of us, not known the right thing to do. Grappled with seemingly contradictory demands and tried to work out the least worst option. Felt pretty hopeless doing so, 2020 has reduced all of us to the vulnerability of a baby in a manger. Been made feel less than worthy.

Christ shows us its Ok to be vulnerable, to not be able to do everything. To not know whats going on, to just ad-lib our way through strange days. That’s the sign of the way he chose to enter, today he needs his mum, wants simply to be warm, and loved. He is vulnerable, helpless, reliant on selfless love . This is what our lord chose to be like on the day of his birth, reliant on love helped by people who don’t really know whats happening. Not even Christ can sort it out today, not until the time is right.

That’s the sign of the manger as well. Our lord the servant king, who came to love us enough to die , who today needs to be served by Mary and Joseph and has the both the angels and the low born of society as the messengers of his good news .

The only God that fits 2020, and every year
Amen

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.

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

Are you feeling useful today?

Are you feeling useful today?

Have you done the washing, the ironing, mowed the lawn? Do you feel like you are contributing? What does your internal dialogue about how you value yourself, what does IT say about you? That voice we all have that “judges” what we say and do and what we think we are?

Does your value depend on what you do?  In France when redundancies occur for any reason they suffer the highest rates of suicide in any developed nation?  What they “do” and what they “are” it seems have become so inseparable from their own self-worth that divorce from your job becomes unbearable.

When I see Kim Kardashian and the media inspired celebrities do something more and more desperate to become the cause celebre of the moment, I wonder what it is that makes them need that, and how and why the fleeting light of peoples ever shrinking attention spans matters so much?

Those are extreme examples but sometimes through parenthood, financial constraints, physical constraints we cannot perform the duties we feel make us “useful”, or the perceived lack of other things that that we use to measure our own worth. Mobility, disablement, isolation, separation, weakness (internal or external), money, skill of some sort that we lack or used to have perhaps?

However these value systems we hold and create and need so badly it seems has very little to do with how God see’s us.  Using this value system the bird’s song that he created is only useful for warning or attracting a mate? A peacocks plumage the same?  Churches with LARGE congregations are successful and those with smaller ones less so.  People who have more of X or Y have or are worth more.

However I think God shows us through scripture repeatedly that his value system is totally at odds with this utilitarian view of the world. His love is not as a result of our usefulness.
We so earnestly try as Christians not to judge others and we can be so harsh on ourselves.

Does God see the single earnest prayer offered up as less than a row full of pews perhaps wondering where tonight’s dinner will be? Even if that entire church is full of people in earnest prayer are they valued less than the single one from a less full church?

If we toil away in his duty, or for others, without success but with our hearts fixed on him? Is this of more or less value?

If we at home cannot contribute anything more than earnest prayer, or love for our children, or advice from wise caring heart? What value do you attach?

But it’s even more than that, lots more.

If nobody comes to hear this advice and all the wisdom we have never gets heard except by our father in prayer and nobody but he can see the goodness he has created? If as in the Beatles song Father Mckenzie is writing a sermon that nobody hears.

If our love is taken for granted, as we wash for others, iron, pray, feed.
Does God see our hearts as lesser?

I think it’s even more than that even if we are unwise, our faith weak, our prayer faltering, he knows our heart and knows that how he made us THAT is our best effort.

When a child brings you a picture so BAD (in utilitarian terms) that everything in it has to be explained by the child, our heart leaps because it’s our child and he thought to bring it to us.  I think that is how God see’s even the worst prayer or thought of him.

In St Andrews at the end of each service the kids bring the pictures they have made during the service up to the front. Generally they are on a theme of the season or Star wars or whatever is occupying our thoughts.  We don’t value those pictures any less or more if they are brilliant or bad. All of them are seen as equal and for most it’s one of the best bits of the service.

Children’s prayers are often simple, and nearly ways from the heart, about home, about love about Sylvester the cat and when included in prayers of intercession always contain some truth that we as adults in our quest to go deeper than the shared love between us and our pet misses. A child see’s that of enough value as to be the thing he brings to the front of the church to show the whole world.

God’s love see’s our grown up prayers, and the child’s prayer for thanks for my home, or for my cat as equal and from the same fallible source. Indeed we are asked to come before him like children and there’s something in that.

Also you don’t play a game or colour a picture with a child to show your superiority. God is like that too he made us infinitely simple creatures (compared to him) and enjoys our company. Takes intense interest in every detail of us, as Jesus says “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered”

In the same way “play” when seen as time taken away from useful time, and the arts are all prone to attack from those who see them as commodities.  We at times see ourselves in the same way; we attach a value system that is of the “world” to ourselves.

Jesus said to the Pharisee’s once “”You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.”

Psalm 139 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” That is how well he knows you.  Yet still he loves you.
Someone once asked a prison chaplain “What is the point of loving bad people if loving doesn’t make them change”? God’s answer to that is plain, I think the answer is God loved HIS bad people so much he gave his son to save us from ourselves. As another psalm says “God’s love never fails”.  He Jesus said that he gave us “the way the truth and the life” so that we can come close to him. Jesus gave his very own life for the same reason.

In that case how much of a dichotomy is it that we use a different measuring stick with which to beat ourselves with, when we consider ourselves less than useful, less than worthy,  use the values of a world that sees everything in utilitarian terms to judge ourselves.

God shows us again and again, in his every act that is not how he sees us; his values are NOT attached to what a world that drifts ever further away from him and even we in our sometimes weaker moments perceive as “without use” lesser, weak or unworthy.

In those terms, the world’s terms God made useless beings, and we can do no more for him than a one year old being asked to make dinner.  Yet we as Christians know,  and are told that he loved us so much he gave us his only begotten son, gave us the holy spirit so that we can share those awful childlike drawings of our prayer.

The difference is unlike us who have to “ask” our children sometimes what the drawing is, God knows our hearts and never has to be shown.

So next time you don’t feel of value, of use, if your wisdom is locked away, if you want so much to give but for whatever reason can’t and feel unworthy for that. Remember God’s infinite love and the things he values us for, and ultimately YOUR value in every way that truly matters is neither attached, related or dependant on anything like that.

Its really simple God wants you to offer up whatever you can to him, and he loves you SO much. No matter how broken, no matter how imperfect or how unworthy YOU think you are you are Gods children and he loves that you gave him your imperfect drawing.

When god wants you to do the preposterous.

Don’t know about you but when recurring “themes” occur from random people I tend to take notice and include said theme in prayer?  Also Quite often for me these things happen shortly after prayer. People who are unconnected in any way start a conversation, books you read; scripture all keep saying the same thing.

I became aware of the theme  this weekend for me with Jo speaking about stories and hidden treasure. Jo told the story of a man who went on a great journey looking for his life’s treasure to almost find it where he was looking and then realised it was always at home and under his bed.

This week I randomly picked up the book god of surprises, and the chapter I read was to the effect.


“We pay so little attention to our inner life. However they are key to our behaviour, they Buck and swerve and duck.

We are like riders on the horses of these impulses and all we do is try and keep in the saddle

We never try and befriend the horse and attack the end results of suppressing these impulses with medicine, stress and look down on those that try as unscientific

Why do we ignore it?

Simply because we cannot measure quantitatively it control it.

So these brutalised emotions over time take hideous revenge.

Prayer opens the door and allows God to work with us as he created us.

He allows us to work with our inner selves and discover the “hidden treasure” we all possess and try so hard to suppress.”

The chapter (and the book) is all about locating, understanding, making friends with and reacting sympathetically to our “hidden treasure” as we are made by god and he put it there and meant it to be listened too. He wants to use it for his purpose.
Then a friend on Facebook said randomly “I feel urged to tell you to pray to ask for discernment”

Then I went to see my spiritual director who  started up the subject and we spent the afternoon working on the subject of how to discern gods will? He thought I had good discernment (as I had by then prayed). I realise I was being a little less than brave that day as I suggested all the other things apart from the one thing I kept being urged to do?

Then I read the first line of “faith in the fool” a book I continue to learn from “There is more to life than being useful is its recurring theme. Of no earthly use and of infinite value. It talks about Holy Fools and clowns who do foolish things.

One of the best lines is “One of my favourite holy fools  is the woman of doubtful reputation who interrupted a dinner party and poured a whole jar of expensive perfume over Jesus head (Mark 14 1-9). Some saw this as a foolish act of useless extravagance, a waste of a marketable commodity.

For me all of these things are saying, sometimes we in prayer feel urged to do what seems preposterous, and foolish, beyond us or useless. Others may make us feel like all those things but Jesus see’s the value as he was the ultimate Holy Fool of course.

Myself I had been resisting an idea that seemed preposterous for a long while, others like Matty spoke directly into that very thing today “ I would like to hear you preach” , my Christian friends all have recently. Spoken into that thing I parked as silly, and preposterous for someone who came to the church so late and wasn’t worthy?

Then Jo said in that same talk “what makes you so “£$% special that you cant be forgiven.”

And Matthew was quoted at me (13:44-5) where a treasure is hidden in a field.  I realise I found this treasure when I came back to Jesus, I knew it then but I considered it a silly idea at the time.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

So I found it , hid it and I think maybe today I realise I have to go buy that field.

Also this week I wrote on Facebook

“You know some days I just want to spend my time sitting and being with him in his house.

All I want to do today is pray.

Make you wonder what does he want me to hear?

 

Other lines where used at me this week  “ he chose fisherman not princes to be his ambassadors”

And “I am not in control but I am deeply loved by one who is”

Overall though I realised that the only time I feel contentment is when I picture myself trying to bring to people the thing I described so well also this week in a conversation. The lead up is important but the ending is my heart’s desire…

Have you felt braver since you found god?

I dont fear death?
I dont worry about my future?
I dont worry if people get angry or react when I speak about Jesus?
I walk into things not worrying if I will get hurt as I know I have his protection and my time is allotted by his grace.
I feel more love towards my fellow man and that calms the waters
I feel his grace every day and that solves, cures, calms, opens, closes, heals and protects whatever he chooses.

All him.

He untangles lives, cures the pain within, offers hope, forgiveness, accepts and loves every single part of you, he doesnt want saints and used fishermen, taxmen, people who hated him and everything he stood for to be his ambassadors.

He knew before I started this journey. I know the  world needs him SO much and when I was just started as a Christian and somebody asked me what do you want I replied “I want others to feel like this”

Then this week I was remnded of how far I had come “Matty’s evensong sermon last week was in the church I was baptised and confirmed and it spoke into my journey so far, how existentialist philosophy took me away, and then it talked about athe trinity as a  single relationship that was now for me so strong and real and active.


So it’s me isn’t it, the blocker, the person that argued with him for 20 years, who see’s himself as unworthy and something preposterous to think and keeps choosing targets that seem more normal, more attainable.

But Ive seen that a collar does open conversations does make people want to speak with you. My first talk to mens breakfast was “Being Visible” and that uniform does indeed do that.
So in the last week I have applied for lay reader and to the church army.
So Mike Tricker – Lay Preacher? Preposterous isn’t it?

Cockney loud, like a beer, like west ham, ribald humour, a man that argued with Jesus and listened to Sartre for so long before I realised Sartre was wrong and Jesus was right.
Also the man that had to Google lent two and a half years ago.  Sometimes short tempered , and not always great at listening.

Lay Preacher, just simply preposterous.  But no less mad than Saul, no more ribald than say a rough fisherman’s humour?

So it isn’t.  I can talk well, I present for a living,  My latest CCS was on the subject of how much of Saul God used in Paul, see when you look God used a LOT of Saul, his passion, his position in life, the pharasee’s zeal for clarity in matters of faith.

So apart from my faith what could god want to use?

I write well and when I am passionate about something I can take people with me on a journey and drop them off where I want.

I do it all the time in sales; people follow me when I speak.  When I believe in a subject I can take you with me when I talk.

That was also I thing I randomly said to Arthur this week.

Where I want to “drop them off” is now right at Jesus feet, at the Calvary bus stop , and let him untangle, forgive, love and renew.

Pray for me?

Footnote I came off this page and the next thing I saw… Oswald Chambers.

We too can be lifted by Him into heavenly places through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so that He can reveal the teachings of God to us.

The Pics I posted in this piece – ones I posted today
It seems, I think I may have finally listened correctly

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Talk – Be Visible.

I often write on social media about various musings on God, his word and how he affects those that live in him and he in us. But this was my first time in front of a real audience and my parish and those that I love and worship with every week.

First OFF
Anyone who hears this please remember, This is just MY thoughts, and “a” way of expressing things” not the way, every one is just as valid

You are the first bible people meet.
I joined our Parish two years ago or so now without any idea about who or what the church was and is. It was quite hard for me, I had zero church background and knew nobody from the church (or didn’t know I knew anyone from the church).  I had a relationship with Jesus forged from years before when I was very lonely in a flat down in Bournemouth.

Born into a very noisy active family down in forest gate in among the bad boys I got given the chance to move to Bournemouth through work. I decided this was my chance to get out. Change my perspective Change my life.
Thing is being young and silly I bought a flat in Bere Regis right out the back, with nobody around. Beautiful, isolated, and for a city boy from a 24/7 family a very lonely place. I had zero social life and albeit some very good friends came with me I was at the end of each day, alone.
One day in my bedroom I was so lonely I picked up a Gideon’s bible I was given at school and said “Jesus I really need you, if you’re real please help me”

My room at that point was filled with him, his love and it was SO real I could touch it. From that day to as I stand here now I have had an active relationship with Jesus.

He is right HERE (at that point I pointed to my heart)

The years passed and I never went to a church because I never felt like I needed too.  Then after drifting away for a long time I came back, and this time I really did want to join, but again just never knew HOW to join, what the culture was like, what the people would be like, are they the harsh judgmental souls represented by the American church?
Are they leaping round like the charismatic, are they very serious, are they, are they and so on.
Is it boring?
All sorts of excuses, plus how do you choose?
All religions are the same?
What are you good people Like?
I never knew
Then one day (he asked me to say I was Guided by the lord) I met a very outspoken (in everything actually) Christian called Hugh Southon, and we met through mutual love of all things west ham, I am a bit of a west ham anorak, and quite a good blogger and very good on social media, growing a west ham page to about 5000, but it was the non west ham chat that changed my life.
I was telling him that all religions are the same. I was in the position at that time of having spent 30 years arguing with a Jesus I was either trying to prove existed or didn’t, I spent all my time in philosophy and alternate religions seeking him so I could deny him

I’ve tested you out and really I don’t know.

Hugh and his friend Caroline were arguing that Christianity was “the” religion, because Jesus was alive”.  I said it’s the same as all religions.

Caroline quoted John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life and nobody comes to the father except through me”.

She said that if that was not true, then Jesus was a liar.

This ultimatum rather stopped me in my tracks, forced me to make a choice, and forced me to find a way in through the church door, through all the stereotypes, baggage, and cynicism of a world that really is increasingly distant.

I sent a LONG email to Jane and here I am.

But it was very clear the final catalyst was because someone in a public place nailed their colours to the mast and said “I am Christian, this is what I think as a Christian”

As I grew into the body of the church I found the problems we are all aware of.An aging congregation was a problem for the church as was a shrinking one.

That’s really sad because once very soon after I joined while getting my ear healed through prayer (story for another day) I was asked “what do you want”  A very deep truth spilled out of me when I said

“I want others to feel like this”

and I do, Very  badly.

Why because I meet homeless people who so need to forgive or his forgiveness, I meet anger and greed and they so need his love.
The world needs his love, the refugee’s and the disenfranchised all need Christian love.

Assad, Isis, David Cameron, Donald Trump, All the big corporates like Amazon, banks, all need it, all the big countries, all need his love and to follow his example. All of the people, in all of those things.
They all need him.

The world Need’s him

However we can be a bit silent, a bit invisible.
The question is WHY?
•    The ever more secular growth makes us feel unusual.
•    The angry atheist, makes us feel vulnerable
•    The people that think Christians are homophobes, or judgmental make us feel   vulnerable.
•    The news where companies that sack people for wearing a cross, that persecute the church and those that speak out.

The problem is, that in a world ever more moving away from us, a world very much LESS exposed to the bible than people have been for centuries, as someone said the other day.

You are the first bible people meet.

All of you,all of us.

We have to fill that gap, and that means being in plain sight?

We have to speak out.

But with our voice an ever shrinking demographic we must speak and go to meet a world moving away from us.

There are ways to do this, when you’re at work and someone asks “where are you going”, Say “off to Christian studies”.

When in a few weeks’ time someone says “what are you doing over
Easter “ Say I am a Christian and that means Holy Week, so very busy in my church”

In the pub, wear a lapel badge, state who you are, be more visible, be where Christian voices don’t normally go.

On social media chat pages, in work, at football, wherever you go.
Maybe pin a line of proverbs up at your desk (good news bible versions of this are good, the use of normal English makes them easier to use)

“The Lord has given us eye’s to see with and Ears to listen with”

Or

“The Customer always complains the price is too high, but then goes off and brags about the bargain he got” (both in Proverbs 20)

Be the first bible people meet.
So that they know a Christian, and respect that example and can ask you for a way into a culture ever more distant from us, ever more needing us, but like me a long time ago, arguing with him, labeling him,

It’s not enough that we think that being a “good person” is enough of an example because, if they don’t know who you are?

It should also be that they know you’re behaving in a certain way to glorify and follow Jesus.

If you are doing these things I apologise, but really its beholden on all of us to find a little of our inner Jehovah’s witness 

Evangelism can be as a result of direct action, as a result of being a special human being.

But to make a real impact to change the tide?

We have lost a little bit through fear of being exposed or ridiculed or by not being a natural extrovert like me it’s just stating it, in conversation, at work, in the pub, at the football, on social media.

I think also we have a thing that makes us not want to “show off”.
I struggle with this too, because we are told not to show off our good works, because we are supposed to be servants, and not raise our profile.

But we must spread the good news, and by being simply “visible” we can enable others to ask, to come in, to see what we are like and what we can offer, what living with Jesus does to us, and what living with Jesus can offer the world, as a voice.

We can explode myths, and open up, and destroy parodies, and stereotypes.

We can be the first bible people meet, and speak openly about it, with love for and too everyone and make ourselves the sign on the church door, and be gods mouth and heart.

The end result of by doing so is to open the door before they come to the door.

Make the world want share in his real loving care

My experience of this, is that at first when you speak into a place where his voice is less often heard you meet anger, and angry atheists.

“He” doesn’t want you there.

However after a while you find other voices, curious, accepting, loving, and helpful.

But we do live a little in fear of being the first voice, Christianity teaches you last first, don’t pray in the open etc. etc.  We think faith without deeds is nothing and all those things are true.

But in simple terms how in today’s world where I once was, HOW would we the body of the church find ME three years ago?

I didn’t know a single Christian, or so I thought, I found them after, and the first openly Christian voice I met brought me home.

I don’t think I am alone or special in a secular world.

The question is how can we move that voice back into relevance and fill our pews again?

Only by moving our voice into plain view everywhere.

Not only in events, or on our good deeds, but in casual, but fearless conversation with our fellow man.

What we do now in some respects is like “quality time” that idea that when we spend less time with people and our kids that we can achieve just as much because we are focussed.

But truth be told we can’t and our families and friends and kids blurt things out over dinner, over the coffee machine, a pint, before the first goal whenever.

Because that’s when it hits them?

As peter said

1 Peter 3:15
“always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

If we can be visible and open we can be around when it does.

Then because we can open the bible, simply by our words given by grace, clinging to the foot of the cross and open to him.

We can be the first bible people meet.
As they may not meet another.

Be visible.