The best way to explain the holy spirit?

Is it to experience it?

Ask yourselves these questions

1/ Has anyone felt guided?

2/ Has anyone felt enabled by the holy spirit

3/ Has anyone had something happen just at the right time and thought – I know who did that

4/ Does anyone have any story they would like to share about how the Hs has worked in their lives?

Have a little think about these please – I’ll have a couple as well??

Today I wanted to talk about the experience of the holy spirit, how we experience it.  Next week is Trinity Sunday, where pastors all over the world will try and explain a mystery.  A dynamic relationship.  Luckily today I am only doing that with one part of the trinity and that is the gift we were given in Pentecost.

Albeit I think explaining a mystery a bit of a zero-sum game.  How do you try and logically explain something that defies logic, and every metaphor comes up short. Possibly another way is to talk about how we experience it? What do the limitations of our senses and intellect make of how we experience it

I think the best way to know the holy spirit is to look at the results of its actions.  The church is well versed in that as you would expect.  It uses its ability to spot the spirit in action to direct people to their calling.  Oh Mick sits in Costa, wanting to talk about Jesus, that makes him an evangelist and a spin off of that desire is the desire to preach.  Both of them are desire to tell people about him.

Also, we give names to the things  stuff we do, naturally  

I found out that my constant chatter with Jesus and bringing him to mundane stuff and being aware of him was like very  Benedictine practice. 


This evidence is used by the church a lot, to find out what God is wanting you to do and what you will fit naturally into. No good calling a guy called to the fringes, into a church for his main duties.  The spirit is persistent, and fighting it chafes until we follow.

I tried to listen and the church showed me ways I could find an outlet for this calling.

In our prayer of Jesus last week, Jesus quite clearly says that us disciples were chosen by God and given to Jesus.   Chosen and Given, how do those that have been chosen know how to act, what our calling is ? Well, here we all are today for one. Evidence of the agent of the holy spirit, directing people given to Jesus to follow him.


Then you find stuff out like this. A study that happens every few years and takes in a large number of people showed this

  • There’s been a 40% increase in an awareness of God,
  • A 90% increase in people attributing things to God
  • An 80% increase in the awareness of a sacred presence. (These stats are from a large study done by the CofE).

you would expect these numbers to come from people of the church or some faith or another?

You would be wrong, they come from unchurched people of no faith, or even atheists.

So Gods chattering away through the holy spirit to all sorts its seems!

So the holy spirit is not just for the saved, its talking to everyone.  However, the world lacks a name for it, even a direction of where to find out, just as I did before I came in through that door

As Christians, Scripture and our readings today give us a name for what the world calls  “an awareness of a sacred presence”.

The holy spirit –  we have seen its evidence and influence


The holy spirit

We seek it through prayer, we hopefully find it in here.

Without doing Trinity Sunday before next Sunday, the agent in the trinity.

Its hard to overestimate the importance the holy spirt in scripture its everywhere, 18 times in 8 chapter in romans alone!



It’s referred to in the bible as a he, in scripture its always referred to in male terms, make of that what you will,  it’s never seen as lesser, it is seen as  a deity a god, so an equal partner. Not less than the father and the Son, in fact in some ways more.


More fully personal integrated into us, more aware of itself and the person, an agent of Christ that enables and gives gifts,

Like us the holy spirit has its own gifts, and it gives gifts

In our stories today, it acted as a global translator, In other stories of the bible It gives gifts of teaching, prophecy, faith, strength, being able to tell true and false spirits, healing, of doing powerful works (see a bloke who got unclassified in maths passing a theology diploma for details)

It’s the thing that binds us into a church, Christ being in us happens through the spirit.

And as our study showed it’s chattering away with all of humanity, and not just us in here today.

However, We know who’s chattering, we know to listen, and we try and listen, we are hopefully more aware?

here’s the ask for todays sermon, here’s the thing. Maybe having had a few thoughts on it, seen how powerful and important and unique the holy spirit is, equal partners, with and in dynamic relationship with God and Jesus,
here’s the ask

We can also , maybe we could and perhaps should try and get better at being with and aware of the holy spirit.

With all that it can do? Who wouldn’t want the gifts it can bestow?

How? Can we tell that?
well it can just happen , in our lives, in ways we don’t expect of course, like it does in the rest of the world, where God works through the spirit. Before we name it in hindsight


But to get better at it, how can we do that?

Its really simple, how we get better at it…

How we practically increase our awareness, our ability to react to its proddings

We can pray for it
We can ask it into our quiet moments.

Because

What we ask for in prayer if it happens , happens through the holy spirit

Remember it doesn’t have to be a posh prayer, or a formal one, lord knows I prayed to Jesus enough times in a sort of hello mate sort of way, in my normal speech for a long time. You can too. It works… Maybe not in the way we expect, like wind and tongues of flame in our stories today, it has a will of its own.

But with all the gifts it can bestow, I think we should learn to call and listen to the holy spirit.

Give it a go… the spirit

The agent in the trinity.

Amen

Faith and hope during advent

Romans 8  1-4 14 to finish

Three sayings on faith and hope.

Christ is both the object hoped for and the hope inspired by it, said Moltmann.   

The faith we have takes its stand on hope and hastens beyond this world, said Calvin.

 “Faith is about what is beyond the horizon of the humanly possible. Faith is exploring what people could never achieve by themselves. Faith is the mysterious need in us to get to where we could surely never go. Faith, in fact, is about what we call God. Faith is the inkling that we are meant to be divine, that our journey will go beyond any horizon at all into the limitlessness of the Godhead. Said mccabe

These ideas are all based on our reading today. They are more easily summed up by saying Christian’s  are people of hope.  We have been chosen since before we were born to know this hope, and we were led by the spirit to bring it into our daily lives such that we are here today.

  Our faith knows as McCabe said that we are destined beyond the horizon, like the sun,  just before it comes into sight, lights up the sky from something that is hidden from us for a short while just before it comes into view.

Knowing these things should, as Paul says , mean that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.   

This does  not mean suffering is meaningless nor without value to god and we know  this because of what’s about to happen in advent.


Jesus  is coming to join us,  as a vulnerable child born into poverty destined to suffer. So  while his promise puts everything into perspective, we should see the, way he chose and chooses  to join us in our suffering to prove that he isn’t asking for anything he isn’t willing to endure or doesn’t care about, Both then and now  the Christ then and the Christ in us suffers with us present tense.

The fact that Jesus came and lived In Galilee are facts  indisputable such that even atheists would not argue with them,   we know however this is based on the narrow lens of science. 

However, Christians have a wider lens, and our facts are based on more than the things we can prod or measure with a ruler.

Our facts reflect the true nature of the human condition and true nature of reality.  Our facts also  rely on the knowledge the holy spirit imbues us with that lets us know the dawn is just below the mountaintops.  

This is why Jesus  calls himself the way, the truth, and the life. 

He shows us the way , we live the life  , because we know the truth 

Our faith  our hope is built on the implications of these facts , and goes forward  always in hope , on its promise.   

The promise of being made whole and  liberated from bondage and  decay by being brought into the freedom and glory  of wholeness by being the children of God. People who call god father and friend 

This is why ours is a joyous faith, not one obsessed by misery or one endured in sackcloth and ashes, but one that lives in joyous celebration of the journey our faith has set us upon.   

The perspective that gives to our lives. 

This is the joy our lord asks us to share with others and is something we can do much more easily at Christmas a time when gifts of all types are shared.

The greatest gift of all we share  is hope, because we are children of hope, and we bring all this world’s suffering into perspective for us and for those around us.   

As we come into a season where the light of the world is joining us, our job is to share that light and the hope it brings.

Amen 

The How, When, Where and Why of prayer

Luke 11- 1-13

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Good Friday – the day it all went wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While others hide.

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

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

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

Made them pariahs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dont give anything UP for lent – Jesus wants your time.

.

  • Chocolate
  • Social Networking
  • Alcohol
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • School
  • Meat
  • Sweets
  • Coffee
  • Fizzy drinks


Other things include gossip, deserts and sweets, snacking, and binge watching Netflix

That’s quite a list, thankfully being as I have never succeeded the whole 40 days of any of them
I’m not sure any of those get to what our stories today or lent is all about.


In our story today, Jesus is baptized twice, once by John and then Baptized by God and the spirit. He is led away into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. This is where our self-denial comes from in Lent, replicating jesus suffering in the desert.  I think, however,  if we aren’t careful we can reduce lent to the denial of chocolate, or a swear box, or beer, (all of which I have done badly at various lents) .

Other places where 40 days is mentioned is where God actually feeds Elijah to make him strong for the journey, so if we used that 40 days we would all be stuffing ourselves with Cake (which is what the angel made Elijah to eat).  The other more common 40 days is from Moses 40 days and 40 nights on mount Sinai, where God gave him the ten commandments and made the third covenant. 

a covenant is defined as something that changes an existing relationship.   We formalize our relationship with Christ in the sacrament of Baptism.

Maybe that’s the bit of the story that we should be focussing on, the baptism, the covenant,the change in relationship

I think that is what lent is about, not a state of denial, a marathon of restrictions, it’s about seeking the renewal change of relationship  a renewal of the covenant of baptism.

That’s whats more happening here, because of course Jesus changes our relationship with God, whatever atonement theory you adhere too, the end result is that we are closer to God as a result of God coming to earth and taking on all our sins.


The 40-day journey we are on in lent is towards Jesus resurrection where he changed the relationship between us and God.     As peter puts it Jesus enables us to “21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “  As a result of Jesus death and resurrection we can repent (which simply means change direction) come before God with a clean conscience.  Knowing we are forgiven.

That’s what we are journeying too, it’s that journey we are on in Lent.  That’s what Jesus is asking us to do , change direction as a result of the changed relationship we have with God,

Our lent course this year is working with the psalms and so its very apposite that our psalm today tells us so well how to pursue this renewal of this changed relationship.  I would really ask that you all read psalm 25 as we begin Lent because it’s a handbook of how to do lent.  It’s a list of things to Ponder, it’s the perfect list of things to ask  for as we stand on the first day of Lent.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.


 if we asked that every day of lent we would be closer to what lent is all about

 and if the things that our lord teaches you causes you to ask  how we hould react to those teachings then our psalm helps us

If you want to think about how we should react to this new covenant, then our psalm helps us to know who to ask and be assured of the right answer. How to come before the Lord when we ask

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

And

For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who are they that fear the Lord?
    He will teach them the way that they should choose.

So our Psalm today helps us on the journey with the right questions, the right place to start, the correct demeanour and what to expect as a result.  That we will be taught the way we should choose.  That’s the essence of Lent, that’s what this is all about, to take our eyes off all the madness going on and put our eyes on him and ask him whatever we need to know to better react to the covenant he made, the changed  relationship with God. To ask , whats next, what should I do now you have done this Lord?

Our relationship with God has changed in so many fundamental ways as a result of Gods deliberate and decisive action, we have to reflect on what that means, that’s what Lents about. As we work through the journey towards his passion and do services to mark the big events, ask the questions we are given in today’s psalm.

But do so knowing you do so Free of the corrosive impact of shame, free of the burden of Sin, free of the chains of mortality, free to come before God, Free to love, and given love freely.

The aim of my Sermon today was to spend a few minutes  thinking about what lents about and then find out how we might do lent and maybe encourage you to do so.

 However remembering at all times the most powerful thing you can do is to pray. Our weakest prayer comes before the greatest force of all time, so maybe that’s how we should start lent.

so Let us pray

Loving God
Awaken in us a yearning to know you better
A  yearning to grow in faith
And a longing to serve you more faithfully
show us our need and the way that you alone can meet it.
Through Jesus Christ our lord
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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent Reflection on Sin

This piece was as a result of an experience I had during lent, and the things I learned from it. I felt really quite bad, and then started praying and reading.

When god came into our lives and we gave our hearts into his hands and returned to him his creation. We came home, we came back from the world. Like the prodigal sons that we all are, when we return God’s love enfolds us and we move on.

We aren’t told what happens to the prodigal son after he came home. I think we assume he never left God’s love again and lived in harmony with the father.

Hopefully he did.

But for some old habits and bad ways come back to haunt us, in weak moments, in rash moments, through all the ways we let the devil lead us astray. All the ways we leave the door open for him to take us away from Jesus desires for us.

We feel ashamed, we pray for forgiveness. Myself I wonder how long before I can feel myself to be back from the distance sin creates, that we create by our sin.

However that sadness and guilt we feel, if it has any positives is us learning by bitter experience what sin does to us. Each time we come back and beg him to repair the damage we need to remember.

We have given ourselves to him and we are chosen. While our bad habits might come back, and we should try every day, every minute never to sin again. To pray for support, and to be made inside the way that he wants us.

Repentance with humility is just one way God works through the chaos of our lives and our weakness.

As he says in Psalm 51

My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

He uses our reliance on his grace and our repeated failures to repair us in his image.
So right now, put on the full Armour of God and try your very best, and always repent with a broken and contrite heart.

Remember , whenever and wherever you wander, god is waiting for you to turn back to him in love and utter dependence on his grace. That realization of that dependence is a critical lesson that our lives simply cannot function without his grace and we rely totally on it for any hope of salvation. Our only solace is that he will use that repentance and through his mercy will bring you closer to him once more.