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

Easter – The birth of the good news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because Christ is risen
He is risen indeed 😊

Alleluia

Good Friday – the day it all went wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While others hide.

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

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

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

Made them pariahs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready for Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does all that relate to today’s reading?

There are some similarities.
Jesus is telling us today

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

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

Ours is a calling while we wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

is are we ready?

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

Amen

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 

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.

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.