Sunday, 28 October 2012

Thoughts for the last Sunday after Trinity

I've just got back from a period of annual leave. One of the things I did on that leave was attend my nephew's first birthday party. This was fabulous, involving substantial amounts of cake and a marathon session of pass-the-parcel. And, of course, presents. Lots of presents.

Giving presents is deeply human. We give presents in recognition of special events, birthdays and anniversaries. We give gifts as a way of saying 'thank you'. We give presents to say sorry - think of the bunch of flowers sheepishly bought the day after the forgotten wedding anniversary. We give presents to say "I need you", "I love you", or "I miss you". In all these circumstances, the gift is a way of showing our concern for another person, our regard for them. We give gifts as a sign of giving ourselves.

Just as human beings give one another presents, so throughout history people have given gifts to God (or to the gods). These gifts are what we call sacrifices, and they have been given for much the same reasons that we give presents to each other: in celebration of festivals, in thanksgiving, in atonement for wrongdoing, in prayer for a special need, and so on. Day by day, year by year, in most human societies sacrifices have been offered. And, as human societies evolved, a class of people emerged whose job it was to do this - the priests. The People of God we read about in the Old Testament were no exception to this: God called priests to offer sacrifice. In time, the Temple at Jerusalem became the place where this happened.

This was all a thoroughly good thing. It is good to want to worship God, to recognise our dependence on him, our need to give thanks and the reality of sins for which we need to atone. Sacrifice is a human move to act in recognition of these things, and to the extent that human beings lack the desire to sacrifice, they lack something importantly human. In actual fact, I doubt that even in our secularising society there are many people who lack the desire to sacrifice - it is just that they many offer themselves up to things like the market, their career, their immediate pleasure, the nation or the State, a phenomenon for which the biblical word is 'idolatory'.

But for all that it is genuinely good, there is a problem with sacrifice. You see, when I offer a gift to another human being I do so - if my gift is genuine - within a context of fundamental equality. The other person can reciprocate my gift, and I theirs. The exchange of gifts takes place as part of an ongoing relationship within a shared world. I am the same sort of thing as the person who gives me a gift, and I can respond in kind.

Sacrifice is a different matter. There is an absolute absence of natural equality between human beings and God, and there is no natural possibility that we live in a shared world together. God is beyond us, and beyond our comprehension. No matter how many sacrifices I offer, I will never establish the kind of relationship with God that I celebrate in more everyday human gift-givings. My sacrifices will always fall short of God. More than that, they will always somehow miss the point. They will certainly never be enough: So even though, as today's reading from the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, the high priests offered sacrifices daily, their constant gifts were never enough.

But that reading tells us something else: we have a new high priest, Jesus. And he offers a sacrifice to God that is acceptable. He offers himself, his entire life was one of self-offering to the Father, a self offering that continues now he is ascended into Heaven, "he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever."

The difference with Jesus is that he can offer to God on an equal basis. In Jesus, the Son of the Father, who eternally offers praise to the Father, takes a human life, and in human form offers himself to God as an equal. He can do this because he is equal with the Father. He is, as we say in the Creed, "God from God.. of one being with the Father".

Jesus' sacrifice offers to the Father what we could never offer by nature. Through him, to whom we are united in our baptism, we can offer praise and thanksgiving, we can ask with confidence for our sins to be forgiven, and we can bring our concerns in prayer. Above all we do this at Mass, at the Eucharist. Every Mass is a true sacrifice. Not a different sacrifice from the sacrifice Jesus offered once and for all, but the same sacrifice made present for us. At Mass Jesus comes to us, present in the Blessed Sacrament, and because Jesus' whole existence is a self-offering to the Father, he offers himself with us, through us, and for us. We come with our daily concerns, our hopes, our fears, and our needs, and we offer them to the Father. Here we find fulfilled that natural human desire to offer sacrifice adequately. In a famous passage, the great Anglican Benedictine Dom Gregory Dix, meditates on Jesus' command 'Do this in remembrance of me":

Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A late but very enjoyable harvest at the Hyde primary school

An amazing quantity of gifts have been brought into school this morning. Some will go to elders in the neighbouring streets in the parish and the bulk will go to Homes Action in Barnet. All will be sent with live and gratitude to God who makes this all possible.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Consultation of new Logo for St Marys and St Johns through school

In the summer the local authority gave their approval for St Mary's and St John's primary school to become an all through school for pupils from the age of 4 -18.
This is a very exciting project, SMSJ will the only all through school in the borough, and there is a tremendous amount of work to be done between now and the opening of our new doors to year 7 pupils for the first time in 2014. 

One of the first things we need to get agreed is the new logo for the school for marketing purposes. To this end there are three designs for the new school that have been commissioned and by Monday 22nd we need to agree to one of them!

You can view them on the schools website:

you can vote for your choice by following this link

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Congratulations on Baptism of Kayleigh Jade Ja Princess

Thoughts on Trinity 19

Then Jesus looked around and said to hisdisciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdomof God! Mark 10.23

Ayoung man approaches Jesus “ Good Teacher what must I do to inherit eternallife? Jesus’ response seems extraordinary, “ Why do you call me good, no one isgood except God alone!”

Whatare we to make of this reply?

Clearlygoodness is not a Christian or even a religious prerogative, many are good butthis does not necessarily mean that they are Christian. Goodness one might hopeis a consequence of following Jesus of becoming more like him in our lives anddiscipleship but even here it is not something the Jesus seems to want to ownhimself. “Why do you call me Good” asksJesus “Only God is Good”. Verse 18

Itis following Jesus Christ that must be our first priority.
Inthe conversation between the young man and Jesus we see ourselves beingquestioned. Who or what is the priority of our lives? For the young man hispossessions were his priority, it was these that gave him all that he thoughthe needed. and so when Jesus points this out he is left in shock and grief.

WhenJesus Looked at the rich young man he did not just look, as we might, at theoutward appearance of his success and youth and say “Go and sell everything”.  Jesus looked at him and loved him, and because of his love for him challenged him tomake a radical choice, a choice for Jesus.

Becauseof that love Jesus gave the instruction so that young man could find fulfilmentand salvation – the very things that his wealth and riches would never bringhim.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Black History Month

The Month of October is Black History Month. Black History Month aims to

·       Promote knowledge of Black History and experience
·       Disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society
·       Heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people in their cultural heritage.

The origins of BHM go back to 1926 when Carter G Woodson, editor for thirty years of the Journal of Negro History, established African Caribbean celebrations in America. It is still celebrated there in February each year. In Britain, the BHM has now grown to over 1400 events.
The focus on African and Caribbean heritage pre-dates the work of London Strategic Policy Unit who, as part of the African Jubilee year in 1987, helped to establish the event. 
There will be a form in the back of church for those of us who want to join in this event and take OUR children FREE!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Harvest at Colindale Primary school

It was a joy to be with the children and staff of Colindale primary school in the parish of St Matthias this morning for their Harvest. They have collected food to be given to Barnet Refugee Service who support some of our poorest families in Barnet. We also work with them at St Matthias in running ESOL Classes twice a week.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Thoughts on Trinity 18

But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant andsaid to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it isto such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoeverdoes not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

This has been a painful, destructiveand depressing week, I am referring to the three headlines that have dominatedthe news this week.
15 year old Megan Stammers ,5 year old April Jones  and theallegations surrounding Jimmy Saville. These stories have brought back in tothe full glare of the media and the sight of every one of us of the dangersthat our children face.
Hearing Jesus tell us that weare to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, reading how he took themin his arms and laid hands on them to bless them is in stark contrast to somany children’s experiences, maybe even our own childhood experiences. 
It seems that with theterrible catalogue of children whose abuse has lead to their death, even with awhole host of new laws seeking to safeguard our children the image of Jesus isone that mocks our own desire and ability to love one another and cherish everyliving person as we know we can.

It was wonderful day togetherin NW4 and NW9! Congratulations to
Gbenga and Mopude on their birthdaywhich we celebrated at St John’s Church and following the example of Jesus laidhands upon them and blessed them anointing them against and asking our Lord toprotect them from the dangers that they face in this world. It was also a joyto meet and welcome Raymond and Deirdre and their two children who havemoved to this part of London from Kingston Jamaica to work for the JamaicanHigh Commission. At St Matthias it was good to see Rae and Nisha and Jasmine inchurch – its been a while so don’t leave it so long! And congratulations toStephen and Eliza who are expecting their second child, a girl in December. 

So often we talk about how weneed to believe in this God of love;
but what we celebrate todayreminds us of a different fact, it reminds us that even when we don't believein God,  God believes in us.

     I am sure most of you have seen WaterfordCrystal.  It is
     beautiful to look at.  The only problem is when you drop it, it
     shatters into a thousand pieces and nomatter how hard you try to
     glue the broken pieces back together itnever looks as beautiful
     as before it was dropped.

     Sometimes we get the idea that as humanbeings we are like leaded
     crystal. We are lovely until we make a mistake - and we all make
     them. Then life shatters into a thousand pieces and can never be
     put back together just right - never putback the way God meant
     it to be.

 But if we are to compare human life to anyobject around us, we are better compared to the children's toy Silly Putty orplay dough than to leaded Crystal.  Like SillyPutty or Play dough , we can be pulled apart, rolled into little balls, flungagainst the wall, or smashed flat. 

But like Silly Putty or playdough we can always be scraped back together again, forgiven, reworked,remoulded, and reshaped into someone that is even more beautiful than before.

God believes in us,
     God believes that we are not beyond help
          God loves us,
               and God, in Christ, has come,and still comes today,
                    to forgive us, to scrape usback together again,
                         and mould us intosomething even better
                              than that whichwe were before.

It is this that we celebratetoday,
It is this that will givecourage and hope and strength to us and those around us as we struggle to buildand love in the face of destruction and loss.
It is to children that thekey to understanding the kingdom of God is given rather than those who love tobe right and indulge in endless argument and debate about how we should live. Isit of no significance that in response to the debate around marriage anddivorce that those around Jesus seemed most interested in, that Jesus takes achild and commends their dependence upon love and their trust in those aroundthem as a key to the Kingdom of God?

God has made us his family,
     a family that stretches around the world,
          a family that is called to love as wehave been love,
               to forgive as we have beenforgiven,
                    to give as we have beengiven too.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Rosary talk at St Matthias, 26th October

Just as September is traditionally associated with the Holy Cross, October is traditionally associated with the rosary.

Finding the time, the words, and the way to pray can be very difficult. At the same time, prayer is an essential part of our Christian lives. The rosary is a way of praying which many Christians have found useful over the years. You can find out more about it here.

On Friday 26th of this month, we'll be hosting a talk on the rosary at St Matthias. Deborah, a Roman Catholic Lay Dominican, will be speaking at the the vicarage, 48 Rushgrove Avenue, starting at 7:30. The meeting will take about an hour, refreshments will be provided, and we'll end with Night Prayer.

If you are interested specifically in finding out more about the rosary, or are wondering about your prayer life in general, please come along!