Wednesday, 28 August 2013

St Augustine

Today is the feast of St Augustine of Hippo, one of the most famous converts to Christianity and one of the greatest Christian thinkers. You can read a version of his Confessions on-line here.

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."
From the Confessions 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Trinity 13 - breaking the rules and crossing the line

Just this week I was walking the dog and got into an interesting debate about Islam and Christianity with two young men. There were many questions beginning with who created the dog man or God? and why Christians eat pork and why Christians did not worship on the Sabbath.! Todays Gospel story of course is one of many that could be sighted in an explanation that Jesus came to challenge a religious system , to break the very rules and customs that had kept the chosen people chosen. Followers of Jesus came to understand that obedience to the law alone would not be sufficient for salvation.
In this incident Jesus is doing what every Rabbi has done since, attend shul where he worshiped and taught. On this occasion he then crossed the line by reaching out and healing a woman doubled over. Of course Jesus is not the only one to break the rules, to cross the line. In this story the woman who has no name also broke the rules by walking in to an all male environment where she was not wanted or welcome. Sometimes it is necessary to break the rules to do the right thing.
I came across this story told by Billy Graham’s  long time songleader George Beverly Shea, who tells a story about one of Graham's classmates at Wheaton College: 

Mr. Frizen, called Bert by his friends, was a talented and popular singer on campus, involved with several singing groups . . . .  He went on to serve in the military during World War II and was involved in the famous Battle of the Bulge . . . .  Bert was wounded during one of the attacks and lay on the battlefield, slipping in and out of consciousness. At one point, with his eyes closed, he started singing his mother's favorite hymn as best he could, "Jesus Whispers Peace." When he opened his eyes, he saw a German soldier standing over him with a drawn bayonet.  Bert understood enough German to know that the soldier was saying to him, "Sing it again; sing it again."  Bert continued the song; "There is a Name to me most dear, like sweetest music to my ear/And when my heart is troubled, filled with fear/Jesus whispers peace." Soon he felt himself being gently lifted up in the arms of the enemy soldier, who carried him to a rock ledge nearby where the American medics found him a short time later, taking him to safety.

In the midst of war, one German soldier broke the rules in the name of love, in the name of compassion, in the name of Jesus. God calls us to look deep within and to find the courage and the faith to break the rules in the name of love, in the name of the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Assumption - Mass tomorrow at 7:30pm

The feast of the Assumption of our Lady begins with evening prayer today.

This is one of the great days of the Christian year. We celebrate Mary being taken into glory as a sign of the glory that we all hope for.

We will be celebrating at St Matthias tomorrow with a Sung Mass at 7:30pm. We will have a visiting preacher, Mother Carrie Thompson from Forton, and special music. This will be followed by a party which, weather allowing, will be on the vicarage patio.

Please come, and invite your family and friends.

Almighty, ever-living God,
  you have taken the mother of your Son,
  the immaculate Virgin Mary,
  body and soul into the glory where you dwell.
Keep our hearts set on heaven
  so that, with her, we may share in your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

12th Sunday of Trinity - Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

“‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms.” Luke 12.32-33
New frontal donated to St Matthias by Aisha
memory of her late husband Emmanuel RIP

The question of possessions and the challenge of Jesus’ words to go and sell them  were put to Mr Cameron a few days ago in a question and answer session in Darwen near Blackburn, it was also a challenge for congregations up and down the country today as Jesus’ words reverberated around countless churches up and down our land.

When one reads the gospel it shows that Jesus spoke about two things more than anything else, the Kingdom of God and money. Interestingly Jesus seldom talked about one without talking about the other.  In his preaching and teaching the two are intimately intertwined.

The kingdom of God is like – a man who had two sons and the younger came to him and demanded half of the inheritance.

The kingdom of God is like – a vineyard owner who pays everyone the same, no matter how much or how little they had worked.

The kingdom of God is like – a master who gives his servants varying amounts of money and then judges them on how they have managed it.

Jesus knew what he was saying and he said it very plainly. The already but not yet kingdom of God has very important practical implications for how we treat our neighbours and how we treat our money.

In this Gospel passage, Jesus makes it very clear that the coming kingdom is firmly rooted in the gospel of grace. The kingdom is not something we achieve or earn.  The kingdom is an unmerited and undeserved grace.

“Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Yes, the kingdom is a gift; it’s free, no strings attached.

But, receiving the kingdom into our lives is costly.

The kingdom changes the way we live our lives, it changes the way we define the purpose of our lives, it changes the things we care about and worry about, it changes the way we treat our neighbour and yes, it changes the way we manage our money.

“Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear our, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

The question to ask ourselves is where is our treasure or put another way what is it that we treasure, and the answer to that question will reveal where our hearts desire lies.

Accepting the Kingdom of God and its priorities frees us from our captivity to the here and now.
Accepting the Kingdom of God and its priorities frees us from anxiety about worldly success, the pursuit of all that glitters and leaves us free to embrace the love of God and neighbour with all our heart mind soul and strength.