Saturday, 31 January 2015

Candlemass – “O Love that wilt not let me go”

Last week the world remembered the Liberation of Auschwitz
and with the opening of those gates of hatred the world was confronted by the full extent of humanities inhumanity that continues to shock, appal  and inspire  us 70 years on.

After the infamous attack by the Japanese on the Americans at Pearl Harbour, there was a downed Japanese airplane on one of the islands. A local resident put a bunch of flowers on it as a memorial. When asked by a reporter why she was honouring a deceased enemy, she replied, “Even he had a mother.”

After the Falklands War there was a furore cause by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, who insisted that during the service celebrating the victory for this country, prayers were offered for the enemy, in this case the dead of Argentina as well as the fallen of our own country.

When we are encouraged to regard others as our enemy, In the darkness of death and destruction there are times when our humanity wins through.  Even in the depths of such despair and terror there are stories of love and affection that transcends the individuals themselves or the events that they find themselves part of and give us hope.

There are times when the bond between parent and child, or strangers confronted with violence and death or that of our shared humanity transcend, over come and inspire. So too with God, and the bond that lies between our creator and ourselves, though sore stretched it is never completely broken and because of this bond the story of life continues. The Gospel stories are a reminder of this powerful bond, of this love, a Love that will not let me go…

Today we are celebrating the day when Jesus is brought into the temple by His parents to consecrate Him to the service of His heavenly Father. A day when the bond between God and his people is once again acknowledged, affirm and celebrated. A day when the promise of glory is made by an aging widow and the prophesy of Calvary is given by a priest who has seen too much. It’s a powerful image. The scriptures are unfolding as the Eternal Word - as a human infant - is brought into His Temple.

Candlemass, the feast of the presentation is a Reminder of Christianity’s Jewish roots. Here the parents of Jesus show their obedience to the Law of Moses and present their first born to God at the temple. They do so at  time of deep sadness for the people of God as they are a broken and occupied nation, one where there is a deep and profound hope that God will once again take pity on his children and send them a Messiah, a Saviour to give them life once again as he promised long ago.

As with the feast of Jesus’ circumcision a month ago so now with the feast of the presentation the gospel writers are reminding us that Obedience and faithfulness lies at the root of our understanding of God and form the very bond that binds us with God.

The Christmas Story, which we will now leave for another year, begins with the annunciation, Mary being obedient to the message of an angel. It continues with the Mary and Joseph being Obedient to their visions from God that although the situation they find themselves in is hard to understand and is most unlikely- YET God will work with this and bring his purpose to fruition by their obedience.

But of course it is not blind obedience, nor for that matter blind faith that Mary and Joseph, or Simeon and Anna demonstrate. To walk hand in hand with God requires obedience and faithfulness. The one informs the other and so leads us to God.

When we look at Simeon and Anna we see two people waiting upon the Lord.

Simeon and Anna represent the hopes and expectations of all faithful and obedient Jews, at a time when all around them are signs that God has forsaken them, when all that they see is the might of an empire oppressing them and denying them their freedom, they were looking forward to the restoration of God’s rule in Israel – the re-establishment of that bond between God and his people promised long ago.

What ever trial we face today, what ever the fear that is being named, there is one who will give us life
When the future looks uncertain or worse is only defined by despair and failure let us look with the eyes of old Simeon and Anna, to this child who a light to lighten the nations and the glory of his people.

Let us pray to see Jesus not as a remote or distant figure, far from us but in our very midst. And acknowledge that if we remain obedient and faithful to him
Then Our eyes will see his salvation which has been prepared before the face of all people
And ours will be the light that will enlighten the world and his chosen people.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain
that morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The kitchen is finally being set up

Today the kitchen is being assembled and installed in the back of church!! 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Epiphany 3 - On the third day

The Gospel of John stands alone when put alongside the three synoptic gospels of Mark Matthew and Luke. The purpose of the three synoptic, called such as they share a high proportion of stories covering the same events and follow a similar sequence, is clear and best conveyed in the introduction of Luke’s gospel. Chapter 1 verse 1

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

But what of John’s gospel? For many years scholars have referred to St John’s gospel as the “book of signs”.

The dangers of trying to discover secret meaning in the words of scripture are of course nothing new. Dan Brown may well have been very clever in catching the imagination and quenching the thirst of those who believe in conspiracy theories when it comes to the church and the figure of Jesus Christ but he is not alone. There are of course many who dedicate their lives trying to look deeper in to the meaning of words and search out secret rhythms and codes from what is actually written.

But with that said, and if you like having noted the danger of such a reading of scripture, there seems to be more justification in doing so with the gospel of John than with the other gospel writers who do indeed have a deeper theology to convey in the way in which they arrange the details that they find, or indeed have seen with their own eyes, concerning life of Jesus.

On the third Sunday of Epiphany, a season that explores and celebrate the revelation to the world that is Jesus Christ we read:
 “On the third day, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.”  Jn 2.1

We are not told who was getting married, a detail that would certainly attract a great deal more comment from todays journalist, but we are told that Jesus and all his disciples were there as well.  And while they are there disaster strikes.  It seems the host has run out of wine.  Now how this unfolds is important.  Jesus’ mother informs him and he doesn’t seem too pleased.  In fact, he says somewhat cryptically, “My hour has not yet come.”  But she persists in telling the servants to do as he commands.  He then spies six stone jars, six jars that were used for the Jewish rite of purification; big jars, each one holding twenty to thirty gallons. 

He has them filled to the brim and then has them draw some water and take it to the master of the feast.  When it gets there it had become wine, and not just any wine, good wine!  Everyone is shocked, they know that the usual way things work is you serve the good wine first and when everyone is a bit tipsy then you bring out the cheaper stuff and no one is the wiser. 

But here the wine Jesus supplies is the best, the very best.  And there at Cana in Galilee his glory is manifested in this miracle.

Everything that happens in our text is said to have happened on the third day and to be the first sign that Jesus performs.   On the third day we are introduced in John’s gospel for the first time to the mother of our Lord.  Remember John’s Christmas story doesn’t begin with Mary and Joseph and the angel Gabriel but with the cosmic story of the creative Word of God becoming flesh.  And it is here at Cana that we first hear of his mother. 

She isn’t even named but she plays an important role.  She is the one who directs all eyes to Jesus on the third day and then we don’t hear about her again until she appears at the foot of the cross at the end of the Gospel.  Here he tells her that his hour is not yet come but later he will say that, “the hour has come to glorify the Father.”  And the hour he speaks of is his gruesome death on the cross – where we find Mary.

We are told that the wedding feast in Cana happens on the third day, and it is the third day after his crucifixion that our Lord finds his disciples gathered in the upper room, locked away in fear. 

On the Third day he who turns water into wine, he who has given new life to his church he himself comes into their midst.  He says, “Peace be with you!”  And that is exactly what he gives. 

We gather on the third day, on the day of our Lord’s glorious manifestation, we gather as he comes in water and wine, as he comes in Word and Sacrament to give you peace.  “Peace” he says, “for you are forgiven.  Peace, for you have been washed and fed and embraced by God.  Peace for it is finished, my hour has come, you are mine.”

Later in the gospel John tells us that Jesus’s speaks of his own mission in these wonderful words “ I came that you may have life and have life abundantly”  John 10.10

In this the first sign of Jesus, and in on the third day after his crucifixion Jesus shows us what that abundant life looks like. The water of our everyday life is transformed by his love and presence into the wine of the Kingdom and through his death and resurrection that promise of abundant life means that there is no limit, no best before, no sell by date that we are so familiar with in our daily lives. For Jesus on the Third day at the wedding at Cana and on the third day after his crucifixion reveals to us the truth of his gift and promise that will stand for eternity – life, life in abundance.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Compulsory purchase order public enquiry

The long awaited Public inquiry on the west hendon regeneration has begun

"Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream"
Amos 5.24

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Epiphany 2 - Speak Lord you servant is listening

Our world and our culture are changing rapidly all around us. With new communication technology and increasing global interaction, we face a world that will be radically different from the one in which we have lived for so long..
Of course, some see the changes, any changes, as threatening. And so they move into a doomsday mode and adopt a negative view. They decry any change as a change for the worse, where some people see only problems, others see opportunities.
If that is true in individuals, I suspect it is also true of society. And it is true of the church. Never has there been more interest in religion and spirituality in this country than now. The human need to be Spiritual remains even in those societies that strive to deny the Spiritual and believe not in God but themselves. Of course, some of that spirituality is of the weird kind, and certainly not Christian. But that also tells us that there are opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.
The Old Testament reading for the second Sunday of Epiphany is the story of God’s call to the young man Samuel and his commissioning as a prophet to Israel. In many ways, this young man Samuel represents the turning of history for Israel.
The setting of this story is 200 years after the people of Israel leave the slavery of Egypt, travel through the wilderness and enter the long promised land flowing with milk and honey.
They enter the land of Canaan and as they settle and adapt to this new life, the old ways are forgotten, the old lessons of dependency on God become lost and new ways of living seem at odds with all that went before.
The priests continued to worship and maintain the sanctuaries throughout the land. They tried to keep the spiritual vitality alive. But the people could see little advantage in serving God. They became preoccupied with their own interests and their commitment to God grew dim.
And so gradually they began to forget who they were as God’s chosen people and what their mission was in the world. The new generation of children that were growing up had finally abandoned God for pursuit of their own pleasure. The Book of Judges ends with one of the most chilling verses in the Bible. "Everyone did as they wanted to do."
It is against that background that the young man Samuel enters Israel’s history
The first chapters of 1 Samuel tell us of the miraculous birth of Samuel. God heard and answered Hannah’s prayer. As soon as we hear of the birth of this child, we know that there is hope for Israel. We know that there is indeed a future and possibility simply because God has brought it about. But change does not always come easily, and we do not yet know the shape of that future.
And so the stage is set for the text in chapter three that we have heard this morning.
There are three characters in the story: the old priest Eli, the young man Samuel, and God. Too often we focus on Samuel and forget about Eli. But if we listen carefully to the story, we realize that Eli has a significant role in the story. It will take all three of these figures in the story for Israel to have a future.
Eli by this time was an old man, nearly blind. He was priest at the sanctuary at Shiloh, and likely had been all his life. In the previous chapter (2), we are told that Eli’s two sons were worthless fellows who despised the things of God. They had violated the very sanctuary of God
Eli represents Israel and the path that she has taken in allowing the things of God to grow dim, like his eyesight. Eli represents the old ways that Israel had been following now for 200 years, paths that have led to spiritual blindness and a deafness to the voice of God.
Yet there is a glimmer of hope here. We are also told in verse 3 that "the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was." It is no accident that this story takes place at night. The darkness represents the same thing that Eli’s blindness represents: the lack of spiritual vision and the failure to be God’s people.
The lamp of God and the ark both symbolized the presence of God in the sanctuary. In this story they represent the presence of God in the darkness into which Israel’s spiritual blindness has led them. In the midst of the darkness of failing vision the flame of God’s presence is still alive.
And in the darkness there is Samuel, the miracle child! The child born to a barren woman! In the darkness lies the future, just waiting for God’s presence to fan it into a new flame!
We must be careful here that we do not romanticize Samuel and make him the hero here. The story is not about Samuel. But he is the instrument of God's work.
We all know the story of God's call to Samuel. God called to him. He heard God’s voice, but did not understand. He was only a boy and had not yet learned to distinguish the voice of God from all the other voices in his life.
He went and asked Eli if he had called. Eli told him to go back to bed. Twice more this happened. Finally, the third time Eli began to understand what was happening. He explained what Samuel should do and how he should respond.
The fourth time Samuel responded to God's call, and was given the prophetic message from God. It was a message about change, about the ending of the old ways of doing things in Israel.
Although Eli can be seen as the villain in the story the truth is that he is important and was there to guide Samuel in the right direction. Even though the old ways were dying, they still had a role in guiding the new generation into their calling as God’s people. Eli enables the young Samuel to be one who will bring change so desperately need.
Eli may not be a hero, but his role was to facilitate and enable the change that God was bringing. He was the transition figure between the past and the future, the cutting edge over which the old became new.
And what of Samuel? Does he become the hero? Yes but if we look later at Samuel, even after being the prophet of God for many years, he had sons of his own. And his sons were worthless fellows, just like the sons of Eli. Eventually, Samuel himself came to the position of Eli, and faced the judgment of God on his own family and his heritage!
Samuel filled the same role as Eli, as he presided over yet another change in Israel’s history. Samuel was commissioned by God to appoint the iftt Kings of Israel first Saul and then David, an act that would bring his own leadership of Israel to an end.
So what does this mean for us?
I think that perhaps we need to realize that some things are ending. I’m not saying we have to see the church in the metaphor of a blind old man who is ready to die. But we do have to recognize that what has been will not be again. The stability and power of our Faith is not in all the trappings of our religion, but in the living God in our midst. We can easily disrupt the new work of God in the world if we try only to hang onto what has always been. Not everything needs to change, or should. But then, not everything can remain the same.
Certainly there is change in the wind. Pope Francis is challenging the Roman Catholic Church to look afresh at some of its deepest held assumptions and practices.
The Church of England is also undergoing change with the long awaited  decision to allow women not just to be priests but Bishops as well
In our Diocese we await the news in few months time of who will be our new bishop of Edmonton, taking over from bishop Peter after 15 years as our Area Bishop
And there is change here too at St Matthias and within the communities of Colindale where we see the evidence of that change all around us.
We need to listen to God in these times of change and for some of us to be like Eli, to ensure that the voice of the future is heard and the Word of God is honoured. For all of us we need to be ready to respond to God when he calls: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."