Sunday, 21 April 2013

Good Shepherd Sunday

  “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me”

In claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we have the dubious honour of being likened to sheep! However what ever parallels or comparisons are drawn from this analogy one must be that as one of his sheep Jesus claims that we are people who hear his voice!

As followers of Christ we are told that we will hear his voice calling us, directing us, guiding us, protecting and supporting us. But do we really listen?

Throughout history God has listened to the cry of his people.

1.It began in the garden, with the single cry of the lonely and terrified Adam. His cry was for companionship, someone to share the responsibility and joys of Gods creation with, and God heard his cry and created Eve.
2. It continued with the cry of Abel’s blood spilt out onto the ground, the cry for justice, and the demand for judgement.
3. There was the cry of a people, enslaved by the rich and powerful. A cry for someone to lead them out of their bondage into the promise land. God heard them and sent Moses.
4.There was the cry of Elizabeth in the night of her old age, united with many through out the ages who in their loss and shame had been granted new life, a share in the creative power of God. Elizabeth’s cry signals the beginning of a new and radical way in which God would deal with his people. The ultimate answer to this cry from humanity is the incarnation, the birth of Jesus.

When we are faced with our own torments or difficult decisions do we really listen for the voice of God?  
or do we rather listen to our own voice-
the voice of reason,
the seductive call of our secular consumer society that seeks to enslave us and rob us of our true identity and dignity as one of Gods chosen ones?

My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me”

We know that there are many who cannot and will not listen to the voice of our Lord and the terrible consequences of not following him are evidenced all around us.

As one of God’s sheep we belong to him and as one of his sheep we can hear him assure us that he will give us life, will lead us to better pastures, will defend us in times of tribulation.  

Congratulations to Sophie Elizabeth Hayes who was baptised at St John this morning. Our prayers go with her and her family.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

O Tell me the Truth about Love - 3rd sunday of Easter

O Tell me the truth about love

Some say that love's a little boy,
and some say its a bird,
Some say it makes the world go round,
And some say that absurd......

When it come, will it come without warning, 
just as I am picking my nose?
will it knock on the door in the morning,
or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
will its greeting be courteous or rough?
will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love        
                                   January 1938 W.H. Auden

In the original Greek of the New Testament , there are three different words translated by the one English word love.
There is eros, which means sensual or erotic love, the kind of love that leads to marriage. Erotic love lies in senses and the emotions that find the object of love attractive.
Then there is philia, meaning love of the likeable, the admiration and devotion we have for a worthy person or thing, such as love for a hero, love of parents, and love of art. Likeable love dwells in the mind that judges the object of love worthy of it.
Finally there is agape, which means self-sacrificing and unconditional love, even for a person who may not deserve it and when there is nothing tangible to be gained. Agape love is in the will. It is a decision.

In Verse 15 of the 21st Chapter of St John's Gospel Jesus asks Peter, “Do you Agapas me? Do you have agape love for me?” meaning “Do you love me in such a manner as to sacrifice your life for me.” Peter knows that he has not lived up to this standard of love. He knows that he disowned Jesus in order to save his own skin. So what does Peter answer? He answers, “PhilĂ´ se. Yes, Lord, I have philia love for you,” meaning, “Yes, Lord, you know how deeply I like and admire you.”
 Peter is saying to Jesus, “Yes, I like and admire you, but no, I have not been able to love you with a self-sacrificing love as you demand.”
So Jesus asks him a second time whether he has agape love for him and Peter again replies that he has only philia love for him. Finally, unwilling to embarrass him any further, Jesus then asks him “Do you have philia love for me?” And Peter answers “Yes, I have philia love for you.” End of the interrogation! Jesus accepts Peter the way he is. Even his philia love is good enough.
The Peter we see here is not the loud-mouthed, confident man who thought he was better than the other disciples but a wiser, humbler man who would not claim more than he can deliver. Peter’s confession here can be likened to that of the father of the possessed boy who confessed to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). What Peter is saying is “I love you, Lord; help my lack of love.”
So if Jesus is asking us this morning do you love me? I wonder which kind of love we are prepared to name and honour? Philia or Agape?

Monday, 8 April 2013

2nd Sunday of Easter

Congratulations to Dean and Alison on the baptism of their first born "miracle" Lilly.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A view of the Easter from St John

confession and absolution
in the refiners fire
Father forgive them they do not know
what they are doing
Space for reflection on Good Friday
preparing for the Veneration of the Cross at 2.00pm

Alleluia Christ is Risen: He is Risen indeed

Friday, 29 March 2013

Signs of love - reflection from Holy Thursday

"Love one another as I have loved you" - there we have it, a new commandment. Fairly simple to preach about, you would think - just do what Jesus says!

But there are dangers here. If the first thing we take away from this evening's gospel reading is that we should do things then we are likely to become absolute menaces. If what we hear is "get up, go and love, do loving things, and do them now..." we will become some kind of frenetic do-gooder, ever in earnest search for the next opportunity to love, unshaken in our self-confidence and sense of rightness, convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone else loved, just like we do. At best, we would be a pain in the neck. At worst we would be deluded - in Christian terms, we would be the kind of heretic who believes that we can save ourselves. Either way, in spite of our initial intention, we would certainly end up being profoundly unloving in practice. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the ministrations of the kind of person I have described will know what I mean.

 The reason for this is a peculiar feature of love. I cannot give love until I have received love.

Look at what happens to people when they are systematically denied love. They turn in on themselves, putting up defences against a fundamentally hostile world. Other people become viewed simply as threats, and fear of this sort prevents the kind of giving-of-self which we call 'love'. Love is a way of living in the world, a way of being towards another person which sees their freedom as a gift to me, rather than a threat. I cannot live this way unless someone has loved me first, for the simple reason that if I am only ever seen as a threat by others, I will never get the opportunity to develop my own loves. I too, will always have to be on my guard. I need to be given space to love; which is to say, I need to have been loved before I can love.

It is like this with our ordinary, day-by-day loves. It is like this too with our loving relationships with God - the kind of relationship that the Bible calls 'covenants'. Unless God loves me first, I cannot love God. I can be in awe at God, for sure; I can fear God, or plead with him. But what I cannot do, without God's gift of love (what Christians call 'grace'), is love God. Jesus washes his disciples feet and then, only then, when they have received the serving love of the Lord, are they told to wash one another's feet. If we want to love the world with the same love that Christ did - and that is the way of life to which we are called by our covenant relationship with God - then we have to allow ourselves to be loved by Christ. "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me".

We need to open ourselves up to love. Otherwise we will not be able to serve.

We are reminded of this by the foot washing at this evening's Mass. The celebrant, representing Christ, washes the feet of members of the congregation. They don't do anything. They just sit there, having their feet washed - receiving, rather than giving. In our frantic world, this can be a difficult thing to do.

And yet it is what we do, at a indescribably deeper level, at every Mass. At every Mass the convenant of love between God and human beings is signed and sealed. God draws us, his People, into the offering of his Son on the altar, and gives us his Body and Blood of food. Here we have the supreme sign, and reality, of God's love for us. And it is given to us as a gift.

The gift of God's life in the Eucharist is, quite literally, ours for the taking. If we open ourselves up to it we will be transformed, and become the kind of people who can love extravagantly, because we have been loved extravagantly ourselves. Love is the beginning and end of Christian living. Love is the beginning and end of the Mass. Love is the reason we were created, and it is in love that we will find ultimate fulfilment, a fulfilment we look forward to, and receive as an already present gift, every time we do what the Lord said this night - "do this in remembrance of me".

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Message from our bishop at the Chrism Mass

Bishop Richard sending us on our way with his blessings

"We are being given a little more time to develop a transforming confidence not in ourselves but in the love of God; to deepen a healing compassion and to bear fruit in the creativity with which we use our gifts for the common good."

Fr John showing off his new Prebendary wear in a local coffee house

Clergy gather on the steps if St Paul's to be blessed by our Bishop

Father John, Tony and Simon, Reader Angharad all renewed their vows and commitment to their ministry and vocation at the Chrism Mass 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


On the weekdays of Holy Week we are having a sermon at Mass reflecting on 
characters from the gospel accounts of Jesus' Passion.
Today we focused on Judas Iscariot.

I always felt a bit sorry for Judas. When I was a child, my parents explained to me that Simnel Cakes traditionally had eleven eggs on top because these symbolised the Apostles, leaving out Judas. At the time I remember feeling that leaving someone out was a bit mean, no matter what they had done. 
But, of course, the maligning of Judas goes far beyond Easter customs. His name has become a by-word for betrayal. "Judas", someone famously shouted at Bob Dylan when he produced an electric guitar on stage. Judas' name has been used in anger in relationships scarred by betrayal, in communities during strikes, in nations torn apart by war, the list goes on. And whenever Judas' name is used it carries a power, a sense of accusation.

And not without good reason. Betrayal cuts at the heart of what it is to be human. We are, by our nature, social creatures. The biblical account which has God saying that it is not good for Adam, the symbolic human being, to be alone confirms what ordinary life teaches us. We thrive in community. We depend on others for our food, our security, and for fellowship. There is something fundamentally lacking in a human life which does not involve mature and open relationships to others. It is no surprise then that the Christian account of salvation is a social one: the reality the Bible calls the 'Kingdom of God' is, by its very nature, collective. It is not about me being saved through my personal relationship with God. It is about us, a people, being saved together. The Church, anticipating the Kingdom, is a reminder of the communal nature of our human destiny.

Betrayal attacks all of this. Through undermining the trust which is essential to significant social bonds, it attacks those bonds themselves. It is for this reason that Dante thought betrayal the worst of all sins, and placed traitors - notable amongst them Judas - in the lowest pit of Hell in his Divine Comedy.

Yet we are all traitors. All of us turn away from Christ and from others to a greater or lesser extent. All of us deny him when it suits us. All of us reject what we know to be the things that loyalty to Christ and to humanity demands. We are all traitors.

The gospel reading for today's Mass describes two traitors. Not only Judas, but also Peter, will betray Christ. There is one difference. Peter, after Jesus' Resurrection, is reconciled with Jesus, professing love three times and so 'undoing' the three times he denied Jesus. Peter is  forgiven, and sent out to 'feed my sheep'. Judas does not seek reconciliation - in other accounts he is described as hanging himself. We are all traitors - nevertheless the Christ who is the ultimate object of all our betrayals, big and small, welcomes us back and promises to restore us to flourishing relationships with himself and with others. He invites us, we need to accept that invitation.