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.

Friday, 26 July 2013

St James Day - 25th July - we pray for all who work at Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations

July 25th is St Jame's feast day. James along with his brother John were fishermen earning a modest and sustainable living from the waters of Lake Galilee 2000 years ago. They were called one day by a charismatic figure in whose footsteps they followed for the next three years and for the rest of their lives sought to continue that which they witnessed and were part of as the first disciples of Jesus Christ. tragically this year St James feast day has been associated with death and destruction as the facts of a train crash outside Santiago Compostela because clear this morning. Some of the passengers were  pilgrims travelling to join in the festivities planned for St James.
Kings Cross has had it moments of tragedy, the kings cross fire of 1987 was  commemorated last year on its 25th anniversary at the church of the blessed sacrament. One of the legacies from that tragedy was a tightening up of safety on al l underground stations, a complete ban on smoking was introduced immediately after the fire and wooden escalators were replaced throughout the system.  With millions of passengers travelling though these stations every year it is their safety that is paramount in the mind and actions of the train companies. Emergency planning, in which faith leaders play an essential role, is an important part of the churches work in our city and it is the church leadership that provides the vital link between the statutory agencies, institutions and in the case of Kings Cross Station the travelling public.   
Merciful God 
whose holy apostle St James
leaving his father and all that he had
was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ
and followed him even to death.
help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world
to be ready at all time to answer to your call without delay.
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
one God now and for ever. Amen

The journey of discipleship, like that of life, is one into the unknown. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred for his faith, he showed that he was ready to answer that ultimate call of faith to
share in the sufferings of Jesus himself so that he could then partake of the reward and goal of that journey. We pray for those who died in the terrible train crash in spain, for their  families whose lives have been shattered by that loss
 and for all who work within the rail industry who strive to keep us from harm. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Reflection for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

 Greek Orthodox icon of the prophet Amos

This morning's Old Testament reading sees the prophet Amos doing what he does best, denouncing the abuse of the poor:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying,
 “When will the new moon be over
  so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
    so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
    and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

The message is quite clear, those who are responsible for the economic exploitation of others are subject to God's judgement, and it is the task of the prophet to proclaim this.

As Christians, with a share in the prophetic work of Christ, we are called to proclaim this message in our own day. Sadly there are plenty of opportunities.

We live in a world where children die hourly from diseases curable at a cost of a few pence. We live in a country where some of the most vulnerable are being made to bear the cost of a recession they did nothing to cause.

People in power are very happy when the churches offer care to the poor. Recently there has been a lot of interest from 'think tanks' in the ability of churches to provide social care. It is easy for Christians to be uncritically flattered by this attention - it's always nice when people notice us!

But there are real dangers here. We are not called to be a cheap alternative to Social Services. We are called to be prophetic: and that involves denouncing the causes of poverty and human suffering. Let's pray today that we don't give in to the temptation to abandon that calling.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Reflection for the 6th Sunday After Trinity

In today's gospel, Jesus sends out some disciples in pairs. They have important work to do - exactly the same work that Jesus does, the prophetic work of healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom of God. We see here the beginnings of the Church's ministry as a share in Jesus' ministry.

If the contemporary Church were sending out a large number of people to do vitally important work, we would no doubt put a lot of planning into it, establish plenty of committees, do a lot of fundraising, and in general make sure the seventy two raw recruits were - to use a piece of ugly management-speak - well resourced.

So what does the Jesus of Luke's gospel do?

He sends them out without purse, bag, or sandals: without the means to keep money or food, making them utterly dependent, They depend for the first part, of course, on God. Later in Luke's gospel, Jesus will teach his disciples to pray for their daily bread. They will also depend on other human beings - on each other, as well as on those who feed them in their houses. Here Luke's gospel anticipates the book of Acts, where we read about the disciples holding their possessions in common, sharing for the good of all.

This passage serves as a reminder to us, at a time of change in the Church, where a lot of thought is going into mission, and where we are experiencing quite a bit of change. Unless our life as a missionary church begins with reliance on God, which finds expression in liturgy and prayer, and is lived out in generous, sharing, communities, it will have little in common with the mission of Jesus.