Sunday, 26 January 2014

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

There is no such thing as a free lunch.
We are warned from our childhood upwards of the dangers of taking short cuts in life, of trying to get something for nothing.
However when you look at many of the stories of our childhood the opposite is the case. Whether it is kissing frogs, magic beans, glass slippers or cats in boots there are far more stories that tell the tale of lives transformed by fortune and luck.

The urge to gamble is probably one of our basic instincts, from the moment our forebears decided to leave the security of trees and walk upright on the grassy savanars of pre-history the story of the human race has been one of taking risks. Life is a gamble, and that is why we find death so hard to deal with in our modern technologically advanced world for it is stark reminder that life is a very precarious thing and although we do much to make our lives longer, however we try and iron out all the little wrinkles, immortality still evades us.

The truth of the matter is that nobody gets anything for nothing.  If we receive a good education, we more than likely worked hard for it. If our relationships and family lives are prospering, it has taken a lot of good will and hard work. If we are making good money in our jobs, for most of us it is because we have to put in the extra hours.

This is a lesson confirmed in the gospel reading this morning. Jesus proclaims “The kingdom of heaven has come near” While this is of course good news there is a condition attached; something that applies to any good thing in life: Entrance to the kingdom has its price. we need to make ourselves ready with a change of heart. Jesus tells us simply “repent”

I doubt there is a single one of us here who would not want a life of peace, kindness and compassion. We wish there was harmony among all people  that wars would cease and the poor of the world would be fed and clothed………. This is kingdom living indeed.

But kingdom living remains a utopia for the most part because we are unwilling to make the effort required to bring it about. WE always think it is someone else’s job or responsibility. We are prepared to speak passionately about an idea but when it comes to putting it into practice that is another matter completely. Yes the Spirit of often willing but the flesh is weak.

WE all want to be part of this kingdom but don’t want to have to change in order to make it possible. The honest and harsh answer to the hungry of the world is that we do not want to change the way in which we live our life, we do want to have less so that more can be shared out.

When it comes to our faith we are not much better. We are not prepared to make the sacrifice necessary to be at church, we are prepared to give money but giving our time can sometimes cost too much.

The question remains Are we willing to pay the price? how important is our faith, our membership of the Church to us? Are we willing to repent and make the teachings of Jesus central to our life, or certainly live trying to!  

If you are felling uncomfortable now then that is a start for at least it means that the question is genuine. Sports people know all about pain as they spend hour after hour training and pushing themselves in order to do better in their chosen field. When looking at someone competing, it is all to easy to simply put it down to natural talent – after all they make it look so easy. However the reality if often different, their natural talent is the result of years of demanding discipline, training and practice. 

Jesus did not call the rich and powerful to be his disciples.
Paul did not win converts to the early church through eloquent wisdom.

But those who heard the call of Jesus by the sea of Galilee left their nets and followed.
Those who heard the words of Paul came together as the early church.

what do you need to change in your life in order to walk in the footsteps of Jesus?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the baptism of Christ. Christ is baptised in the river Jordan and is revealed as the one in whom God's promises will be fulfilled - the heavens open, and the Father's voice declares Jesus to be his 'beloved Son'. Here we see that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. This is the one who will establish God's Kingdom and bring us life.

Through our own baptisms we come to share in what Jesus has done for us. By the gift of baptism we become by grace what Jesus is by nature - a child of God. We are God's sons and daughters, we are beloved. Because of what Jesus has done, the Father is pleased with us. By baptism we are made new, we are set on a path away from sin - that is, from everything that prevents us flourishing - and symbolically reject our defeated enemy, the devil.

Baptism is important. It is the beginning of Christian life. It is something to treasure and seek to understand more deeply. Today, let's give thanks for our own baptisms and commit ourselves to live them more fully in the coming year.

Winter warmer celebration for Epiphany

Angela organised an afternoon of crafts for our younger children based on Epiphany: Crowns, sented oranges with gold bows and candle, blessed chalk to take home and then a bonfire, toasted marshmallows, food and fireworks. All in all a wonderful evening of warmth enjoyment with of course light in the darkness of a winter evening and a little bit of church thrown in for good measure. 

Thanks to Angie and Tom for organising and Louise, Lorraine, Colin and Jane for all your hard work.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Epiphany - Baptism and Confirmations

We had a wonderful celebration of the Epiphany yesterday, as we welcomed Bishop Peter to St Matthias to baptise and confirm. Please keep Victor, Lennox, Ebony, David, and Edwina in your prayers as they continue their Christian journeys with us.

Confirm, O Lord, your servant

Bishop Peter, churchwardens, and the newly baptised and confirmed

Sunday, 29 December 2013

First Sunday of Christmas

As we continue to celebrate Christmas with the joyful singing of carols there are other voices, darker voices, that seek to silence these beautiful strains. This morning our attention is drawn away for the image of peace and silence around the stable in Bethlehem, we look instead in to the heart of a man of great violence and hatred, into the acts that Gods children are capable of – murder

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet
     Jeremiah:  "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud
     lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be
     consoled because they were no more."

Rachel of course is a central character within Salvation history, the story of God and humanity seen through the eyes and felt in the experiences of the people of the first covenant, our Jewish brothers and sisters. Rachel never had it easy.  On the one hand she had Laban for a father.  On the other she had Jacob for a husband.  Then there was her older sister Leah.

She was the prettier of Laban's daughters when Jacob came to work for them
and she stole Jacob's heart the first time he laid eyes on her.  Jacob
agreed to work seven long years for her and he was good on his word.  But
when it came time to close the deal Laban tricked him and sent Leah into
the wedding chamber heavily veiled.  Jacob ended up having to work another seven long years for Rachel while learning to live with Leah for whom he didn't bargain.  When they finally did get married, Rachel found that she couldn't have children Her sister Leah has four and so further insult was laid upon Rachel.
Eventually, Rachel did have a child named Joseph.  She just didn't get to enjoy him for very long.  By the time she gave birth to her second baby, her body wasn't up to it.  With her dying breath, she named him Benoni, which means 'child of my sorrow'.  Jacob eventually changed it to Benjamin.

She became a symbol for Israel, in other words, of inconsolable sorrow.
How can anyone console you when so much that seems to happen to you is
unfair and full of sadness?  So, when the Babylonians carried off Israel
into exile centuries later, Jeremiah wrote that it was like old Rachel was
still crying out from her grave.  Rachel's children were God's children.

returning to the writing of St Matthew we see the brutal face of Herod hanging over the Christmas story like a funeral pall.  It is about a cruelty, an utter disregard for human life that we see again and again throughout scripture and throughout human history.

     Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet...

The slaughter of the innocents in Matthew may be a pious legend or it may have really taken place but in our day it is a fact of life for thousands of women and children who are the victims of violence in this world every passing day. 

When we support government policies or buy products from corporations without demanding accountability for the kinds of circumstances in which they were made, the conditions of the most vulnerable in our midst, we end up with innocent blood on our hands.

Rachel still cries out from the grave for her children who are no more.

Many are in their “Babylon” a place of exile a place of captivity, in the sweat shops of Asia or those who are trafficked as modern day slaves.

We will not return home, none of us, until we learn to weep
with Rachel, until we learn to weep with the God who cannot forget any of
his children. For her tears and God’s tears are a sign of love, and the Christmas Story is a love story. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son…”

It is through the tears of another woman Mary Magdalane that the reality and truth of the resurrection is comprehended and it is in our tears of compassion and love that God is able to bring about the miracle of resurrection and life eternal.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A blessed Christmas to you all

A few days ago I heard a clip from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who was reflecting on the first verse of the gospel of St John  – “In the beginning was the word”
The few words I caught were his reflection suggesting that maybe it was not so much that creation began with a word but with a song.

I have thought about this over the last few days in the run up to this morning, a song whose melody and echo reverberates through the ages and in the Christmas story a new harmony is created within the original score.

Christmas of course is a time of song – Carols have been piped in lifts, shopping malls and high streets since October, sung outside blocks of flats and in homes, remembered in the half light of churches amidst candles and accompanied by the aroma of mulled wine and warm mince pies.

The Carols of course tell the story, tell of that little town of Bethlehem, that Royal city where there stood a lowly cattle shed. Their melodies remind us of shepherds who watched their flock by night and three kings from orient far, their words speak of that midnight clear, that glorious song of old; and that amid the woes of sin and strife the love song the angels sing.

But as song, as the song we are reminded that Christmas is, amidst the tinsel and tea towels of a thousand nativities, a love song. A love story with a prequel that takes us not to a distant galaxy far away but to the very beginning of time when God spoke into the void of nothingness “Let there be light” - let there be love, let there be a wonderful and complex world in which all creation can hear the song of Gods love in the earth, land, sea and the very dust of our being. The Christmas story is another chapter in this amazing story, a central aria within this grand Opera where the center stage is Bethlehem and a stable in which God choose to be born, born of a woman.

So around the world the song is once again sung, but it does seem that more and more people are asking, as the psalmist asked long ago “ How can we sing the Lords song in a strange land”.

In a country as diverse as we now are it is a question that many are asking. Some think the answer is to reduce the wonder of Christmas to a winter fest; a winter wonder land of bright and shinny, but ultimately faux and false, promises. False snow, ever cheaper party food and even a channel on my sky package called The Christmas channel with back to back films with Christmas in the story line.

It was rather refreshing this year to see the advert put out by the Muslim Council of Britain this year
“Keep Calm it Christmas : Don’t panic Christmas is not banned”

Let us therefore not be afraid to join in this amazing love story, to become a part of its narrative to allow ourselves to be caressed by this love song from God.

let us rejoice that God so loved the world that he sent us his son, not out of wrath that needed satisfying, or out of some cosmic sense of duty but because of love – a love that knows each one of us by name if we are prepared to acknowledge the name of Jesus.

The past two thousand years since the birth of Christ can be viewed as a relentless round of greed and violence, fear and insecurity of greed and violence and death to the love song sung by the angels. But the truth of the matter is that there is still an incredible energy in the world that flows from generosity of God. I think we saw that acknowledged in the reaction of every nation and maybe every human being at news of the death of Nelson Mandela a few weeks ago.

The Christmas story, the Creators love song, cannot and will not be silenced, and the beauty of both is that even when we feel that we have no voice, or that we have lost the will to sing or cannot remember the words, others will lift their voices and sing and the song will touch us and inspire us as the Love of God revealed in that stable long ago continues to do so today.

May God bless you all this Christmas and may the message of the angels resound in your hearts…

with peaceful wings unfurled;
and still their heavenly music floats
over all the weary world:
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing;
and ever over its Babel- sounds
the blessed angels sing.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Barnet Refugee Service End of Year Party

This afternoon, St Matthias Hall hosted the Barnet Refugee Service End of Year Party, providing festive food and entertainment for lots of children. Volunteers from our church, along with people from a local synagogue, secular groups, and others helped get the hall ready and tidy up. Des from St John's did sterling work as Santa Claus!

Here we see Father John joining battle with a balloon sword:

Barnet Refugee Service provide vital support for refugees and asylum seekers in Barnet and neighbouring boroughs, and are based just up the road from St Matthias Church. You can help their work in various ways; see here.

We are hoping to begin a food collection for the Service at St Matthias in the new year. More details to follow!