Sunday, 16 February 2014

3rd Sunday before Lent

Writing to the church in Corinth, St Paul reminds his readers then and now that the Christian faith is something different. Christianity doesn't fit neatly into the existing order of things, it does not sit comfortably with received ideas, it certainly isn't " a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age". In fact, if the rulers of this age had the slightest grasp on the wisdom that comes from God, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory".

St Paul is quite clear here, and elsewhere, that Christian belief is on a collision course with Empire. In signing up to life in Christ, his readers place themselves outside of the mainstream, commit themselves to a way of seeing the world that is likely to make them stick out like a sore thumb, to place them in awkward positions, and to force them to challenge many features of the world around them. And this calling would be a familiar one to any of his readers - probably many of them - with a good grounding in the scriptures. It is the calling to be prophetic.

As in Paul's day, so in our own. Christians are called to not fit in! We see the world in the light of the future Kingdom, through which God in Christ establishes justice, love, and peace. Because of this we should feel restless, we should end up disagreeing with much that we hear from our politicians and newspapers, and we should often find ourselves out-of-sync with fashionable ideas. We should be difficult, marginal, and, yes, prophetic.

There are, however, dangers here. It is all too easy to take the call to not fit it as an excuse to feel affirmed in whatever unpopular idea we happen to hold. I have no doubt that the bishops who drafted the House of Bishop's response to same-sex marriage, published yesterday, felt that they were prophetically standing up for the gospel, refusing to conform to 'the wisdom of the age'. Yet I myself see nothing of the good news in their attitude towards a good number of their own people and clergy. In fact, far from setting themselves against, 'the wisdom of the world', it seems to me that elements of the Church are in danger of aligning themselves with some of the most disturbing and bigoted elements of that world. The room for self-deception once we set ourselves up as prophets is real, and is something we need to recognise.

Yet we cannot escape from the call to be prophets. For all that it brings with it temptations, the call to be a prophet is one given to each of us at our baptism and one that we cannot escape. Not only that, our world needs prophets. So let us pray that we exercise this calling wisely and with discernment.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Lighting up the world

Today's gospel reminds us that our calling, our vocation, as Christians is for the sake of other people. Being a baptised person is not all about me being alright with God, to the exclusion of other people. Instead the Church - that is, all of us - are there to be a sign of God's Kingdom to the world, a sign that makes that Kingdom a reality. In words that echo today's gospel, each newly baptised person is called to "shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God the Father".

We are called to be like the salt, a small pinch of which can make an entire meal tasty. We are called to be like a light - the smallest candle can shed light on an entire room. Our churches might be small in comparison to the population of our city, but even so God wants to work through us, using us as salt for his earth and light for his world. The groups of people who meet Sunday by Sunday in West Hendon and Colindale for Mass are people God wants to be something like a sacrament of his love and his salvation for the people of this area, loved by God and made in his image. That is an awesome, and a wonderful, calling.

We can let our light shine by confidentally celebrating the Church's worship, by sharing our faith with others in day-to-day life, and bringing other people to Church. We can let that light shine by serving others around us, by breaking down barriers of fear and hate, and by struggling for justice in a city where divisions between rich and poor grow daily. In these, and in many other ways, we can be faithful to Jesus' call in the gospel.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Happy Candlemas!

Today we celebrate the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. We look back to Christmas - Jesus is still a baby when he's presented - and forward to the Cross - Simeon tells our Lady that a sword will pierce her heart. You can read about Jesus' presentation in Luke's gospel.

Today is often called Candlemas. At both churches we began our Masses by blessing candles and carrying them in procession, remembering the words of Simeon - Jesus is "a light to lighten the Gentiles".

A Hymn for Candlemas

Hail to the Lord who comes,
comes to his temple gate!
Not with his angel host,
not in his kingly state;
no shouts proclaim him nigh,
no crowds his coming wait;

but, borne upon the throne
of Mary's gentle breast,
watched by her duteous love,
in her fond arms at rest;
thus to his Father's house
he comes, the heav'nly Guest.

There Joseph at her side
in reverent wonder stands,
and, filled with holy joy,
old Simeon in his hands
takes up the promised Child,
the glory of all lands.

Hail to the great First-born
whose ransom-price they pay!
The Son before all worlds,
the Child of man today,
that he might ransom us
who still in bondage lay.

O Light of all the earth,
thy children wait for thee!
come to thy temples here,
that we, from sin set free,
before thy Father's face
may all presented be!

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