Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Final Tuesday in August

Following the coldest Bank holiday since records begun 16 of us met up at Hendon central station to explore the natural history museum. 

It would appear we are not alone in trying to get in to the museum. The queue is one hour long we are told. Thankfully it's not raining too much!! Then Angie uses her charm, as a primary teacher she is clued up ,and we are ushered from the back of the queue of over one hundred to the front - the last are truly the first!!  "Ask and you will receive"

After our packed lunch in the picnic area we went to find the dinosaurs. Once again the queue snaked round the huge brontosaurus in the main hall but we had our ticket ready and went straight on and back in time 230 million years

For many of us the world of the Jurassic past is firmly linked with the film of the same name and it was poignant to see the face of Sir Richard Attenborough RIP. 

We went into the red zone to experience volcanos and earthquakes. 
Having a rest before entering the red Zone! 

Three of us shared our experience of earthquakes Pat as a child growing up in Antiga, myself at Mirfield theological college in Yorkshire and Judy living on the west hendon estate with developments rocking her sofa in the afternoon ! We experienced the earthquake in japan while in a supermarket. And thought of those in Napa valley who had their world and lives rocked by natures force. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Our second day trip together

21 of us have gathered at Hendon to catch a train to explore our cathedral, Tate modern and the south bank. 

We said a prayer for those of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith especially in Iraq by the picture of christ the light of the world. 

Here is another installation on the theme of martyrs earth, wind, fire, water

After lunch were we had a delegation from the Anglican communion office join us we climbed the 536 stairs of the cathedral for views of London. I decided to get some training in for when my grandson is born later this year

We crossed the millennium bridge to get to londons beech and a dead sea snake was discovered along with shells and other treasures the river has thrown up for us. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Trinity 9 - Crumbs and Dogs

The Gospel story of a conversation between a Gentile woman and Jesus for today is very challenging. We see a very human side to Jesus. Scholars argue over Jesus’ intention in his words to the woman. Most of us want to hold onto our image of Jesus, gentle, meek and mild. In a way, it doesn’t matter if on the one hand Jesus was consciously testing the woman to draw out faith from her desperation or whether he just as offensive and prejudiced as those of his culture, faith and time.

The woman’s desperation gave her both courage and wit. ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Matthew 15.27

What is perhaps significant is the ability of the woman to take the metaphors that Jesus uses and turn them around, metaphors that could be seen as diminutive, dismissive and offensive.

Crumbs no longer speak of what is lacking in life, what is mean in our human heart what is lacking in the decisions we take to show compassion and care. These crumbs are now a sign of great blessings, abundance and generosity as we see plainly in the feeding of the 5000 where the disciples are left with crumbs, 12 baskets full to be precise!

And dogs, among the unclean animals in the Jewish world of Jesus’ time become the metaphor for a small child who is made well, who is blessed by Jesus with health and wholeness where before there was only despair and impending death.

It is in the recording of this event that Matthew allows the woman of no importance to make the connections rather than Jesus himself, to shape and formulate an articulate word in the presence of the God’s eternal Word – Jesus Christ.

Indeed the whole passage is a juxtaposition of opposites . Jesus the hero is cast as the villain, his words were offensive albeit accepted then as they are today by so many when it come to identifying the other and the one who should be the villain of the piece, this troublesome woman who should have known better that trouble the great master, is praised for her faith.

All is not as it should be and in this we are reminded of that all important lesson in faith that all is not as it seems when we look with the eyes of faith at this world of disorder and death.

This woman’s great faith broke through the human-made barriers of discrimination. She knew that in the eyes of those present, she was seen as no better than a ‘dog, but she does not let this their view of her, their judgment, rob her of her humanity.
As we see in so many encounters between Jesus and those around him it is those who the world judge as of little importance or worse that become the center of attention, the attention of God through his son Jesus Christ.
In this one act Jesus revealed the truth of the kingdom that was to come. A kingdom open to all, we can come as we are and be welcomed and loved as we are and in that welcome and love be transformed in to all that God wants us to be!
This kind of realization did no just challenge the disciples who surround, protect and even attempt to control the outpouring of Gods love that is this Jesus of Nazareth: it should be a challenge to us also.
What do we see?
How do we judge others? How are we judged by others? Do we judge purely on appearance or do we try to see beyond and reach out to the ‘real’ person? Of course Jesus told us ‘not to judge’ but how easy is that?
There is more though, this encounter is so dense, so filled with the wonderful possibilities that are open to us if we are prepared to approach him and demand – yes demand his blessings, his attention. For this is what the woman does in recognizing the potency and potential for life that Jesus holds out to the world.

This woman is clear minded and direct, she is single minded as is anyone struggling with matters of life and death.  She is a mother whose child is terribly and possibly eternally damaged, hurt and lost.

This mother is not interested in having a place at the table, she is not seeking to challenge the injustice of her world, she only wants a crumb for she knows, she perceives that this is enough! “Please Mister” she cries out “just give me what I need for my daughter”.  Desperation not despair drive her and propels her through the crowd, through the closed ranks of the chosen disciples and into the direct gaze of Jesus.

But nothing is as it seems in this encounter for in demanding the crumbs of course she does challenge the injustice of her world and ours too. It comes from her understanding of what Jesus holds before her and what he offers us this morning in this Eucharist and what Jesus offers us is  crumbs, a small piece of bread, his very body, for the life of the world, for the healing of the nations, yes for the life of a small child and for yours and my life.

In this encounter something is changed for ever, and it is of course St Paul who understands this long before St Peter and the other disciples that in Christ we are made new, the old distinctions of the world no longer apply.

As re reflect on this encounter between a nameless woman and Jesus the Christ the question remains, Are there changes in us that need to happen so that the Kingdom of God is not limited by our narrow minded prejudices?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Feast of the Assumption

The Feast of the Assumption begins this evening. We remember God's glorification of Mary's entire human reality at the moment of death - a sign of the new life that God promises us all through Jesus Christ.

We'll be celebrating tomorrow with a Sung Mass at St Matthias at 7:45pm. Fr Simon Maddison from St Alphage, Burnt Oak will be visiting us to preach. Our organist, Konstantin, is laying on some music. Mass will be followed by a party.

This event has been wonderful in recent years. Please support it, and bring your family and friends!

Above all, let's use the coming day to give thanks to God, who shows us in Mary his plan for each one of us.

Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Day trip into London

We are all gathered at Hendon station and waiting for the train that will take us on a day of adventure and fun. First stop St Pancras station 

St Pancras was a 4th century boy of 14 years of age who was beheaded for his faith. His death was one of many in times of persecution. As we waited for the tube we rembered St Pancras and those who today are persecuted for their faith. 
At the Tower of London we saw the tribute to those who died 100 years ago in the First World War. Even with the sun shining and in the midst of our excitement to be above ground we and those around us became quiet as we stopped to consider the terrible loss and waste of war. One member of the public stifles a sob and dries her eyes. 
Now lunch beckons and we eat on the steps looking on the Tower of London

We are now flying across the Thames, it's very noisy in this carrage, good job it's only our group here!
An airplane takes off as we pass the end of the run way! 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

8th Sunday of Trinity -

Elijah, a prophet living some 1000 years before Jesus’ birth, was at the lowest point of his life, it seemed that the world was against him and his very life was in danger.

Israel had forsaken their God and were following other gods. The prophets of the lord had given up their faith and even the King followed the ways of idols. Elijah had just won a great contest in which he killed 400 prophets of fertility god Baal and now he alone remained as a prophet of the Lord. The kings wife had put a contact out on him he was a hunted man. He was alone and frightened and felt abandoned by God.

Maybe there has been a time in your life what you too have felt alone and abandoned by God, or if not God certainly by those around you. When feeling this way we tend to retreat, to hide, to keep a low profile. This is what Elijah was doing by hiding in the cave.

Elijah just wished to curl up and die, for all this struggle in the name of an invisible and silent God, to just go away. But it is hard to flee from God. There would be others too who felt this – remember what happened to Jonah when he tried to run away!
God speaks to Elijah ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

Elijah needs to feel the presence of God, he needs to see that God really exists and his desire, his need is fulfilled as God tells him to wait. God  said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’

What then follows is a mighty wind and an earthquake: Here is a display of power, the ability to split mountains we are told. You can imagine Elijah thinking here is god Yes this is the kind of God I want, here is the evidence the world can sit up and take note of. But God is not in this display of power. Instead God is found in the  sound of sheer silence.

Here is Elijah at the lowest point in his life and his request to see God, to meet with God is – silence. Isn’t that just typical!

Not many of us are very comfortable with silence.
If we turn to our partner and ask “Tell me that you love me” and are met with silence we would probably be none to pleased. When we are on our own do we feel comfortable with silence or do we not put on the radio or TV so that we can have some company.

It seems that all too often God is silent in our lives. We sense that he is not listening to our prayer.
There is a wonderful poem entitled “folk tales” by RS Thomas that speaks of prayer and the silence of God. In the few verses we are given a picture of lover throwing stones up at a window in order to attract the attention of the beloved. The window is too high and then we are reminded of the childhood tale of a girl letting down her hair so that the brave knight can climb up and free her. But both these images seem futile, the window remains closed the hair is never let down so that we can climb up, And yet  we keep throwing pebbles up at the window trying to attract Gods attention:

Prayers like gravel
Flung at the sky’s Window,
Hoping to attract the loved one’s attention.

But without visible plaits to let down for the believer to climb up,
To what purpose open that far casement?

I would have refrained long since but that peering once through my locked fingers
I thought that I detected the movement of a curtain.

I thought I detected the movemement of a curtain – RS Thomas captures the beautiful truth that Thomas revealed that in our doubts in our uncertianity, in our disbelief God makes himself known.

Eilijah detects the movement of God, not in the display of power but in the sheer silence that followed. That still small voice of calm.

Whether we are at the lowest point in our lives or like Peter riding the storms of life we need to persevere and trust in God. In our prayer life we may feel that it is all a waste of time, that God is not really listening, but if we persevere, if we remain alert to the small movement of the curtain, in the poem, or the sheer silence outside the cave then we find God and he in turn will stretch out his hand to us and stop us from sinking into the waves of despair and be lost forever.

Elijah leaves that cave emboldened and re-energised to continue the dangerous work of being the prophet of the Lord. Peter too once his life is in the hands of Jesus is able to continue the work he as called to  - to build his church.

But the readings of today teach us one other important insight. It is all very well to say that like Peter, we need only to fix our gaze and concentrate on Jesus for everything to be fine. But the truth we are shown is that there will be moments when we are made desperately aware of our vulnerability.

When we take the decision to follow Jesus we open ourselves to an environment were Jesus Christ is our only and our total security, the truth of our existence is that we are out on deep water without a boat, and of course it is at this moment of realisation that we begin to understand what faith is all about. Thankfully, when we are prepared to take that leap of faith Jesus is there to hold our hand and bring us back to where we feel safe. 

It is of course a learning process and we see a very different Peter a few years later, after the death and resurrection of Jesus when he is boldly preaching the gospel and being thrown into prison – we can see a dramatic growth of faith.

Let us therefore be alert to the voice of God calling us in the night to place our hand in his and be led into the morning light. Like Peter let us be ready to leap out of the boat of our certainties and securities in order to meet with Jesus and follow him.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Anyone for coffee?

Having a coffee in London just got a whole lot more fulfilling. I'm sitting in the Calm and refreshingly cool atmosphere of a beautiful gothic church on an unusually hot august afternoon. Yes church!! I've ordered my Jamaican dollars from the post office in St James church west hampstead and ordered a coffee and am now sitting on a stylish sofa speaking on the phone with my daughter to enquire about the purchase of a cot for her first born son. Small children are clambering around a bright coloured ball park under the careful gaze of Our Lady who knows something of the  demands on families with small children during the 6 week holiday. While I sit here a young woman approaches the sanctuary and lights a candle while on the table next to me a work meeting takes place. As I leave I see another member of the public come in with her dog and make a mental note that St James is also a dog friendly venue!

Fr Andrew beginning his shift at the coffee shop.