Sunday, 21 September 2014

Jonah - a sign for our times

Capital vision 2020 was launched last Summer within the Diocese of London. Our bishop of London, Bishop Richard, wrote to all his 400 clergy at the time:

We are continuing to build a church for London that is Confident, Compassionate and Creative. These three words have emerged from nearly 2,000 conversations over the last 18 months and they inform our Capital Vision 2020. As a Diocese we have reflected on the times we live in, listening and responding by identifying areas where we must be more purposeful and more imaginative.
At the same time we must of course maintain our day to day mission and ministry across London. We remain committed to serving the communities where we are already; through prayer, worship and practical service in the name of Jesus Christ.

We have already begun to responded here at both churches

We are being more creative with our churches, removing chairs and pews that are hardly ever used and creating space that can be used throughout the week for work with young people and create space for fellowship
at times when we meet to worship.
The possibility of creating new compassionate space in the form of a GP surgery and more community space on the ground originally designed as a third aisle for St John’s church seems tantalizingly near, just as the possibility of transforming a car park into compassionate housing for elders at St Matthias seems a possibility.
We are using the next four months as a season of invitation, beginning this month with back to Church Sunday - each one of us inviting someone to special services between now and Christmas as we continue with confidence to share out faith with those around us.

But there remains still a great deal more to be done within the community we stand. The needs of our community seem daunting when compared to our meager resources and maybe like Jonah  we would rather run that stay and with creative compassionate confidence engage with the challenges that face those living in or city and sharing the gospel of Gods love revealed through Jesus Christ.

However we can neither run nor hide from the challenge and our shared Vision as a parish and a Diocese. If we try and run away from the challenge that is before us and bury our heads in the sand thinking the issues might go away –Jonah stands as a sign – a warning to us

When Jonah is confronted with the task at hand, to go and convert, to transform, that great city of Nineveh, his response is to run away. He tries to get a boat to Spain – for some sun and sangria no doubt. He convinces himself that he can do something other than fulfill the command of God “to go”. May be like many of us, we hope that someone else will do the job or if we look the other way the challenge, the issues, the task will quietly go away.

We may be masters at deception but of course Jonah learns the hard way that God is not to be deceived. Jonah may have a little break in a health club or detox clinic planned but of course God has something else in mind.

Capital Vision is in part a challenge for us to respond to the call of our Baptism – to be a light in the world, to renounce evil and follow Christ. Capital Vision is not an attempt to make us feel inadequate or even guilty, but to face up honestly to the issues that confront the church in this city.

Once Jonah comes to his senses, and of course it is only when he is faced with a crisis that he does – namely when he finds himself in the belly of a large fish. Once Jonah comes to his senses he is ready to accept the challenge and face with honesty the task that is before him.

When faced with the confusing landscape of the 21st century, when we are part of a church that at times does not seem to be singing the same song, a church in which we are not using the same hymn book, in all this confusion and turmoil it is easy to throw up our hands is panic or even despair. To give up hope and as Jonah did allow ourselves to be thrown to the storm as an act of fear and despair will not thwart the purposes of God.

What the story of Jonah reminds us is that when we are all at sea, not all is lost, purpose and meaning is still found even in the depths of the storm around us, yes even in the belly of a large fish!

As we consider the challenge that is before us as individuals, as congregations and as a diocese, let us not filled with despair, as Jonah was, let us not deceive ourselves but let us work together taking inspiration from the words of St Paul writing to the Philippians “Stand firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” 1.27

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

"Lift high the Cross,
the love of Christ proclaim,
'til all the world adores
his sacred name".

Today is the day in the Church's year when we celebrate the Cross as a sign of Christ's triumph. It is also a sign of God's love for us. It's appropriate, then, that today we invited visitors to our churches for Back to Church Sunday.

We pray for everyone who came to one of our churches today, and pray for our ongoing Season of Invitation. Our next big event will be Harvest, at the beginning of October. Invite your families and friends!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

12th Sunday After Trinity

In today's gospel reading, Jesus tells his apostles "whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed on heaven". The ministry of loosing, of setting free, is an essential part of the Church's life. We all need setting free from things that stop us flourishing as the people God created us to be.

This ministry of setting free happens in all sorts of ways, but in particular when the bishops and priests of the Church, successors to those first apostles, celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, better known as confession. Today's gospel is one of the scriptural texts on which our use of confession is founded.

Confession is a great gift from God to his people. Here's the basic idea - through our baptism, God wins the victory over sin in our lives and claims us for himself. A lot of the time, however, we fail to live up to this wonderful new beginning. We fail to love God and each other. This doesn't undo our baptism - the effect of that is permanent, but it does put barriers between us and God, and between us and our brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves us, and longs to dismantle those barriers. Confession is the way this happens through the sacramental life of the Church.

God can, of course, forgive us without confession. If we are genuinely sorry, and pray for forgiveness, we are forgiven there and then. But if we're honest, we are often not truly sorry. We often deceive ourselves about the wrong we have done. Confession helps with this. The process of taking a look at ourselves, deciding what to confess, going to confession, and hearing the words of absolution (forgiveness) from the priest, assuring us that God has forgiven us, is incredibly helpful. Over and above that helpfulness, God's grace is given to us through this sacrament, drawing us back to him.

A good rule is to go to confession when we are aware that we've done something seriously wrong, and two or three times a year in addition to that - perhaps before major festivals like Christmas and Easter. You can go to confession by contacting a priest (it doesn't need to be a priest from our parishes). Priests are used to hearing confessions from people who are not used to it, and will guide you through the process if you are making your first confession, or if you've forgotten what to do! Things said in confession are absolutely confidential under all circumstances.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Confirmation coming up!

Bishop Peter will be visiting our parishes for confirmation on Tuesday 18th November at 7:45pm. Please put this date in our diary now. This will be at St Matthias.

Confirmation is a sacrament - one of the great signs of God's love within the Church. By it we are given the strength of the Holy Spirit to live as Christians in the world. In our parishes at the moment people are confirmed before receiving Holy Communion.

If you are interested in confirmation, please talk to one of the clergy. We will be starting preparation classes soon. Confirmation is offered to adults and to children (about Year 5 onwards). Candidates who haven't been baptised will receive baptism just before they are confirmed.

Those who have already been baptised and confirmed, please come along, support our candidates, and renew your own commitment to the Christian life and mission.

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?