Monday, 17 November 2014

2nd Sunday before Advent

In the gospel reading we are given a valuable guideline for better living. The story of the talents is a tale of warning to those who would miss the opportunity of living a fulfilled life.

What is fulfilment? One of the easiest ways of answering this is to say what it is not!

Fulfilment is not to be confused with business. For many of us life seems too busy. It is not just a dynamic of living in a world city, we are so keen to get somewhere that we miss the opportunities of meeting people along the way, have taking in the scenery as we speed dangerously towards our destination.

Often our business is an attempt to hide our insecurity, a failing relationship is never acknowledged because we keep busy so never spending any quality time with our partner. We drift apart until one day we suddenly realize it is stranger who is lying beside us.

Fulfilment is not to be confused with material possessions. As a nation we have become more prosperous, we have a higher standard of living than many, not just in the world but in comparison with our parents generation, albeit that we are now living with consequences of living beyond our means.
We spend more and more time shopping, but are we really fulfilled in this pursuit. There will always be another handbag, another pair of shoes.  There will always be a newer model of car on the market, a faster and brighter computer.

Being fulfilled is not to be confused with success either. A brief look at the lives of the rich and famous the successful celebrity shows that success has not necessarily brought happiness or fulfilment to their life. The search for fame and success can result in the terrible disfigurement of the human spirit and body.

So what is fulfilment then?
It is the process of allowing God to take a lead in our lives; it is our spiritual journey to wards God with its unlimited possibilities. It is not the finishing line that is important it is the race that leads to that line.

Fulfilment can best be described as a feeling of well-being and joy that comes from a realization that we are living creative people, whether that is defined by our job or a hobby or from acknowledging that we are, each one of us made in God’s image.  This sense of well-being that is real fulfilment is found when we are fully engaged in developing our potential as his children made in God's image.

What we learn from the parable of the talents is that we are best fulfilled when we are living to the best of our ability; when we are doing the best we can with who we are and what we have.

This past week saw the nation remember the fallen of 100 years of war. The questions is what do we remember and how does that memory inform us and change us?

If what we remember is our talent, our capacity to wage war more effectively than others then this memory serves to encourage us to remain ahead – be it in the arms race or the race to be on the winning side of every conflict.

If on the other hand what we remember is the terrible loss of life, the tragic cost of war, the burial of hope in the grave of every fallen solider and civilian caught up in the reality of war then our desire to use force to solve the problems of the world will be diminished and the we can develop our talents in different ways to resolve conflicts.

The gospel challenges us live fulfilled lives. It encourages us to be actively engaged in developing our spiritual and material life. And it is both, after all what is the use of me being such a spiritual person that I am of no early use to my family or friends? It shows that to accept mere survival or second best or when we fail to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us we will be consequences.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remembering the beginning and ending of the 1914-1918 War

Remembering the beginning and ending of the 1914-1918 War

During WW1 8.7 million men from the UK served in the Army from 1914-1918 – equivalent to the total Population of London in 2014
956,703 were killed or died from their wounds equivalent to the total Population of Birmingham in 2014

For every soldier who died 9 came home.

Came home having seen and been part of the horrors and reality of First World War.
They came home traumatised by what they had seen and been part of.
They came home to a country, a city, a town, a village where every man, woman and child had for 4 years done their part of this modern war – Total War.
They came home to a nation of men, women and children who had been traumatised, who had lived with the real fear of death be it for the first time from aerial bombardment, starvation or the fear of defeat in this titanic struggle.

Today we remember
Tuesday we will remember at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th Month that the guns fell silent.

But will we really learn the lessons of our past?

We teach our children in the play ground that fighting is wrong.
We teach our children that there is another way to resolving our problems than resorting to violence.
And yet for the last 100 years we have been taught to hate the foreigner
we have seen how war turns family in to foes
we have seen how war turns neighbours into enemies
we have seen the shattering of faith in Christian nations
we have yet to find the other way to resolving our problems that we tell our children can be done without violence?

Come let us go up to the mountain of God
to the house of the God of Jacob

That God may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in paths

For he law shall go out of Zion
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem

God shall judge between the nations
and shall mediate for many peoples

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears in to pruning hooks

Nation shall not lift up sword against Nation
neither shall they learn war anymore       Isaiah 2.3-4

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Love is subversive

Today's gospel reading presents us with Jesus' 'summary of the Law':
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
There is a danger of taking this too much in our stride. After all, we might think, we know what love is. And we sometimes achieve it - in our romantic relationships, friendships, and families. Love for our neighbours is basically just a matter of us being nice to those round about us. God is calling us to love; in other words God is nice, and wants us to be nice. Beyond that, God doesn't care too much what we do. As for love for God - well that's easy, because God is lovable. End of story.

The previous paragraph parodies only slightly a view of the commandment to love that has been all too common in the Church of England. The truth of the matter is much more difficult, and far more amazing.

The catch with the second commandment lies in the question asked elsewhere in the gospels, "who is my neighbour?" 

The answer of course is 'everyone', and in particular those we would least expect, or perhaps like, to be our neighbours. The call of this commandment is to a love that is universal in its scope. Love is not the same thing as being nice; I can sometimes only show love for someone by being very un-nice to them, by preventing them from oppressing someone else, for instance. Happily, however, often love does involve being open, generous, even nice to others. But either way there's a problem. We do not live in a world that is set up to encourage, value, or otherwise support a love that is boundless. On the contrary, the daily basis of our lives is competition against one another, for jobs, for housing, for relationships, for happiness itself. And when this doesn't work out well for us, as it often doesn't, there is always a newspaper or a politician ready to blame a convenient scapegoat - immigrants being the current most popular target. The world is not wired for love; yet love we must.

Given that things are the way they are, there will inevitably be a tension, a discomfort, about our attempts to live in a way that show love for our neighbours (all of them). This is what happens when people attempt good living in a bad world. If our efforts are not characterised by tension, and are not met with opposition, this ought to be a sign to us that we are doing things wrong, that it's all just a little bit too cosy. Beware, in particular, the idea that the Church should 'fit in', should have a fixed place in society into which it slots comfortably. Conformity is the greatest temptation the Church of England, in particular, faces.

We have to love our neighbour because we love God. Why is this? Why does love of God lead to love of neighbour? The point here is that we are simply incapable by nature of loving God. We might fear, or respect him, or be impressed with him, or have vague spiritual feelings towards him - but none of this is love. We cannot love God unless God first loves us and draws us into that love that God is - the life together of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This love, symbolised and made effective for us in baptism, is freely offered to every single one of us, without exception. And there's the point : there is no such thing as the love of God for me to the exclusion of others. If I accept God's love for me, and (which is just a different way of saying the same thing) return love to God, then I also accept a relationship that is shared with others, and a future that is shared with all humanity in all its diversity - a future scripture calls 'the Kingdom'. There is no other love on offer, there is no other future on offer. There is no a la carte version of the gospel according to which I get to spend eternity exclusively with people of the same skin colour, or sexuality, or interests, or whatever. 

Or, to put the point as the New Testament does, "Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen."

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Film night

We are gathered to watch the film "saving Mr Banks" 
The jacket potatoes are almost ready.....

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Our Lady of the Rosary

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

All Christians are called to pray. The rosary is a way of praying that many find helpful - in praying it we join with Mary, reflecting on the life death and resurrection of her Son. You can find out more about the rosary here.

We're celebrating the feast this evening with Mass at 8pm, which will be attended by the local chapter of the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary - an organisation for altar servers. All are welcome.

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ you Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Fr Luke's visit last Sunday

On Sunday we welcomed our archdeacon, Fr Luke Miller, to celebrate harvest with us at both churches. He preached about our call to give ourselves entirely, through and with Christ, who gives himself for us.

Fr Luke took some photos at St Matthias. Of churchwardens, past and present:

And of tidying up after Junior Church:

I stole these photos from Fr Luke's Twitter account. You can follow him here.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

working in the vineyard

Jesus told His followers a story about two sons. The father asked both sons to go and work in their vineyard (place where grapes are grown). One son said that he would not go and work. But later he decided that he would work in the vineyard. The second son said that he would work, but he did not go to the vineyard. Jesus asked in verse 31a, "'Which of the two sons obeyed his father?' The Jewish leaders answered, 'The first son.'"

A common experience isn't it!!  And therefore a perfect experience for Jesus to use as an example of what obedience is and isn't.

This is the important question that is prompted by the simple but true story of a father and two children. We are left to ask which one is us?

The gospel is not a gospel of what work we must do or not do.
It is not a matter of whether we give a tenth of our income to God
each year  and successfully avoid committing one or other of the
seven deadly sins...

The words of Jesus concern faith.
It is the gospel of believing - and in believing - in hoping, and in praying,
and opening oneself to the power of God and to the will of God.

Today it is not too late to get right with God, it is not too late to say to God “I believe” help me in my unbelief.

It is not too late to say to God yes!  I will go out in the vineyard after all. I will go with you as you go with me and work to bring the good news of your love to my family and my friends and to the whole world in all that I say and do. I will worship you and work with you and obey your will.

our new garden of remembrance at St Matthias was used for the first time after the Sunday Mass. May Robert Grimwood rest in peace.