Sunday, 23 November 2014

Christ the King

The bible is full of stories about Kings and their kingdoms  - there are two books called the book of King’s. But a quick look at the drama’s of these kings is to see a list of men with feet of clay and whose antics turn many away from religion and feed on the myth that religion is the cause of war.

Although it is only on the cross that Jesus is referred to as a King – and that was clearly indented to be an insult by one Kingdom, Rome, to another the Jewish nation, the fact is that Jesus does use the image of kings and Kingdoms on a number of occasions in his parables.

There are good kings – David
There are wise kings – Solomon
there are Bad kings – Ahab
and there is a Mad king – Nebuchadnezzar

But to day we remember a different kind of king – Jesus
who had no standing armies to enforce his will
who was not born in a palace but a manger
who never rode a horse into battle – but did ride a donkey in to Jerusalem
who was not the leader of a nation or empire but a motley crew of 12 men, and some women who defied convention.

Of course I am a priest of a particular generation who has never had to sing the anthem God Save the King and who has only sworn oaths to a Queen, whose head has adorned the currency and stamps of my lifetime

Looking at the experience of monarchy in the 21st century west is utterly unlike that which we would have encountered at the time of Christ.
Our monarchs are essentially powerless figure-heads, whereas there was nothing nominal about royal power then, and the character of the king was so integral to the ethos of the kingdom that it was almost as if his DNA was written, into the fabric of his realm.
His word was law – and a great deal more besides, so that the everyday life of his subjects was affected, for good or ill, by the royal priorities, the royal agenda. What the king says, goes.

So does the idea of celebrating Christ the King have a place in our modern lives?
Is this the kind of King we celebrate today?
is Christ the King some powerless figure head or despotic leader of a corrupt ideology?

There is another version of King and Kingdom that we find in the bible and in ancient Israel – shepherd and sheep. It is an image that even God himself uses of himself. A very contrasting image to that of the war lord and all powerful figure in charge of millions of human beings.

The prophet Ezekiel underlines this as he proclaims God's promise to search for the wounded and the straggler – as much as to judge between sheep of his charge.

However we must not make the mistake and think that because we can think of God as a shepherd that he is only the gentle leader, cuddly and woolly as the sheep he leads.

No the shepherd when searching for the lost or wayward sheep will of course also be an agent of justice and judgment. Yes God like a good Shepherd will love his sheep but sometimes there will be the need for tough love, When called upon he will wrestle with those forces that seek to destroy his flock even to the point of giving his own life. If we are to survive and if we fail to listen to the voice of the one who loves us there will be judgment as surely as there are consequences for our actions.

To look at Christ as king can be perilous. There is a danger that this celebration of Christ as king will distract us or lead us on another path that will never bring us near to the one we seek.

Think of the Magi, eyes fixed on the star, dazzled by its brightness into calling at the obvious place – the royal palace of Herod – while the king they seek, like a subversive character from pantomime, waits in the least likely shelter....

Think of the Palm Sunday crowds who seem to speak prophetic truth as they shout “Hosanna to the Son of David” but whose expectations of uprising and messianic triumph are disappointed by the events of Good Friday.

Then think of the ways in which Jesus chooses to explain the kingdom – a mustard seed, a hidden treasure, some leaven mixed with dough – Power yes but not the sort we associate with Kings ands Kingdoms

Christ the king is not a matter of bright lights and Power and majesty after all....but of recognising the king where he is always to be found – with those on the edge.
Suddenly the question of judgement and choices comes close to we realise that it is our judgements, our choices, that will make all the difference.
And those judgements, those choices, will be governed by our allegiance – to Christ the king or to other rulers, other ways.

To love our King is to love what he has made...children, men and women, happy, broken, hopeful or despairing...
To love our neighbours is to love the One in whose image they and we, are made...and to recognise the divine image not on stamps or coins but in their faces, wherever we encounter them.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

CHRISTMAS Bazaar 2014

IIIIOur Christmas Bazaar is all ready - just need some customers.....

We are here till 3.00 pm. If you cannot join us you can send a donation using the donate button on the blog!!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Interfaith week celebrated at SMSJ

At lunchtime students from SMSJ will get the opportunity to put their questions to a panel of religious leaders as part of interfaith week. 

This prayer tree carries some of the hopes and prayers of our students in years 5,6 & 7 for a greater understanding and respecting of the faith communities here in the UK and the world and how together we can build a society of peace.  

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